Wednesday

Jan. 12, 2000

Politics

by William Butler Yeats

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: January 12, 2000

Poems: Poem: "Politics" by William Butler Yeats.

It's the birthday of detective writer Walter Mosley [MOSE-lee], born in Watts, Los Angeles (1952), the only child of a black school janitor and a white Jewish mother. He's written a half dozen mysteries featuring black detective Ezekial 'Easy' Rawlins, starting with Devil in a Blue Dress (1990), and followed by A Red Death (1991), White Butterfly (1993), Black Betty (1994), A Little Yellow Dog (1996) and Gone Fishin' (1997). Mosley says "I don't really concentrate on plot. The stories are about character. And the mysteries are internal, not external."

It's the birthday of novelist Haruki Murakami [hah-ROO-kee moo-rah-KAH-mee], born in Kyoto (1949). He grew up reading hard-boiled American writers—Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, and Raymond Chandler. His first novel, translated as Hear the Wind Sing (1979), took its title from a Truman Capote story, and was peppered with Western references—Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ray Bradbury, Friedrich Nietzsche. His other books include Pinball, 1973 (1980), A Wild Sheep Chase (1982), and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995).

It's the birthday of writer Jack London (John Griffith Chaney), born in San Francisco (1876)—a self-educated sailor, tramp, gold miner, and novelist. In his 20-year career he wrote 50 books including The Call of the Wild (1903), and White Fang (1906).

It's the birthday of portrait painter John Singer Sargent, born in Florence, Italy (1856). Brought up in Europe, he visited the U.S. only long enough to become a citizen (1876), then returned to France, where his portrait of "Madame X" in her low-scooped gown (1884) created such a scandal he moved on to London.

It's the birthday of patriot John Hancock, born in Braintree, Massachusetts (1737). The wealthiest New Englander in the revolutionary cause, he was of great value as long as his urge to take charge could be deflected. Twice elected President of the Continental Congress, he was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence, decorating the document with his enormous signature and commenting, "There, I guess King George will be able to read that." When passed over for Commander-in-Chief, he was furious.

It's the birthday of statesman Edmund Burke, born in Dublin (1729), considered a forerunner of modern Conservatism. The son of an autocratic lawyer, he entered Parliament, where he was soon known for his sparkling oratory. At first he spoke out strongly for the rights of colonials in America and India—his speech of April 19, 1774, "On American Taxation," is still thought to be one of the greatest orations ever heard in the House of Commons—but later, by denouncing the French Revolution, he was accused of abandoning the Whig Party. His book Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) fixed his reputation for counter- revolution. Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." "I believe in any body of men in England I should have been in the minority. I have always been in the minority."

It's the birthday of Mother Goose author Charles Perrault [pare-OH], born in Paris (1628). The son of a lawyer, he took a law degree but soon tired of legal work, preferring to write light verse, design a house for his brother, marry, and father three sons. Only in his sixties, after his part-time civil service job ended and his wife died, did he anonymously issue a collection of eight fairy tales, known as The Tales of Mother Goose. He had told his boys these reworked folk stories—"Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding-Hood," "Bluebeard," "Puss in Boots," "Cinderella"—for years and years before ever thinking to write them down.

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