Aug. 25, 2009

Blackberry Pie

by Jenifer Rae Vernon

is kernels of juice
blue, mom makes it do
magic heat to vanilla ice cream
purple dream

there were many nice things,
the corduroy pinafore
the daily notes in lunch sack
of a smiley face and curly cue hair
your mama loves you, and do great
with a thermos of homemade soup

dad too, he rocked me on front porch
after seven yellow jacket stings
i howled through the valley
in baking soda paste
while he sang, in the big rock candy mountain...

but just like grandma vernon always said
don't bother doing anything nice for your children
they'll only remember the bad things, anyway

like when she tethered my dad
to the front yard tree
so he could play when she was at work

was that bad? a ruined childhood?
bless her heart
and pie too, is sometimes

"Blackberry Pie" by Jennifer Rae Vernon, from Rock Candy. © West End Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Brian Moore, (books by this author) born in Belfast, Northern Ireland (1921). Not many people have heard of or have read him, but he's considered by literary critics to be one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century. Three of his books have been short-listed for the Booker Prize, but none have won. When he died a decade ago in Malibu, his obituary in the LA Weekly began, "THE MOST ACCOMPLISHED AND LEAST fashionable writer in Los Angeles died last week."

Brian Moore was one of nine children born into a devout Catholic family. He quickly rejected the teachings of Catholicism, but continued to write about them for the rest of his life. Several of his novels were banned by the Catholic Church. Devout Catholic convert novelist Graham Greene called Brian Moore his own "favourite living novelist" and said, "Each book of his is dangerous, unpredictable, and amusing. He treats the novel as a trainer treats a wild beast."

Moore left Ireland after World War II, spent time working for the U.N. in Poland, and moved to Canada in 1948, where he started working for a Montreal newspaper, first as a proofreader and then as a reporter and feature writer. He wrote some thriller novels under different pseudonyms, and in 1952, he left the newspaper to concentrate on writing novels. His first book under his own name was rejected by 12 different American publishers before it was finally accepted. Published in 1955 as The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, it won all sorts of prizes. Out of the nearly two dozen novels that he would eventually write, his first is considered one of his best.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne takes place in Belfast, and it's about an unmarried alcoholic aging Catholic woman and her search for love. He later said, "I was very lonely, I had almost no friends, I'd given up my beliefs, was earning no money and I didn't see much of a future. So I could identify with a dipsomaniac, isolated spinster."

He moved to New York to write his second novel, and in 1966, he moved to California, where he remained for the rest of his life. Several of his own books were adapted into Hollywood movies, and he wrote other screenplays, too. He wrote the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock movie Torn Curtain and said that the ordeal was "awful, like washing floors." It so happened that Moore could do an uncanny impersonation of Alfred Hitchcock.

Moore once said in an interview: "I wrote books to keep me interested. And I write the next book because I'm happy when I'm doing it." He said that while he'd be hesitant to encourage his own son to become a writer, he felt fortunate that he'd had a "wonderful literary life."

He wrote several novels from the narrative viewpoint of a female character. Moore's books include The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1960), An Answer from Limbo (1962), The Emperor of Ice-Cream (1965), I Am Mary Dunne (1968), The Temptation of Eileen Hughes (1981), Black Robe (1985), The Colour of Blood (1987), Lies of Silence (1990), and The Magician's Wife (1997).

It's the birthday of novelist Martin Amis, (books by this author) born in Oxford, England (1949). He wrote The Rachel Papers (1973), Money (1984), London Fields (1989), and The Information (1995). He's the son of Kingsley Amis, who wrote Lucky Jim (1954), a satire about a junior faculty member at a small university.

He published his first novel, The Rachel Papers (1973), in his mid-20s. It's a satire about the struggles of 19-year-old Charles Highway, who attempts to get his girlfriend, Rachel, into bed, and records every detail in his diary. The book won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1974 — 19 years after Amis' father won the same award for Lucky Jim.

Amis' father didn't really encourage him to write, but Amis felt having a famous writer as a father made it easier to get published. "That's the deal," he said. "After that, you're on your own, you're just another idiot out there who is going to get plucked to death like anyone else."

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




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