April 14th, 2007

Happy birthday to me

April 14 is not a particularly auspicious day. Lincoln was shot on April 14 (although he died on 15th). The Titanic sank. And I was born.

Gillian Welch even has an album about it. "April the 14th Part 1" is the first of a pair of non-identical twins reflecting on disasters large and small. It starts in the large with "When the iceberg hit...," and weaves three disasters that happened on April 14 - the sinking of the Titanic, Lincoln's assassination, and the worst dust storm of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl - around an elliptic story of an ill-fated band's performance. "They looked sick and stoned, and strangely dressed, and no one showed from the local press."

I don't have big plans for today. I'm just glad it's a Saturday.



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Marge Piercy and me

March 30 was the birthday of poet and novelist Marge Piercy. She grew up poor, one of the only white girls in a black Detroit neighborhood. She started writing when she was 15 and was the first in her family to go to college. She was involved in Students for a Democratic Society (which later influenced a book of hers I like very much, Vida, about a woman on the run for years from the FBI). After writing six novels that were all rejected by publishers, in 1968 she published a collection of poems called Breaking Camp. Then, in 1976, she published the novel Woman on the Edge of Time, about a woman imprisoned in a mental hospital who has a vision of a utopian future.

I really, really loved Braided Lives and Gone to Soldiers, so when she was in town about 12 years ago, I went to hear her read. I was such a naïf that I brought my battered paperback of Braided Lives (because it meant so much to me) for her to sign, rather than buying one of the brand new books that were all on display. I was first in line, and began to stammer about how much I admired her writing, and how I wanted to be a writer too, and blah, blah. Meanwhile, she was shaking the pen she had been given, her face wrinkled with disgust, saying to no one in particular, "I hate these kind of pens. I told them not to give me this kind of pen!"

It was not the bonding moment I had hoped for.

I still do admire her, because she has written in so many genres, and her writing is so vivid. She's always been unconventional, living in an open relationship that often included other people, the SDS thing, etc. I still remember her description of kissing another woman as being like "eating a nectarine."



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