Mar. 14, 2000


by Oscar Wilde

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: March 14, 2000

Poem: "Requiescat" by Oscar Wilde from The Portable Oscar Wilde (Penguin Books).

On this day in 1939, John Steinbeck's novel THE GRAPES OF WRATH was published—the story of the Joad family, farmers from Oklahoma, who leave the Dust Bowl for a new life in California. The hero of the book, Tom Joad, gives this speech: "Well, maybe like Casy says, a fellow ain't got a soul of his own, but only a piece of a big one... Then it don't matter. Then I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere, wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there."

It's the birthday of novelist JOHN BARRINGTON WAIN, born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England (1925)—whose irreverent early novels caused him to be identified with Britain's 'Angry Young Men' of the 1950s. His first novel was Hurry on Down (1953).

It's the birthday of playwright (Albert) HORTON FOOTE (Jr.), born in Wharton, Texas (1916)—author of many plays set in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas. They include Wharton Dance (1940), The Trip to Bountiful (1953), The Traveling Lady (1954), and The Road to the Graveyard (1985).

It's the birthday of bookseller SYLVIA (Woodbridge) BEACH, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887). The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, at 14 she caught a lifelong love of France when her father was sent to Paris to preach to American students. In her thirties she founded the Left Bank bookshop Shakespeare & Company (1919), at number 12, rue de l'Odeon —a store that sold English-language books. As well as selling books, Beach promoted literature, publishing the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922). The store was shut down by the Nazis in 1941.

In 1885 on this date, GILBERT AND SULLIVAN'S OPERA THE MIKADO HAD ITS LONDON PREMIERE, opening with Nanki-Poo's familiar song: "A wandering minstrel I—/ A thing of shreds and patches/ Of ballads, songs and snatches/ And dreamy lullaby..."

On this day in 1883, philosopher KARL MARX DIED IN LONDON after a decade of failing health. London had been his home since 1849. He'd been expelled, during the turbulent 1840s, from his native Prussia, then from France and Belgium. In England he lived in poverty, spending his days reading and writing at the British Museum. In 1868 he published the first volume of Das Kapital.

It's the birthday of physicist and humanist ALBERT EINSTEIN, born in Ulm, Germany (1879)—who, inspired by his Uncle Jakob, an engineer, took up mathematics in school but was, at best, a mediocre student. While working as an examiner in the Swiss Patents Office, he wrote scientific papers in his spare time. First he published his Special Theory of Relativity (1905; he was 26)—then came his General Theory of Relativity (1916).

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