Nov. 20, 2002


by Willa Schneberg

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Poem: "Biscuits," by Willa Schneberg from In the Margins of the World (Plain View Press).


Mostly when I'm vacuuming the carpet
in Mr. Besdine's office
I don't worry, just do the work
and know I'll be sleeping in my own bed
when all the desks in all them offices
will have people sitting around them.
Sometimes I don't hear the vacuum cleaner
and I'm quiet like when I play
Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow
in the Mission Baptist Church.
There are other times I imagine fixing biscuits
unrolling my cloth from the coffee can,
flour still on it from the last time,
smoothing it out on the counter,
cloth white, flour white.
My mother's biscuit cutter
made from an old Pet Milk can,
not a tack of rust on it,
presses in easy as a body to a hammock.
Some like biscuits and gravy,
I myself fancy biscuits with my homemade
muscadine jelly that comes from the
muscadine grape that grows wild.

It's the birthday of author and television host Alistair Cooke, born in Manchester, England (1908), who started out as commentator on American affairs for the BBC in England, and host of Masterpiece Theatre, which aired on PBS. He was also a writer who waged war against the use of the word "area." He explained, "Airplanes used to stop at the gate. Now they 'make a complete stop at the gate area.' From which you proceed to the baggage claim area and on to the New York, or Dallas, or San Francisco area. It is a cloudy word that has blanketed, and hence obliterated, the differences between neighborhood, district, part of town, region, state, topic, theme."

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Nadine Gordimer, born in Springs, South Africa (1923). She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She's the author of sixteen collections of stories and thirteen novels, most of which explore the issue of race in her homeland. Gordimer was born in the mining town of Springs, Transvaal, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from London and Latvia. The contrast between her own privileged background - her father was a wealthy jeweler - and the conditions of the black mine workers stirred her political conscience at an early age. She said, "If you live in a place where there are very strange things that you see going on around you, you begin to ask yourself: Do I go to this convent school, as I did, and there were only white kids there? Do I go to the cinema and we're all white? Do I use the library, and no blacks do? Is it really because they don't read or they can't read? Is it really because they wouldn't like to go to the movies? And as you begin to ask yourself these questions, you realize this isn't natural." She also said, "For myself, I have said that nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction."

It's the birthday of cartoonist Chester Gould, born in Pawnee, Oklahoma (1900). He tried all sorts of comic strips for the Chicago Tribune-New York Daily News Syndicate and finally in 1931 he offered a strip called "Plainclothes Tracy." It became the comic strip "Dick Tracy" and was the first serious comic strip that depicted murder, bloodshed and racketeers. Dick Tracy was a detective who was in love with Tess Truehart. All of the villains were grotesque figures with pronounced physical abnormalities and matching nicknames: Flattop, Pruneface, The Mole, and The Brow. "Dick Tracy" introduced futuristic gadgets such as two-way wrist radios and space shuttles.

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




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