Mar. 2, 1998

Ballet Blanc

by Katha Pollitt


Today's Reading: "Ballet Blanc" by Katha Pollitt from ANTARCTIC TRAVELER, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

It's the birthday of JOHN IRVING, born in Exeter, New Hampshire, 1942, whose best-known book, The World According to Garp, came out in 1978. He followed that up with Hotel New Hampshire in 1981, and A Prayer for Owen Meany in 1989.

It's the birthday in Springfield, Massachusetts, 1904, of Theodor Geisel, DR. SEUSS - who wrote The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and dozens of other children's books. His father was the superintendent of the Springfield zoo, and after hours he would let his boy into some of the cages to play with the animals. During college Theodor started drawing weird, made-up animals and writing little stories about them. He worked for a while writing gags for the humor magazine, Judge, using his middle name, Seuss, as a pen name; he added the "Doctor" to it when he came to writing science spoofs.

It's the birthday of composer KURT WEILL, born in Dessau, Germany in 1900, best known for his 1927 musical Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and the 1928 Threepenny Opera, with its famous tune, "Mack the Knife" - both pieces written with librettist Bertolt Brecht.

It's the birthday of the famous Texan, SAM HOUSTON, born in 1793 in Rockbridge County, Virginia. The city of Houston is named for him.

It's the anniversary of THE FIRST BALLET ever staged - it took place in London, in 1717. Ballet had always been a part of opera, but had never been staged on its own. Two composers, Richard Firbank and Henry Symonds, wrote a piece called "The Loves of Mars and Venus" and got a man named John Weaver to choreograph it. The public loved it and ballet schools soon opened in London, Paris and Moscow.

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