Oct. 18, 1998

The Pupil

by Donald Justice

SUNDAY 10/18

Today's Reading: "The Pupil" by Donald Justice from THE DONALD JUSTICE READER, published by Middlebury College Press.

It's the FEAST DAY OF ST. LUKE, author of the third Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles, and the patron saint of doctors and artists.

It's the birthday of novelist TERRY MCMILLAN born in Port Huron, Michigan, 1951, author of Waiting to Exhale (1992) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, which came out two years ago. She left Port Huron when she was 17 years old for Los Angeles and after college she got a job doing word processing for a law firm, then spent two weeks at the MacDowell Colony finishing a first draft of her novel Mama, the story of a strong-willed woman raising five children on her own, a book modeled after McMillan's own mother.

It's playwright WENDY WASSERSTEIN's birthday born in Brooklyn, 1950, winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for The Heidi Chronicles, the story tracing the life of Heidi Holland from a girl in the 1960s to motherhood in the 1980s. Wasserstein grew up in New York going to plays and musicals, then started writing her own plays during summers in college. Her first hit was Uncommon Women and Others, that came out in 1978, followed in 1981 by Isn't It Romantic. This past April she published two new books: a children's book, Pamela's First Musical; and An American Daughter.

It's the birthday in 1948, Trenton, New Jersey of the writer and performer NTOZAKE SHANGE, born Paulette Williams, author of the 1974 theater piece For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She took her African names in 1971, and they mean "She who comes with her own things," and "She who walks like a lion." Four years later she came out with For Colored Girls — a group of 20 poems for seven actors on the power of black women. She followed that up with novels Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo (1983), Betsey Brown (1985) and poetry collections Nappy Edges (1978) and A Daughter's Geography (1983).

It's singer-songwriter CHUCK BERRY's birthday, born Charles Edward Anderson in St. Louis, 1926. He spent three years as a teenager in a reform school for attempted burglary, then moved to the South Side of Chicago where he started playing blues. He broke into the charts in 1955 with "Maybellene," then followed it with a string of hits: "Roll Over, Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music," and "Johnny B. Goode."

It's the birthday of the Western novelist and poet H.L. DAVIS, born in Yoncalla, Oregon, 1896. Davis worked as a cowboy, typesetter, and surveyor before his poems started getting published. H.L. Mencken was one of his early fans and encouraged him to try his hand at fiction. Davis went to Mexico in the early '30s and wrote his novel Honey in the Horn there, which won the 1936 Pulitzer Prize. Mencken called it the best first novel written by an American. He followed that with Beulah Land (1949) and The Distant Music (1959), books that rejected the stereotype of the cowboy hero and instead told the stories of pioneers struggling just to survive.

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