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Poem: "My Dream" by Ogden Nash, from The Best of Ogden Nash. © Ivan R. Dee, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

My Dream

Here is a dream.
It is my dream—
My own dream—
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt,
Then I dreamt that my true love
unkempt it.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1864 that a math teacher in Oxford, England, named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson gave a book he'd written as a Christmas gift to his boss's daughter, a 12-year-old girl named Alice Liddell. The book was called Alice's Adventures Underground.

Dodgson (books by this author) had always preferred the company of children to adults, and he'd been spending time with Alice and her sisters since their mother had asked him to take some photographs of the family. Alice Liddell later wrote, "We used to go to his rooms ... to sit on the big sofa on each side of him, while he told us stories, illustrating them by pencil or ink ... drawing busily on a large sheet of paper all the time."

He'd come up with the idea for a story about Alice going down a rabbit hole in the summer of 1862, while taking the girls on a rowboat ride. Alice begged him to write it down, and so he did. But while writing the book, he was actually spending less and less time with the Liddell girls, partly because they were growing up and he didn't enjoy their company as much, and partly because their mother didn't like him. He hadn't seen Alice in months when he finally sent her the finished book on this day, two years after he'd first made up the story. He'd written the story by hand in a green leather booklet with his own illustrations in the margins. It was published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 under Dodgson's pen name, Lewis Carroll.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz, (books by this author) born in St. Paul (1922), who created "Peanuts" and Charlie Brown, who never gets to kick the football, always gets his kite stuck in the tree, and never wins the love of The Little Red-Haired Girl. Schulz loved comics from an early age. His father bought six different newspapers every weekend and they would sit and read all the comics together. Schultz started drawing his own cartoons, but he got a C-plus in a correspondence art course, and his sketches were rejected by the staff of his high school yearbook. He couldn't sell any cartoons to the major magazines, and he was turned down as an animator for Disney because he had no experience. And then, he got drafted to fight in World War II when his mother was dying of cervical cancer. One of the last things she said to him was that if the family ever bought another dog, they should name it Snoopy.

When Schulz got back from the war, he began drawing a comic strip about children called "Li'l Folks," and when he sold it to a national syndicate they changed the name to "Peanuts." The first Peanuts strip appeared on October 2, 1950, and it showed a boy and a girl sitting on a curb, with Charlie Brown approaching from a distance. The boy says, "Here comes ol' Charlie Brown! Good ol' Charlie Brown. ... Yes, Sir." And then once Charlie Brown has passed by, the boy says, "How I hate him!"

In addition to Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" introduced the world to Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, Violet, and Snoopy, the dog. It became the most popular comic strip of all time, appearing in 2,600 newspapers and 75 countries, read by more than 335 million people everyday. Charles Schulz did all the drawing, inking, and lettering of his cartoons by himself, with no staff assistants. And he took almost no breaks in 50 years, even when his hand began to shake after he had heart surgery. He only decided to retire after he developed Parkinson's disease and was diagnosed with cancer. He died on February 12, 2000, the day before his last strip was set to run.

Charles Schulz said, "Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than we are with winning. Winning is great, but it isn't funny."

It's the birthday of the novelist Marilynne Robinson, (books by this author) born in Sandpoint, Idaho (1943), whose first novel, Housekeeping (1980), was nominated for the Pulitzer and won a PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel of the year. Robinson seemed to have come out of nowhere, and people couldn't wait to see what she would write next. But instead of writing another novel, she wrote a book of nonfiction about nuclear waste in England, and a collection of essays about philosophy and theology. She took a teaching job in Iowa and worked on the side as a deacon at her church. It took her more than two decades to write her second novel, Gilead, which came out in 2004, and it won the Pulitzer Prize. It's the story of a Congregationalist preacher named John Ames who knows he is dying of heart disease and wants to write down his life story for his 6-year-old son.

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Poem: "New York" by Edward Field, from After the Fall: Poems Old and New. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission.(buy now)

New York

I live in a beautiful place, a city
people claim to be astonished
when you say you live there.
They talk of junkies, muggings, dirt, and noise,
missing the point completely.
I tell them where they live it is hell,
a land of frozen people.
They never think of people.

Home, I am astonished by this environment
that is also a form of nature
like those paradises of trees and grass,
but this is a people paradise,
where we are the creatures mostly,
though thank God for dogs, cats, sparrows, and roaches.
This vertical place is no more an accident
than the Himalayas are.
The city needs all those tall buildings
to contain the tremendous energy here.
The landscape is in a state of balance.
We do God's will whether we know it or not:
where I live the streets end in a river of sunlight.

