Tom's Book of Days
      April 1-10  

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April 1


Maternity by Gauguin

APRIL FOOL'S DAY: Prior to Charles IX's adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, the new year was celebrated in France during the week that ended April 1. Those who failed to acknowledge the new date of January 1 received invitations to nonexistent parties. The butt of such a prank was known as a "poisson d'avril" or "April fish."

1755: Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of The Physiology of Taste, is born in Belley, France.

1891: Gauguin leaves Marseille for Tahiti.

1929: Luis Buñuel releases Un Chien Andalou.

1942: Mexico reduces its number of time zones from three to two.


April 2


emile zola


1250: The 7th Crusade surrenders to the Muslims.

1840: On his birthday, Emile Zola, charged with defamation of several influential persons, flees to England.

1849: Sikh Punjab is annexed by British India.

1902: The Electrixc Theatre (the first U.S. motion picture cinema) opens in a tent in Los Angeles.


April 3


scott and zelda


1865: Union forces capture Richmond..

1920: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre are married at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Later they are kicked out of Biltmore Hotel bridal suite for rowdiness.

1959: The BBC bans the song Charlie Brown by the Coasters because of its use of the word "spitball."

1965: Bob Dyland breaks into the pop charts for the first time (at no. 39) with Subterranean Homesick Blues.

1996: Theodore Kaczynski is arrested.


April 4



1581: Queen Elizabeth dines with Sir Francis Drake aboard the Pelican, the ship in which he had circumnavigated the world. The vessel was then broken up for relics (one of which is a chair that now stands in the Bodleian Library at Oxford).

1846: Lautreaumont is born in Montevideo, Uruguay.

1915: McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) is born.

1968: Martin Luther King, Jr., 39, is shot and killed in Memphis.

1996: Jerry Garcia's ashes are scattered in the Ganges River.


April 5




TOMB SWEEPING DAY: In Taiwan, rituals are observed in honor of the dead.

1614: Pocahontas and John Rolfe are married.

1753: The British Museum is founded by an act of parliament. With a grant of £20,000 it purchases the nature and art collections of prominent physician Hans Sloane. The following year Montagu House in Bloomsbury would be purchased to house the loot.

1795: "Harris, I am not well., pray get me a glass of brandy," says King George IV upon meeting Caroline of Brunswick. They were married three days later.

1997: Allen Ginsberg dies.


April 6


lord alfred douglas and friend

1327: Twenty-two-year-old Petrarch notices a beautiful married woman in the Church of Santa Clara, Avignon. He will write 366 sonnets to her, calling her Laura. (The North Point edition, translated by Nicholas Kilmer, would be called Songs from Laura's Lifetime.)

1348: Petrarch's Laura dies of the plague.

1781: Túpac Amaru is captured in Peru.

1895: After acquittal of the Marquis of Queensberry for libel (following persistent public harassment by the clearly unhinged eighth Marquess, the father of Oscar Wilde's sometime lover Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde had unwisely sued him for libel), Oscar Wilde is himself arrested. During the trial Wilde denies writing The Priest and the Acolyte. "Was that story immoral?" asked the court. "It was much worse than immoral," Wilde replied. "It was badly written."


April 7


oliver sacks

1832: In Carlisle, England, Joseph Thomson sells his wife by auction to Henry Mears for twenty shillings and a Newfoundland dog.

1986: A group of mentally impaired patients watch a speech by Ronald Reagan. Some are aphasiacs who can't understand spoken words, but do take in information from extraverbal cues, others are tonal agnosiacs who understand the actual words, but miss their emotional content. Oliver Sacks (pictured) describes the incident in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (this summary is from the Daily Bleed):

"It was the grimaces, the histrionisms, the false gestures and, above all, the false tones and cadences of the voice," writes Sacks, which caused the word-deaf aphasiacs to laugh hysterically at the Great Communicator, while one agnosiac, relying entirely on the actual words, sat in stony silence, concluding that "he is not cogent ... his word-use is improper" and suspecting that "he has something to conceal."
      "Here then," writes Sacks "was the paradox of the President's speech. We normals--aided, doubtless, by our wish to be fooled--were indeed well and truly fooled ... and so cunningly was deceptive word-use combined with deceptive tone, that only the brain-damaged remain intact, undeceived."


April 8


alfred jarry

563 BCE: The historical Buddha is said to have been born on this date.

1513: Ponce de Leon lands in Florida.

1871: Robert Louis Stevenson, 21, tells his father he is abandoning a career in engineering for writing.

1873: Alfred Jarry is born.

1984: Richard Nixon: "It's the media's responsibility to examine the President with a microscope ... but when they use a proctoscope, it's going to far."

1914: Maria Félix is born.

1994: Twenty-seven-year-old Kurt Cobain commits suicide with a shotgun blast to his head.


April 9


francois rabelais

1553: Francois Rabelais dies in Paris, leaving this will: "I have nothing. I owe much. I leave the rest to the poor."

1821: Charles Baudelaire is born.

1830: Eadweard Muybridge is born in England. He would emigrate to the U.S in 1851, and eventually achieve celebrity for his studies in motion photography, such his "horse in motion" series. He would also make monumental photographs of Yosemite Valley, become involved in a scandal surrounding the murder of his wife's lover, and move to Guatemala, where he would document conditions on coffee plantations.

1821: Samuel R. Percy patents dried milk.

1956: Nat King Cole is beaten up by racial segregationists in Birmingham, Alabama.


April 10


Zapata by Rivera (detail)

1919: Twenty-nine-year-old Emiliano Zapata, peasant revolutionary and leader of guerrilla strikes on haciendas and sugar refineries, is ambushed and assassinated by Mexican troops.

1925: Scribners publishes F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

1932: Clyde Barrow write to Henry Ford celebrating the first affordable V8 car:

Dear Sir:

While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got every other car skinned, and even if my business hasent been strickly legal it don't hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8.

Yours truly

Clyde Champion Barrow

1945: US medical staff at an Oak Ridge, Tennessee, hospital inject a patient with plutonium, beginning a top-secret government program to investigate the effects of radioactive materials on humans. It continued until the mid 1970s and was not made public until the 1990s. Sixteen thousand subjects were exposed to radiation, most without their knowledge or consent.

continue to April 11


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