May 27, 2000


by Linda Pastan

Broadcast Date: SATURDAY: May 27, 2000

Poem: "Departures," by Linda Pastan from Carnival Evening (W.W. Norton & Company).

On this day in 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge opened: two-hundred-thousand people walked across it that day. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Itís the birthday of American poet Linda Pastan, born in New York City (1932). The major themes in her work are marriage, motherhood and her Jewish faith, as well as the natural world and its cycles of change.

Itís the birthday of fiction writer John Barth, born in Cambridge, Maryland (1930). He was originally a jazz drummer but later switched to fiction and became known as "the most cerebral of novelists" for his complex and demanding work. He was born with a twin sister, a fact he claims contributed to his becoming a writer: "In part because I no longer have my twin to be wordless with - since twins share a language before85and beyond speech." His first novel, The Floating Opera (1956) was runner-up for the National Book Award. Lost in the Funhouse was nominated for the same award in 1968, and he finally won it for Chimera in 1973. The publication of Giles Goat-Boy (1966) was a major literary event; although it became a best seller, the reviews were mixed, calling it "brilliant, witty, and damn near unreadable."

Itís the birthday of American mystery writer Tony Hillerman, born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma (1925). He became a newspaperman in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and developed a love for Indian culture. His novels feature Navajo Tribal Police Officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, who use both standard police procedures and their knowledge of tribal customs to solve crimes.

Itís the birthday of novelist Herman Wouk, born in New York City (1915). He started as a gag writer and then wrote scripts for Fred Allen. He joined the U.S. Navy, and later used that experience as background for his novel The Caine Mutiny (1951). It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952.

Itís the birthday of American dancer Isadora Duncan, born Angela Duncan, in San Francisco (1877), the youngest of four theatrically inclined children. Soon after she was born, her mother and father were divorced, and her family lived in abject poverty. She, her mother, sister, and brother embarked on a cattle boat to London, where she was discovered, dancing in a park, by a woman who introduced her to London society through a series of private salons. She was hailed as a dancer in Paris, Germany, and Austria. She bore two children, but they were both drowned in an accident at the height of her career. The Soviet government offered her a school in Moscow, where she met and married a dashing poet named Sergei Esenin. On a tour through the United States they were attacked as Bolshevist spies, and returned to the Soviet Union broke. Esenin went crazy, deserted her, and committed suicide in 1925. Duncan never performed again. She died in Nice in 1927, when the long scarf she was wearing caught in a wheel of the car in which she was riding. Her autobiography, My Life, appeared the same year.

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