Mar. 27, 2010

Naming My Daughter

by Patricia Fargnoli

            In the Uruba tribe of Africa, children are
            named not only at birth but throughout their
            lives by their characteristics and the events
            that befall them

The one who took hold in the cold night
The one who kicked loudly
The one who slid down quickly in the ice storm
She who came while the doctor was eating dessert
New one held up by heels in the glare
The river between two brothers
Second pot on the stove
Princess of a hundred dolls
Hair like water falling beneath moonlight
Strides into the day
She who runs away with motorcycle club president
Daughter kicked with a boot
Daughter blizzard in the sky
Daughter night-pocket
She who sells sports club memberships
One who loves over and over
She who wants child but lost one.
She who wants marriage but has none
She who never gives up
Diana (Goddess of the Chase)
Doris (for the carrot-top grandmother
she never knew)
Fargnoli (for the father
who drank and left and died)
Peter Pan, Iron Pumper
Tumbleweed who goes months without calling
Daughter who is a pillar of light
Daughter mirror, Daughter stands alone
Daughter boomerang who always comes back
Daughter who flies forward into the day
where I will be nameless.

"Naming My Daughter" by Patricia Fargnoli, from Necessary Light. © Utah State University Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of French novelist and poet Henri Murger, (books by this author) born in Paris (1822). He's most famous for his book Scènes de la vie de Bohème (1851), a fictionalized version of his experiences as an impoverished writer living in the Latin Quarter of Paris's Left Bank. It's an area filled with universities and cafés and known for its intellectual life, and Murger playfully romanticized his starving-artist-living-in-Paris-attic bohemian lifestyle.

A young ambitious French playwright named Théodore Barrière approached Murger and asked if he could do a play based on Murger's bohemian life scenes. Murger agreed and worked on it with him, and the play was a huge hit in Paris. People wanted to hear more of Murger's life.

It became the basis for Giacomo Puccini's famous opera La Bohème (1896), one of the most famous operas of all time. The character of Rudolphe (or Rudolfo in Puccini's opera) is based on Murger himself. Besides Puccini's opera, there are a number of other works that take up Murger's theme, including another opera called La Bohème (1897)by an Italian opera composer, Ruggero Leoncavallo, a number of films, and even the musical Rent (1996), and the recent Moulin Rouge (2001).

It's the birthday of British columnist, broadcaster, and novelist John O'Farrell, (books by this author) born in Oxfordshire, England (1962).

For a long time, he was a lead writer for The Spitting Image, a satirical puppet show that ran on British television in the 1980s and '90s. It made fun mostly of people in power, and Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and the British Royal Family were among the show's favorite topics. It won lots of acclaim from BAFTA, which is like Britain's equivalent of the Emmys and Oscars in one.

He wrote a political humor column for The Guardian until 2005, and many of his columns have been collected in books like Global Village Idiot (2001), I Blame the Scapegoats (2003),and I Have a Bream (2006). Recent books include An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge (2007) and An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain, or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always (2009), published late last year.

It's the birthday of poet Louis Simpson, (books by this author) born in Jamaica, West Indies (1923). He's the author of nearly 20 volumes of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning At the End of the Open Road (1963). And he's the author of a number of nonfiction books, many of them studies of other American poets.

He said: "When I write a poem, I don't know quite what it means. If I think I know what it means, I've got a bad poem. I want a poem to be beyond me. I want it to be something that transfers a feeling I don't quite understand the limits of."

It's the birthday of the novelist Julia Alvarez, (books by this author) born in New York City (1950). She spent her childhood in the Dominican Republic, before moving to the United States. Her first big success was the novel How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), about four sisters making their way as Dominican refugees in New York.

It's the birthday of the filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, born in Knoxville, Tennessee (1963). Instead of going to film school, he got a job at a video rental store that had one of the largest video collections in Southern California. Several other aspiring filmmakers worked there, and they would watch movies all day at work, discussing camera angles and dialogue. He spent five years working at the video store, writing screenplays, but he wasn't getting anywhere in his career. He finally got a break when he met an actor who knew another actor who knew Harvey Keitel, and Keitel agreed to look at one of Tarantino's scripts. Keitel was impressed enough to volunteer to help Tarantino produce the film, and to act in it himself. The result was Reservoir Dogs (1992), which made Tarantino internationally famous. His next film, Pulp Fiction, won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994, and it went on to win an Academy Award for best screenplay. His latest film, Inglorious Basterds, came out in 2009. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director and the film was nominated for Best Picture.

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




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