Aug. 15, 2010

Last Meal

by Bill Holm

On death row you celebrate your last night
with your last dinner, your choice, your last craving
to make at least your stomach happy before it stops
craving anything at all. Many choose
simple food: a hamburger, mac and cheese, ice cream.
What might it be for you, my friend?
Duckling Rouenaisse? A roast of unborn lamb?
Washed down with Veuve Cliquot '59 and old Armagnac?
And how do you know, my friend, that you are not
eating your last meal at this very table now?
Chew slowly. Make sure you take in all the body and the blood.

"Last Meal" by Bill Holm, from The Chain Letter of the Soul: New & Selected Poems. © Milkweed Editions, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of food writer Julia Child, (books by this author) born Julia McWilliams in Pasadena, California (1912). She said, "Life itself is the proper binge."

It's the birthday of Sir Walter Scott, (books by this author) born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1771), one of the most influential novelists of all time. He is responsible for many famous phrases, including "blood is thicker than water" and "O, what a tangled web we weave, / When first we practise to deceive!" He didn't handle money well, though. To pay off his debts, he decided to publish a novel. Scott published his novel Waverley (1814) anonymously. It was a huge best-seller.

It's the birthday of Irish writer Benedict Kiely, (books by this author) born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland (1919). His wrote several novels, but critics generally agree that his best writing is found in his short stories, many of which first appeared in The New Yorker magazine. His stories have been collected in several volumes, including The Trout in the Turnhole (1996), A Letter to Peachtree (1987), A Cow in the House (1978), and A Ball of Malt and Madame Butterfly (1973).

It was on this day in 1969 that Woodstock began. This music festival on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, in upstate New York, was originally advertised as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music." The Bethel town board of supervisors refused to grant the permit to legally hold the event, arguing that the proposed porta-potties didn't meet the town health and safety codes. But the organizers went ahead with the concert anyway. They predicted that 50,000 people would show up. Instead half a million people came.

The lineup included Jimi Hendrix, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, The Who, Janis Joplin, Santana, Ravi Shanker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Melanie, and others — a total of 32 acts, all outdoors, sometimes in the rain.

It's the birthday of Stieg Larsson, born in Skelleftehamn, (books by this author) Sweden (1954). He's the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005), The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006), The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, October (2007). Together the books form the Millennium trilogy, about a tattooed 20-something computer-hacking young woman with poor social skills — and her detective sidekick, a financial journalist. The books in the trilogy have sold about 30 million copies in more than 40 countries around the world.

Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004, at the age of 50, the year before his first book was actually published, so he never saw any of the massive royalties his estate is earning. In 2008, four years after his death, he was the second-best-selling author in the world, after Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. His books have been translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland, which is actually the pseudonym of Steven T. Murray of Berkeley, California. The first of Stieg Larsson's books appeared in English in 2008; the third of his trilogy was released in the U.S. just this past May. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo begins:
"It happened every year, was almost a ritual. And this was his eighty-second
birthday. When, as usual, the flower was delivered, he took off the
wrapping paper and then picked up the telephone to call Detective
Superintendent Morell who, when he retired, had moved to Lake Siljan
in Dalarna. They were not only the same age, they had been born on the
same day — which was something of an irony under the circumstances.
The old policeman was sitting with his coffee, waiting, expecting the call."

(translation by Reg Keeland)

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




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