Oct. 29, 1999

Woman in a shoe

by Marge Piercy

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: October 29, 1999

Poem: "Woman in a shoe" by Marge Piercy from The Art of Blessing the Day published by Alfred A. Knopf.

On this day in 1945, Gimbel's department store in New York City put the first ballpoint pens on sale. They weren't cheap—$12.95 a pen. But, feeding their ink directly to the pen-point, they ended the bother of dipping nibs into messy inkwells.

This day in 1929, the day the Stock Market crashed, is remembered as Black Tuesday. The crisis had begun the previous Thursday, when almost 13 million shares were frantically traded; but on Black Tuesday the bottom fell out. General panic, which earlier had been stemmed by wholesale buying by large investment companies, could no longer be avoided. In the next 4 years, nearly half of America's 25,000 banks failed—which led to a widespread loss of confidence, and reduced spending, which, in turn, led to lower production, aggravating the downward spiral—output falling, unemployment rising. By 1932, over a quarter of the U.S. labor force was out of work.

It's the birthday of novelist Henry Green (the pen name of Henry Vincent Yorke), born in Tewkesbury, England (1905). While a boarding school student at Eton, he began his first novel, Blindness, published when he was 22. He dropped out of Oxford to join the family business (manufacturers of brewing equipment) in Birmingham, and became a successful businessman under his given name. But under his pen name, he established himself as a brilliant, enigmatic novelist, impossible to pigeon-hole—his subjects range from laborer to soldier to jaded aristocrat. Along with an autobiography called Pack My Bag (1940), he wrote 9 novels that have some of the shortest titles in English literature: Caught (1943), Loving (1945), Back (1946), Concluding (1948), Nothing (1950), and Doting (1952).

It's the birthday of Scottish chronicler James Boswell, born in Edinburgh (1740)—a man to whom life didn't seem real until it was written down. He's famous mostly for his 2-volume biography of Samuel Johnson (1791)—a reputation that deepened when his many journals were published in the mid-20th century. His style was vivid because he wrote up each incident as if he were still living it, and gave no idea what might occur later. Gifted with a great ear and a remarkable memory for dialog, he reproduced long stretches of his subjects' conversation.

On this day in 1682, William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania after a two-month voyage, entering what is now the town of Chester, north of the Delaware border. From his father he had inherited a large claim against King Charles the Second, but in place of money was granted the land he called Pennsylvania—Penn's Woods—in honor of his father. He wrote a total of 42 books and pamphlets, notably No Cross, No Crown (1669)—and for his opinions had been confined several times to the Tower of London. His main goals were religious tolerance, frequent elections, and an uncontrolled parliament.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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