Oct. 19, 2009

Diagramming Won’t Help This Situation

by Kevin Brown

Grammatical rules have always baffled
me, leaving me wondering whether my
life is transitive or intransitive, if I am the
subject or object of my life, and no one
has been able to provide words to describe
my actions, even if they do end in –ly.

But now the problem seems to be with
pronouns: I am unwilling to be him
and you are unable to be her, so we
will never be them~the ones talking
about what they need from the grocery

store because the Rogers are coming for
dinner tonight; the couple saving for a
vacation, perhaps a cruise to Alaska or a
museum tour of Europe; the two who meet
with a financial advisor to plan their children's

college fund while still managing to set enough
aside for their retirement~and so we will
continue to be nothing more than sentence
fragments, perfectly fine for effect,
but forever looking for the missing
part of speech we can never seem to find.

"Diagramming Won't Help This Situation" by Kevin Brown, from Exit Lines. © PlainView Press, 2009. Reprinted with the permission of the author. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the man who won the 1967 Nobel Prize in literature, Miguel Ángel Asturias, (books by this author) born in Guatemala City (1899), one of the forerunners of Latin America modernism and the style of magical realism. He's best-known for his novels Men of Maize (1949) and El Señor Presidente (1946). He finished El Señor Presidente in 1933, while living in exile in Paris. But the book was not published for more than a decade after its completion because of censorship policies under Guatemala's dictatorship. El Señor Presidente is a fictional account of a real dictator: its model is Manuel Estrada Cabrera, who ruled Guatemala for the first two decades of the 20th century — during Asturias's childhood and young adulthood.

Miguel Ángel Asturias spent much of his life in exile, and a large part of his exile in Paris. He first went there to be a student at the Sorbonne, and there he wrote poems and stories and translated into Spanish the sacred text of the Mayan people, the Popol Vuh. He put together a collection of indigenous Guatemalan myths and legends and established a magazine in Paris called Tiempos Nuevos.

He returned to Guatemala and began a diplomatic career, during which he was posted all around Latin America. But when there was a change of government, Asturias was expelled from his homeland, and the new dictator took away his Guatemalan citizenship. In 1966, a new president was democratically elected. He welcomed Asturias back to Guatemala, reinstated his citizenship, and appointed him ambassador to France, where Asturias spent most of the rest of his life.

It's the birthday of Tracy Chevalier, (books by this author) born in Washington D.C. (1962), who wrote the best-selling book Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999).

On this day 50 years ago (in 1959), The Miracle Worker debuted on Broadway. It's the story of how Annie Sullivan educated the young, blind-and-deaf Helen Keller. The play starred Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, ran for more than 700 performances, and won a Tony Award for Best Play. The Miracle Worker was written by William Gibson, (books by this author) based in part on the letters of Annie Sullivan — who wrote from the Keller home in Alabama to a mentor at Perkins.

Gibson died just last year. In an interview in 2005, someone asked him why the play had such lasting power, and he said: "It's a symbol of everybody's effort to get out of our own personal dungeons, into contact with the larger world. It's a story that sort of exemplifies the American dream — in small. Its power is irresistible. And it remains that."

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