Nov. 26, 2006

Where are Men When they're Not at Home?

by Reid Bush

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Poem: "Where are Men When they're Not at Home?" by Reid Bush, from What You Know. © Larkspur Press. Reprinted with permission.. © George Braziller. Reprinted with permission.

Where are Men
When they're Not at Home?

Different places.

Some are out at the barn checking on the mare that's about to foal.
I know, not many now.
A few.

Some are running down to the corner store to pick up something they forgot.
Be right back.

Some are in offices practicing pitches. Spiels.

Some are phoning from offices—saying they'll be late.

Of course, many are dead.
You suddenly think about them because you're back where you haven't been
   in 20 years
and go to look them up.
                                  But they're not there.
                                                                 Just some widows.

But most are way off somewhere searching for fathers who were never home

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in 1942, the movie Casablanca had its premiere at the Hollywood Theater in New York City. Casablanca is the story of Rick Blaine, an American nightclub owner in North Africa during World War II. One night, he is approached by a French Resistance fighter named Victor and his wife, Ilsa, who are trying to get papers to escape to America. Ilsa happens to be Rick's true love, who deserted him when the Nazis invaded Paris. Meeting once more, they fall in love again, and they have to decide whether their love is more important than the fight against fascism.

The movie took 10 weeks to shoot. The script was constantly rewritten throughout the shooting, and not even the writers knew whether Ilsa would end up with Rick or Victor at the end. But it was a box office hit, and it went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1943.

Casablanca is now one of the best-loved and most quoted movies of all time. It contains lines such as, "We'll always have Paris," "Here's looking at you, kid," "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," and "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she had to walk into mine."

It's the birthday of the novelist Marilynne Robinson, born in Sandpoint, Idaho (1943). She read a lot as a child, went to Brown University, and went on to get a Ph.D. in English. While she was in graduate school, she began to write a series of fictional fragments about a girl growing up in Idaho, and eventually she realized she was writing a novel. That novel became Housekeeping (1980), which was nominated for the Pulitzer and won a PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel of the year.

But Marilynne Robinson didn't publish another book of fiction for more than 20 years. Instead, she began writing nonfiction. She published a book about nuclear waste in England, and another about philosophy and theology. She took a teaching job in Iowa and worked on the side as a deacon at her church.

After having lived in Iowa for a while, she began asking people about the history of the state, and most people had no idea what Iowa's history was. So Robinson began doing some research herself, and she was particularly fascinated by stories of settlers who had come from Eastern divinity schools to start abolitionist towns and colleges on the plains. Then, one day, she found herself writing a letter in the voice of an elderly preacher to his son, describing the history of his pioneer family and his own life as a clergyman. And that letter became her second novel, Gilead (2004), published almost 25 years after her first.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz, (books by this author) born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1922). He was the only son of a St. Paul barber, and the family was extremely poor. Schulz said, "We used to eat pancakes all the time because it's all we could afford."

He learned to love newspaper comics from his father, who'd only had a third-grade education but who bought six different newspapers every weekend and read all the comics with his son. Charles went on to create his own comic strip, Peanuts, which appeared for the first time on October 2, 1950, and went on to feature characters including Charlie Brown, his dog Snoopy, and his friends Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, and Sally.

What made Peanuts revolutionary was that instead of making the children cutesy pranksters, like most children in cartoons at the time, Schulz drew upon on his own childhood difficulties for material. Charlie Brown became the chronically depressed and unlucky child who never gets to kick the football, who always gets his kite stuck in the tree, and who never wins the love of The Little Red Haired Girl. Charlie Brown was the first character in an American comic strip to suffer anxiety and insecurity.

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




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