MONDAY, 28 MAY, 2007
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Poem: "Three Epitaphs" by X.J. Kennedy, from Peeping Tom's Cabin: Comic Verse 1928-2008. © BOA Editions, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Three Epitaphs

For a Postal Clerk

Here lies wrapped up tight in sod
Henry Harkins c/o God.
On the day of Resurrection
May be opened for inspection.

For a Rail Traveler

Here lie Jonah Jones's uncoupled remains:
A cowcatcher caught him as he changed trains.
His fragments took off in a few directions.
May he rise at the last trump to make connections.

For a Washer of Dishes

Here rattle about in the suds of the grave
The porcelain bones of a deep-sink slave.
Impeccable platters were what he wrought
With a face like a rag wrung dry of thought.
Let the scouring rain and the sponging worm
Deliver his spirit from crust and crumb
And stack him up high beyond sin and stain
In the light of the Lord to let him drain.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Memorial Day, first observed on this day in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, where members of both the Union and Confederate Armies were buried. It was the idea of Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, who said he was creating Memorial Day, "For the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land."

It was on this day in 1902 that the novelist Owen Wister (books by this author), published his book The Virginian (buy now), which is now considered the first true Western.

Wister was born in Philadelphia, and his first vocation was music. He went to Wyoming for his health, fell in love with it, and he was inspired to write a novel about a cowboy known only as "the Virginian," who moves to the town of Bear Creek, Wyoming, gets a job as the foreman on a ranch, and falls in love with the new schoolmarm, Molly Wood. But he crosses paths with a group of cattle rustlers and is forced to preside over the lynching of a cattle thief. The leader of the cattle rustlers, a man named Trampas, threatens to murder the Virginian, and he has to decide whether to leave town or fight back. The novel contains the famous line, "This town ain't big enough for both of us," and it ends with a dramatic shootout in the street.

It was one of the most successful novels ever published at the time, selling 20,000 copies in its first month in print, 300,000 by the end of 1902, and 1 1/2 million copies by the time of Wister's death in 1938. One of the few people who didn't like the novel was Owen Wister's mother. She told Wister that the book wasn't serious enough, and she didn't like that it seemed to advocate violence. Wister took his mother's opinion to heart. His publishers begged him for a sequel, but never wrote another book about the American West.


It's the birthday of the man who created James Bond, novelist Ian Fleming (books by this author), born in London, England (1908). He wanted to be a diplomat, but he failed the Foreign Office examination and decided to go into journalism. He worked for the Reuters News Service in London, Moscow, and Berlin, and then during World War II he served as the assistant to the British director of naval intelligence.

After the war, he bought a house in Jamaica, where he spent his time fishing and gambling and bird watching. He started to get bored, so he decided to try writing a novel about a secret agent. He named the agent James Bond after the author of a bird-watching book. He said, "I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find." He made Bond a much more heroic version of himself: a member of the British intelligence service, code name 007, with a license to kill. In the first Bond novel, Casino Royale (1953) (buy now), James Bond gambles with Nazis and takes them for everything they're worth.


It's the birthday of novelist Walker Percy (books by this author), born in Birmingham, Alabama (1916). His first and most famous novel was The Moviegoer (1961) (buy now). It was about a man who feels joy only while watching the movies.

Walker Percy said, "We love those who know the worst of us and don't turn their faces away."


It's the birthday of poet May Swenson (books by this author), born in Logan, Utah (1919). She wrote, "The summer that I was ten – / Can it be there was only one summer that I was ten? It must / have been a long one then."



TUESDAY, 29 MAY, 2007
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Poem: "Advice to Myself" by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003. Reprinted with permission.(buy now)

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1913 that The Rite of Spring premiered at the Théâtre des Champs–Élysées in Paris, a ballet with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky and music by Igor Stravinsky.

Stravinsky drew on dozens of Russian folk songs for the melodies, but instead of using those melodies in any conventional way, he chopped them up and threw them together into a dissonant collage of sounds with a relentless staccato rhythm. He composed the piece on a piano in a rented cottage, and a boy working outside his window kept shouting up at him that the chords were all wrong.

