Aug. 17, 1998

126 To fight aloud, is very brave

by Emily Dickinson


Today's Reading: "To fight aloud, is very brave –" by Emily Dickinson.

It's novelist ALIX KATES SHULMAN's birthday, just outside Cleveland, 1932, author of the 1972 Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, a story about a girl named Sasha Davis coming of age in the 1950s.

The British poet, TED HUGHES, was born on this day in 1930, in West Yorkshire. His father was a WW I veteran and Hughes grew up listening to battle stories; he said, "I could never escape the impression that the whole bleak, windswept moors of West Yorkshire were in mourning for the War." He founded and edited the poetry magazine St. Botolph's Review in the mid-1950s and at its inaugural party met the American poet Sylvia Plath, whom he married just a few weeks later. When she committed suicide in 1963, he stopped writing for several years; then picked it up again, turning out plays, children's stories, and opera librettos. A few months ago he came out with a new collection of poems called Birthday Letters, about his relationship with Plath.

It's the birthday in New York City, in 1923, of the abstract expressionist painter and sculptor LARRY RIVERS. He started out as a saxophonist and studied composition at the Juilliard School in the mid-40s. Out of a job, he went to work as a delivery man for an art-supply company, then switched his studies to art. He became famous in the '50s and '60s for his Pop art pieces that mixed commercial items, like a pack of cigarettes, with traditional art styles.

JOHN REED AND LOUISE BRYANT set sail from the U.S. for Russia on this day in 1917 to report on the Bolshevik Revolution. They visited Saint Petersburg where Reed became a supporter and friend of Lenin's before returning home. Reed and Bryant wrote about it for Max Eastman's magazine, The Masses, and in 1919 Reed, wrote his best-known book, the eyewitness account of the Revolution, Ten Days That Shook the World.

It's the birthday in New York City, 1892, of MAE WEST, who played burlesque, vaudeville, Broadway, then broke into movies in 1932 and became the richest woman in show business. She was the voluptuous blonde in dozens of films like I'm No Angel (1933), in which she said, "When I'm good I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm better." Most of the dialogue she wrote herself, and her 1926 play, Sex, got her thrown in jail for 10 days. Mae West, who also said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful."

It's the birthday in St. Ann's Bay, 1887, Jamaica, of the civil rights leader, MARCUS GARVEY. Garvey was descended from escaped African slaves and got his start as a printer in his hometown. He tried several ventures as a young man, nearly all of which failed, including organizing a printer's strike, and editing newspapers in Costa Rica and Panama. In 1914 he began the Universal Negro Improvement Association — which didn't do all that well, either, until he came to New York in 1916. He gave speeches and wrote articles and by 1920 the UNIA had a membership in the millions.

It's the birthday in Middlesex, England, 1798, of the physician THOMAS HODGKIN, the first man to describe the effects of the nervous disorder which bears his name, Hodgkin's Disease.

It's the birthday in 1786 of DAVY CROCKETT, in rural Hawkins County, Tennessee, near Rogersville in the northeast corner of the state. He came from a pioneer family and got no real schooling as a child; instead he learned to hunt and scout the woods. He was elected to three terms in the U.S. Congress in the 1820s and '30s, lost his fourth election and left Washington bitter about politics. He died in March, 1836, defending the Alamo in Texas.

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  • “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
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
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