Jul. 16, 2002

How Lies Grow

by Maxine Chernoff

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Poem: "How Lies Grow," by Maxine Chernoff from Leap Year Day: New & Selected Poems (Another Chicago Press).

How Lies Grow

The first time I lied to my baby, I told him that it was his face on the
baby food jar. The second time I lied to my baby, I told him that he
was the best baby in the world, that I hoped he'd never leave me. Of
course I want him to leave me someday. I don't want him to become
one of those fat shadows who live in their mother's houses watching
game shows all day. The third time I lied to my baby I said, "Isn't she
nice?" of the woman who'd caressed him in his carriage. She was old
and ugly and had a disease. The fourth time I lied to my baby, I told
him the truth, I thought. I told him how he'd have to leave me some-
day or risk becoming a man in a bow tie who eats macaroni on Fri-
days. I told him it was for the best, but then I thought, I want him to
live with me forever. Someday he'll leave me: then what will I do?

It's the birthday of novelist Anita Brookner, born in London, England (1928). Many of her early novels, including the Booker Prize winning Hotel du Lac (1984), were about young women who yearn for romance and fulfillment. Brookner received a Ph.D. in art history and taught the subject at the University of Reading from 1959 to 1964. In 1967, she became the first woman to be named Slade Professor of Art at Cambridge University. She published several works in her field, including The Genius of the Future: Studies in French Art Criticism (1971), and Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth Century Phenomenon (1972). In 1981, she published her first novel, the loosely autobiographical A Start in Life, in which the heroine constantly yearns for "her adventure, the one that was to turn her life into literature."

It's the birthday of writer Kathleen (Thompson) Norris, born in San Francisco, California (1880), who was one of the most successful and popular novelists of her time, selling more than ten million copies of her books. Her stories usually centered around conflicts between the haves and the have-nots, emphasizing what she called "the fearful power of money upon human lives." Some of her titles include The Beloved Woman (1921), The Foolish Virgin (1928), Miss Harriet Townshend (1955), and Through a Glass Darkly (1957). Over fifty years, she wrote eighty-one novels, two autobiographies, a play, dozens of short stories, poems, and magazine articles, and in the 1940s, a soap opera radio serial. She said: "Life is easier than you'd think; all that is necessary is to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerable."

It's the birthday of explorer and writer Roald Amundsen, born in Borge, Norway (1872). For hundreds of years, explorers had been looking for a northern water route connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. In 1903, Amundsen and his crew of six became the first men to make a ship voyage through the Northwest Passage. His account of the voyage, North West Passage, was published in 1908. Amundsen was preparing to be the first to reach the North Pole when he heard that Robert E. Peary had beat him to it, so he decided to go south instead. He told no one but his brother, in order to beat the rival expedition of Robert F. Scott. Amundsen, four men, four sleds, and fifty-two dogs reached the South Pole on December Fourteenth, 1911, beating Scott by more than a month.

It's the birthday of religious leader and writer Mary Baker Eddy, born in Bow, New Hampshire (1821). From a young age, she suffered from a spinal ailment and spent much of her life preoccupied by issues of health. In 1862, Baker entered a sanitarium, where she met Phineas P. Quimby, a man who believed in a "science of health" achieved by direct mental healing that had religious overtones. Baker was seemingly cured, but her suffering recurred after Quimby's death. In 1866, she fell on the ice and her suffering increased. She turned to the New Testament and was suddenly healed, which led her to the discover what she later called Christian Science, or the "superiority of spiritual over physical power." In 1875, she set down her principles in a voluminous work called Science and Health, and in 1876 founded the Christian Science Association.

In 1951 on this day, The Catcher in the Rye was published. This novel, which practically defines the coming-of-age genre, written by reclusive author J.D. Salinger, is the story of a sensitive young man, Holden Caulfield, adrift in New York City a few days before Christmas vacation. It has sold millions of copies, and is still one of the most widely-read books in the United States.

In 1945 on this day, the first atomic bomb was exploded at 5:30 a.m., one hundred twenty miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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