Jun. 28, 1998

A Glimpse, Age Five

by William Stafford


Today's Reading: "A Glimpse, Age Five" by William Stafford from EVEN IN QUIET PLACES, published by Confluence Press.

It's MARK HELPRIN's birthday, the short-story writer and author of the novels Winter's Tale (1983) and Memoir from Antproof Case (1995), born in 1947. He sold his first short story to the New Yorker when he was 21 years old and still at Harvard, then went off to join the Israeli Air Force and the British Merchant Navy in the 1970s. He came back to the States and published his first book when he was 28, a collection of stories called A Dove of the East.

It was on this day in 1914 that the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, ARCHDUKE FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED, along with his wife, sparking WWI. The assassination took place in Sarajevo. The Austro-Hungarian empire blamed Serbia for it and declared war. Within days the Serbs' longtime ally, Russia, came to their aid; then Germany, allied with Austria, declared war on Russia. By the time the war ended in 1918, 28 nations on five continents had become involved. Airplanes, tanks, submarines, and poison gas were all used for the first time in warfare, creating unprecedented casualties: 10 million dead, 20 million wounded.

It's the birthday in 1909, London, of ERIC AMBLER, author of espionage and crime novels like The Dark Frontier, Background to Danger, and A Coffin for Dimitrios, all written in the '30s before he went to work making films for the British Army during the war. In the '50s he wrote more novels, but was better known as a Hollywood screenwriter.

MARIA MAYER, winner of the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics, was born on this day in Katowice, Poland, 1906. She did some of her greatest work at the University of Chicago, examining and explaining properties of atomic nuclei, which won her the Nobel.

It's the birthday in New York City, 1902 of RICHARD RODGERS, collaborator with lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein on over 1,500 Broadway songs; and 42 musicals, shows like "Babes in Arms," "Pal Joey," "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music." He was a Broadway fixture for nearly 60 years working with Hart from 1918 until the early '40s, then with Hammerstein until 1960 and finally by himself until his death in 1979. "Oklahoma!" was the first musical he wrote with Hammerstein, and it won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1944. "South Pacific" won the Pulitzer Drama Prize in 1950.

It's the birthday in Sicily, 1867, of LUIGI PIRANDELLO who wrote over 50 plays including Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921), the play in which he introduced the device of a theater within a theater to explore illusion and reality at the same time.

It was on this day in 1832 that A CASE OF CHOLERA WAS REPORTED IN NEW YORK CITY. It was the beginning of the New York Cholera Epidemic. By the end of the New York epidemic, 2,251 people were dead.

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