May 15, 2000

1698 'Tis easier to pity those when dead

by Emily Dickinson

943 A Coffin -- is a small Domain,

by Emily Dickinson

Broadcast Date: MONDAY: May 15, 2000

Poems: "íTis easier to pity those when dead," and "A Coffin is a small Domain," by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).

Itís the birthday of horror film director David Cronenberg, born in Toronto (1943). He was raised, he said, on "horror movies and D.C. comics." He directed The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Naked Lunch (1991) and Crash (1995).

Itís the birthday of Pop Art painter Jasper Johns, born in Augusta, Georgia (1930). He went to New York, dropped out of college, and worked in a bookstore, where he became friends with the composer John Cage, and the artist Robert Rauschenberg. His first splash in the New York art scene came with his series of paintings of the American flags. His other frequent subjects have targets, maps, numbers, and letters of the alphabet—all painted in apparently simple colors that have a rich surface and a delicate tone obtained by mixing his pigments with hot wax.

Itís the birthday of twin playwright brothers Peter Shaffer and Anthony Shaffer, born in Liverpool, (1926). Peter is the author of Equus (1973), Amadeus (1979), and The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964). Anthony is the author of Slueth (1970).

Itís the birthday of Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, born in Kiev, Ukraine (1891). His satires were unpopular with Stalin, who neither allowed him to leave Russia nor publish at home—which left Bulgakov in the limbo of writing his serious work in secret, while acting as a consultant for the Moscow Art Theater. His comic masterpiece, The Master and Margarita (1967), came out 27 years after his death.

Itís the birthday of storywriter and novelist Katherine Anne Porter, born in Indian Creek, Texas (1890). She was 28 when a flu epidemic turned her hair white and so nearly killed her that funeral arrangements were made—events that served as the basis for her story collection Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939). She often wrote fast: a short story in an evening, a short novel in a week, rarely revising, subsisting on oranges and cold coffee in a rented room. She said,

"I prefer to get up very early in the morning and work. I donít want to speak to anybody or see anybody. Perfect silence. I work until the vein is out. Thereís something about the way you feel, you know when the well is dry, that youíll have to wait until tomorrow and it will be full up again.

"If I didnít know the ending of a story, I wouldnít begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first, and then I go back to work towards it."

Itís the birthday of L. Frank Baum, born in Chittenango, New York, near Syracuse (1856). His writing career began as a newspaperman in Aberdeen, South Dakota, then in Chicago, where he wrote Mother Goose in Prose (1897). It was successful, but not like the sensation that greeted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the musical he adapted from it. By 1910 he had turned out 5 more Oz books. He quit writing them, and for four years resisted his readerís pleas; but he finally resumed, writing one sequel every year until he died.

Emily Dickinson died on this day in 1886 of nephritis (inflammation of the kidney), at the age of 55. She had lived in seclusion the previous 21 years in her home in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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