Jun. 23, 1998

The Possessive Case

by Lisel Mueller


Today's Reading: "The Possessive Case" by Lisel Mueller from ALIVE TOGETHER, published by Louisiana State University Press.

It's the birthday in Pittsburgh, 1961, of writer DAVID LEAVITT, best known for his short story collection Family Dancing, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1986 his novel The Lost Language of Cranes was published — the title based on the story of a boy brought up in isolation near a building site, who instead of learning to speak and move normally, takes on the motion and sound of construction cranes.

It's the birthday in Cincinnati, 1943, of the director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, JAMES LEVINE. He had a problem with stuttering when he was a boy, but stopped immediately after he began piano lessons at the age of four. A few years later his parents began taking him to symphony concerts and operas, where he'd set the music scores in his lap and conduct with one of his mother's knitting needles. After an apprenticeship with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, he debuted at the Met in 1971 conducting Tosca. He was 28 years old. Four years later he became the Met's music director.

It's the birthday in London, 1912, of ALAN MATHISON TURING, the mathematician who pioneered computer theory. In 1937, when he was 25 years old and a student at King's College, Cambridge, he wrote a paper called "On Computable Numbers," describing a machine that could do anything a human could do, given explicit enough instructions. It was called the "Turing machine," and though it existed only on paper it was generally regarded as the start of digital computers.

It's the birthday in Hoboken, New Jersey, 1894, of ALFRED KINSEY, author in 1948 of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, and five years later of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. He taught zoology and botany at Harvard for a few years, then went to the University of Indiana in 1920. In 1930's he began the first of over 18,000 interviews with adults on their sexual behavior. The two books came out intended only as reference material for medical and social workers, but they became huge sellers with the general public.

It's the birthday in Paducah, Kentucky, 1876, of IRVIN S. COBB, the journalist, author, and humorist. He worked for papers in Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago, and made his way to New York, where he started writing newspaper columns with titles like "Live Talk with Dead Ones," "Speaking of Operations," and "New York Through Funny Glasses."

It's the birthday on the Caribbean island of Martinique, 1763, of JOSEPHINE, crowned EMPRESS OF FRANCE in 1804 as the wife of Napoleon, the only Frenchwoman to hold that title.

It was on this day in 1683 that WILLIAM PENN SIGNED A TREATY WITH THE LENNI LENAPE INDIANS. Two years earlier King Charles II had given Penn a huge tract of land in the New World, which he named Pennsylvania, after his father. Penn made his first visit there from 1682 to 1684, and established peaceful relations with the Lenape. Penn was a devout Quaker and he wanted the colony to be what he called "a holy experiment."

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