Dec. 30, 2006

Walking Home from Oak-Head

by Mary Oliver

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Poem: "Walking Home from Oak-Head" by Mary Oliver, from Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver. © Beacon Press.

(Text not published due to copyright restrictions)

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Douglas Coupland, (books by this author) born on a Canadian military base in Baden-Solingen, Germany (1961). He is best known for his controversial novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991). He invented the term "Generation X," which was later attached to a whole generation of people, and he continues to write about pop culture.

Coupland started off as a sculptor, working with wood and fiberglass, earning his degree in studio sculpture in 1984. He did all kinds of jobs to make money, working as a gas station attendant, making copies of blue prints, and even designing baby cribs. Coupland's writing career began mostly from luck, when an editor at Vancouver magazine read a postcard he had written to a friend. He liked Coupland's style and hired him to write for the magazine. And that was the beginning of his career as a writer.

It's the birthday of Bo Diddley, born Elias Bates in McComb, Mississippi (1928). As a young man he wrote songs such as "Uncle John" and "Who Do You Love?" which became the foundation for early rock and roll. He made a series of huge hits for Chess Records, but by the 1970s, he was so down-and-out that he was playing one-night jobs with garage bands for 200 dollars and the cost of a hotel room. He told his band before every show, "This is the way it works. The drummer should watch my hips and the bass player should watch my shoulders."

It's the birthday of novelist Paul Bowles, (books by this author) born in New York City, New York (1910). In 1931 Bowles met Gertrude Stein. He was considering moving to Paris, but she suggested he go to Tangier, Morocco. He did, and that became the setting of his first and most famous novel, The Sheltering Sky (1949).

It's the birthday of entrepreneur Asa Griggs Candler, born in Villa Rica, Georgia (1851). In 1886, he bought sole rights to John Pemberton's original formula for Coca-Cola. He formed the Coca-Cola Company in 1890. Candler was a leader in advertising, and he helped turn Coca-Cola into a household product by using calendars, billboards, point-of-sale posters, and other novelties to keep the Coca-Cola trademark in the public eye.

It's the birthday of short-story writer, poet, and novelist (Joseph) Rudyard Kipling, (books by this author) born in Bombay, India (1865). His father was a British artist who got an appointment to run an art school in Bombay, but after a series of typhoid and cholera outbreaks, Kipling's parents decided to send him back to England for his own safety.

After school, he went off to the northwest corner of India, where the British were fighting a war with Afghanistan. Kipling got a job on an army newspaper, and he also began writing fiction and poetry. After six years of publishing his work, he sold everything he'd written for 250 pounds to a company that began selling paperback editions of his collected works in railway stations around India. Those paperback editions became more successful than anyone had ever expected, and suddenly magazines and newspapers were begging Kipling to write for them. He moved back to London, where he'd become a literary celebrity, but he found the life of a celebrity did not agree with him.

So he traveled the world for a few years, and finally settled in Vermont. And it was there, in a rented cottage surrounded by snow, that he began to reimagine the India of his childhood, and he wrote the book for which he's best known today, The Jungle Book (1894), about a boy raised by wolves who grows up with the other jungle animals until a tiger forces him to go back and live with people.

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