Nowhere else in the country do people
show just what they feel—
we don't put on any act.
Look at the way New Yorkers
walk down the street. It says,
I don't care. What nerve,
to dare to live their dreams, or nightmares,
and no one bothers to look.

True, you have to be an expert to live here.
Part of the trick is not to go anywhere, lounge about,
go slowly in the midst of the rush for novelty.
Anyway, besides the eats the big event here
is the streets, which are full of love—
we hug and kiss a lot. You can't say that
for anywhere else around. For some
it's a carnival of sex—
there's all the opportunity in the world.
For me it is no different:
out walking, my soul seeks its food.
It knows what it wants.
Instantly it recognizes its mate, our eyes meet,
and our beings exchange a vital energy,
the universe goes on Charge,
and we pass by without holding.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1095 that Pope Urban II, while on a speaking tour in France, called for the first Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Turks. There was no imminent threat. Muslims had occupied Jerusalem for hundreds of years. But Urban II had noticed that Europe was becoming an increasingly violent place, with low-level knights killing each other over their land rights, and he thought that he could bring peace to the Christian world by directing all that violence against an outside enemy. So he made up stories of how Turks in Jerusalem were torturing and killing Christians, and anyone who was willing to join the fight against them would go to heaven.

About 100,000 men from France, Germany, and Italy answered the call, formed into several large groups, and marched across Asia Minor to the Middle East. Nearly half of them died from exhaustion and sickness before they ever reached their destination. They began sacking cities along the way, and they fought among each other for the spoils of each battle. When they reached the trading city of Antioch, they killed almost everyone, including the Christians who lived there. By the time they got to Jerusalem, it had recently fallen into the hands of Egyptians, who were friendly with the Vatican. But the crusaders attacked anyway, killing every Muslim they could find. The Jews in the city gathered in the temple, and the crusaders set it on fire.

Pope Urban II died two weeks later, never hearing the news. But the crusading would go on for the next 200 years. In the fourth and last Crusade, in 1202, the crusaders never even made it to Jerusalem, but got sidetracked and wound up destroying Constantinople, which was at the time the last great city left over from the Roman Empire.

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Poem: "London" by William Blake, Public Domain.


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the 250th birthday of William Blake, (books by this author) born in London (1757), who was 4 years old when he saw God's head appear in a window, later saw the prophet Ezekiel sitting in a field, and once came upon a tree full of angels. He tried to tell his parents about these visions, but his father threatened to beat him for lying, so he stopped mentioning it.

Instead, he began drawing pictures, and his work was so promising that his parents sent him to art school to become an engraver. He learned how to engrave copper plates for printing illustrations in books, and he went on to produce the illustrations for books about architecture, botany, and medicine. His work was so good that he was commissioned to come up with his own illustrations for the work of Chaucer, Dante, and selections from the Bible, which are now considered among the greatest works of engraving ever produced. He even invented a method of printing illustrations in color, and art historians still aren't sure how he did it.

But as he became more famous for his artwork, Blake also began telling the artists and publishers he worked with that he was regularly visited by angels, and that he had conversations with him. He told a friend that he had discussed Renaissance art with the archangel Gabriel, and Gabriel preferred the paintings of Michelangelo to those of Raphael. Blake's work as an illustrator grew more and more bizarre, until finally he could only make a living by selling watercolors to a small group of private collectors.

Blake had also been writing poetry for much of his life, and since he had his own printing press, he decided to print it himself. He developed a process of writing his poems directly on copper plates and then engraving illustrations around them. He would print a few dozen copies and stitch them into pamphlets, which he sold himself. His books got no attention in his lifetime. Most critics dismissed him as a madman. He died in 1827, and it wasn't until 1863 that a biography about him persuaded people to read his poetry for the first time. Today, he's best known for the poems he wrote for children, Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794).

William Blake, who wrote, "To see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour."

He also said, "Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow."

It's the birthday of music producer Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, born in Detroit (1929). He was working on an assembly line at the Ford Motor Company when he first began writing songs in his head to relieve the monotony. He borrowed $700 from his family to start a recording studio in 1959, and he got his first big hit in 1960 with the song "Shop Around" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

Motown Records went on to record music by the Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5.

It's the birthday of the novelist Rita Mae Brown, (books by this author) born in Hanover, Pennsylvania (1944), who wrote Rubyfruit Jungle (1973), one of the first lesbian coming-of-age novels ever published in America. It was rejected by all the major publishers, so she went with a tiny press called Daughters, Inc., with no real advertising budget, but the book got passed around and became a word-of-mouth best seller, selling more than a million copies.

