Mar. 25, 1998
Crows in a Strong Wind
Today's Reading: "Crows In a Strong Wind" by Cornelius Eady from VICTIMS OF THE LATEST DANCE CRAZE.
D.H. Lawrence's last novel, LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER, was cleared of obscenity charges on this day in New York, 1960, thirty-five years after it'd been written. The Postmaster General at the time had objected to the book's language and declared it "unmailable;" a lower court agreed, saying that it was pretty much like what you'd read on the walls of public restrooms. But the U.S. Court of Appeals finally ended the matter with its ruling. The judge wrote, "Should a mature and sophisticated reading public be kept in blinders because a government official thinks reading certain works of power and literary value are not good for him?"
It's the birthday of ARETHA FRANKLIN, the Queen of Soul, in Memphis, 1942. Her father was a preacher and Aretha got her start singing at revival meetings. She made her first record when she was 12 and then had big hits in the late 60s like "I Never Loved a Man," and "Respect." She wowed them at the Grammy's last month when she stepped in at the last minute for Luciano Pavarotti and sang the aria, "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's opera, Turandot.
It's the birthday in 1924, Savannah, Georgia, of FLANNERY O'CONNOR, who wrote only 19 short stories and a pair of small novels, but most all of it is taught in the colleges and universities today - stories set in the South and full of misfits and criminals and the possibility of redemption. Her father died of lupus when she was 15, and she moved with her mother into an old family farm in north-central Georgia and in her mid-20s discovered that she, too, had lupus. She raised peacocks there and wrote her two story collections, A Good Man is Hard to Find, published in 1955, and Everything That Rises Must Converge, published in 1965, a year after she died at 39. She said that a statement of Joseph Conrad's corresponded with her own intentions as a writer: "My task is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel - it is, before all, to make you see. If I succeed, you shall find there, according to your deserts, encouragement, consolation, fear, charm, all you demand - and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask."
It's the anniversary of the TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST FIRE, in 1911, New York. At 4:30 that afternoon, just before quitting time, a fire broke out in the 10-story Triangle Shirtwaist building, a garment factory employing mostly young immigrant women. The fire lasted only 18 minutes, but the doors of the ninth-floor workroom were locked, and on the tenth floor the only way out was to jump through the windows. 146 women died, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire became a turning point in the labor movement: dozens of laws and safety regulations were enacted afterward.
It's the birthday of JOHN BORGLUM, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, born in Bear Lake, Idaho, 1867. His whole career, Borglum preferred big projects: he carved the 12 Apostles for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City; a 6-ton bust of Lincoln in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C.; and he started a huge carving of Robert E. Lee and his soldiers in Stone Mountain, Georgia, but abandoned the project. His last work was Mt. Rushmore in the South Dakota Black Hills, which he began dynamiting in 1927. Rushmore is essentially an unfinished project: Borglum's original plan was to carve Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt down to their waists, but only got the heads done by the time he died 14 years later.
The conductor ARTURO TOSCANINI was born the same day, the same year as Borglum - 1867, in Parma, Italy, He was just 19 years old and playing cello for the opera in Rio de Janeiro, when one night during a performance of Aida the crowd booed and hissed the conductor right off the podium. Trouble was, there were still three acts to go. Toscanini put his cello down and conducted the rest of the performance from memory and at the final curtain the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He went on to lead all the world's best opera houses, like La Scala in Milan, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In 1937 the National Broadcasting Company organized an orchestra just for him, and the NBC Symphony became one of the great orchestras in this country - which he led until he retired, at the age of 87, in 1954. Toscanini was badly near-sighted and had to conduct everything from memory. And he had famous tantrums on the podium, one time injuring the Milan concertmaster with a broken violin bow. But musicians generally worshiped him, and called him The Maestro.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®