Jun. 21, 2000

Elevator Music

by Henry Taylor

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: June 21, 2000

Poem: "Elevator Music," by Henry Taylor, from Understanding Fiction: Poems, 1986-1996 (Louisiana State University Press).

Itís the birthday of British novelist Ian McEwan, born in Aldershot, a military town in southern England (1948); his father was a soldier. His novels include The Cement Garden (1978), The Comfort of Strangers (1981), The Child in Time (1987), and Amsterdam (1998 Booker Prize).

Itís the birthday of poet Henry Taylor, born in the farm country of Loudon County, Virginia, 50 miles west of Washington, D.C. (1942). He grew up on a dairy farm in a Quaker family. In 1986 he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry with his collection The Flying Change; his other collections include The Horse Show at Midnight (1966), An Afternoon of Pocket Billiards (1975), and a poetry collection called Understanding Fiction (1996). His most recent book is Brief Candles101 Clerihews (1999).

Itís the birthday of novelist Mary (Therese) McCarthy, born in Seattle (1912). She was 6 when her parents died in the flu epidemic of 1918; she and her brothers went to live in "Dickensian cruelty" with elderly Minneapolis relatives who beat her with a razor strop to keep her from becoming Ďstuck-upí when she won a school prize. But she and her brothers were rescued by her Seattle grandfather, who made sure she got a good education. She wrote many novels, including The Company She Keeps (1942), The Group (1963), and Birds of America (1971), and got into many literary battles. She defended writers when it was fashionable to attack them, and she attacked other writers when they were in vogue.

Itís the birthday of existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, born in Paris (1905), the longtime companion—for almost 50 years—of Simone de Beauvoir. He wrote his masterpieces during World War Two: his philosophical work, Being and Nothingness (1943), and the plays The Flies (1943) and No Exit (1945).

Itís the birthday of Broadway characterist Al(bert) Hirschfeld, born in St. Louis (1903). His drawings appeared in The New York Times from 1929.

Itís the birthday of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, born in Wright City, Missouri (1892). He is credited with writing the ĎSerenity Prayerí during World War Two: "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other." The theology he developed, sometimes called Ďneo-orthodoxy,í stressed Original Sin, which Niebuhr defined as pride "the universality of self-regard in everybodyís motives, whether they are idealists or realists or whether they are benevolent or not." For 43 years, from 1928 until his death in 1971, his headquarters was Union Theological Seminary, at Broadway and 121st Street in New York City.

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