Feb. 13, 2011


by Philip Appleman

Cramming for Finals

by Philip Appleman


Catch-as-can Appleman:
"Marjorie Haberkorn,
you with the daringly
dingdongy name,
somehow your sonorous
cognomenation just
sets me aflame—

syllables tinkling and
jingling like glockenspiels
tickle my ventricles
dactyls are dangerous
we'd better put

both of our names in an
think of the singular
medley you'd make—
Marjorie Haberkorn
Appleman couldn't be
taken for anyone
else by mistake."

Cramming for Finals

End of term, will a six-pack do us
while we speed-read Upton Sinclair Lewis?
So far behind, can we possibly ever
catch up on E. A. Robinson Jeffers?
Who said it was going to be multiple choice
on the later work of O. Henry James Joyce?
What's the plot of The Rise of Silas Marner? Who
remembers the Swiss Family Robinson Cru-
soe? Midnight—late. One A.M.—tardy.
Was Laurence Sterne? Was Thomas Hardy?
And hey—was John Gay?
Oh, let's take a break and all get mellow,
take our chances on Henry Wordsworth Longfellow,
and maybe later give a lick and a promise
to the earlier lyrics of Bob Dylan Thomas.

"Said" and "Cramming for Finals" by Philip Appleman, from Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie. © The Quantuck Lane Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of religious historian Elaine Pagels, (books by this author) born in Palo Alto, California (1943). She's a professor at Princeton and she's most famous for her work on early Christian texts, especially the Gnostic Gospels — writings about Jesus from the second to fourth centuries. She won the National Book Award for her 1979 study The Gnostic Gospels (1979), which the Modern Library named as one of the 100 best books of the 20th century.

The Gnostic Gospels begins: "'Jesus Christ rose from the grave.' With this proclamation, the Christian church began. This may be the fundamental element of Christian faith; certainly it is the most radical."

Her other books include Adam, Eve and the Serpent (1988), The Origin of Satan (1995), Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003), and Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (2007).

It's the birthday of one of Sudan's most celebrated fiction writers, Ali El-Maak, (books by this author) born in Omdurman, Sudan, on this day in 1937. After studying art at Khartoum University and public administration at the University of Southern California, he worked in academia and wrote short stories in Arabic. He also translated a lot of American literature into Arabic, including stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Baxter.

It's the birthday of the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound: Chuck Yeager, (books by this author) born in Myra, West Virginia, on this day in 1923. Whereas 20/20 is considered "perfect vision," his was better than perfect at 20/10, and he once shot a deer from 600 yards away. This keen vision was a great asset to a future pilot.

He joined the Air Force as mechanic, became a fighter pilot during World War II, was shot down by Germans over France, escaped to Spain and then to England, and resumed air combat, flying many successful missions.

After the war he became a test pilot in the Air Force, flying rocket planes and other aircraft. He was selected as the pilot to fly the rocket-powered airplane "Bell X-1" on a mission to break the sound barrier for the first time. In the weeks before the flight was scheduled, people in the aviation community muttered stuff like, "He better have paid-up insurance." Then, two days before his historic test flight, he broke a couple of ribs while riding a horse. He was so afraid that they would remove him from the mission that he didn't tell anyone except his wife and one friend, who gave him a broom handle to reach up and close the hatch — since he would not be able to reach up and grab it with his ribs broken.

It was on October 14, 1947, that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, Mach 1. He was at an altitude of 45,000 feet — about eight and a half miles up in the air. Fourteen minutes later, he was back on the ground, and he went home to bed to recuperate.

The role of Chuck Yeager was played by Sam Shepard in the movie The Right Stuff (1983), based on the 1979 Tom Wolfe book. Yeager has co-authored a few volumes of memoir, including The Quest for Mach One: A First-Person Account of Breaking the Sound Barrier (1997), Yeager: An Autobiography (1985), and Press on! Further Adventures in the Good Life (1988).

From the archives:

It's the birthday of novelist Margaret Halsey, (books by this author) born in Yonkers, New York (1910). She's best known for her best-selling book With Malice Towards Some (1938), where she makes fun of British manners.

It's the birthday of novelist Georges Simenon (books by this author) born in Liége, Belgium (1903). He's one of the most prolific writers of all time, best known for his detective novels featuring Inspector Maigret. He wrote some 400 books, which sold more than 1.4 billion copies from 1935 to 1997. Each book took him on average eight days to write.

It's the birthday of writer Ricardo Güiraldes, (books by this author) born in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1886). He wrote poems, essays, and short stories, but he's best known for his novels about Argentine cowboys, or gauchos, such as Rosaura (1922) and Shadows in the Pampas (1926).

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




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