Oct. 2, 1998


by Thomas Alan Orr


Today's Reading: "Soybeans" by Thomas Alan Orr from HAMMER IN THE FOG, published by Restoration Press (1995).

It's the birthday in 1904 Hertfordshire, England of writer GRAHAM GREENE. He began as a poet, and his first collection, Babbling April, came out when he was just 21 years old, followed four years later by his first novel, The Man Within. From 1940 to 1970 he worked as a freelance journalist, reporting for magazines and newspapers, and collecting material for his own books. He published 57 of them in all. He's best known for his novels of the '40s and early '50s, books like The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair.

The South African poet ROY CAMPBELL was born on this day in 1901, in Durban. In his youth he worked as a bullfighter in Spain; and fought in the Spanish Civil War in the '30s, then in WWII until he was wounded. Campbell's best-known poems come from that time, when he was also busy criticizing the British writers in the Bloomsbury group, like Virginia Woolf, then turned to satirizing the novelists in his own country.

It's the birthday in 1890, New York City, of GROUCHO MARX. He got his start in vaudeville as a boy soprano, and later joined his brothers in a singing group, the Four Nightingales.

Poet WALLACE STEVENS was born on this day in 1879, Reading, Connecticut. He went to work for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company in 1916 and seven years later he came out with his first collection of poems, Harmonium, and surprised everybody. In 1936, he published another collection, Ideas of Order, then began coming out with new books every other year or so. His 1954 Collected Poems won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

It's the birthday of MOHANDAS GANDHI, 1869, in Porbandar, India. He got a law degree in London and worked in South Africa for 21 years, and there, facing open racial discrimination, he began protesting and developing the tenets of nonviolent resistance that he called satyagraha, meaning "steadfastness in truth." He returned to India in 1915 when he was 46 years old, and led boycotts, marches, and protests that forced Britain in 1947 to grant India independence after nearly 200 years of occupation.

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