Sunday

Aug. 30, 2009

Beans and Franks

by Donald Hall

            When Newberry's closed
in Franklin, New Hampshire—homely lime front
            on Main Street, among the closed
storefronts of this mill town depressed
            since nineteen twenty-nine;
with its lunch counter for beans and franks
            and coleslaw; with its
bins of peanuts, counters of acrylic,
            hair nets, underwear, workshirts,
marbled notebooks, Bic pens, plastic
            toys, and cheap sneakers;
where Marjorie worked ten years at the iron
            cash register, Alcibide
Monbouquet pushed a broom at night.
            and Mr. Smith managed—
we learned that a man from Beverly
            Hills owned it, who never saw
the streets of Franklin, New Hampshire,
            and drew with a well-groomed hand
a line through "Franklin, New Hampshire."

"Beans and Franks" by Donald Hall, from White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, (books by this author) born Mary Godwin in London, England (1797). She is famous as the author of Frankenstein (1818), which is considered the first science fiction novel ever written.

It begins: "It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. … It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the pains, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs."

It's the birthday of journalist Molly Ivins, (books by this author) born in Monterey, California (1944) and raised in Houston, Texas. She went to a New England liberal arts college and to Columbia's School of Journalism and spent years covering the police beat for the Minneapolis Tribune (the first woman to do so) before moving back to Texas, the setting and subject of much of her life's writing. In a biographical blurb she wrote about herself for a Web site, she proclaimed, "Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated political columnist who remains cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasizes the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never has to write fiction."

Ivins especially liked to poke fun at the Texas Legislature, which she referred to as "the Lege."

She gave George W. Bush the nickname "Shrub" and also referred to him as a post turtle (based on an old joke: the turtle didn't get there itself, doesn't belong there, and needs help getting out of the dilemma). She had actually known President Bush since they were teenagers in Houston. She poked fun at Democrats, too, and said about Bill Clinton: "If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal." Clinton later said that Molly Ivins "was good when she praised me and painfully good when she criticized me."

Her fiery liberal columns caused a lot of debate in Texas, with newspaper readers always writing in to complain. One time, she wrote about the Republican congressman from Dallas: "If his IQ slips any lower we'll have to water him twice a day." It generated a storm of controversy, and the paper she wrote for decided to use it to their advantage, to boost readership. They started placing advertisements on billboards all over Dallas that said, "Molly Ivins can't say that … can she?" She used the line as the title of her first book (published in 1991).

She went on to write several best-selling books, including Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush — which was actually written and published in 2000, before George W. Bush had been elected to the White House. Ivins later said, "The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention."

Molly Ivins died of breast cancer a couple of years ago, at the age of 62. She once wrote: "Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that."

Molly Ivins once said: "I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives."

And, "The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion."

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

 









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