Jul. 16, 2008

Sing we and chant it...

by Anonymous

Sing we and chant it
While love doth grant it.
Not long youth lasteth,
And old age hasteth.
Now is best leisure
To take our pleasure.

All things invite us
Now to delight us.
Hence, care, be packing!
No mirth be lacking!
Let spare no treasure
To live in pleasure.

"Sing we and chant it..." by Anonymous. Public Domain.

In 1945 on this day, the first atomic bomb exploded at 5:30 a.m., 120 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. People saw a ball of fire that rose rapidly, releasing four times the heat of the interior of the sun, followed by a 40,000 foot mushroom cloud. The bomb was supposed to give the United States "peace through strength." Officials told the New Mexican citizens that an ammunitions dump had blown up. The project's director, Kenneth Bainbridge, watched the column of fire and dust and said, "Now we are all sons of bitches." Today, radiation levels on the spot are still 10 times that of radiation levels found in nature, and the ground is marked by a lava stone obelisk and a plaque that reads, "Where the World's First Nuclear Device Was Exploded on July 16, 1945."

It was on this day in 1951 that the J.D. Salinger's first and only novel, The Catcher in the Rye, was published (books by this author). Salinger had started his career as a writer back in 1940, at a time when the short stories published in magazines were still one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the United States. Salinger published a number of short stories in the group of magazines known as "the slicks," magazines that included The Saturday Evening Post, Mademoiselle, Good Housekeeping, and Collier's. But the magazine that he most wanted to publish a story in was The New Yorker.

In 1941, Salinger sent The New Yorker a story called "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," about a troubled teenager named Holden Caulfield and The New Yorker bought it. "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," was not written in Holden Caulfield's voice; it was narrated in the third person. In one of the first descriptions of Holden Caulfield, Salinger wrote, "While riding on Fifth Avenue buses, girls who knew Holden often thought they saw him walking past Saks' or Altman's or Lord & Taylor's, but it was usually somebody else."

The story was about Holden's date with a girl named Sally Hayes. He complains to her that that he hates everything about New York, including buses and taxi cabs and movies, but eventually he calms down and tells her that he'll come to her house and help her trim the Christmas tree. The New Yorker bought the story in November of 1941, and planned to run it in their Christmas issue.

That December, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and Salinger's story was put on hold. It was considered too trivial in a time of war. Salinger kept submitting stories to The New Yorker for the next few years, even as he was drafted into the Army, but his stories kept getting rejected.

At the start of his Army enlistment, Salinger was stationed in England, so he didn't see any combat. He was still able to write and submit short stories for publication, and he published a series of stories about Army life. He told his agent that he was working on a set of stories about Holden Caulfield, but he didn't want to publish any of them because he thought he could put them together in a novel. Then, in June of 1943, Salinger learned that he would be deployed in the ground force invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

Salinger's division hit the beach in the fifth hour of the invasion, and for the next several months Salinger saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the war, including the Battle of the Bulge. Between 50 and 200 soldiers in his division were killed or wounded every day. At the end of the war, Salinger checked into an Army general hospital in Nuremberg, suffering from a nervous breakdown. He spent several months recuperating.

It was after Salinger's release from the hospital that he sent out for publication the first Holden Caulfield story narrated by Holden Caulfield himself, a story called "I'm Crazy." It was published in Collier's in December of 1945. One year later, in 1946, The New Yorker finally published "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," which they had been holding onto since before the war began. J.D. Salinger had finally become a New Yorker writer, something he'd been dreaming of for more than a decade.

Salinger continued publishing short stories for the rest of the 1940s, most of them in The New Yorker, and in 1949, the editor Robert Giroux wrote him to ask if he wanted to publish a collection of short stories. Giroux didn't hear back from Salinger for months, and then, one day, Salinger walked into his office.

Giroux said, "A tall, sad-looking young man with a long face and deep-set black eyes walked in, saying, 'It's not my stories that should be published first, but the novel I'm working on about this kid in New York during the Christmas holidays.'" Giroux said he'd love to publish it, but when it was finished one of his superiors thought the kid in the book seemed too crazy. So Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye with Little, Brown and Company, and it came out on this day in 1951.

The New York Times ran a review titled "Aw, the World's a Crumby Place" that poked fun at Salinger's style. The New Yorker refused to run any excerpts of the novel, because they said that the children in it were unbelievably intelligent, and the style of the novel was too "showoffy." But despite the mixed reviews, The Catcher in the Rye reached the best-seller list after being in print just two weeks, and it stayed there for more than six months. It has gone on to sell more than 60 million copies. It has been at one time or another both the most banned book in America and one of the most assigned books in American classrooms.

It's the birthday of playwright Tony Kushner, (books by this author) born in New York City (1956). He's best known for his two-part play Angels in America (1991). He grew up in a highly cultured environment. His parents were both classical musicians, and they encouraged him to listen to opera and read literature. They paid him a dollar for every poem he memorized. When he was a young boy, he saw his mother star in a local production of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. He found it so powerful that he had vivid dreams about it for days, and he later said that's a big reason he went into theater. Kushner never even thought Angels in America would be produced on Broadway, but it became a huge hit and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, along with almost every other award for drama that year. It was recently made into a TV movie for HBO.

It's the birthday of Mary Baker Eddy, (books by this author) the founder of the Christian Science church, born on a farm in Bow, New Hampshire (1821). She was a frail child and suffered from chronic spinal pain, high fevers, and behavioral problems serious enough that she hardly attended school. When she was 22, she married George Washington Glover, the brother of her brother's wife. He died of a "bilious fever" shortly after she became pregnant, and she was left with child and without money.

Her hysteria and nervous problems and signs of infantilism became acute, and she gave up her newborn son to foster parents. She needed constant doses of morphine to relieve her pain. She got married again and was in so much pain on her wedding day that the groom had to carry her downstairs for the ceremony. Her new husband was an itinerant dentist, so she was left by him for long periods of time, with her loneliness only somewhat relieved by their blind servant girl. The couple suffered financial problems, their house foreclosed, and then her husband was captured in a Civil War battle and made a prisoner of the Confederate Army.

She entered a water-cure sanitarium and there learned about Dr. Quimby, a healer. She set off to Maine to meet with him. She consulted with him, became healed, and started to study his teachings. He had once been a traveling mesmerist, and he had come to believe that he healed people naturally, just as he thought Jesus had. He taught her that "disease was a false 'belief'" and that both disease causes and disease cures were mental. These ideas would become some of the tenets of Christian Science. Dr. Quimby died in January of 1866, and the loss was devastating to her. The next month, she slipped on some ice and badly hurt her back. She was bedridden for several days, during which a homeopathic doctor looked after her. From this incident she dates the beginning of Christian Science, for according to the official version, "'on the third day' she arose from her bed, healed, after reading the words of Matthew 9:2."

For the next decade, she wandered from place to place, sometimes homeless, often destitute and estranged, constantly working on the manuscript that would bring her teachings to the world.

She set up a professional school in order to train future practitioners. After she and her partner had conflicts they could not resolve, she set up the "Christian Scientists Home" with spaces for lectures and for student boarders. There, on June 6, 1875, she held the first public Christian Science service. Later that year, the first of edition of Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, the 456-page book that contained official church teachings, was published. While she was alive, the book underwent 382 separate editions.

She founded The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper, in 1908 and spent the last years of her life in seclusion. Among her major writings are Retrospection and Introspection (1892), Unity of Good (1887), and Rudimental Divine Science (1908).

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