Wednesday, April 25, 2012

`Mark Our Chosen Lineaments'

The number-one song on the Billboard chart on this date in 1955, the day my brother was born, was “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Perez Prado, the “King of the Mambo.” Tenzing Norgay was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and look at the current covers of Life, Time and Playboy. I.F. Stone’s Weekly reported “A Chance to Destroy the 20 Years of Treason Myth.”

John P. Marquand’s Sincerely, Willis Wayde was number one on The New York Times “Best Seller List.” Nabokov published “Pnin’s Day,” chapter three of Pnin (1957), in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker and was about to sign a deal with Olympia Press in Paris to publish Lolita. Bellow was working on Seize the Day, Malamud on The Assistant. In 1955, William Gaddis published The Recognitions and William F. Buckley came out with the first issue of National Review.

Despite the death that year of Wallace Stevens and the rise of Jack Kerouac, it was a good time, if not a stellar year, for American writing. Some of our best were at work: Richard Wilbur and Whittaker Chambers, Yvor Winters and Janet Lewis, A.J. Liebling and Joseph Mitchell, Louise Bogan and John Cheever, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, Ralph Ellison and J.V. Cunningham, Raymond Chandler and Edgar Bowers, Whitney Balliett and Marianne Moore. Thom Gunn had graduated from Cambridge University a year earlier and came to the United States – permanently, as it turned out -- to study with Winters at Stanford. Coincidentally, Gunn died on this date, April 25, in 2004. In “To Yvor Winters, 1955” he writes:  

“Poem and history: for if we use
Words to maintain the actions that we choose,
Our words, with slow defining influence,  
Stay to mark out our chosen lineaments.”

Happy birthday, Ken.


Anonymous said...

My younger brother,too, was born in 1955. In that year, eccentric Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould, made his famous recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. Willis Lamb and Polykarp Kusch were co-awardees of the Nobel Prize in physics. Al Kaline, at age 20, was the youngest baseball player ever to win the American League batting championship, getting a base hit about every third time he batted. Youngtown, Arizona, one of the first retirement communities in the U.S., was founded in 1955.

Happy Birthday to your brother, Ken. May we all live long and well.


Anonymous said...

I graduated from high school in 1955 & you betcha we danced this at our senior prom -- not that we WASPS knew how to mambo. I had the prettiest pink & white dress, my date was a college senior & two of his fraternity brothers went to the prom with my classmates, so it was a high point, great to remember.
I've been thinking of the song under the pink & white cherry trees in NYC parks, blossom now finished a week before the end of April -- unheard of -- but didn't remember when it was so big. Thanks. And Happy Birthday to your brother Ken! Susan

Helen Pinkerton said...

Thanks, Patrick, for drawing attention to Gunn's splendid and exact definition in few words of one of the finest kinds of poetry, the meditative self-examination. Gunn was pretty good at doing just that.