"All lovely things will have an ending"

All lovely things will have an ending,
All lovely things will fade and die,
And youth, that’s now so bravely spending,
Will beg a penny by and by….

—from “All Lovely Things,” by Conrad Aiken, who was born on this day in 1889

*** Although “a radically distilled ‘life’ in the form of fiction,” Joyce Carol Oates’s Blonde follows the biographical facts and the documentary scraps — such as Monroe’s poem: “Help, Help! / Help I feel Life coming closer / When all I want to do is die.” Near the end of Blonde we watch Norma Jeane on her last trip to Hollywood’s legendary Schwab’s Drugstore, this as if to get the pills in order to kill the legend:

…& while waiting she moved restlessly about the brightly lit drugstore avoiding only the magazine counter & lurid displays of “Screen World,” “Hollywood Tatler,” “Movie Romance,” “Photoplay,” “Cue,” “Swank,” “Sir!” “Peek,” “Parade” et cetera in whose pages MARILYN MONROE lived her comic-book life & the young woman cashier would recall “Sure we all knew Miss Monroe. She’d come in here late at night. She said to me Schwab’s is my favorite place in all the world, I got my start in Schwab’s guess how, and I asked how and she said, Some man noticing my ass, how else? And laughed. She wasn’t like the other big stars who you never see, who send in servants. She came in herself and she was always alone. No makeup and you’d hardly know her. She was the most alone person I ever knew….”

*** Alec Guinness died on this day in 2000. The epitaph on his grave in Petersfield, Hampshire is “The Readiness Is All,” from the graveyard scene in Hamlet. One of Guinness’s first stage roles was as Osric in John Gielgud’s famous 1936 production of the play. In his autobiography Blessings in Disguise, Guinness describes going to see Gielgud when he was just out of drama school and down to his last half-crown — so poor that he was living on a bun, an apple and a glass of milk a day, and so convinced that he was likely to remain poor that, in order to save the leather, he often carried his shoes. He refused the twenty pounds Gielgud wanted to give him, but he accepted the Osric role, and got his epitaph from Gielgud’s Christmas present: “He gave me a handsome edition of Ellen Terry’s letters [Terry was Gielgud’s great-aunt] in which he wrote, “To Alec, who grows apace,” and then a quotation from Act V, which has remained my motto throughout my life, “The readiness is all.”

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.