Nov. 10, 2006

Cinderella's Diary

by Ron Koertge

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Poem: "Cinderella's Diary" by Ron Koertge, from Fever. © Red Hen Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Cinderella's Diary

I miss my stepmother. What a thing to say
but it's true. The prince is so boring: four
hours to dress and then the cheering throngs.
Again. The page who holds the door is cute
enough to eat. Where is he once Mr. Charming
kisses my forehead goodnight?

Every morning I gaze out a casement window
at the hunters, dark men with blood on their
boots who joke and mount, their black trousers
straining, rough beards, callused hands, selfish,
abrupt ...

Oh, dear diary—I am lost in ever after:
Those insufferable birds, someone in every
room with a lute, the queen calling me to look
at another painting of her son, this time
holding the transparent slipper I wish
I'd never seen.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of writer Neil Gaiman, (books by this author) born in Portchester, England (1960). He was one of the people who helped make comic books into respectable works of literature in the late 1980s. He once said, "The most important dreams, the most manipulable of cultural icons, are those that we received when we were too young to judge or analyze."

Gaiman wasn't exposed to American comic books and American superheroes until a friend of his father gave him a box of old DC and Marvel comic books and he fell in love with them. He stayed up late every night, reading them by the light from the hallway. He later said, "[In England], American comics were like postcards from Oz. They had fire hydrants, pizza parlours and skyscrapers in them. For us fire hydrants and skyscrapers were every bit as strange as superheroes flying through the air. For us that world remained strange."

Gaiman started out a freelance journalist. His first book was a biography of the pop group Duran Duran. But he eventually began contributing scripts for comic books at DC Comics. In 1987, his editors let Gaiman pick one of their old, failed comic book characters and revive him. Gaiman chose a character called the Sandman, who used sleeping gas to catch criminals. Gaiman kept the name Sandman, but changed everything else, turning the character into the god of both dreams and stories.

The Sandman series, with references to literature and mythology, became one of the first modern series of comic books to get a lot of attention from critics, and one of the first to be popular among women. The 75 issues were collected and published in 10 volumes, the first of which was The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes (1991).

Neil Gaiman's work attracted a huge cult following, but he didn't really break into the mainstream until he began writing children's books. He published the terrifying children's book Coraline in 2002, and it debuted at number six on the New York Times best-seller list. It was Gaiman's first real mainstream success.

His most recent book is the collection of short stories Fragile Things (2006).

It's the birthday of American novelist John Phillips Marquand, (books by this author) born in Wilmington, Delaware (1893). His most popular novels of the 1930s were those featuring a Japanese agent named Mr. Moto. But Marquand also wrote a series of satirical novels about upper-class New England society, including The Late George Apley (1937), Wickford Point (1939), and Point of No Return (1949).

It's the birthday of the poet Vachel Lindsey, born in Springfield, Illinois (1879). His parents wanted him to become a doctor, but he dropped out of medical school after three years and tried to make a living drawing pictures and writing poetry. After struggling for several years and working for a time in the toy department of Marshall Fields, he decided to walk across the United States, trading his poems and pictures for food and shelter along the way.

Then in 1913, Poetry magazine published Lindsay's poem "General William Booth Enters into Heaven," and it was a big hit. He became one of the leaders of the movement to revive poetry as an oral rather than a written art form, and he spent much of the rest of his life traveling around the country, reciting his work for audiences.

It's the birthday of theologian Martin Luther, (books by this author) born in Eisleben, Saxony (1483), which is now located in Germany. He's best known as the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, but he was also an extraordinarily productive writer. Toward the end of his life, Luther began to regret how many books he had written. He said, "The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing. ... I wish that all my books were consigned to perpetual oblivion." But he never regretted having translated the Bible into ordinary German.

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




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