Jun. 2, 2000

Did Morality Evolve From Salt?

by Gerald Locklin

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: June 2, 2000

Poems: "Did Morality Evolve From Salt?" by Gerald Locklin from This Sporting Life and Other Poems (JVC Books).

On this day in 1953, Elizabeth II, 27 years old, was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, London. The coronation was the first international event covered on television. All three American networks broadcast it live from England.

It's the birthday in Oak Park, Illinois, 1935, of Carol Shields, author of The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. In the book, Daisy Goodwill Flett looks back on eight decades of her life and says "A childhood is what anyone wants to remember of it. It leaves behind no fossils, except perhaps in fiction."

It's the birthday of British novelist Barbara Pym, born in Shropshire, 1913, author of comic novels about England's upper-middle-class, books like Excellent Women (1952), and A Glass of Blessings (1958). She worked for nearly 30 years as an assistant editor of an anthropology magazine, and tried with little success to get her novels published. After years of rejection and meager sales of her novels that did get published, in her mid-50s she gave up writing altogether and moved with her cat to a village near Oxford. In 1977, when The London Times asked Britain's best-known writers to name the most underrated novelist of the century, she was the only one mentioned twice. Overnight she was a star and all 12 of her unpublished manuscripts were quickly published.

It's the birthday of Dorothy West, in Boston, 1907, the short-story writer and novelist. She was the only child of a former slave, and when she was a teenager her family decided she should try her luck as a writer in New York. When she was in her 20s, she founded Challenge, a magazine that published Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright. In 1948 she came out with her only novel, The Living Is Easy, a semi-autobiographical story about Cleo Judson who marries an older, wealthy man and moves into a fancy section of town; and of whom West wrote: "Her Episcopalian friends were persuading her to their wishy-washy way of worship. They really believed you could get to heaven without any shouting."

It's the birthday of writer Thomas Hardy, born in Dorset, England, 1840. Though we remember him for his novels like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, he himself preferred his poetry. Around the time of the First World War, England regarded him as her greatest living writer.

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