Dec. 30, 1999

The Clearing

by Gregory Djanikian

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: December 30, 1999

Poem: "The Clearing" by Gregory Djanikian from The Man in the Middle published by Carnegie Mellon Press.

It's the birthday in 1865, in Bombay, India, of RUDYARD KIPLING. After an unhappy childhood he was shipped back to England and raised in boarding schools he hated. He returned to India at 17 and began working as a journalist. This gave him license to see nearly anything he wanted to in late-19th-century India, then a part of the British Empire. He began writing stories and poems about it, and between his 22nd and 24th birthdays he published six volumes of short stories, including The Phantom Rickshaw, which contained "The Man Who Would Be King," and Wee Willie Winkie, containing "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" — two of his best-known stories. By his mid-20s he returned to England and was proclaimed the most famous writer in the land. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

It's the birthday in 1869, Hampshire, England, of Canadian humorist STEPHEN LEACOCK. He taught for 40 years at McGill University in Montreal, most of that time as chairman of the Economics Department; but in summer he moved to the little town of Orillia (or-ILL-yuh), Ontario, and every morning got up at dawn to write for several hours. For nearly four decades he put out a new book of humor a year.

It's the birthday of the poet, novelist, short story writer, and composer, PAUL BOWLES, born in New York City, 1910, best known for his first novel, The Sheltering Sky (1949). On Gertude Stein's advice, he settled in Morocco and lived there for most of his life, writing music for days at a stretch, then short stories which he mailed to Stein who told him he was onto something. Doubleday gave him an advance to write The Sheltering Sky, but when he sent them the manuscript, they were so shocked at the story of two American drifters who lose themselves in the African desert, that they demanded their money back. Most of Bowles' stories go like that: American or European travelers visit a North African civilization they consider inferior to their own, and it destroys them. He died last month in Morocco at age 88 of a heart attack.

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