Jun. 4, 2002

Carp Gallbladders

by Matt Cook

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Poem: "Carp Gallbladders," by Matt Cook from In The Small of My Backyard (Manic D Press).

Carp Gallbladders

I was reading an academic medical journal once,
Just to see what that would feel like.

There was something in there
About this weird disease that was identified.
It kept showing up in Chinatowns across the country-
Nobody could figure out what the deal was with it.

Finally the disease was linked to carp gallbladders-
Residents in these sections were eating
Ridiculously authentic food that featured carp gallbladders.

Then some fraternity brothers at a major state university
Came down with the same sickness-
And nobody could think of any lifestyle parallel
Between middle-class frat boys and poor, urban Asians.

But then through a lot of trial and error and stuff
It was determined that the frat boys
Got the disease from drinking games
Like swallowing goldfish,
Which are a type of carp,
The End.

I've got a friend from Iceland;
He said this to me the other day:

"Americans are always telling you about some article they've read."

On this day in 2000, a chartered train called the Literature Express started off on a month-long journey from Lisbon to Berlin. One hundred and seven writers from forty-three countries took the trip. The journey was supposed to allow the writers time to get to know each other in an informal setting so they could start to talk about cross-border tensions in Europe. Leo Tuor, a writer from a small Swiss village, said that he agreed to go because he wanted to meet some new people. "I write in Romansh," he said. "It's a language spoken by only forty thousand people, and I know them all already."

On this day in 1962, William Faulkner's The Reivers was published. It was the last novel he published before his death. The provisional title was "The Stealers," but Faulkner changed it to "The Reavers," using an old word for thieves. Then he wrote his publisher to say that he wanted to spell Reavers the old, Scottish way, E-I, instead of E-A.

On this day in 1940, Carson McCullers' novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter first appeared. She was twenty-three, and the only thing she had published before was a short story. The novel, about a group of outcasts all drawn to the same deaf man, was a magnificent success. She wrote later, "For a whole year I worked on The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter without understanding it at all. Each character was talking to a central character, but why, I didn't know. I'd almost decided that the book was no novel, that I should chop it up into short stories. But I could feel the mutilation in my body when I had that idea, and I was in despair. Suddenly it occurred me that Harry Minowitz, the character all the other characters were talking to, was a different man, a deaf mute, and immediately the name was changed to John Singer. The whole focus of the novel was fixed and I was for the first time committed with my whole soul to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter."

On this day in 1920, Congress passed the 19th amendment to the Constitution. It took over forty years of political activism to get it passed, and most of the women who had worked for passage early on did not live long enough to vote themselves.

It's the birthday of the playwright Robert Anderson, born in New York City (1917). He's the author of Tea and Sympathy, the first Broadway play to consider in a thoughtful way the possibility of a young man's being homosexual. The young man wasn't, as it turned out, but the idea wasn't condemned. It was Deborah Kerr's first starring role as an actress.

It's the birthday of Harry Grew Crosby, born 1898 in the Back Bay of Boston. He was J.P. Morgan's nephew and was expected to become a banker, but instead he stole a socialite from her husband and took her to Paris. He started writing poetry. While he waited for fame and recognition, he and Caresse founded the Black Sun Press, which published handsome editions of titles by Hart Crane, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and T.S. Elliot. Crosby drank and smoked and gambled and conquered women and finally killed himself two years after he started Black Sun.

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




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