The Weird Week in Writing: Authors love Eminem, Humpty Dumpty seeks vengeance, Sylvia Plath draws hot dogs

Freaky Friday—the latest from the often weird and wonderful world of writing
this week (followed, as always, by a prompt). Happy weekend!

STILL BETTER THAN KID ROCK: Charles Bukowski loved Wagner. Oscar Wilde loved Haydn. Turns out 71-year-old Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, Janet Evanovich and others have a different audio hero: Eminem.

EGGLAND’S BEST: I suppose most of us are used to Humpty Dumpty just falling off walls and permanently breaking, etc., etc., in three sentences or fewer. Now, though, in an upcoming movie and graphic novel, he has a new mission: Vengeance! Bonus: He’s half alien.  

AS GOOD AS WORD: Sylvia Plath cartooned about a dream of being chased by a hot dog and marshmallow. David Foster Wallace drew fangs on Cormac McCarthy. Nabokov scrawled some bugs, appropriately, on The Metamorphosis. Kafka drew mad men. Meet the amazing world of author doodles. 

In short, Maria Shriver is guest editing O, The Oprah Magazine’s poetry issue. It will feature contributions by the likes of Demi Moore and Mike Tyson. Maybe hubby Arnold Schwarzenegger will grace us with a villanelle, rondeau, or one of his trademark sonnets?

DISCLAIMER: While the Weird Week in Writing usually goes for the comically weird, our second-to-last item today focuses on something in the literary world that is just, well, grim: The goings-on at Harper’s Magazine, where this week the publisher rejected $50,000 in reader donations to prevent staff layoffs.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE: What was the success secret behind the Earl of Rochester’s bestselling 18-century poetry collection? Turns out he was a bit of a poetic pornographer, offering readers a secret folio of naughty rhymes (beware some mildly explicit, but bestselling, phrasing, after the link…).


WRITING PROMPT: Lost Translation
free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments
section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble
with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece an
d the prompt to me
at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and
I’ll make sure it gets up.

She’d passed him the note years ago, when he was studying abroad. He’d never had it translated. Until now.

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7 thoughts on “The Weird Week in Writing: Authors love Eminem, Humpty Dumpty seeks vengeance, Sylvia Plath draws hot dogs

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    Raymond had loved and lost several times since his return home. He tried to forget her. But with each new lover came great disappointment. They were not what he desired. Occasionally he would find one or two aspects that sent him to a state of pure bliss. Of course those things would soon be drowned out by their true personalities. They weren’t bad. They just weren’t her.
    Etheline. She was what he dreamed of. She was what he left behind. Ray was enchanted by her eyes, crippled by her voice, delighted by her skin, incapacitated by her lips. They had four weeks together. She was a native of Florence, Italy. Etheline had traveled the world, but was in love with her home. She made a living giving tours to people studying abroad and selling flowers on the street. Ethaline loved both of those things and knew that she could never leave.
    Raymond had been in one of her tour groups and immediately fell for her. He asked many questions on the tour, most of which a five-year-old knew. But it was a chance to talk to her. He found her selling her flowers outside a bakery the next day. Raymond asked her to create a bouquet fit for a queen. He bought it and handed it to her with a juvenile smile on his face. Her eyes widened and said, “But I am no queen.”
    They saw each other every day, taking walks and doing all the things a couple that has been together for twenty years do. To Ray it was perfection. Her hand would crawl inside of his in a way that tickled but was incredibly intimate. There was nothing he didn’t love.
    On his last day in Florence, Raymond proposed to Ethaline. He asked her to come back to America with him. They would live a charmed life, he claimed. Ethaline looked at him and stroked his face with the back of her hand. A tear escaped from her eye. She turned for a moment, scribbling something on a scrap of paper. She placed the paper in his hand, kissed him softly, and turned. She knew he would be disappointed and heartbroken, but it was all a dream to him. She knew they would not be able to continue living their life in America. She would be grounded there. This was where she belonged. He did not.
    Raymond went to the airport full of rage. The note was in Italian. She knew he couldn’t read it. He had planned it all out. He had planned that moment the day they met. This was not how it was supposed to be. He returned to America.
    Years later, after Raymond’s failed attempts at finding a suitable replacement, he had the note translated. It was one sentence, clear and concise: “I was born to fly.”
    He crushed the old paper in his hand. Raymond went out into the night, searching for another Ethaline, one that wouldn’t need to fly.