Oct. 17, 2010

The Past

by Nin Andrews

If she closed her eyes, she could see it
in the dark room of her mind,
the jukebox of her soul
developing so slowly,
she especially liked the way
he said the word, blouse,
when he unbuttoned her
silk blouse, blue blouse, flowered blouse,
his favorite one was pink
and hung on a green lamp
like a flower on a stem
now that he was gone,
and so was she
and no one lived there anymore,
the town kept lighting up without them
as if it were the first dusk.

"The Past" by Nin Andrews, from Southern Comfort. © Cavan Kerry Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy, (books by this author) born in New York (1974). She's written for Vogue, Men's Journal, New York magazine, and The Washington Post. And she's the author of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (2005), a book about modern American feminist culture.

It's the birthday of American rapper Eminem, born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in St. Joseph, Missouri, on this day in 1972. His first, second, and third albums each won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album — the first artist to ever earn that distinction. He's one of the best-selling musicians in the world, having sold more than 80 million albums.

It's the birthday of James Oliver Rigney Jr., (books by this author) born in Charleston, South Carolina (1948), who wrote best-selling fantasy novels under the pen name Robert Jordan. He served in Vietnam, majored in physics in college, worked as a nuclear engineer, and loved to go to Episcopal mass services.

He's most famous for his best-selling Wheel of Time fantasy series, comprised of about a dozen titles, including The Eye of the World (1990), The Dragon Reborn (1991), Lord of Chaos (1994), and Crossroad of Twilight (2003). He was at work on a final book in the Wheel of Timeseries when he died from heart disease in 2007. That book, called A Memory of Light, is being finished by a co-author and due out soon.

From the archives:

It's the birthday of Jimmy Breslin, (books by this author) born in Jamaica, New York (1930). He wrote The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1969) and The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez. He has written for New York newspapers all his life. He said, "All the news business starts with your feet. In New York City, no story happens under the fourth floor." He said that journalists used to go to the bar and listen to the old-timers tell stories, but now "they all go to health clubs and then go home. They're in fantastic health, but they wish they were in the bar, and their wives wish they were in the bar, too."

It's the birthday of the playwright who wrote Death of a Salesman: Arthur Miller, (books by this author) born in New York City (1915), who grew in the same neighborhood as his uncle Manny Newman, who was a salesman, and a big talker, full of schemes and hope for the future, even though he struggled to make ends meet.

In Death of a Salesman, one of Arthur Miller's characters says: "For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine."

It's the birthday of novelist Nathanael West, (books by this author) born Nathan Weinstein in New York City (1903), who was inspired to write his first major novel when he met a woman who wrote an advice column for a local newspaper. She showed him a few of the letters she had received from readers, expecting that he would find them funny. Instead, he was heartbroken at how desperate these people were, and he wrote his novel Miss Lonely Hearts (1933), about an advice columnist who is overwhelmed by the sadness of the people who write to him. It got great reviews, but within weeks of its publication, the publishing house went bankrupt.

West continued to have bad luck for the rest of his life. None of his books sold well. In a letter to his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, West wrote, "Somehow or other I seem to have slipped in between all the 'schools'. ... I forget the broad sweep, the big canvas, the shot-gun adjectives, the important people, the significant ideas, the lessons to be taught ... and go on making ... private and unfunny jokes." West eventually got a job screenwriting in Hollywood, and finally started making a decent living. He bought a house and got married, but eight months after his wedding, he and his wife were killed in a car accident. He was 37 years old. His books were reprinted in the 1950s, and they are now considered masterpieces of modern American satire.

Nathanael West said, "Forget the epic, the masterwork, leave slow growth to the book reviewers, you only have time to explode."

It's the birthday of the American novelist and short story writer Deirde McNamer, (books by this author) born in Cut Bank, MT, in 1950. She grew up in rural Montana, and she says she had “an enormous amount of freedom and unscheduled time, which encouraged extended episodes of imagination.” Sometimes the family would go visit her grandparents in the big city, in Great Falls, and she and her brothers and sisters were fascinated by the apartment buildings, the escalators, and the dial telephones. She's written four novels, and her newest is Red Rover (2007), a story of three Montana men and their experiences in World War II.

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




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