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Poem: "Coats" by Jane Kenyon , from Constance. © Graywolf Press, 1993. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


I saw him leaving the hospital
with a woman's coat over his arm.
Clearly she would not need it.
The sunglasses he wore could not
conceal his wet face, his bafflement.

As if in mockery the day was fair,
and the air mild for December. All the same
he had zipped his own coat and tied
the hood under his chin, preparing
for irremediable cold.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis, (books by this author) born in Belfast (1898), who grew up an Anglican, but he found religion cold and boring. He preferred the Irish, Norse, and Greek myths he read in storybooks. He created an imaginary world called Boxen and wrote stories about it. He said, "My two chief literary pleasures [were] 'dressed animals' and 'knights in armour.' As a result, I wrote about chivalrous mice and rabbits who rode out in complete mail to kill not giants but cats."

He became a teacher at Oxford, where he taught literature and mythology, and it was there that he met J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Christian, and they would take long walks around the Oxford grounds, debating the existence of God. The morning after one of those walks, Lewis went with his brother to the zoo. He said, "When we set out [for the zoo] I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion."

Lewis went on to become a prominent Christian apologist in the world, recording a series of radio lectures about Christianity, broadcast during World War II. People gathered around their radios to listen to him during bombing raids. At the same time, Lewis was taking evacuee children from London into his house, and they all seemed poorly educated and unimaginative to him.

So he began thinking about how he could give contemporary children what he had gotten from the fairy tales he read when he was a child. One day, one of the evacuee children asked him what was inside the big wardrobe in his house, and that gave him an idea for a story about four children — named Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund — who are staying at a country house during World War II when they discover a secret doorway in the back of an old wardrobe that leads to a land called Narnia. The first of seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950). Today, the Narnia books still sell about a million copies a year.

It's the birthday of Louisa May Alcott, (books by this author) born in Germantown, Pennsylvania (1832), who started out writing these sensational stories about duels and suicides, opium addiction, mind control, bigamy, and murder. She called it "blood and thunder" literature and she said, "I seem to have a natural ambition for the lurid style." She published under male pseudonyms to keep from embarrassing her family. But in 1867, an editor suggested that she try writing what he called "a girl's book," and she said she would.

The result was Little Women (1868), which was based on her own family and her own experience as an aspiring writer. Alcott was disappointed at how popular Little Women became, because she was obligated to keep writing more books in the same vein.

It's the birthday Madeleine L'Engle, (books by this author) born in New York City (1918), who struggled to find any success as a writer with novels about ordinary families and ordinary situations, but after reading about the ideas of Albert Einstein, she wrote a science fiction novel called A Wrinkle in Time (1962), about a group of children who have to rescue their father from a planet where individuality has been outlawed. The book was rejected by 26 different publishers, who all felt that the book was too difficult for children but too fantastic for adults. But when it came out in 1962, the novel won the Newbery Medal, and it sells about 15,000 copies a year. L'Engle put a clause in her publishing contract that gave her publisher the rights to A Wrinkle in Time in perpetuity in the whole universe except for the Andromeda galaxy. She died this year.

Madeleine L'Engle said, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

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Poem: "Life On Earth..." by David Keplinger, from The Prayers of Others. © New Issues, 2006. Reprinted with permission.(buy now)

Life On Earth...

LIFE ON EARTH is pulled down hard on a man's head. This life was made by hatters. A busy street is only coffee, bread, and hats. The smell of a man's hat-an old man's hat-is like the nostril of a horse. You are breathing in what something beautiful and ancient has breathed out. The heat and life contained in it, the silk interior. An old man's hat is necessary: You see that when he takes it off, his hair and skin abruptly float away.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the playwright David Mamet, (books by this author) born in Chicago (1947), whose father was a labor lawyer and loved to argue for the sake of arguing. Mamet said, "In my family, in the days prior to television, we liked to while away the evenings by making ourselves miserable, solely based on our ability to speak the language viciously." Mamet has gone on to write a series of plays about con men, salesmen, thieves, and liars in plays such as American Buffalo (1975) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. His newest play, November, is scheduled to open on Broadway this January (2008).

