Oct. 18, 2005

The Lost Work

by Tim Nolan

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Poem: "The Lost Work" by Tim Nolan. Used with permission from the poet.

The Lost Work

Last night in a dream—I wrote a Tolstoy epic—set in my time—
all the details—exact—just right. There was an entire chapter

about the dull sound of marbles rolling across the linoleum floor.
Then—the desire for water became a recurring theme which led

to some confusion about the sex scenes—many of which took place
in frothy hot tubs at a Motel 6 just outside of town. I had to

rewrite—forever—the part where Death showed up at the corner bar—
she finally wore a black satin gown—drank warm tap water from a goblet.

The protagonist's devotion to aspirin did not go unnoticed—that—
along with his compulsion to frequently change the furnace filters.

When the terrorists arrived, they arrived unexpectedly—as expected—
yet—who would know they would wear the various faces of my cousins?

The epilogue ended up being far too long-much longer than the book itself—
which caused me—to remember—how much—I wanted to know the end.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of cowboy and writer H.L. Davis, born Roseburg, Oregon (1894). He was a cowboy and surveyor along the Columbia River. He saved up his money and went to Stanford University.

He wrote poems in the 1920s about the American West that were highly regarded, and a novel about his home in Oregon, Honey in the Horn.

It's the birthday of Abbott Joseph Liebling, one of the great American journalists, born in New York City (1904). He got his first job at The New York Times where he was fired for making up facts. He bumped around from paper to paper, and in the fall of 1926, at his father's expense, he went off for a year in France.

He came back to New York and got a job at the New York World, writing about saloons, nightclubs, racetracks, and boxing. He said, "My only friends were prize fighters' seconds, curators of tropical fish, kept women, bail bondsmen, press agents, horse clockers and female psychiatrists."

He joined the staff of the New Yorker magazine in 1935. He covered the war in Europe for the magazine but didn't write about politics or combat strategy. He wrote about day-to-day life among the soldiers. He wrote for the New Yorker for the rest of his life. He wrote about food, boxing, and about journalism.

A.J. Liebling said, "I can write better than anybody who can write faster and I can write faster than anybody who can write better."

It's the birthday of the playwright Wendy Wasserstein, born in Brooklyn, New York (1950). She's best known for her play The Heidi Chronicles. She said, "I loved the theater. I just didn't think you could do it as a profession. I thought that I would marry a lawyer or be one and do productions of Guys and Dolls at my local suburban playhouse."

But she took a playwrighting course in college and struggled to make it as a playwright in New York City. During her years of struggle, she was watching as most of her friends and siblings got married and had children. She thought a lot about what she'd sacrificed by devoting herself to theater, and that became the subject of The Heidi Chronicles.

It's the birthday of Terry McMillan, born in Port Huron, Michigan (1951). She's known for her novels about middle class black women and their search for love, including Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

It's the birthday of the novelist Rick Moody, born in New York City (1961). His first novel was Garden State—about young people growing up in the industrial wastelands of New Jersey.

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




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