Aug. 25, 1999
Poem: "The Barber," by Aaron Anstett, from Sustenance: Poems (New Rivers Press, Minnesota Voices Series, Project Number 78).
It was on this day in 1944 that American troops LIBERATED PARIS from the Nazis. The troops encountered resistance as they made their way into the city, first from the Germans who made a last-ditch effort to hold it, then by the Parisians who dragged GI's off their jeeps to kiss them. Hitler had ordered Paris to be burned to the ground, and when he heard the news, he asked, "Is Paris burning?" His own commanding officer in Paris disobeyed the order, told his men not to destroy it, then surrendered.
It's the birthday of writer MARTIN AMIS (AY-miss), born in 1949, Oxford, England, author of the novels Money (1984) and London Fields (1989) about blue-collar Cockneys trying to make their way in modern London. His first novel, The Rachel Papers, came out when Amis was 24 and he'd already been the fiction and poetry editor at the Times in London for two years. Since the early '80s he's made several trips to America where he writes a "Letter from New York" for England's The Observer newspaper, and says he tries to find "preferably the most vulgar and lurid things" he can to write about. He collected them in 1986 under the title The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America.
It's the birthday of poet CHARLES WRIGHT, born in Hardin County, Tennessee, 1935. He wrote Black Zodiac, the poetry collection that won last year's Pulitzer Prize.
Leonard Bernstein, (BERN stine) one of America's most successful musicians, was born on this day (1918) in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to Russian immigrant parents who hoped the boy would take over their beauty supply business. He started piano lessons at age 10. While he was a summer camp counselor in the Berkshires, he met Adolph Green, and later moved in with him to a tiny East Ninth Street in Greenwich Village when he was out of work in New York. He began playing the piano at the Village Vanguard for a group called the Revuers, made up of Judy Holiday, Green, and Betty Comden, with whom he later collaborated on several Broadway musicals. He went to the Curtis Institue in Philadelphia to study conducting, when he was twenty-two years old, he was offered a guest conducting engagement at the Boston Symphony, which he turned down because it wasn't a union orchestra. He was then offered the job of assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and one Sunday afternoon in 1943, when conductor Bruno Walter fell ill, the young assistant took over and achieved a sensational success.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®