The theater director, Sergei Diaghilev, knew that the ballet could cause a scandal, and he fanned the flames by inviting people to the performance who he knew would hate it. But no one could have known how violently the crowd would react. It was unseasonably hot on this evening in 1913, so it's possible that the audience was more restless than usual. The audience sat quietly through the first several minutes of the piece, but when the music suddenly turned harsh and dissonant, people in the audience began to shout at the stage.

Fights broke out between the audience members. People who were enjoying the music attacked those who were booing. People spat in each other's faces. Men exchanged cards in order to fight duels the next day. The police were called to remove hecklers between the first and the second act, but the disruption continued. Stravinsky was so upset by the response that he left his seat in disgust.

It was one of the most legendary artistic moments of the 20th century. Almost overnight, Stravinsky became one of the most famous artists in the world.


It's the birthday of the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy (books by this author), born in Brookline, Massachusetts (1917). In 1960, he was the youngest person ever elected president of the United States, and many people saw him as a symbol of freshness and youth. Part of his personal story was that, during World War II, he was serving on a tiny ship that got rammed and cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. He saved several of his crewmen from drowning.

But something that almost no one knew about John F. Kennedy was that he had suffered from numerous medical problems for most of his life. He had Addison's disease, which required frequent injections of cortisone. He also suffered from mysterious digestive problems and terrible back pains. He had to wear a corset-like back brace at all times.

Kennedy was in terrible pain and didn't complain about his back or his stomach problems while he campaigned for a House seat in 1946. In 1952, he ran for the U.S. Senate, and he was one of the few Democrats to win a race in a year when Eisenhower swept a lot of Republicans into office. But soon after the race, X-rays showed that parts of his spine had collapsed. He couldn't tie his own shoes or walk without crutches. He finally decided to try a risky operation to fuse his vertebrae. He fell into a coma during the procedure and was given last rites. He recovered, but had to spend six months in bed.

The surgery made it possible for Kennedy to walk, but he could not bend his back forward or backward at all, and could barely turn himself over in bed or sit in a low chair. The media reported that he had recovered completely. During the election of 1960, Nixon operatives apparently tried to break into Kennedy's doctor's office to steal his medical records, but the records were stored under a code name, so they were never found. No one but his closest family members and his doctors knew of his true condition.



WEDNESDAY, 30 MAY, 2007
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Poem: "Falling Asleep in a Garden" by David Wagoner from Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Falling Asleep in the Garden

All day the bees have come to the garden.
They hover, swivel in arcs and, whirling, light
On stamens heavy with pollen, probe and revel
Inside the yellow and red starbursts of dahlias
Or cling to lobelia's blue-white mouths
Or climb the speckled trumpets of foxgloves.

My restless eyes follow their restlessness
As they plunge bodily headfirst into treasure,
Gold-fevered among these horns of plenty.
They circle me, a flowerless patch
With nothing to offer in the way of sweetness
Or light against the first omens of evening.

Some, even now, are dying at the end
Of their few weeks, some being born in the dark,
Some simply waiting for life, but some are dancing
Deep in their hives, telling the hungry
The sun will be that way, the garden this far:
This is the way to the garden. They hum at my ear.

And I wake up, startled, seeing the early
Stars beginning to bud in constellations.
The bees have gathered somewhere like petals closing
For the coming of the cold. The silhouette
Of a sphinx moth swerves to drink at a flowerhead.
The night-blooming moon opens its pale corolla.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 2002 that city workers held a wordless ceremony marking the end of the recovery and cleanup at Ground Zero in New York City.

The cleanup crew had consisted of more than 7000 firefighters, policemen, construction workers, and volunteers. The site covered 17 acres and rose 150 feet above the street. Some of the steel columns pulled from the piles glowed red. The workers eventually removed 1 1/2 million tons of debris in more than 100,000 truckloads.

The ceremony on this day in 2002 took place at 10:29 a.m., the precise time at which the second of the twin towers collapsed. A New York City firefighter struck a bell 20 times, the traditional ceremony for a fallen firefighter. The New York City Fire Department had lost 343 firefighters on September 11th.

A group of firefighters and police officers played bagpipes and drums as a flatbed truck carried away the last steel beam to be removed from the site. Many of the workers had written their names on the beam. Most of the 200,000 tons of steel recovered from the site were cut down into three-foot sections and sold primarily to Asian scrap metal companies, to be recycled for use in cars and appliances and all manner of ordinary objects and machines.


