May 15, 2012

Pity the Beautiful

by Dana Gioia

Pity the beautiful,
the dolls, and the dishes,
the babes with big daddies
granting their wishes.

Pity the pretty boys,
the hunks, and Apollos,
the golden lads whom
success always follows.

The hotties, the knock-outs,
the tens out of ten,
the drop-dead gorgeous,
the great leading men.

Pity the faded,
the bloated, the blowsy,
the paunchy Adonis
whose luck's gone lousy.

Pity the gods,
no longer divine.
Pity the night
the stars lose their shine.

"Pity the Beautiful" by Dana Gioia, from Pity the Beautiful. © Graywolf Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the nonfiction author Laura Hillenbrand (books by this author), born in Fairfax, Virginia (1967). She's the author of the best sellers Seabiscuit (2001) and Unbroken (2010), and she also suffers from debilitating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She can go years without being able to leave her Washington, D.C. home and conducts all of her research by phone and email.

She told The Washington Post, "I'm looking for a way out of here. I can't have it physically, so I'm going to have it intellectually. It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination [...] it's my way of living vicariously."

Today is the birthday of photographer Richard Avedon, born in New York City (1923). Best known for his fashion photography and portraits of celebrities, he also produced portraits of mental patients, carnival workers, war protesters, and ordinary working class Americans. He said, "I think charm is the ability to be truly interested in other people."

Today is the birthday of Lyman Frank Baum (books by this author), born in Chittenango, New York (1856). He moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota when he was 32, and opened up a general store called "Baum's Bazaar." He was popular with the neighborhood kids, telling them stories, all the while chomping on a cigar. He was also generous with his credit and the store went bankrupt. So he got a job as an editor for the local newspaper. He published his first book, Mother Goose in Prose, in 1897; it was a collection of stories based on traditional nursery rhymes. After that came Father Goose, His Book in 1899, but it was his 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that we remember him for today. It was a critical and commercial success, and he went on to write 13 more novels based on the Land of Oz.

It was on this date in 1869 that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. The 15th Amendment was being considered, granting voting rights to African American men, but not to women. The women's suffrage movement was divided over whether to support the bill. One faction felt that any advancement in civil rights would eventually help women. But the other faction, led by Stanton and Anthony, opposed giving these rights to another group of men who, they felt, would then have no further interest in advancing the cause of women. They split from the American Equal Rights Association, forming their own national organization to be run by women.

Stanton and Anthony worked together for 50 years, and they made a good team. Anthony never married, so she was free to devote her life to the women's movement. Stanton wasn't free to travel for many years. She stayed home, raised the kids, did the research, and wrote the speeches that Anthony delivered.

Stanton once said, "I am the better writer, she the better critic... and together we have made arguments that have stood unshaken by the storms of thirty long years; arguments that no man has answered."

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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