Aug. 2, 2010

Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz

by William Notter

She had a truck, red hair,
and freckled knees and took me all the way
to Memphis after work for barbecue.
We moaned and grunted over plates of ribs
and sweet iced tea, even in a room of strangers,
gnawing the hickory char, the slow
smoked meat peeling off the bones,
and finally the bones. We slurped
grease and dry-rub spice from our fingers,
then finished with blackberry cobbler
that stained her lips and tongue.

All the trees were throwing fireworks
of blossom, the air was thick
with pollen and the brand-new smell of leaves.
We drove back roads in the watermelon dusk,
then tangled around each other, delirious
as honeybees working wisteria.
I could blame it all on cinnamon hair,
or the sap rising, the overflow of spring,
but it was those ribs that started everything.

"Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz" by William Notter, from Holding Everything Down. © Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist and military historian Caleb Carr, (books by this author) born in New York City (1955). He's the author of The Devil Soldier (1991), The Alienist (1994), The Angel of Darkness (1997), and The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians; Why It Has Always Failed (2002).

His dad was Lucien Carr, an editor who was involved in the Beat scene — he was the man who introduced poets Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs to each other. The Beat poets were always hanging around Carr's Manhattan home when Caleb was growing up.

But even as a child, Caleb Carr was totally turned off by the Beat movement. The Beat poets who hung out at his house were nice people, he said, but "they weren't children people. ... What they were up to was not gonna make any child feel reassured." He said, "They were noisy, drunken people, living very alternative lifestyles. ... You needed to be grown-up to be around them if you wanted to not be terrified."

He rebelled by studying military history. It broke his mother's heart; she equated her son's interest with killing. But he said that the orderliness and stability of the military appealed to him, since he found these things missing from his own childhood.

He was especially enchanted with the life of Teddy Roosevelt, who developed big ideals as a child and stayed true to those ideals. Carr's first published book about military history was called America Invulnerable: The Quest for Absolute Security, from 1812 to Star Wars (1988, co-author James Chace).

His most recent book is a detective novel: The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (2005).

It's the birthday of the journalist James Fallows, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia on this day in 1949. He's written for The Atlantic Monthly magazine for more than 25 years now, reporting on things like technology, the economy, immigration, war and national security.

He majored in history and literature at Harvard, edited Harvard's student newspaper, The Crimson, and went off to Oxford and studied economics on a Rhodes scholarship. He became the youngest presidential speechwriter in history, drafting speeches for Jimmy Carter when he was 26. Then he went to work as a foreign correspondent, reporting from places like Japan and China.

He's been nominated for the National Magazine Award five times. Fallows has written a lot about Iraq; the articles are collected in his book Blind into Baghdad (2006).

His most recent book is Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China (2009).

James Fallows said, "Make the important interesting."

It's the birthday of the novelist Isabel Allende, (books by this author) born in Lima, Peru (1942), the author of many books, including Eva Luna (1987) and Portrait in Sepia (2000). Her father's cousin, Salvador Allende, became Chile's first elected socialist president. But on September 11, 1973, a military coup led by General Pinochet overthrew the government and assassinated Salvador Allende. Isabel and all her family were put on a wanted list and received death threats, so they fled to Venezuela. While she was in Venezuela, Isabel Allende found out that her beloved grandfather was dying in Chile, and she couldn't go back to see him. So she started to write him a letter, to reassure him that she wouldn't forget all his stories and memories.

It became her first novel, The House of the Spirits (1985), a novel of magical realism that tells the story of four generations of the Trueba family and their lives in Chile from the turn of the century through the coup.

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




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