Mar. 28, 2009
The truck came at me,
but I got a dent.
The car insurance woman
informs me that my policy
has been cancelled.
I say, "You can't do that."
She gives me a little smile
and goes back to her nails.
Lately have you noticed
how aggressively people drive?
A whoosh! and whatever.
Some people are suddenly
very rich, and as many
suddenly very poor.
As for the war, don't get me started.
We were too busy watching
the ball game to see
that the things we care about
are suddenly disappearing,
and that they always were.
It's the birthday of novelist and critic Mario Vargas Llosa, (books by this author) born in Arequipa, Peru (1936). He was raised by his maternal grandparents, who adored and spoiled him, and who told him that his father was dead because they didn't want to explain that his parents had separated.
His grandfather was a diplomat, and Vargas Llosa spent his early childhood growing up in Cochabamba, Bolivia. At the age of 10, he met his father for the first time, whom he had long believed was dead. His father was a military pilot, and he sent his son to a military academy in Lima, which was wretched and brutal. His experiences at the school became the basis for his first novel La ciudad y los perros (1963), which was published in English as The Time of the Hero (1966). It made his reputation in the Spanish-speaking world, but he put that reputation on the line in 1990 when he campaigned for president of Peru. He lost the election, moved to Europe, and swore off politics.
It was on this day in 1941 that the novelist Virginia Woolf drowned herself in the river Ouse, near her country home in Sussex in southeast England. She suffered from periods of depression for many years, and modern scholars believe she may have been manic depressive, also known as bi-polar.
Woolf, (books by this author) wrote in her diaries about her volatile mood swings. She would often be thrown into depression by her conviction that her writing wasn't good enough. But then she would get herself out of the depression by thinking of a new idea for a book.
She was relatively healthy for most of the 1920s, when she published Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927). But she struggled with her book The Years (1937). She wrote in her diary, "Seldom have I been more completely miserable than I was ... reading over the last part of The Years. Such feeble twaddle — such twilight gossip — it seemed; such a show up of my own decrepitude."
Her mood grew worse as WWII broke out in 1939. She and her husband moved to their country house, which was under the flight path of the German bombers. By March of 1941, she was writing in her diary that she had fallen into "a trough of despair." She wrote, "It's difficult, I find, to write. No audience. No private stimulus, only this outer roar."
Finally, she wrote three letters, possibly as much as 10 days before she committed suicide. The longest letter was to her husband, Leonard. She wrote: "I feel certain that I am going mad again ... I shant recover this time ... I cant fight any longer. ...What I want to say is that I owe all the happiness of my life to you. ... I dont think two people could have been happier than we have been."
Woolf left the letters where her husband would find them and walked a half mile to a nearby river and put a heavy stone in the pocket of her fur coat before jumping into the water.
The novelist Elizabeth Bowen visited Woolf just a month before her death. Bowen wrote about Virginia: "I remember her kneeling back on the floor ... and she sat back on her heels and put her head back in a patch of sun, early spring sun. Then she laughed in this consuming, choking, delightful, hooting way. And that is what has remained with me."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®