This is being written on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day. On this date every year the Lincoln newspaper prints one of my favorite cartoons of all time: it is the Peanuts strip that shows Snoopy in the surf crawling ashore between the obstacles on Omaha Beach. The small caption reads: “June 6, 1944: ‘To Remember’.” There is something especially poignant about that small strip that always gets to me. I hope the paper will continue to reprise it in the years ahead.
There was a small piece in a recent paper that told the story of an American veteran who had landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. After the war, he returned to France and settled in a small village not far from where he had waded ashore that day. Now in his mid-90s, he still lives there. The article spoke of his regret that with the passing of years, fewer and fewer veterans come to commemorate the day with him. This year, of course, the coronavirus threat further diminished the prospects for travel. Topping it all off is the anticipation of some really inclement weather along the Normandy coast this year (after an apparently glorious spring season). At any rate, he expects that he will be alone in his celebration.
I think perhaps the only other cartoon that has had such an impact is the one which has come to be known as the “Weeping Lincoln” by the editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin. It portrays the seated figure in the Lincoln Memorial with his hands to his face, weeping. It was printed the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. By some gift of genius, Mauldin and Charles Shultz (who drew the Peanuts strip) told a story and captured the moment in a single small black and white drawing. Beautifully done.
Not a lot of writing news to talk about. I’ve been working a bit on a fiction piece that has some references to current events embedded in it. Not sure it will ever see the light of day, but it has been fun to break the pattern for a while and work on something new. I’ve not done much fiction in the past so this was an enjoyable change.
A few weeks ago my niece, Dana Kinnison, sent a reference to a poetry solicitation from the Nebraska Writers Guild. I wasn’t aware of the group, or of the Voices of the Plains anthology that they publish in the fall of each year. Dana’s note reached me a few days before the deadline. I have not worked on poetry for quite a while. I submitted a few items that had been on the shelf for a time (there’s probably a reason for that; i.e., maybe they weren’t good enough to send to anyone in the first place). Six poems was the max allowed for submission. So, I sent a mixed bag: two serious, one moderately so (about a sleeping cat), and three with varying degrees of humor. Most of the poetry anthologies that I have looked at contain serious stuff – some really serious -- so the funny submissions, especially, may not have much traction.
I mentioned in last month’s blog that many of the recent story call outs from book and magazine publishers have a “late stage writing” theme: views of the future, mortality, etc. I have a long shot article being considered, not sure when the verdict will be rendered. I had sent a second article to a small magazine that publishes humorous fiction. It was a piece about maybe the time being right for veterans to resurrect some of their old, funny “war stories” to help provide a few smiles during this most un-humorous time. I got a “thanks, but no thanks” note back – kind words about the writing, but they are looking for a different focus for their humor pieces Replies like that are sort of like finishing fourth in the Olympics – just out of medal contention but nice to have been in the race. The response brought to mind a story in a “Writer’s Digest” magazine about a writer who, in lieu of wallpaper in his writing area, papered the walls with reject letters from publishers who had turned down his stories.
The Peanuts cartoon strip often had a sequence showing Snoopy on top of his dog house working on a novel. The quality of Snoopy’s writing was such that he received some interesting reject letters. One – really, an advance reject notice – said “Dear Contributor, Thank you for not sending us anything lately. It suits our present needs.” Another said: “We have received your latest manuscript. Why did you send it to us? What did we ever do to hurt you?”
I also admired the advice that other Peanuts characters sometimes gave Snoopy to improve his writing. In one sketch, Lucy tells him “All the best sellers these days are about attorneys. So that’s who you should write about.” Snoopy then begins a new novel with “It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a lawyer appeared on the horizon.”
In another, he has begun a novel with “It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out.” Lucy cautions him about the need to use precise language and be less excitable in tone. He revises his work to read: “It was a dark and stormy night. Gradually, a shot rang out.”
Perhaps by the time for next month’s newsletter we will have some news about plans for the various sports seasons. It is interesting that all of the major professional sports will have decisions to make regarding season start dates, length, venues, crowds (any allowed?), etc. It will certainly be nice to have some sports programming on TV if for nothing more than to provide companionable background noise.
Now, prepare yourself please: it is time for this month’s really, really bad (atrocious even) pun:
“The man accidently swallowed a box of Scrabble tiles.
His next trip to the restroom may spell disaster.”
Until next month, please remember once again Sonny’s sage advice from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: “Everything will be all right in the end … if it is not all right then it is not yet the end.”
Stay safe and take care of each other.