Aug. 28, 1998

Morning Person

by Vassar Miller


Today's Reading: "Morning Person" by Vassar Miller from IF I HAD WHEELS OR LOVE, from Southern Methodist.

It's the anniversary of the 1963 CIVIL RIGHTS MARCH ON WASHINGTON. Around 200,000 people crowded onto the Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and heard Dr. Martin Luther King give his "I Have a Dream" speech.

It's poet RITA DOVE's birthday, born in 1952 in Akron, Ohio, winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, and between 1993 and 1995, the Poet Laureate of the United States. Her collection, Thomas and Beulah, won the Pulitzer — a set of poems about her grandparents.

It's the birthday of the Canadian author, ROBERTSON DAVIES, Thamesville, Ontario, 1913. He wrote over thirty novels; edited an Ontario newspaper for years, and taught English at the University of Toronto; but is best known for his Deptford Trilogy, books about the small Canadian town of Deptford and the lives of three men there; the series started in 1970 with Fifth Business, continued with The Manticore two years later, and ended with World of Wonders in 1975.

Ornithologist ROGER TORY PETERSON, author of A Field Guide to the Birds, was born on this day in 1908, Jamestown, New York. He went to art school to learn to paint, and when he was 26 years old in 1934 came out with A Field Guide to the Birds. The book was different from any other guide: first off, it was small, it could fit in your pocket; the birds were grouped by what they looked like, not by scientific classification; and he used little arrows to point directly to the distinguishing colors or beak shapes. Peterson died in July, two years ago.

It's the birthday in County Galway, 1896, of the Irish novelist and short-story writer LIAM O'FLAHERTY, one of the leaders in the 1920s Irish Renaissance. He went to seminary, but abandoned that to become a soldier in the First World War, then for several years a traveler in North and South America, working as a lumberjack, hotel porter, miner, dishwasher, bank clerk, and deckhand to pay his way. He settled in Dublin in the mid-1920s, and his first success was with the novel, Thy Neighbor's Wife, followed by Skerrett (1932), a story about the conflict between a parish priest and a teacher; then Famine (1937), about the 1849 Irish Potato famine.

LEO TOLSTOY, the author of War and Peace, and Anna Karenina, and dozens of other books and stories, was born on this day in 1828, on his family's estate about 100 miles south of Moscow. He spent most of his life right there on the estate. War and Peace, set during the Napoleonic Wars early on in the century, took him four years to write, 1865-69.

It was on this day in 1749 that the German writer and philosopher JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE was born in Frankfurt. His best known works are his plays, Faust, and Werther, but Goethe also held a cabinet post in the court of Weimar, directed the city theater, and did important research in biology, particularly the early theories of evolution. Goethe himself thought he'd be mostly remembered for his work in science, not literature.

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