Apr. 21, 1998

News of My Death

by Hal Sirowitz


Today's Reading: "News of My Death" by Hal Sirowitz from MOTHER SAID, published by Crown Publishers (1996).

Comedian and screenwriter ELAINE MAY was born on this day in Philadelphia, 1932. She teamed up with comic Mike Nichols in the late 1950s, and they started doing improv in the clubs of Chicago, then broke into TV on the variety shows hosted by Jack Paar and Steve Allen. They never wrote their act down, it was always made up on the spot; and every performance ended with a little play, the first and last lines of which were given to them by the audience.

MARK TWAIN died on this day in 1910 in Redding, Connecticut. He'd had tremendous personal losses in his last years - his wife and two daughters had died - and the memoir he'd been working on but left unfinished at his death was a rambling, pessimistic account of his own life and his view of the world. "All you need in this life," he said, "is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure." He was 74.

It's the birthday of psychologist ROLLO MAY, born in Ada, Ohio, 1909. Rollo May was one of the first to say that Freud may have gotten it wrong, that human nature isn't the dominant factor in what we do and that humans have the power of choice in getting out of their problems. His doctoral dissertation, The Meaning of Anxiety, was published in 1950; to everyone's surprise it sold well in the general public; he put psychology in plain terms, and said making choices about how to deal with problems is one of most enriching experiences we have as humans.

It's the birthday in Yorkshire, England, 1816, of CHARLOTTE BRONTE, author of Jane Eyre. She and her sisters, Emily and Anne, were brought up under the strict rule of her father, an Anglican preacher. She tried school teaching for a while and moved to Brussels, Belgium when she was 27 to polish her language skills. She met and fell in love with another teacher there, who was married. She moved back to England and put some of those experiences into the novel Jane Eyre, the story of a woman who learns on her wedding day that her fiancÚ is already married. When Jane Eyre came out in 1847 it was a hit, perhaps because a few critics condemned it as wicked and offensive. Charlotte replied, "I am ashamed of nothing I have written, not a line." She went on to say, "Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer."

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