Apr. 30, 2013
A Slice of Wedding Cake
Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
Married impossible men?
Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.
Repeat 'impossible men': not merely rustic,
Foul-tempered or depraved
(Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
How well women behave, and always have behaved).
Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
For whose appearance even in City parks
Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.
Has God's supply of tolerable husbands
Fallen, in fact, so low?
Or do I always over-value woman
At the expense of man?
It might be so.
Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (books by this author) was first published in serial form on this date in 1859. It appeared in the first issue of a new weekly journal, All the Year Round, which Dickens founded himself.
A Tale of Two Cities was on the front page of the first issue, and thanks to Dickens' popularity, it sold 125,000 copies. At the end of the journal's first quarter, Dickens wrote in a letter, "So well has All the Year Round gone that it was yesterday able to repay me, with five per cent. interest, all the money I advanced for its establishment (paper, print etc. all paid, down to the last number), and yet to leave a good £500 balance at the banker's!" Dickens was so encouraged by its success that he also serialized Great Expectations in the journal, beginning in December of 1860.
Dickens published All the Year Round until his death in 1870. After that time, his son, Charles Dickens Jr., took up the reins, editing the journal until 1895. During its 36-year run, it featured the work of Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and several others.
A Tale of Two Cities begins, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ..."
Today is the birthday of Annie Dillard (books by this author), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1945). She began writing poetry in high school, and then studied English in college. After writing a master's thesis on Thoreau's Walden, she moved to a cabin in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. There she wrote poetry and also kept a daily journal of her observations of nature and her thoughts about God and religion. She wrote in old notebooks and on four-by-six-inch index cards, and when she was ready to transform the journal into a book, she had 1,100 entries. "By the time I finished the book, I weighed about 98 pounds," Dillard said. "I never went to bed. I would write all night until the sun was almost coming up."
The result, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, was published in 1974, and Annie Dillard received her first literary award the following year: the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. She was only 29 years old. She has published collections of essays and of poetry, as well as an autobiography. Her most recent work is a novel, The Maytrees (2007). When it comes to writing, she says: "Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark."
Anne Frank's diary (books by this author) was first published in English on this date in 1952. What's now known as Diary of a Young Girl was first published in Dutch in 1947, under the title The Secret Annex (Het Achterhuis in Dutch). Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp about two weeks before the camps were liberated in 1945. After the war, Anne's father, Otto Frank, was given the diary, along with some other papers, which had been left behind when the family was taken in 1944. He wasn't able to read it for a while because it was too painful, but when he did, he believed that his daughter meant the diary to be published. There were two versions of the diary: the "A" version, which was made up of spontaneous journal entries; and the "B" version, rewritten by Anne herself, possibly with an eye to publication. Her father edited the two together into a "C" version. He left out five pages of Anne's original "A" version, pages in which she described the progress of her sexual development, and ranted about her mother. The lost pages were restored in a definitive edition, which was published in 1995.
Sixteen different American publishers rejected the English translation before Doubleday picked it up in 1952; one reader at Alfred A. Knopf dismissed the book as "very dull" and "a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances, and adolescent emotions."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®