Mar. 19, 2008

Carmel Point

by Robinson Jeffers

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine
beauty Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. —As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

"Carmel Point" by Robinson Jeffers, from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. © Stanford University Press, 1989. Reprinted with permission.(buy now)

It is the birthday of legendary African-American comedienne Jackie "Moms" Mabley, born Loretta Mary Aiken (1894). Mabley was born in Brevard, North Carolina. One of her favorite personas was the "dirty old lady who liked younger men." She enjoyed poking fun at older men, particularly how they tried to wield power over women, and how they lost their sexual abilities. Mabley would say, "Ain't nothing an old man can do for me but bring me a message from a younger man."

On this day in 1953, the first televised Academy Awards ceremony aired. Bob Hope hosted the ceremony, and the stars in attendance included the first two women to win Oscars, Janet Gaynor and Mary Pickford. Cecil B. DeMille's spectacle drama The Greatest Show on Earth won Best Picture. The Oscar telecast was a success: It attracted the largest single audience to that date in television's five-year history.

It is the birthday of Russian humorist, dramatist, and novelist Nikolai Gogol, (books by this author) born in 1809 in Sorochinsk, a town in what is now Ukraine.

Gogol wrote regularly for periodicals. He wrote about his childhood in Ukraine, and some of his writings featured the devils, witches, and demons of Ukrainian folklore. These writings led to his book Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka — a book that delighted the Russian literary world and made Gogol an overnight celebrity.

Gogol went on to write more stories, as well as a play and a novel. His play The Government Inspector, first performed in 1836, was a satire aimed at the corrupt bureaucracy of the czar. His novel Dead Souls (1842) was written while Gogol was living in Rome. It was another satire and is considered to be Gogol's masterpiece. Gogol also wrote two famous stories, "The Nose (1836)," about a nose that disappears off the face of a collegiate assessor, is found by a barber, and then parades all around St. Petersburg, and "The Overcoat (1842)," about a man who acquires an overcoat and then dies of a broken heart when it is stolen. Gogol once wrote of his comic works, "The merriment observed in my early works corresponded to a certain spiritual need. I was subject to fits of melancholy which I could not even explain to myself and which may have originated in my poor health. To distract myself, I imagined every conceivable kind of funny story. I dreamed up droll characters and figures out of thin air and purposely placed them in the most comical circumstances."

The writer Dostoyevsky once famously remarked, "We have all come out from under Gogol's overcoat."

Today is the birthday of American novelist Philip Roth, (books by this author) born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933. Roth's novels often feature smart, middle-class, fiercely honest Jewish characters. Perhaps Roth's best-known character is Nathan Zuckerman, who appears in nine of his novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral (1997 ) and his most recent novel, Exit Ghost (2007). Zuckerman, like Roth, is a novelist, and Roth has noted that the books featuring Zuckerman are like "hypothetical autobiographies" — ideas of what Roth might be doing. However, Roth has said that Exit Ghost will be the final appearance of Nathan Zuckerman. In an interview with The New Yorker after the book's release, Roth said of Zuckerman's departure, "Will I miss him? No. I'm curious to see who and what will replace him."

On this day in 1962, Bob Dylan released his self-titled debut album. The album featured only two of Dylan's own songs, "Song to Woody" (for his idol Woody Guthrie) and "Talkin' New York." The rest of the album consisted of Dylan singing covers of traditional and blues songs. John Hammond, who produced the album, spent less than $500 to make it. The album did eventually go gold in 1973 — 11 years after its release — and is now generally considered to be a fine debut.

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