Dec. 5, 2006

Things You Didn't Put On Your Resumé

by Joyce Sutphen

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Poem: "Things You Didn't Put On Your Resumé" by Joyce Sutphen. Used with permission from the poet. (buy now)

Things You Didn't Put On Your Resumé

How often you got up in the middle of the night
when one of your children had a bad dream,

and sometimes you woke because you thought
you heard a cry but they were all sleeping,

so you stood in the moonlight just listening
to their breathing, and you didn't mention

that you were an expert at putting toothpaste
on tiny toothbrushes and bending down to wiggle

the toothbrush ten times on each tooth while
you sang the words to songs from Annie, and

who would suspect that you know the fingerings
to the songs in the first four books of the Suzuki

Violin Method and that you can do the voices
of Pooh and Piglet especially well, though

your absolute favorite thing to read out loud is
Bedtime for Frances and that you picked

up your way of reading it from Glynnis Johns,
and it is, now that you think of it, rather impressive

that you read all of Narnia and all of the Ring Trilogy
(and others too many to mention here) to them

before they went to bed and on way out to
Yellowstone, which is another thing you don't put

on the resumé: how you took them to the ocean
and the mountains and brought them safely home.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist James Lee Burke, (books by this author) born in Houston, Texas (1936). He's best known for his series of detective novels featuring Dave Robicheaux, an ex-New Orleans policeman, Vietnam veteran, and recovering alcoholic. Burke's novels have been compared to those by master crime novelists like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

Burke started writing stories when he was in fourth grade, published his first story when he was 19, and wrote his first novel when he was 23. Half of Paradise (1965) was published just after he finished graduate school, and it got great reviews. Burke wrote a few more novels, but none of them sold well. He fell into depression and alcoholism. He had finished a book called The Lost Get-Back Boogie, but he couldn't find anyone to publish it. He collected 93 rejection slips for the book over a period of 10 years. He worked as a newspaper reporter, a land surveyor, a social worker, a forest ranger, a teacher, and a truck driver. He later said, "I reached a point ... where I didn't care whether I lived or died." Finally, in 1985, The Lost Get-Back Boogie was published by Louisiana State University Press. The novel is about a released prisoner who goes to live on a Montana ranch with the family of one of his friends from prison. It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and Burke's novels have been successful ever since.

It's the birthday of the essayist and humorist Calvin Trillin, (books by this author) born in Kansas City, Missouri (1935). His father was a Russian immigrant and grocery store owner, and from the time Calvin Trillin was born, his father planned for him to go to Yale and become president of the United States. Trillin did go to Yale, but he got into journalism instead of politics. He edited the Yale Daily News and then got a job working for Time magazine and then The New Yorker.

In 1967, Trillin began writing a regular column for The New Yorker called "U.S. Journal," which he saw as a chance to write about ordinary people who didn't usually get covered in the national press. As a result of traveling all over America, Trillin began eating in a variety of local restaurants, and he realized that he could start writing about regional American food. At that time, most food writers focused on gourmet food from France, so Trillin wrote about barbecue ribs in the Midwest. His first collection of food writing was American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater (1974), in which he declared that the top four or five restaurants in the world are in Kansas City, Missouri.

His most recent book is A Heckuva Job: More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme (2006).

It's the birthday of the essayist and novelist Joan Didion, (books by this author) born in Sacramento, California (1934). She grew up as a nervous, preoccupied child. She said, "I was one of those children who always thought the bridge would fall in if you walked across it. ... I thought about the atomic bomb a lot ... after there was one." At one point in her childhood, she lived near a mental hospital, and she would wander around the hospital grounds with a notebook, writing down all the most interesting snippets of conversation she heard.

She made her name as a journalist in the 1960s even though she always said she wasn't suited for the job. She said, "My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. ... Writers are always selling somebody out."

Her most recent book is her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, about the death of her husband. It came out in 2005 and went on to win the National Book Award.

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