It's the birthday of Jonathan Swift, (books by this author) born in Dublin (1667), who was ordained as an Anglican priest and spent much of his early life trying to curry favor with politicians in England, so he could be assigned to an English parish. But it didn't work out, and he got an assignment in his home country of Ireland, which he hated. But after a while, he began to sympathize with the Irish poor, who were being oppressed by their English rulers, and he started writing political pamphlets in protest of England's rule, and he became famous for his sarcasm and satire. In his most notorious essay, "A Modest Proposal" (1729), he suggested that perhaps the best way to deal with the Irish poor was to feed their babies as a delicacy to the English aristocracy.

Swift's masterpiece was Gulliver's Travels (1726), the story of a man journeying through a series of exotic places and meeting all kinds of strange creatures, including a race of miniature people, a race of giants, scholars who think so much that they constantly run into each other, immortals who can't remember anything, wise and virtuous horses, and a disgusting race of beings called Yahoos, which he eventually realizes are humans. The novel was full of vicious inside jokes about the politicians of the day, and Swift was so nervous about publishing it that he dropped the manuscript off at the publisher's house in the middle of the night.

It's the birthday of the man who wrote under the name Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, (books by this author) born in Florida, Missouri (1835), who was a Western journalist and humorist when he persuaded a San Francisco newspaper to pay for him to take a steamboat pleasure cruise to Europe and the Middle East. The result was his book The Innocents Abroad (1868), which made him famous. Travel books were popular at the time, but Twain's was the first to be written in such a distinctly American voice. He wrote, "In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."

Twain became so famous that he was accepted into the elite literary society in New England, and he began publishing his work in the prestigious Atlantic Monthly. But, in 1877, Twain was invited to give a speech at the poet John Greenleaf Whittier's 70th birthday dinner, and he made the terrible mistake of turning the speech into a roast, poking fun at Whittier and other New England writers like Emerson and Longfellow. The audience reacted with horrified silence, and Twain was so embarrassed that he left the country with his family the following year.

When he came out with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884, it got terrible reviews. He spent the rest of his life struggling to pay his debts, writing and publishing all kinds of things, and going on endless lecture tours. It took decades before people began to recognize Huckleberry Finn as a masterpiece. Ernest Hemingway famously said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

Mark Twain wrote, "It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened."

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Poem: "Bluefield Breakdown" by Rick Mulkey, from Toward Any Darkness. © Word Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Bluefield Breakdown

Where are you Clyde Moody, and you Elmer Bird,
"Banjo Man from Turkey Creek," and you Ed Haley,
and Dixie Lee singing in that high lonesome way?
I feel the shadow now upon me...
Come you angels and play those dusty strings.
You ain't gonna work that sawmill Bother Carter,
nor sleep in that Buchanon County mine. Clawhammer
some of that Cripple Creek song. Fiddle me a line
of "Chinquapin Hunting." Shout little Lulie, shout, shout,
I need to hear music as lonesome as I am,
I need to hear voices sing words I've forgotten.
This valley's much too dark now.
Sunset right beside us, sunrise too far away.
I haven't heard a tipple creak all day,
and everyone I loved left
on the last Norfolk & Southern train.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1862 that Abraham Lincoln gave the State of the Union address at one of the lowest points of his presidency. An end to the Civil War was nowhere in sight. Just 10 weeks before, Lincoln had issued his Emancipation Proclamation, turning the war into war about slavery rather than just states rights. But in the recent election, anti-Lincoln Democrats had made big gains in the Congress. Many people saw that as a sign that the North didn't want to fight to free the slaves. People wondered if the war could ever be won, if the Union had been lost forever. And if the Union had been lost, perhaps the democratic experiment of the United States had actually been a failure.

Instead of expressing doubts in his speech, Lincoln argued that freeing the slaves was necessary to ensure that America live up to its own ideals. In his speech, on this day in 1862, Lincoln said, "The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. ... In giving freedom to the slave, we ensure freedom to the free, honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth."

It's the birthday of director and screenwriter Woody Allen, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn (1935), who became obsessed with magic tricks, comedy, and the clarinet when he was a boy, but he did all his performing alone in his bedroom. He said, "Performing for my parents would have been like serving tennis balls into the ocean." He began submitting jokes to gossip columnists when he was 15, and he was selling jokes regularly before he'd graduated high school. He went to NYU but got an F in English and a C-plus in film production and flunked out from poor attendance. He got a job writing jokes for The Tonight Show, but it wasn't until he was 25 that he started doing his own stand-up comedy onstage. He was so nervous the first night that he stammered through his jokes, and something about his nervousness just made the jokes funnier, so he adopted the persona of boundless insecurity. He would say things like, "How can I find meaning in a finite universe, given my shirt and waist size?"

