Apr. 2, 2000

Bugs in a Bowl

by David Budbill

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: April 2, 2000

Poem: "Bugs in a Bowl," by David Budbill, from Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse (Copper Canyon Press).

It's the birthday of historical novelist GEORGE MacDONALD FRASER, born in Carlisle, England (1925) best known for a series of books about the 19th-century rogue Harry Flashman.

On this day in 1917, at 8:35 p.m., PRESIDENT WOODROW WILSON CALLED CONGRESS INTO SPECIAL SESSION AND ASKED THEM TO DECLARE WAR ON GERMANY. Appearing before a joint session of the Senate and House, he said, "The world must be made safe for democracy." On April 4, the House of Representatives approved the war resolution, and two days later, on April 6, 1917, the Senate also agreed. When the war ended, a year and a half later (November 11, 1918), 9˝ million soldiers had died and 13 million civilians, who perished from massacres, starvation, and disease.

It's the birthday of novelist EMILE ZOLA, born in Paris (1840) France’s best-known writer of the 19th century. He was 19 years old when Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species (1859) came out. Zola was struck by how well Darwin's theories applied to everyday life, particularly in Paris, where the poor had a continual struggle to survive. He started writing short stories, then novels, experimenting with a kind of literature he called ‘naturalism.’ Zola's most famous work is his monumental Rougon-Macquart cycle: 20 novels, published roughly one a year throughout the 1870s and 1880s. The best-known novels within the cycle are The Drunkard (1877), Nana (1880), and Germinal (1885).

It's the birthday of storyteller HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN, born in Odense, Denmark (1805). His stories broke new ground because they were in the everyday language of the Danes, not a flowery literary style. Although he wrote novels and plays and travel books, his fairy tales made him Denmark's best-known writer. Particularly beloved are "The Snow Queen," "The Ugly Duckling," and "The Emperor's New Clothes." In all he wrote 168 fairy tales.

On this day in 1513, Spanish explorer JUAN PONCE DE LEON, seeking the mythical fountain of youth, became the first European to set foot in Florida. He landed on the east coast of Florida, near what is now St. Augustine, but didn't realize he was on the mainland of North America. He supposed he had landed on a very large island, which he named Florida because of its lush, florid vegetation. Eight years later he returned (1521), but this time was struck by the poisoned arrow of a Seminole Indian and died.

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