Sep. 4, 2009

And Here You Are

by Michael Blumenthal

It's such a relief to see the woman you love walk out the door
some nights, for it's ten o'clock and you need your eight hours
of sleep, and one glass of wine has been more than enough

and, as for lust—well, you can live without it most days and you
are glad, too, that the Ukrainian masseuse you see every Wednesday
is not in love with you, and has no plans to be, for it's the pain

in your back you need relief from most, not that ambiguous itch,
and the wild successes of your peers no longer bother you
nor do your unresolved religious cravings nor the general injustice

of the world, no, there is very little that bothers you these days when
you turn, first, to the obituaries, second to the stock market, then,
after a long pause, to the book review, you are becoming a good citizen,

you do your morning exercises, count your accumulated blessings,
thank the Lord there's a trolley just outside your door your girlfriend
can take back home to her own bed and here you are it is morning you

are alone every little heartbeat is yours to cherish the future is on fire
with nothing but its own kindling and whatever it is that's burning
in its flames isn't you and now you will take a shower and this is it.

"And Here You Are" by Michael Blumenthal, from And. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1998 that Google was first incorporated as a company. Google was the brainchild of two Ph.D. students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They designed a search engine with one important difference from all the others: Instead of giving you results based on how many times your search term appeared on a Web page, they created software that would figure out how many times each relevant Web site was linked to from other relevant Web sites and sorted those and then laid them out for you, all on a clear, simple screen. Google is now an incredibly powerful and profitable company. At a time when most major companies are losing money, Google continues to grow, and reported revenues of $5.52 billion in the second quarter of this year. In June of 2006, "Google"was added to the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb.

Although September 4th is the official day of Google's incorporation, as Google's own help center explained: "Google opened its doors in September 1998. The exact date when we celebrate our birthday has moved around over the years, depending on when people feel like having cake." Most years, it is celebrated toward the end of September.

It's the birthday of the writer Richard Wright, (books by this author) born on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi (1908). His father was an illiterate sharecropper, and his mother was an educated school teacher, and when he was young, his father left the family for another woman. His mother was sick, and trying to support the family, and she just couldn't do it on her own, so she moved the family to her mother's house in Jackson, Mississippi. Richard's grandmother was a religious fanatic, and he had to go to a strict religious school, which he hated. But he made it out, went to a regular public school and did well, and then moved to Chicago. He published a collection of short stories, Uncle Tom's Children (1938), and then the novel Native Son (1940), which was a best seller. It made him famous, and Orson Welles and John Houseman produced it on Broadway. His memoir, Black Boy (1945), was another best seller. The second half of Black Boy wasn't published until after his death, as American Hunger, but these days they are published as one volume, which is how Wright wrote them.

But despite his reputation in America, he did not want to stay there. He moved his family to France, where they had an apartment in Paris and a farm in the countryside, and he lived there until his death in 1960.

It's the birthday of Asa Earl Carter, who wrote under the pseudonym Forrest Carter, (books by this author) born in Anniston, Alabama (1925). The Education of Little Tree was published in 1976, a memoir by Forrest Carter about his childhood raised by his Cherokee grandparents, who called the boy Little Tree. The book started out slowly, but it got great reviews, became a Book-of-the-Month Club pick, and everyone called it a new classic of Native American Literature. Sales increased steadily, and in 1991, it won the American Booksellers Book of the Year Award and spent weeks on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.

But there was a problem. The New York Times Forrest Carter was actually Asa Earl Carter, who was not only not Native American, he was a racist and a segregationist. Asa Earl had been a Ku Klux Klan leader, started a monthly publication about white supremacy, and wrote speeches for Governor George Wallace — Carter is credited with the famous speech "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" He ran for governor in 1970, convinced that Wallace was too moderate on the race issue, but he lost. After that, he left Alabama forever, and he renamed himself Forrest Carter, after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Civil War General and an original leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

After it came out that Forrest Carter was actually Asa Earl Carter, Oprah took The Education of Little Tree off her recommended reading, the Times moved it to the fiction list, and the book's publisher, the University of New Mexico, dropped the subtitle "A True Story," and it took out the biography on the book that said Carter "was known as 'Storyteller in Council' to the Cherokee Nations. … His Indian friends always shared a part of his earnings from his writing."

But otherwise, not much changed. The book is still regularly taught in schools as a lesson in tolerance. It certainly asks us to decide whether what we know about the author of a book changes how we think about that book.

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




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