Oct. 3, 1998


Today's Reading: "In All" by Virginia Hamilton Adair from BELIEFS AND BLASPHEMIES, published by Random House (1998).

The movie THE MALTESE FALCON, based on Dashiell Hammett's novel, was released on this day in 1941. This was John Huston's first film and Humphrey Bogart's first time to get star billing; he played Sam Spade.

It's GORE VIDAL's birthday, born in West Point, New York, 1925, best known for the 1968 novel, Myra Breckenridge, and his historical novels that came out in the mid-1970s and early '80s, like Burr, 1876, and Lincoln. He was born Eugene Luther Vidal, and when he began writing stories as a teenager he adapted his grandfather's last name of Gore for his first name. He served in a transport ship off Alaska during WWII, which became the basis of his first novel, Williwaw, published right after the war.

The cartoonist HARVEY KURTZMAN, creator of Mad Magazine, was born on this day in 1924, in New York City.

It's the birthday of writer and veterinarian JAMES HERRIOTT, author of the All Creatures Great and Small Series, born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1916. Herriott was the pen name for James Alfred Wight, who used a Scottish goalie's name for his pen name. He was 50 years old when he bought a typewriter and began writing down the stories of his life as a Yorkshire village vet. By the time Herriott died in 1995 he'd written 17 more books that sold more than 60 million copies.

THOMAS WOLFE was born on this day in 1900, in Asheville, North Carolina. Wolfe made a splash with his autobiographical novel Look Homeward, Angel — even before it was published. He wrote it when he was 26 years old, and it told in great detail nearly the entire story of his life, complete with dozens of pages devoted to family history. The manuscript was 1,100 pages long, and it became infamous as publisher after publisher turned it down because it was too long. Then Scribner's accepted it on condition that he make huge cuts. When it came out in 1929, his family scorned him for it, but the critics loved it, and Wolfe went on to write You Can't Go Home Again, The Web and the Rock, and a story collection, The Hills Beyond.

The actress and writer GERTRUDE BERG was born on this day in 1899 in New York City, and was best known for playing Molly in the radio and TV series "The Goldbergs." She wrote many of the episodes herself.

It's the anniversary of the 1895 publication of Stephen Crane's novel, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, the story of Civil War private Henry Fleming. The story begins late at night around a campfire: "The youth was in a little trance of astonishment. So tomorrow they were at last going to fight. There would be a battle, and he would be in it. For a time he was obliged to labor to make himself believe. He could not accept with assurance an omen that he was about to mingle in one of those great affairs of the earth. He had dreamed of battles all his life."

PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN on this day in 1863 issued the proclamation that made the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving.

ALEXANDER MACMILLIAN, the founder of the publishing house Macmillian & Company, was born on this day in 1818, in Irvine, Scotland. With his older brother, Daniel, he opened a little bookstore in Cambridge, England and eventually they began publishing books, printing textbooks, magazines, and picking up authors like Tennyson, Kipling, and Yeats.

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