Jul. 9, 2003

After Church

by Ginger Andrews

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Poem: "After Church," by Ginger Andrews from Hurricane Sisters (used by permission of the poet).

After Church

Cruising down Hwy 38, going to visit our brother,
my sisters and I get into a serious religious discussion.
I am the youngest sister, but the oldest Christian.
I get a little loud, according to my back seat sister
who's having a diabetic low, so we stop for orange juice,
maple bars and coffee. Back on the road, I apologize,
only to get wound up again over whether or not
Revelation's thousand-year reign is literal.
I raise my hands to make a point, spilling hot coffee
down the front of my blouse and all over my new khaki Dockers.
I laugh till I cry. My behind-the-wheel sister, also crying,
says she had a dream the other night that Osama Bin Laden
was holding a gun to her head, asking if she was a Christian.
My back seat sister slaps the back of my seat. She's sorry,
but she has to go to the bathroom. She's also sorry
for volunteering to sit in back where she hears only half
of what we're saying, and can't see anything
but the backs of our pointed little heads.


Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Dean Koontz, born in Everett, Pennsylvania (1945). His father was a violent drunk, and Koontz found an escape in writing. He started selling his stories while he was a student in college, and by the time he was 25 he had published a dozen novels, including The Flesh in the Furnace (1972) and Beastchild (1970). After he graduated from college he married his high school sweetheart. They had $500 between them, and Koontz took a teaching job in Appalachia for $4,000 a year. He kept writing stories, and in 1969 his wife told him that if he wanted to try to build a career as a writer he could quit his job and she would support him for five years. Koontz published eighteen novels in those first five years, and his career was on its way. Koontz's big breakthrough came with his novel Whispers (1980), about a man named Bruno Frye, and his obsession with a Hollywood screenwriter. His other books include Strangers (1986), One Door Away From Heaven (2002), and By the Light of the Moon (2002), his latest, about three people who have to deal with the strange effects of an injection forced upon them by a mad scientist in an Arizona motel. Many people compare Koontz's work to Stephen King's, but Koontz doesn't like the "horror" label. His novels are optimistic; good often triumphs over evil. He said, "Too many current horror novels are…senselessly bleak…I think we live in a time of marvels, not a time of disaster."

It's the birthday of the "queen of the romance novel," Barbara Cartland, born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, England (1901). She is the author of more than 700 books. Starting in the mid 1970s she averaged 23 a year, and she sold more than a billion copies in her lifetime. Most of her novels are set in the nineteenth century in exotic places. They are filled with chaste women and the wealthy, well-dressed men who woo them. She never describes the act of sex, and she said that's why her novels do so well. She said, "My heroines never go to bed without a ring on their fingers. Not until page 118 at least." She said her idea of a sexy man was one who was "fully clothed and preferably in uniform."

It's the birthday of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, born in Chicago (1932). In college at Princeton he was a fierce wrestler, and captain of the team. He had a reputation for quick takedowns, and he was especially good at a move called the fireman's carry. He was President Richard Nixon's ambassador to NATO and President Gerald Ford's Chief of Staff and, at age 43, Secretary of Defense, the youngest in history. He returned to the post in 2001, and this year he published Rumsfeld's Rules: Wisdom for the Good Life, a list of guidelines for his colleagues that he'd gathered over the years. It includes advice such as, "It is easier to get into something than to get out of it," and "If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much."

It's the birthday of English novelist Ann Radcliffe, born in London, England (1764). She lived a quiet and unremarkable life. One biographer tried to write her life's story, but gave up for lack of material. After her marriage in 1787, Radcliffe began to write to pass the time while her husband, a journalist, read the newspapers. Her most famous books were the Gothic novels The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797).

It's the birthday of neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, born in London (1933). He wrote several books about his experiences as a neurologist, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), The Island of the Colorblind (1997) and Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001).

It's the birthday of biographer and historian Samuel Eliot Morison, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1887). He was a naval officer during World War II. In his books, he recreated famous sailing adventures of historical figures such as Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, and Sir Francis Drake. Two of his biographies won the Pulitzer Prize: Admiral of the Ocean Sea, a Life of Christopher Columbus (1942), and John Paul Jones (1959). To prepare for his book on Columbus, Morison made voyages to the West Indies and across the Atlantic, tracing Columbus's routes.

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