Jul. 14, 1999

Passing Through Albuquerque

by John Balaban

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: July 14, 1999

Poem: "Passing Through Albuquerque," by John Balaban, from Words for My Daughter (Copper Canyon Press).

In France July 14th is the national holiday, Bastille Day. In 1789 on this date, after two days of rioting, Parisians stormed the state prison—the Bastille—forcibly taking its weapons and ammunition, and freeing the monarchy's seven political prisoners held within. Former prisoners had included the philosopher Voltaire (1717-18) and the libertine the Marquis de Sade (1784).

It's the birthday of librettist Arthur Laurents, born in Brooklyn (1918). He wrote the books for West Side Story (1957), and Gypsy (1959).

Today is the birthday of film and stage director (Ernst) Ingmar Bergman, born in Uppsala, Sweden (1918), the son of a Lutheran minister. His "faith" trilogy included Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963) and The Silence (1963). His other films include The Seventh Seal (1957) and Cries and Whispers (1972). In 1983, when many assumed his film career had ended, he astounded them with his mellow, life-affirming movie Fanny and Alexander.

It's the birthday of novelist Natalia Ginzburg, born in Palermo, Italy (1916), born to a Catholic mother and Jewish father. Her novellas include The Road to the City (1942) and The Dry Heart (1947). When asked about her understated style, she said, "I was the little sister. When you are the youngest in the family, people are always telling you to hurry up, to get to the point, say what you mean. I think that's why I write the way I do."

It's the birthday of songwriter/singer Woody Guthrie (Woodrow Wilson Guthrie), born in Okemah, Oklahoma (1912). His mother died of Huntungton's Chorea, his father died on skid row; his sister died from an exploding stove, and his own infant daughter died in a fire—but in his 1,000 or more songs, there was tremendous optimism. His songs include "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh," "Blowing Down This Old Dusty Road," "This Land is Your Land," "Pastures of Plenty" and many others.

Today is the birthday of novelist Isaac Balshevis Singer (Yitskhek Bashyevis Zinger), born in Radzymin, Poland (1904).When he was a young man he moved to New York, where wrote for the Yiddish paper The Jewish Daily Forward. The paper published many of his novels in serialized form. When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, he said: "Children don't read to find their identity. They don't read to free themselves of guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation. They have no use for psychology. They detest sociology. They still believe in good, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation and other such obsolete stuff."

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