Monday

Jun. 9, 2014

At Quarter to Five

by Angela Janda

I was feeling lonely so
I went outside to the wind
swept yard and beyond
that to the wind-tousled outer
yard and found where last
night in the moonlight we left
two sets of boot prints, when
you stopped on your way
through the darkness to bring a
lemon bar and a movie, and
beside ours the tracks of the
smallest thing with claws, which
must have followed sometime
later. And I chased its tiny prints
and our mud-wash indents to
the far back gate and through
the gate out to where the
land is still dirt and brush
and bushes and cow
pies, my hair pinned
to my head but still blowing,
blowing, and finally a hard
breath, and I could see
through lonely to the wide
open, long blue lines of sunset,
moonlit night, the airplanes
trailing one another
down to tarmac, all those
people landing home.

"At Quarter to Five" by Angela Janda from Small Rooms with Gods. © Finishing Line Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the man who wrote the songs "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top," and "Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love": Cole Porter, born in Peru, Indiana (1891). Most of his great songs were written within a 10-year period: between his first popular Broadway musical, Paris (1928)—his first musicals had been complete flops—and a terrible riding accident in 1937. Porter was at a party at the New York home of the Countess Edith di Zoppola when his horse rolled and crushed his legs. He claimed that he didn't realize how badly he was hurt and that while someone ran for help he finished up the lyrics to "You Never Know." But he was in fact seriously injured—the doctors insisted that his right leg be amputated, maybe his left as well. Porter refused. He preferred to be in intense pain than be missing a leg.

He lived with the pain for more than 20 years, and he continued to write songs, but never at the same rate of success as he had before his accident. In 1958, after 34 operations on his leg, he finally agreed to have the leg amputated. Porter never recovered from the trauma of the operation. He told friends, "I am only half a man now," and never wrote another song. He died in 1964 at the age of 73.

He wrote "I Hate Men" for his musical Kiss Me Kate (1948):

Of all the types of men I've met in our democracy,
I hate the most the athlete with his manner bold and brassy.
He may have hair upon his chest, but sister, so has Lassie!
Oh, I hate men!.

It was on this day in 1860 that the first dime novel was published. It was called Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, by Ann S. Stephens (books by this author), and it was the first of 321 novels published by Beadle & Adams in their series Beadle's Dime Novels. The early dime novels were wrapped in a salmon-colored cover, and they actually cost 10 cents. Before long, the phrase "dime novel" was used to mean any cheap, melodramatic pulp fiction, some of which actually cost 15 cents.

Many authors of dime novels wrote nothing else, but there were some established writers who tried their hands at writing pulp fiction. Theodore Dreiser may have helped write the Diamond Dick dime novels. Louisa May Alcott published more than 30 dime novels under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. She wrote to her friend Alfred Whitman: "I intend to illuminate the Ledger with a blood and thunder tale as they are easy to 'compoze' and are better paid than moral and elaborate works of Shakespeare, so don't be shocked if I send you a paper containing a picture of Indians, pirates, wolves, bears and distressed damsels in a grand tableau over a title like this: 'The Maniac Bride' or 'The Bath of blood, A Thrilling Tale of Passion.'" Upton Sinclair wrote boys' adventure novels; he would dictate about 6,000-8,000 words a day to a stenographer.

It's the birthday of the novelist and peace activist Baroness Bertha von Suttner (books by this author), born in Prague (1843). Bertha was fluent in several languages, and traveled all over Europe. When she was 33 she became the secretary to the industrialist Alfred Nobel.

Bertha was a peace activist, and had written a wildly popular novel that advanced the cause called Die Waffen nieder, or Lay Down Your Arms (1889). Alfred had made his fortune as the inventor of dynamite and later through the development of weapons. It was her influence on Nobel that convinced him to leave money in his will for the creation of what is now the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel died in 1896, and the first Nobel Prize was given in 1901. In 1905, Bertha von Suttner became the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize that she had helped inspire.

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

 









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