May 17, 2003

Mother Doesn't Want a Dog

by Judith Viorst

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Poem: "Mother Doesn't Want a Dog," by Judith Viorst from If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries…(Macmillian).

Mother Doesn't Want a Dog

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they smell,
And never sit when you say sit,
Or even when you yell.
And when you come home late at night
And there is ice and snow,
You have to go back out because
The dumb dog has to go.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they shed,
And always let the strangers in
And bark at friends instead,
And do disgraceful things on rugs,
And track mud on the floor,
And flop upon your bed at night
And snore their doggy snore.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
She's making a mistake.
Because, more than a dog, I think
She will not want this snake.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of English novelist Dorothy Miller Richardson, born in Abingdon, Berkshire, England in 1873, one of the first writers to use stream of consciousness. She wrote the thirteen volume autobiographical novel Pilgrimage (1938), which tells the life-story of a woman in early twentieth century Britain.

It's the birthday of English novelist Robert Smith Surtees, born in 1803 in County Durham. He wrote humorous novels about the sporting life of British aristocrats in the nineteenth century. He was an avid foxhunter and edited The New Sporting Magazine for twenty-five years. In Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities (1838), he created the character of John Jorrocks the sporting grocer. Charles Dickens' publishers loved the character and the book and suggested to Dickens that he try writing something similar; the result was The Pickwick Papers (1837). Surtees said, "More people are flattered into virtue than bullied out of vice."

It's the birthday of American screenwriter and playwright John Patrick, born John Patrick Goggan in Louisville, Kentucky in 1905. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Teahouse of the August Moon (1954), about an American soldier who builds a teahouse in a small Okinawa village.

It's the birthday of young adult novelist Gary Paulsen, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1939. He's the author of dozens of books, including Canyons (1990), Woodsong (1990), and Hatchet (1988), about a fourteen-year-old boy who survives over fifty days in the northern wilderness. Paulson ran away from home when he was fourteen years old, and later worked on a farm, as an engineer, a ranch hand, a truck driver, and a sailor. He decided to be a writer while he was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California. He drove off to northern Minnesota, rented a cabin on a lake, and wrote his first novel while living off his own vegetable gardens. He said, "In my case, writing is putting bloody skins on your back and dancing around the fire to tell what the hunt was like, and that's all it is."

It's the birthday of British writer Dennis Potter, born in Berry Hill, Gloucestershire, England in 1935. He wrote plays, movies, and novels, but started out writing challenging and innovative dramas for television, like Pennies from Heaven (1978), a musical about a depressed sheet music salesman during the Depression. He said, "I first saw television when I was in my late teens. It made my heart pound. Here was a medium of great power, of potentially wondrous delights, that could slice through all the tedious hierarchies of the printed word and help emancipate us from many of the stifling tyrannies of class and status and gutter-press ignorance."

It's the birthday of composer Erik Satie, born in Honfleur, Calvados, France in 1866. He's known for his simple, catchy piano pieces with titles like Veritable Flabby Preludes (for a Dog) (1912) and Sketches and Exasperations of a Big Boob Made of Wood (1913). Known as "the velvet gentleman," he owned twelve identical velvet costumes, 84 identical handkerchiefs, and nearly 100 umbrellas. He walked several miles to a cabaret in Paris every evening, where he played all night before walking back with a hammer in his pocket for protection.

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