May 4, 2000

Is It a Month?

by J. M. Synge

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: May 4, 2000

Poem: "Is it a Month?" by John Millington Synge (1871-1909).

Itís the birthday of novelist DAVID GUTTERSON, born in Seattle (1956). His novel Snow Falling on Cedars (1995) is set in the aftermath of World War Two, in a Northwest fishing town on Puget Sound. When a local fisherman is found mysteriously drowned, a Japanese American is charged with his murder.

Itís the birthday of novelist GRAHAM SWIFT, born in London (1949) whose 1996 novel Last Orders won Britainís Booker Prize but also touched off controversy when reviews began comparing its plot with William Faulknerís As I Lay Dying. Swift furiously replied that authors are inevitably influenced by one anotherís work, but the idea that he had stolen from Faulkner was out of the question.

On this day in 1948, Norman Mailerís first novel, THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, WAS PUBLISHED. Mailer, just 25, became an overnight literary sensation. He had served as an infantryman in the Philippines during World War Two, then served in U.S. occupation forces in Japan. Then, on the G.I. Bill, he enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he wrote the book.

In 1939 on this date, JAMES JOYCEíS NOVEL FINNEGAN'S WAKE WENT ON SALE in London and New York. At a party to celebrate the publication, Joyceís wife Nora said, "Well, Jim, I havenít read any of your books, but Iíll have to someday, because they must be good considering how well they sell." The reviews were mixed; the book in fact did not sell well, at least not in Joyceís lifetime. He died 20 months later.

Itís the birthday of Israeli writer AMOS OZ, born in Jerusalem (1939). He wrote his novels in Hebrew, which he called as exuberant a language as Elizabethan English. His titles include My Michael (1972), The Hill of Evil Counsel (1978), and Fima (1991).

Itís the birthday of actress AUD REY HEPBURN, born near Brussels (1929) to a Dutch mother and English father. On the Riviera she was spotted by the novelist Colette, who insisted the teenager star in the Broadway version of her novel Gigi, which led to the film Roman Holiday, made when Audrey Hepburn was 19.

Itís the birthday of poet THOMAS KINSELLA, born in Dublin (1928), to a family where the men generally worked in the Guinness Brewery. His collection Another September (1958) won a Guinness Poetry Award.

On this day in 1863, Confederate GENERAL STONEWALL JACKSON WAS MORTALLY WOUNDED, mistakenly cut down in a withering volley by his own troops, at twilight, as he rode back from the front lines after directing the defeat of Union forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

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