May 16, 2000

Testing the Waters

by Irving Feldman

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: May 16, 2000

Poem: "Testing the Waters," by Irving Feldman, from Beautiful False Things (Grove Press).

On this day in 1956, Alfred Hitchcockís movie The Man who Knew Too Much was first shown, in New York City. Starring James Stewart and Doris Day, this was the only film Hitchcock ever chose to make twice. His British Version, made 22 years earlier (1934), had starred Peter Lorre as a hired killer in the suspenseful tale of kidnapping and assassination.

Itís the birthday of mathematician Roy P. Kerr, born in Kurow, New Zealand (1934), who described massive rotating black holes in space—different from, and coexisting with, the Ďmini black holesí of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. The first black hole theory (1916), which came out soon after Einsteinís general relativity theory, saw black holes as static and non-rotating.

Itís the birthday of poet Adrienne Rich, born in Baltimore (1929). She was already a brilliant young poet while a student at Radcliffe, and was a winner of the 1951 Yale Younger Poets series. Her early poems were written to please her father, who had encouraged her to read and write poetry, had criticized and praised her, and made her feel special. She married, and had three sons by the time she was 30. But in the sixties she jolted many of her readers by shifting from her early decorous style to publish more experimental verse with political, feminist themes. By 1986 Rich was calling herself a radical feminist and lesbian. Her many volumes of poetry include Diving into the Wreck (1973), Fields of the Republic (1995), and Midnight Salvage (1999).

Itís the birthday of oral historian (Louis) "Studs" Terkel, born in the Bronx, New York (1912). His family moved to Chicago when he was 11, where his mother ran a North Side hotel. He got into theater, became an actor in radio soap operas, and, in the early 40s, became a news analyst, sports reporter, disc jockey, and then an interviewer. The 9,000 interviews he conducted on radio and television eventually resulted in his series of "oral history" books: Division Street: America (1966), Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970), Working (1974), and The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two (1984).

Itís the birthday of English novelist H(erbert) E(rnest) Bates, born in Rushton, Northamptonshire (1905). Heís best known for The Darling Buds of May (1958), featuring the rollicking Larkin family.

Itís the birthday of historian Douglas Southall Freeman, born in Lynchburg, Virginia (1886). He grew up in Richmond, where he witnessed reunions of veterans and
military funerals of Confederate leaders. He became the biographer of Robert E. Lee with his four volume R.E. Lee (1934). He also wrote a seven volume biography of George Washington.

On this day in 1836, twenty-seven-year-old Edgar Allen Poe married his tubercular 13-year old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Virginia died 11 years later.

On this day in 1763, James Boswell met Samuel Johnson in the back parlor of Tom Daviesí bookshop in London. Boswell had long looked forward to meeting the great Man of Letters, but was aware of his prejudices. After introducing himself, he said, "I do indeed come from Scotland—but I cannot help it.

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