Jul. 31, 2005


by Hayden Carruth

SUNDAY, 31 JULY, 2005
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Poem: "Silence" by Hayden Carruth, from Collected Shorter Poems ©. Copper Canyon Press. Reprinted with permission.


Sometimes we don't say anything. Sometimes
       we sit on the deck and stare at the masses of
goldenrod where the garden used to be
       and watch the color change from day to day,
the high yellow turning to mustard and at last
       to tarnish. Starlings flitter in the branches
of the dead hornbeam by the fence. And are these
       therefore the procedures of defeat? Why am I
saying all this to you anyway since you already
       know it? But of course we always tell
each other what we already know. What else?
       It's the way love is in a late stage of the world.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the economist Milton Friedman, born in Brooklyn (1912), author of A Monetary History of the United States. He started the school of monetarism, which argues for the laissez-faire principle that the government should not actively engineer business. In the '60s, he advocated school vouchers and a flat tax. He's also been an advocate for an all-volunteer army and an opponent of the war on drugs.

It's the birthday of the novelist J.K. (Joanne Kathleen) Rowling, born in Chipping Sodbury, England (1966). She's the creator of Harry Potter, who, in the first book about him, is an orphan forced to live with his aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley at Number Four, Privet Drive. He sleeps in a cupboard under the stairs. For the first ten years of his life, he's believed that his parents were killed in a car accident. But on his eleventh birthday, he learns that they were wizards and that they were murdered by a man named Lord Voldemort, who is trying to take over the world. The Harry Potter books follow Harry as he attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learns how to use magic and tries to avenge his parents' death.

J.K. Rowling grew up in the suburbs of Bristol, England. She was telling stories when she was a little kid. She said, "The first story I ever wrote down was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends ... Ever since Rabbit, I have wanted to be a writer, although I rarely told anyone so."

She set out to be a secretary, learned French so she could get a job as a bilingual secretary, but she found that she hated office work. Instead of taking notes in meetings, she daydreamed and wrote possible names of fictional characters in the margins of her notebooks.

She was in her mid 20s when she took a four-hour trip by train across England, and the train stopped somewhere between Manchester and London. Rowling looked out at a field of cows and suddenly got the idea for a story about a boy who goes to a school for wizardry. She said, "Harry Potter just strolled into my head fully formed." She liked that it was a story about a boy who was powerless in the ordinary world but who gets to travel to a place where his power would be almost limitless. By the time the train trip was over, she had already invented most of the characters that would appear in the Harry Potter books.

She worked on the first one for about four years, during which time she got married, had a daughter, got divorced, and was living in Edinburgh as a single mother. She had to live on public assistance to finish the book. It came out in America in 1998, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and J.K. Rowling became one of the best-selling authors of all time.

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