Oct. 1, 1999

Add-Water Instant Blues

by Robin Morgan

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: October 1, 1999

Poems: "Add-Water Instant Blues" by Robin Morgan, from A Hot January, W. W. Norton and Company, 1999.

It was on this day in 1949 that Mao Tse-tung first raised the flag of the PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, ending years of civil war. On one side were the nationalists; and on the other, the Communists with Mao at the head. Civil war had erupted in the mid-'40s, during which Mao trained guerrillas and organized grass-roots support from the peasants — which didn't necessarily prepare him to lead a country of 90 million people. He said, "my only solution is to copy the Soviets." Which he did until 1958, when relations between the two countries soured and Mao launched his failed Great Leap Forward, and later the Cultural Revolution.

It's the anniversary in 1908 of the first MODEL T FORD. It rolled off the line in Detroit, and by the time Ford stopped making Tin Lizzies in 1927, 15 million of them had been produced. Those first Model T's cost $850, and top speed was 45 m.p.h.

Pianist VLADIMIR HOROWITZ was born on this day in Kiev, in the Ukraine, 1903. He was a child prodigy, and when the Bolshevik Revolution erupted in 1917 and his family lost most of their possessions, Horowitz began playing recitals to earn money, food, and clothes. By the early '20s he was known across the USSR, a few years later all around the world — famous for playing the notes faster than just about anyone else, and with a bigger sound, too.

It's the anniversary of RURAL FREE DELIVERY, or RFD, begun in 1896 when five horse riders took off into West Virginia farm country to deliver mail directly to isolated families. Before RFD, people who lived in the country had to pick up mail themselves in the nearest city.

It's the birthday in New York City, 1885, of LOUIS UNTERMEYER, the poet, novelist, and editor best known for overseeing the anthologies Modern American Poetry, and Modern British Poetry, which inevitably included plenty of his own poems, and the poems of his wives.

The first installment of Gustave Flaubert's (flo-BEAR) novel, MADAME BOVARY, began appearing in the Paris Review on this day in 1856; the story of Emma Bovary, an unhappy housewife who acts out her romantic fantasies, then commits suicide. The novel appeared in installments through December 15, 1856. The French government immediately brought Flaubert to trial on grounds of immorality and he barely escaped conviction.

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