He knew he wanted to make movies, but he'd never been to film school, so he bought the rights to a Japanese spy film, and dubbed in all new dialogue. The result was What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), about a secret agent trying to track down the recipe for the world's greatest egg salad. He's since made, on average, one movie every year for the last 40 years, most of which he wrote, directed, and starred in.

Woody Allen said, "Life [is] full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly."

It's the birthday of American detective novelist Rex Stout, (books by this author) born in Noblesville, Indiana (1886), who was a hack magazine journalist for a while and then developed a popular savings-account scheme for schools that made him a great deal of money. So he retired to Paris and at the age of 46, he wrote his first detective novel featuring Nero Wolfe, who solves crimes even though he weighs more than 300 pounds, collects orchids, and never leaves his house. The first Nero Wolfe novel was called Fer-de-Lance, and it was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1934. It was a huge success, and Stout went on to write another Wolfe novel almost every year for the rest of his life.

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks broke the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, resulting in her arrest. At the time, she said that she was just too tired to stand that day, but she later admitted that she'd challenged the law on purpose, because she thought it was wrong. Her protest worked, sparking a yearlong boycott of the buses by blacks in Montgomery that helped lead to the end of segregation.

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Poem: "Eating A Mango Over The Kitchen Sink" by Phebe Hanson, from Why Still Dance. © Nodin Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission.(buy now)

It's the only way to do it, even though Melody, my Weight Watchers
lecturer, has admonished us against the over-the-sink method of eating:
"Use your best china and silver, sit down, light candles, eat slowly."

But a mango is a different story, impossible to eat except leaning
over the sink, tropical juice dripping down my pale Minnesota
              winter wrists as I gaze
out at snow raging against my windows, like the storms of my childhood.

How I used to love them, when everything shut down — schools, stores,
post office, bank, and churches. "I suppose the pool hall's open," my father said,
knowing some in his congregation preferred that haven to church.

Our whole family clustered together, joyful over a free day,
              and even my stepmother
seemed happy, made cinnamon toast and cocoa with marshmallows
instead of the slimy oatmeal we all hated but had to eat,

and my father postponed his sermon-writing to join us after supper
in the living room while we listened to Lux Radio Theater,
              forgetting homework,
sermons, the dirty clothes in the basement, waiting on the cement floor.

For once we were all contented, sitting together on our old
davenport, even though not one of us had ever tasted a mango.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1942 that scientists working on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago conducted the first-ever man-made nuclear reaction. The leader of the experiment was the Italian immigrant Enrico Fermi, who had won a Nobel Prize for discovering fission. He had realized that if you split an atom with a neutron, the split atom would produce more neutrons, which could then split other atoms, and so on, creating a chain reaction. To test the idea, he and his assistants built a makeshift nuclear reactor on an unused squash court near the university's football field, constructing a pile of uranium bricks interspersed with graphite blocks to slow down the neutrons. They used neutron-absorbing cadmium rods to delay the reaction until they were ready. A couple of young physicists stood on a scaffold over the pile with buckets of liquid cadmium as an emergency measure in case there was a meltdown.

They started the reaction at 9:45 a.m., withdrawing all the cadmium rods so that the uranium neutrons would begin splitting atoms. The only way they could observe what was happening was with their Geiger counters, which measured the number of neutrons in the room. As the rods were removed, the Geiger counters made a clicking sound that grew faster and faster, until they began to make a sound that one of the eyewitnesses described as a roar. Finally, Fermi announced that the reaction had reached critical mass, and they reinserted the rods to shut it down. People applauded, but nobody cheered. They celebrated with paper cups of Chianti, but nobody made a toast. One of the young physicists there that day said, "We had known that we were about to unlock a giant; still, we could not escape an eerie feeling when we knew we had actually done it."

It's the birthday of short-story writer George Saunders, (books by this author) born in Amarillo, Texas (1958), who has published a series of surreal, comic stories in his collections CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) and Pastoralia (2000). His most recent book is The Braindead Megaphone (2007).

It's the birthday of novelist Ann Patchett, (books by this author) born in Los Angeles (1963), whose first big success was the novel Bel Canto (2001) about a hostage crisis in which terrorists take control over an extravagant party and hold the guests hostage for months, and over time, some of the hostages and terrorists become friends and even lovers. Her most recent novel is Run, which came out this year (2007). Ann Patchett said, "I believe that my gift in this world is not that I'm smarter or more talented than anyone else: it's that I had a singular goal. I don't want other stuff: friends, kids, travel. What makes me happy is writing."



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