Mar. 25, 2012

At Home

by Linda Gregg

Far is where I am near.
Far is where I live.
My house is in the far.
The night is still.
A dog barks from a farm.
A tiny dog not far below.
The bark is soft and small.
A lamp keeps the stars away.
If I go out there they are.

"At Home" by Linda Gregg, from All of It Singing. © Graywolf Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the writer who said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd," and "Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it." She didn't want a biography written about her because, she said, "Lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy." That's Flannery O'Connor (books by this author), born in Savannah, Georgia (1925). When she was five years old, she trained a chicken to walk backward, and a newsreel company came to her house to make a film about it, which was shown all over the country. She said, "I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax."

She spent much of her life on her family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, raising poultry and writing novels and short stories: Wise Blood (1952), The Violent Bear It Away (1960), A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955), and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). This last book of short stories was published after her death in 1964, at the age of 39, from complications of lupus.

She said: "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."

It's the birthday of feminist writer and activist who said, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." Gloria Steinem, (books by this author) born in Toledo, Ohio (1934). Her father was an antique dealer and a summer resort operator who traveled all over the country in a trailer, looking for new business ventures. Steinem said, "He was always going to make a movie, or cut a record, or start a new hotel, or come up with a new orange drink." She traveled around the country with her father, never attending school, until her parents separated, and she moved in with her mother, who suffered a mental break down. Steinem said, "[My mother was] an invalid who lay in bed with eyes closed and lips moving in occasional response to voices only she could hear; a woman to whom I brought an endless stream of toast and coffee, bologna sandwiches and dime pies."

Steinem had poor grades in school, but she managed to get into Smith based entirely on her entrance examinations. After college, she went to work as a journalist and made her name with a piece called "I was a Playboy Bunny" (1963) about working undercover at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club in midtown Manhattan. She went on to found Ms. magazine, devoted to women's issues, in 1972. It sold out its first print run of 300,000 copies in eight days.

Steinem has written several books about the inequities women face in the modern world, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983).

It's the birthday of young adult novelist Kate DiCamillo (books by this author), born in Philadelphia (1964). She spent most of her childhood in Florida, but after college she moved to Minnesota. That first winter in Minnesota was one of the coldest on record, and DiCamillo missed her hometown in Florida horribly. She also desperately wanted a dog, but couldn't have one because her apartment building didn't allow dogs. So she began writing a story about a stray dog that helps a 10-year-old girl adjust to life in a new town, and that became DiCamillo's novel Because of Winn-Dixie, which won a Newbery Medal and became a best-seller when it came out in 2000.
Her other books include The Tale of Desperaux (2003), The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2006), and The Magician's Elephant (2009).

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