It's the birthday of filmmaker Howard Hawks (books by this author), born in Goshen, Indiana (1896). He's best known for directing Westerns such as Red River (1948) and Rio Bravo (1959), but he also made the science fiction movie The Thing (1951), the gangster movie Scarface (1932), the screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), and the detective movie The Big Sleep (1946).

He almost always shot scenes at eye level, because, he said, "That's the way a man sees it." He never used camera tricks and he rarely even moved the camera. When asked about his style as a filmmaker, he said, "I just aim ... at the actors."


It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France. She revitalized the French Army by claiming she was on a mission from God, but she was captured by the English and tried for heresy.

Her trial lasted for months. Every day she was brought into the interrogation room, where she was the only woman among judges, priests, soldiers, and guards. The judges hoped to trick her into saying something that would incriminate her as a witch or an idolater, so they asked endless questions about all aspects of her life, in no particular order. They were especially interested in her childhood, and because the transcripts of the trial were recorded, we now know more about her early life than any other common person of her time.

After months of questioning, she was told that if she didn't sign a confession, she would be put to death. She finally signed it, but a few days later she renounced the confession, and on this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake. She was 19 years old.



THURSDAY, 31 MAY, 2007
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Poem: "In the Park" by Maxine Kumin, from Nurture. © Viking Penguin, 1989. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

In the Park

You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
–you won't know till you get there which to do.

He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me not doing anything. I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.

Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.

I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there is a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,

and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the humorist and novelist Lynne Truss (books by this author), born in Petersham, England (1955). She's the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2003) (buy now), which sold more than 3 million copies.


It's the birthday of Walt Whitman (books by this author), born in West Hills, Long Island (1819). He was a printer and a newspaperman who only started writing poetry as the United Sates began to head toward the Civil War. He believed he might be able to write something to hold his country together. He began to keep a series of notebooks, full of both poetry and prose, and in one of the earliest he wrote,

"I am the poet of the body
And I am the poet of the soul
I go with the slaves of the earth equally with the masters
And I will stand between the masters and the slaves,
Entering into both so that both will understand me alike."

Leaves of Grass came out on July 4th 1855. Whitman paid for its publication himself and arranged for it to be sold in different formats, at different prices, to reach as wide an audience as possible. He anonymously wrote wildly enthusiastic reviews of the book himself. He said: "The public is a thick-skinned beast and you have to keep whacking away at its hide to let it know you're there." But despite all of his efforts, he sold only 10 copies of the first edition, and gave away the rest.

The poems that finally made him a household name were the poems he wrote about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, "Oh Captain My Captain" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."


It was on this day in 1790 that Congress enacted the United States copyright law. The law gave authors exclusive rights to publish and sell maps, charts, and books for a period of 14 years, with a chance to renew the copyright for another 14 years. There have been many changes to the U.S. copyright law since 1790. In the 19th century, copyrights became available for photographs, paintings, drawings, and models. In 1909, musical rolls for player pianos became covered by the law. In the last 30 years, copyright law has expanded to include cable TV, computer software, tapes, CDs, DVDs, and MP3s.

Copyright terms have also gradually gotten longer. Up until 1998, copyrights lasted for the life of the author plus an additional 50 years before they went into the public domain. But in that year, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the duration of copyrights by 20 years. The act was supported by a group of large corporations, led by Disney. Most of Disney's famous characters were scheduled to enter the public domain between 2000 and 2004, but now other artists and companies won't be able to use them in their books and movies and songs until at least 2019 – which means that Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and all the rest are still protected by copyright.



FRIDAY, 1 JUNE, 2007
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Poem: "Spring Evening on Blind Mountain" by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Spring Evening on Blind Mountain

I won't drink wine tonight
I want to hear what is going on
not in my own head
but all around me.
I sit for hours
outside our house on Blind Mountain.
Below this scrap of yard
across the ragged old pasture,
two horses move
pulling grass into their mouths, tearing up
wildflowers by the roots.
They graze shoulder to shoulder.
Every night they lean together in sleep.
Up here, there is no one
for me to fail.
You are gone.
Our children are sleeping.
I don't even have to write this down.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet John Masefield (books by this author), born in Ledbury, England (1878). He wrote the famous lines, "I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, / And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."


