Jan. 13, 2010

Out of the rolling ocean the crowd

by Walt Whitman

Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently
   to me,
Whispering, I love you, before long I die,
I have travell'd a long way merely to look on you to
   touch you,
For I could not die till I once look'd on you,
For I fear'd I might afterward lose you.

Now we have met, we have look'd, we are safe,
Return in peace to the ocean my love,
I too am part of that ocean, my love, we are not so
   much separated,
Behold the great rondure, the cohesion of all, how
But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate
As for an hour carrying us diverse, yet cannot carry us
   diverse forever;
Be not impatient — a little space — know you I salute
   the air, the ocean and the land,
Every day at sundown for your dear sake, my love.

"Out of the rolling ocean the crowd" by Walt Whitman. Public domain.

It's the birthday of the novelist Edmund White, (books by this author) born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1940). He realized he was gay when he was 12 years old, but he kept trying to blame it on things, like his shyness or the fact that his mother was overprotective. He came out to his father, and his father didn't believe him until he hired a private investigator to follow him around.

He got a job working for Time Life Books, and he wrote fiction on the side. He wrote five novels about contemporary gay life, but he couldn't get any of them published. So finally he wrote Forgetting Elena (1973), about a man who wakes up after a party and can't remember who he is. Writer Vladimir Nabokov called it the best new novel he'd read in years.

But he wanted to write about his own experiences, and he set out to become the foremost gay novelist in America. His third novel, A Boy's Own Story (1982), was the first gay coming-of-age novel in America, and it became a best-seller in the United States and England. He has gone on to write a series of novels, chronicling the history of gay society in his lifetime, including The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988), The Farewell Symphony (1997), and The Married Man (2000.)

It's the birthday of the novelist Horatio Alger Jr., (books by this author) born in Chelsea, Massachusetts (1832). He was one of the most influential writers in American history. He wrote more than a hundred novels, almost every single one of which tells the same story: A young boy, living in poverty, manages to find success and happiness by working hard and never giving up. But even though Alger's books were all the same, and none was a literary masterpiece, they were read by thousands of young Americans all across the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has been argued that Horatio Alger, more than any other person, was responsible for creating the idea of the American Dream.

It's the birthday of short-story writer Lorrie Moore, (books by this author) born in Glens Falls, New York (1957). She's the author of the short-story collections Like Life (1990) and Birds of America (1998). Lorrie Moore's first book was Self Help (1985), in which the stories were written in the style of how-to manuals, including "How to Be an Other Woman," "How to Talk to Your Mother," and "How to Be a Writer."

"How to Be a Writer" begins: "First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/ missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age — say, 14. Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that at 15 you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire."

It's the birthday of the author who created Paddington Bear and wrote several children's books about the endearing ursine, Michael Bond, (books by this author) born in Newbury, England (1926).

He was out doing some last-minute Christmas shopping for his wife in 1957 when he came across a small toy bear sitting on a shelf. It was the only one in the display that had not been sold, and Bond thought the bear looked "very sorry for himself." He bought the bear and then named him "Paddington" because he and his wife lived near the Paddington underground station in London.

The bear is from Peru and had been sent to England — along with a jar of marmalade — by his Aunt Lucy. He wears a label that says, "Please look after this bear." Throughout a series of children's books, Paddington Bear gets into troublesome situations, but always emerges safely and everything turns out fine.

Michael Bond said: "One of the nice things about writing for children is their total acceptance of the fantastic. Give a child a stick and a patch of wet sand and it will draw the outline of a boat and accept it as such. I did learn though, that to make fantasy work you have to believe in it yourself. If an author doesn't believe in his inventions and his characters nobody else will. Paddington to me is, and always has been, very much alive."

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
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