Jul. 14, 2010

Hymn to the Comb-Over

by Wesley McNair

How the thickest of them erupt just
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff
no wind can move them. Let us praise them
in all of their varieties, some skinny
as the bands of headphones, some rising
from a part that extends halfway around
the head, other four or five strings
stretched so taut the scalp resembles
a musical instrument. Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget
the back. And let us celebrate the combers,
who address the old sorrow of time's passing
day after day, bringing out the barrenness
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all
in subways, offices, and malls across America.

"Hymn to the Comb-Over" by Wesley McNair, from The Ghosts of You and Me. © David R. Godine, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the editor of Vanity Fair magazine, Graydon Carter, born in Toronto, Canada (1949).

He dropped out of college, started a new magazine with a classmate, The Canadian Literary Review, and then moved to New York and wrote for Time magazine. With Kurt Andersen, he started Spy magazine in 1986. It mostly made fun of rich people. Then he got a job as the editor of The New York Observer, which catered to the very demographic Spy satirized. Later that year, he got the job he has now, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair magazine.

He's the one who started the Hollywood Issue and also the Music Issue. He set up the Vanity Fair Oscar party. And he attracted a more literary audience by having a new focus on serious, long-form journalism in Vanity Fair magazine. He made the magazine more political and began using the Editor's Letter page to attack the actions of the Bush administration — especially its policy about Iraq.

Graydon Carter said, "I edit for someone like me. Somebody getting on an eight-hour plane flight or eight hours spent on the beach or a one-hour lunch break or a 20-minute subway ride."

It's the birthday of writer and illustrator Brian Selznick, (books by this author) born in East Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1966. He won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for his children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret,an illustrated novelbased on the life of French filmmaker Georges Méliès, and his wind-up automatons. The Invention of Hugo Cabret was also a National Book Award finalist, a New York Times No. 1 best-seller, and is now being made into a movie directed by Martin Scorsese.

It's the birthday of screenwriter and novelist Joe Keenan, (books by this author) born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1958). He published his first novel, Blue Heaven (1988), the year he turned 30, and people started comparing him to P.G. Wodehouse. Soon after that, he got a job as the story editor for the sitcom Frasier, and then he wrote for the widely watched show Desperate Housewives. He's written a number of screenplays and stage plays, and his most recent novel, My Lucky Star (2006), a gay-themed comedy, won the 2007 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

It's the birthday of British science fiction novelist Christopher Priest, (books by this author) born near Stockport, England (1943). He's the author of more than a dozen novels, including The Prestige (1997), which begins:
"It began on a train, heading north through England, although I was soon to discover that the story had really begun more than a hundred years earlier."

It's the birthday of the singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, born in Okemah, Oklahoma (1913).

He was in his 20s when Texas was hit by the same drought that created the Dust Bowl in the mid-1930s, and Guthrie followed workers who were moving to California, where he began to write songs about the people who'd lost their farms and their homes.

His songs grew increasingly political and became more and more sympathetic to the plight of people facing hard times during the Great Depression. Like many people at the time, he thought the Depression was a sign that capitalism had collapsed. He wrote a column for the Communist Party newspaper the People's World. But he never officially joined the Communist Party. He said, "I ain't a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life."

Guthrie went on to write thousands of songs, including "This Land is Your Land," "Union Maid," "Hobo's Lullaby," "Hard, Ain't it Hard," "Pastures of Plenty," "This Train is Bound for Glory," "Sharecropper Song," and "Someday."

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




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