Nov. 14, 2008


by C. K. Williams

A girl who, in 1971, when I was living by myself, painfully lonely, bereft, depressed,
offhandedly mentioned to me in a conversation with some friends that although at
   first she'd found me—
I can't remember the term, some dated colloquialism signifying odd, unacceptable,
she'd decided that I was after all all right…twelve years later she comes back to me
   from nowhere
and I realize that it wasn't my then irrepressible, unselective, incessant sexual want
   she meant,
which, when we'd been introduced, I'd naturally aimed at her and which she'd
   easily deflected,
but that she'd thought I really was, in myself, the way I looked and spoke and acted,
what she was saying, creepy, weird, whatever, and I am taken with a terrible

"Shame" by C. K. Williams from Selected Poems. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of one of the first Impressionist painters, Claude Monet, born in Paris (1840). He said, "I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers."

It's the birthday of cartoonist and author William Steig, (books by this author) born in New York City (1907), a cartoonist for The New Yorker for many years. He's best known for his children's book Shrek! (1993), about an ugly green ogre who hears the prophecy of a witch that he will marry a princess even uglier than he. It was made into an animated movie in 2002. William Steig said, "If I'd had it my way, I'd have been a professional athlete, a sailor, a beachcomber, or some other form of hobo, a painter, a gardener, a novelist, a banjo-player, a traveler, anything but a rich man."

It's the birthday of political satirist P.J. O'Rourke, (books by this author) born in Toledo, Ohio (1947). After a conservative upbringing, he started his writing life in the 1960s as a "left-leaning hippie," but claims that he was never ever a Democrat. He said, "I went from being a Republican to being a Maoist, then back to being a Republican again."

He went to college, and said, "I thought being a college student was so dull, so bourgeois, so predictable. I wanted to be a race car driver, a soldier of fortune or a rock and roll star. But I didn't have a race car. Soldier of fortune, I guess I could have done, but they wanted me to serve a stint in Vietnam first." He got out of the draft in 1970 by making a list of the drugs he had abused and giving that list to the Army. He chose to be a writer because "it was the '60s — there was no quality control on anything. If I wrote, who's to say that I wasn't a writer?"

He got a job writing for the National Lampoon and then joined Rolling Stone as the foreign affairs editor. He came up with an "Enemies List," which included Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Meryl Streep, Jackson Browne, The New York Review of Books, the Village Voice, the Catholic Maryknoll nuns, the Berkeley city council, "and any organization with the word 'peace' in its name."

He's published more than a dozen books, including Republican Party Reptile (1987), Parliament of Whores (1991), and Give War a Chance (1992).

He said, "The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."

And, "There are several recognizable types of humorous activity. There is parody, when you make fun of people who are smarter than you; satire, when you make fun of people who are richer than you; and burlesque, when you make fun of both while taking your clothes off."

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




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