It's the birthday of Brigham Young (books by this author), born in Wittingham, Vermont (1801). He grew up in a strict, religious household in upstate New York. He got married in 1824, when he was 23, and he and his wife joined the Methodist Church. Then in April of 1830, Mormon missionaries passed through Young's town. He was skeptical at first, but two years later, he was baptized as a Latter-day Saint.

He went on to meet and impress the leader of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, and Smith appointed Young to be the leader of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Then, when Smith was killed in 1844, Young was made president of the Mormon Church. Two years later, after being threatened and attacked by locals in various Midwestern towns, he led a group on a trek to the West, searching for a place to set up the Mormon headquarters. He finally decided on Salt Lake City, Utah. Young said, "We have been kicked out of the frying-pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay."


It's the birthday of actress Marilyn Monroe (books by this author), born Norma Jean Mortenson in Los Angeles, California (1926). Growing up, she was passed around between her mother and a series of foster parents. Eventually, she wound up with her mother's friend Grace McKee, who worked in the movie industry. Grace worshiped movie stars and told Monroe that she would be a movie star herself one day. She taught Monroe to act like the women she saw in movies; took her to beauty parlors, dressed her up in fancy clothes, and had her practice smiles and pouts in the mirror. They went to lots of movies together. After Grace McKee got married, Monroe had to live for a while in an orphanage, and at night she would stare out the window at the water tower of RKO Studios.

During World War II, Monroe got a job at an aircraft factory called Radioplane, where she sprayed glue on fabrics and inspected and folded parachutes. She was working at the factory when a group of photographers showed up to take pictures of women working for the war effort. The photographers noticed her right away, and they persuaded her to become a model. She bleached her hair and began to appear on the covers of magazines.

Monroe wanted to be an actress, but she had trouble finding the right part. For a while, directors just cast her in any movie that called for a dumb blonde. Her first big success was the comic musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Everyone had been trying to sell her as a "love goddess," but it turned out that she had a gift for comedy. She died just nine years after that first big success.

Marilyn Monroe said, "I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful."


It's the birthday of novelist Colleen McCullough (books by this author), born in Wellington, Australia (1937). She's the author of The Thorn Birds (1977)(buy now), an epic novel that tells the story of an Australian family across three generations.



SATURDAY, 2 June, 2007
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Poem: "Grandfather's Cars" by Robert Phillips, from Spinach Days. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Grandfather's Cars

Every two years he traded them in ("As soon
as the ashtrays get full," he said with good humor);
always a sedate four-door sedan, always a Buick,
always dark as the inside of a tomb.

Then one spring Grandfather took off to trade,
returned, parked proudly in the driveway.
"Shave-and-a-haircut, two bits!" blared the horn.
Grandmother emerged from the kitchen into day-

light, couldn't believe her eyes. Grandfather sat
behind the wheel of a tomato-red Lincoln
convertible, the top down. "Shave-and-a-haircut,
two bits!" "Roscoe, whatever are you thinking?"

she cried. Back into the kitchen she flew.
No matter how many times he leaned on that horn,
she wouldn't return. So he went inside,
found her decapitating strawberries with scorn.

"Katie, what's wrong with that automobile?
All my life I've wanted something sporty."
He stood there wearing his Montgomery Ward
brown suit and saddle shoes. His face was warty.

She wiped her hands along her apron,
said words that cut like a band saw:
"What ails you? They'll think you've turned fool!
All our friends are dying like flies-all!

You can't drive that thing in a funeral procession."
He knew she was right. He gave her one baleful
look, left, and returned in possession
of a four-door Dodge, black, practical as nails.

Grandfather hated that car until the day he died.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the novelist Carol Shields (books by this author), born in Oak Park, Illinois (1935). After getting married and having children, she began writing poetry in her spare time, and won a poetry contest with a collection of her work. Then she decided to try a novel. With five children to raise, and all the housework to do, she had only one free hour every day, between 11:00 a.m. and noon. So every day, she would plan out in her mind what she wanted to write, and as soon as it was 11:00 a.m., she would write as fast as she could, usually about two pages. She finished her first novel, Small Ceremonies, in nine months. It came out in 1976, when Carol Shields was 41 years old.

Shields's first big success was the Stone Diaries (1993) (buy now), the fictional biography of an apparently unremarkable woman named Daisy Goodwill Flett, who lives for more than 90 years, goes from rural Manitoba to Sarasota, Florida, marries several men, raises children, writes a gardening column, and whose final thought at the end of her life is, "I am not at peace."

