Apr. 1, 2009

Choice of Diseases

by Hal Sirowitz

Correcting an Unbalance

by Hal Sirowitz

Choice of Diseases

Now that I'm sick & have
all this time to contemplate
the meaning of the universe,
Father said, I understand why
I never did it before. Nothing
looks good from a prone position.
You have to walk around to appreciate
things. Once I get better I don't
intend to get sick for a while. But
if I do I hope I get one of those diseases
you can walk around with.

Correcting an Unbalance

I never listen to commercials, Father said.
They're aimed at trying to sell me something
I don't need. If I do need it I want to know
that the need originated from me & not
from others. I don't want to end up with lots
of junk I'm only going to throw out. Half
the things in this house aren't used. We
only really need food, clothing, shelter,
& of course, each other. You do need me.
Don't you? Your mother never gives me
much opportunity to talk. I'm supposed to listen.
I'm able to talk to you, but it'd please me
if you said something once in a while.

"Choice of Diseases" and "Correcting an Unbalance" by Hal Sirowitz from Father Said. © Soft Skull Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Francine Prose, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn, New York (1947). Her parents were both doctors, and her father once let her watch an autopsy at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. After college, she tried working on an autobiographical novel, but it wasn't going anywhere. Then her boyfriend won a fellowship to travel abroad, and she persuaded him to take her to Bombay. She got a borrower's card at the University of Bombay Library, but the library didn't have any fiction written after 1900, so she was forced to read Proust, Dostoevsky, and Isak Dinesen. That reading inspired her to write Judah the Pious (1973), a novel based on Hasidic folklore about a rabbi who tries to convince the king of Poland to reinstate Jewish burial rituals.

The novel got great reviews, and Prose decided that travel was the key to writing good fiction. She spent the next several years living out of a suitcase and traveling in Mexico. She went on to publish many strange and fantastical books, such as Hungry Hearts (1983), about a star of the Yiddish theater who becomes possessed by one of her roles, and Bigfoot Dreams (1987), about a reporter for a tabloid newspaper who invents a story that comes true.

It's the birthday of the pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, born near Novgorod, Russia (1873). He escaped from Russia just before the Revolution and spent most of the rest of his life in the United States. In 1928, he met the pianist Vladimir Horowitz, and they sealed their friendship by going down into the basement of Steinway and Sons and playing Rachmaninoff's own Third Piano Concerto (1909). Horowitz played the solo part on one piano, and Rachmaninoff the orchestral reduction on another.

Today is April Fools' Day, and it's also on this day in 2004 that Google released Gmail to the public. Many people thought it was a joke: It offered a whole gigabyte of storage, which was exponentially greater than what was offered by other free e-mail services at the time.

Gmail has played a number of memorable pranks on April Fools' Day. Last year, users signing into their Gmail account on April Fools' Day saw a banner announcing "New! Gmail Custom Time," which supposedly allowed users to pre-date some of their outgoing e-mail messages. On April 1, 2006, Google announced a new dating service, called Google Romance. They said, "When you think about it, love is just another search problem."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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