Wednesday

Aug. 7, 2013

Plans

by Stuart Dischell

She plans to be a writer one day and live in the City of Paris,
Where she will describe the sun as it rises over Buttes-Chaumont.
"Today the dawn began in small pieces, sharp wedges of light
Broke through the clouds." She plans to write better than this
And is critic enough to know "sharp wedges" sound like cheese.
She plans to live alone in a place that has a terrace
Where she will drink strong coffee at a round white table.
Her terrace will be her cafe and she will be recognized
By the blue-smocked workers of the neighborhood, the concierges,
The locals at the comptoir of the tabac down the block,
And the girl under the green cross of the apothecary shop.
She plans to love her apartment where she will keep
Just one flower in a blue vase. She already loves the word apart-
Ment, whose halves please her when she sees them breaking
The line in her journal. She plans to learn the roots
Of French and English words and will search them out
As if she were hunting skulls in the catacombs.
On her walls she'll hang a timetable of the great events
Of Western History. She will read the same twenty books
As Chaucer. Every morning she will make up stories....
She looks around her Brighton room, at the walls,
The ceiling, the round knob of the rectangular door.
She listens to the voices of the neighbor's children.
A toilet flushes, then the tamp of cigarette on steel,
The flint flash of her roommate's boyfriend's lighter.
When she leaves she plans to leave alone, and every
Article she will carry, each shoe, will be important.
Like an architect she will plan this life, as once
The fortune in a cookie told her: Picture what you wish
To become, if you wish to become that picture
.

"Plans" by Stuart Dischell, from Good Hope Road. © Viking, 1993. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of anthropologist and archeologist Louis Leakey, born in Kabete, Kenya (1903). His parents were Anglican missionaries to Africa, and he lived in Kenya until he was 16. He studied anthropology at Cambridge at a time when most anthropologists believed that human beings had originated in Asia. But Leakey had read Darwin's theory that human beings might have originated in Africa, because Africa is the home of our closest relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas. As soon as he graduated from Cambridge, he moved back to Africa to prove Darwin right.

In 1948, Leakey and his wife found one of the earliest fossil ape skulls ever discovered; it was between 25 and 40 million years old. It is now believed to be the skull of the ancestor of all large primates, including humans. Then, in 1959, they turned up another hominid skull, which was 1.75 million years old. It was the oldest skull of a close human relative ever found at that point, and it helped persuade other anthropologists that Africa was indeed the place where human beings had evolved.

On this day in 1934, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the novel Ulysses, by James Joyce (books by this author), was not obscene. It had been banned in the United States in 1920, and though it was a big-seller on the black market, and Joyce knew he was losing a lot of money to pirate publishers, the only way to fight the ban was to provoke the government into a new obscenity trial. So in 1933, Random House decided to import a single version of the French edition of Ulysses, and the company had people waiting at the New York docks for the book's arrival. It was a hot day and the U.S. Customs inspector didn't want to be bothered with another inspection, but the Random House people made sure that one book was seized. Random House and Joyce appealed, and the judge, John Woolsey, ruled that it was not pornographic. In his judicial opinion, Judge Woolsey wrote, "In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring."

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

 









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  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
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