Shields wrote the novel as a kind of scrapbook, with excerpts of fictional letters, diaries, and newspaper articles. She even included photographs that she had found in antique shops to give the sense that Daisy might have been a real person. The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1995 and became an international best-seller.


It's the birthday of Thomas Hardy (books by this author), born in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England (1840). He was one of the few writers in English who had success as both a poet and a novelist.


It was on this day in 1977 that the short-story writer Raymond Carver (books by this author) quit drinking. He had just started to get some recognition for his writing when he began drinking more and more heavily. Finally, his doctor told him he had only six months to live, unless he quit drinking. So that's what he did, on this day in 1977. He later said, "If you want the truth, I'm prouder of that, that I quit drinking, than I am of anything in my life." He died of lung cancer 11 years after he quit drinking, but he once described those last years of his life as, "Gravy. Pure gravy."



SUNDAY, 3 JUNE, 2007
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Poem: "The Wind Blows High" by Anonymous. Public domain.

The Wind Blows High

The wind the wind the wind blows high
the rain comes scattering down the sky
she is handsome she is pretty
she is the girl of the golden city
she goes acourting one two three
please and tell me who is she

Gerry Johnson says he loves her
all the boys are fighting for her
let the boys say what they will
Gerry Johnson loves her still

he loves her he kisses her he sets her on his knee
he says dear darling won't you marry me?
he says tomorrow and she says today
so lets get a taxi and drive them away

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1800 that President John Adams arrived in Washington, D.C., for the first time. The capital city, which had been chosen by George Washington as the seat of government for the United States, was still under construction. There were no schools or churches, and only a few stores and hotels. The majority of buildings were shacks for the workers who were building the White House and the Capital. The area was swampy and full of mosquitoes, and the ground covered with tree stumps and rubble.

It took several more months before Adams was able to live in the White House, then known as the President's House. On the day he moved in, the house was still unfinished, still smelling of wet paint and wet plaster. The furniture had been shipped down from Philadelphia, but it didn't quite fit the enormous rooms of the new house. The only painting that had been hung on the wall was a portrait of George Washington in a black velvet suit.

Adams had left Abigail in Philadelphia, so he had to sleep alone. The following morning, he sat down at his desk, and in a letter to his wife he wrote, "I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."

Adams only lived in the White House for a few more months, since he lost the election to Jefferson that year. But about 150 years later, Franklin Roosevelt had the words from Adams's letter to Abigail carved into the mantel in the State Dining Room.


It's the birthday of Jefferson Davis, born in Christian County, Kentucky (1808). He's remembered as the man who served as president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, a job he never wanted. Before the war, he had urged compromise between the North and the South.

When the war came to an end, he was captured in Georgia and imprisoned for two years. He was charged with treason but never brought to trial. He refused to ask for a pardon and refused to take an oath of loyalty to the United States, and did not regain his citizenship in his lifetime.

But the year he died, 1889, Davis said in a speech to a group of former Confederates, "The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and aspirations... Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished – a reunited country."


It's the birthday of poet Allen Ginsberg (books by this author), born in Newark, New Jersey (1926). He fell in love with the poetry of Walt Whitman when he was in high school, after hearing his English teacher read a passage from Whitman's "Song of Myself" to the class. He went to Columbia University, planning to take pre-law classes and become a lawyer like his brother, but he switched his major to English and fell in with a group of poets and artists that included Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and William S. Burroughs.

He eventually wound up in San Francisco, and one afternoon in the summer of 1954, he sat down at his typewriter with the goal of writing down whatever came into his head as quickly as he could. And he began to type the famous opening lines, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked."


It's the birthday of novelist Larry McMurtry (books by this author), born in Wichita Falls, Texas (1936). He grew up in a small town called Archer City, and came from a long line of Texas ranchers. He never thought cowboys were romantic figures. He said, "[Real cowboys] led very drab, mostly repetitive, unexciting lives. But people seem to need to believe that they are simple, strong, and free, and not twisted, fascistic, and dumb, as many I've known have been."

But despite his dislike for cowboys, he went on to write one of the most popular Westerns of all time, Lonesome Dove (1985) (buy now), which became a huge best seller and a TV miniseries and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.



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