Oct. 3, 2012

Song for a Daughter

by Ursula Le Guin

Mother of my granddaughter,
listen to my song:
A mother can't do right,
a daughter can't be wrong.

I have no claim whatever
on amnesty from you;
nor will she forgive you
for anything you do.

So are we knit together
by force of opposites,
the daughter that unravels
the skein the mother knits.

One must be divided
so that one be whole,
and this is the duplicity
alleged of woman's soul.

To be that heavy mother
who weighs in every thing
is to be the daughter
whose footstep is the Spring.

Granddaughter of my mother,
listen to my song:
Nothing you do will ever be right,
nothing you do is wrong.

"Song for a Daughter" by Ursula K. Le Guin, from Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems 1960-2010. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of chick-lit novelist and British ex-pat Lindsey Kelk (books by this author), born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire (1980). She was living in London and had just returned from a trip to New York when she got the idea to write a novel to help her get over her post-vacation blues. I Heart New York (2009) eventually landed her a three-book deal and started a series of I Heart ... novels, each set in a different city. I Heart Hollywood and I Heart Paris followed in 2010, and then Las Vegas and London each had their turn in 2011 and 2012. She's giving the "I Heart" series a rest now because, as she wrote on her blog, "Who want[s] to read I Heart Blackpool ...?"

Kelk finally realized her dream of moving to New York. She now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and works as a children's book editor. Her next novel, About a Girl, is due out in 2013.

Today is the birthday of manners maven Emily Post (books by this author), born Emily Price in Baltimore, Maryland (1873). She started writing to support herself and her two sons; her marriage had broken up in 1905 when her husband lost his fortune in a stock panic and it came out that he had been having affairs with a series of showgirls. Post wrote articles about architecture and interior design, and published several novels. One day, an editor suggested that she write an etiquette manual, because her novels were full of observations about etiquette. She thought etiquette manuals were awful, so she set out to write one that was more about treating people decently rather than just following rules. The result was her book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home (1922), and she wrote about etiquette for the rest of her life.

Emily Post, who said, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

Today is the birthday of the cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman (books by this author), born in Brooklyn, New York (1924). In 1952, Kurtzman became the founding editor of Mad magazine, and even though he remained with the magazine for only its first few issues, he set the tone and style that became its trademark. It was the first media product that earned its bread and butter by parodying other media products.

It's the birthday of the man who said, "Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent." That's Gore Vidal (books by this author), born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where his father was an instructor (1925).

He's well known for his works of historical fiction — such as Julian (1964), Burr (1973), and Lincoln (1984). And his 1968 novel Myra Breckenridge, a satire about a transsexual, was an international best-seller. The New York Times called it "witty"; the reviewer also called it "repulsive" and "a funny novel, but it requires an iron stomach." Vidal carried a grudge against the Times for the rest of his life.

In the mid-1950s he branched out even further, writing a series of potboiler mysteries under the pen name "Edgar Box." He also produced 20 dramas and literary adaptations for television. He adapted one of his original teleplays, Visit to a Small Planet (1955), for the stage, and it became a hit on Broadway; he also wrote several original and adapted screenplays in Hollywood. Near the end of his life, he announced that he'd given up the long-form novel, preferring to focus on nonfiction. He wrote two memoirs (Palimpsest in 1995 and Point to Point Navigation in 2006), and several book-length essays on American history and politics.

Vidal died of pneumonia two months ago, at the age of 86. His old sparring partner The New York Times published a long obituary in his honor, but it contained three errors that required correction.

It's the birthday of Thomas Wolfe (books by this author), born in Asheville, North Carolina (1900). He originally wanted to be a playwright, and he wrote and acted in several plays at the University of North Carolina and, later, at Harvard. He moved to New York in 1923 and taught playwriting at New York University's Washington Square College; it was on a trip abroad in 1926 that he first turned to fiction and began what would become his most famous novel, Look Homeward, Angel (1929). The book, like his later work, was a thinly veiled autobiography, and his depictions of people and places caused a fair amount of turmoil in his family and among the citizens of Asheville.

Thomas Wolfe wrote, "All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."

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




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