Jul. 18, 1998


by Stephanie Marlis


Today's Reading: "Butter" by Stefanie Marlis from RIFE, published by Sarabande Books (1998).

It's the birthday of poet YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO [yevtu SHENG koh], born in Zima, Russia, in 1933. He grew up in Siberia, where four generations of his relatives had been exiled, and in Moscow where he became a crusader for greater creative freedom for artists in the post-Stalin era.

It's the 80th birthday today of South African leader NELSON MANDELLA born in Umtata, South Africa, in 1918. Son of a Tembu chief, he became a lawyer and got involved in the anti-apartheid struggle as a leader of the African National Congress. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for conspiracy to overthrow the South African government and was finally released in 1990 after spending 28 years in jail. Three years later (1993) Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.

Itís the birthday of comedian RED (RICHARD BERNARD) SKELTON, in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1913, the son of a circus clown who died two months before Skelton was born. He was just ten years old when he left home to join a medicine show. He went on to work in radio, made over 30 films, and starred in his own television show for 20 years (1951-71), creating such characters as Freddie the Freeloader, Sheriff Deadeye, and Clem Kadiddlehopper.

Playwright CLIFFORD ODETS was born in Philadelphia on this day in 1906. A member of the Group Theatre during the 1930's, he wrote a series of socially and politically oriented plays, including Waiting For Lefty and the popular 1937 play Golden Boy.

Itís the birthday of short-story writer and novelist JESSAMYN WEST, born near North Vernon, Indiana, 1902. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis when she was 28 years old and spent the next two years in a sanitarium. She was sent home to die, but her mother nursed her back to health while telling her stories of the familyís origins in Indiana. They became the basis for her first book, The Friendly Persuasion (1945), which was an instant success.

On this day in 1877, inventor Thomas Edison RECORDED THE HUMAN VOICE FOR THE FIRST time at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. He used a stylus-tipped carbon transmitter to make impressions on a strip of paraffin paper to make a reproduction of the original sound when he pulled the paper back along the stylus. It was the first phonograph.

Itís the birthday of English novelist and satirist WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY, born in Calcutta (India) in 1811, best known for the historical novel Vanity Fair (1847).

And it was on this day in 64 B.C. that ROME BURNED, destroying two-thirds of the city.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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