Aug. 25, 1998

The Little Ones' A.B.C.

by Noel Coward


Today's Reading: From "The Little Ones' A.B.C." by Noel Coward from THE LYRICS OF NOEL COWARD, published by The Overlook Press (1973).

It's the birthday of writer MARTIN AMIS, born in 1949, Oxford, England, author of the novels Money (1984) and London Fields (1989) — about blue-collar Cockneys trying to make their way in modern London. His first novel, The Rachel Papers, came out when Amis was 24 and he'd already been the fiction and poetry editor at the Times in London for two years.

It was on this day in 1944 that American troops LIBERATED PARIS from the Nazis. Hitler had ordered Paris to be burned to the ground, and when he heard the news, he said, "Is Paris burning?" His own commanding officer in Paris told his men not to destroy it, then surrendered.

It's the birthday in Kent, England, 1938, of FREDERICK FORSYTH, author of the espionage thrillers The Day of the Jackal, which was his first book and came out in 1970; The Odessa File, published two years later; and The Dogs of War, two years after that.

It's the birthday of poet CHARLES WRIGHT, born in Hardin County, Tennessee, 1935. He wrote Black Zodiac, the poetry collection that won this year's Pulitzer Prize. Another collection, Country Music, won the 1983 National Book Award. He grew up in east Tennessee and western North Carolina and said, "I continue to be the only Southerner I know who cannot tell a story. I always want to get right to the point and everyone knows that the point of a story is the story, not its end."

It's the birthday of LEONARD BERNSTEIN, born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on this day in 1918; music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1959 to 1969, composer of symphonies and songs, ballets like Fancy Free (1944), and musicals, Candide (1956) and West Side Story (1957).

It's the birthday in Shirley, Maine, 1850, of humorist EDGAR WILSON NYE, BILL NYE. He was two years old when his family moved to the small town of Hudson, Wisconsin on the St. Croix River bordering Minnesota. He tried farming, teaching, and newspaper work in the Midwest, but none of it turned out, so he headed west and landed in Laramie, Wyoming in 1876. He got a job writing news and columns for the Sentinel newspaper in Laramie, covering the weather, mining, and the local characters. A few years later he started his own daily paper, which he named after his mule, Boomerang. Though subscription only peaked at about 300 copies, his humor columns were passed by hand all around the west, and featured little quips like "Wagner's music is better than it sounds. "

It's the birthday in 1836, Albany, New York, of the short-story writer, novelist and poet BRET HARTE. He left school when he was 13 years old to work, and made his way out to California and worked in a mining camp, then began to get newspapering jobs in and around San Francisco, writing about his Wild West exploits in stories like "The Luck of the Roaring Camp," and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" — which folks back East couldn't get enough of. He became a famous man all across the country with his California stories, and in 1871 The Atlantic Monthly paid him the astronomical sum of $10,000 for a dozen stories.

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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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  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
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