Feb. 13, 2010
It was darker then, in the nights when the cars
Came sliding around the traffic circle, when the headlights
Speckled with rain traveled the bedroom walls
and vanished; when the typewriter, the squeaking chair,
the slow voice of the radio stirred the night air like a fan.
Of course, the ones we loved were beautiful—
slim, dark-haired, intent on their books.
The rain came swishing against the lamp-lit windows.
The cat purred in his chair. A clock sang,
and we lay nearly asleep, almost dreaming,
almost alone, nearly gone—the days fly so;
and the nights, like sleep, disappear without memory.
It's the birthday of novelist Georges Simenon (books by this author) born in Liége, Belgium (1903). He's one of the most prolific writers of all time, best known for his detective novels featuring Inspector Maigret. He wrote some 400 books, which sold more than 1.4 billion copies from 1935 to 1997. Each book took him on average eight days to write. Georges Simenon said, "What you have not absorbed by the time you reach the age of 18 you will never absorb. It is finished."
It's Valentine's Day this weekend, and we're admiring lyrical love letters.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (books by this author) wrote Puritan-inspired, New England-based works of dark romanticism, and he was largely a recluse. But he was cheerful about his personal romantic life. In his 30s, he fell in love with another reclusive person, Sophia Peabody. She and Nathaniel Hawthorne secretly became engaged on New Year's Day in 1839.
They got married in her family's bookstore in Boston. She was 32; he was 38. The newlyweds moved out to an old historic mansion in Concord, Massachusetts, where Henry David Thoreau made a vegetable garden for just the two of them. Hawthorne wrote to his sister: "We are as happy as people can be, without making themselves ridiculous, and might be even happier; but, as a matter of taste, we choose to stop short at this point."
Then, on his first wedding anniversary, he wrote to his wife: "We were never so happy as now — never such wide capacity for happiness, yet overflowing with all that the day and every moment brings to us. Methinks this birth-day of our married life is like a cape, which we have now doubled and find a more infinite ocean of love stretching out before us."
Writer James Joyce (books by this author) said things like, "A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery." But he often apologized wholeheartedly to his wife, Nora. And he said things like, "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality." But to Nora Barnacle, he wrote things like — on October, 25th, 1909 — "You are my only love. You have me completely in your power. I know and feel that if I am to write anything fine or noble in the future I shall do so only by listening to the doors of your heart. ... I love you deeply and truly, Nora. ... There is not a particle of my love that is not yours. ... If you would only let me I would speak to you of everything in my mind but sometimes I fancy from your look that you would only be bored by me. Anyhow, Nora, I love you. I cannot live without you. I would like to give you everything that is mine, any knowledge I have (little as it is) any emotions I myself feel or have felt, any likes or dislikes I have, any hopes I have or remorse. I would like to go through life side by side with you, telling you more and more until we grew to be one being together until the hour should come for us to die. Even now the tears rush to my eyes and sobs choke my throat as I write this. Nora, we have only one short life in which to love. O my darling be only a little kinder to me, bear with me a little even if I am inconsiderate and unmanageable and believe me we will be happy together. Let me love you in my own way. Let me have your heart always close to mine to hear every throb of my life, every sorrow, every joy."
(27 October 1909 to Nora, in Trieste. Found in James Joyce Letters Vol. 2, edited by Richard Ellmann, 1966)
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®