Jul. 24, 2000

Slice of Wedding Cake, A

by Robert Graves

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 24 July 2000

"A Slice of Wedding Cake," by Robert Graves, from The New Oxford Book of English Verse (Oxford University Press).

It's the birthday of feminist politician Bella (Savitzky) Abzug, born in the Bronx, New York (1920). She became a lawyer, represented union workers, and defended leftist cases. She served three terms in the House of Representatives.

It's the birthday of mystery writer John D(ann) MacDonald, born in Sharon, Pennsylvania (1916). His famous detective character Travis McGee first appeared in 1964 in The Deep Blue Good-Bye. One of McDonalad's trademarks was the use of a color in the title of each of his books: Dress Her in Indigo (1969), The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (1968), The Lonely Silver Rain (1985). He wrote daily, for 7 to 9 hours, taking a break for lunch and another for the cocktail hour. He said, "Most of my published novels are of the folk dancing category, the steps, the patterns traditionally imperative, the retributions obligatory."

It's the birthday of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, born in Montgomery, Alabama (1900). She was courted by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who, to prove himself and win her hand, rewrote a novel he had begun at Princeton. In 1920, This Side of Paradise was published and Zelda married him. Zelda wrote one novel, Save Me the Waltz (1932), about a southern belle who marries a flamboyant writer in order to escape her father's suffocating morality. The writer becomes fabulously successful, but then withdraws into his art, making him as distant as her father.

It's the birthday of aviator Amelia Earhart, born in Atchison, Kansas (1897). She was the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic (1932). Next she flew solo on the longer flight from Hawaii to California--the first person to manage that hazardous route (1935). Then, in 1937, she set out to fly around the world. After making it more than two-thirds of the way, she disappeared in the central Pacific, near the international dateline.

It's the birthday of poet Robert Graves, born in London (1895). His passion was poetry but he wrote novels to support himself: "Prose books are the show dogs I breed and sell to support my cat." He wrote historical novels as I, Claudius (1934) and Claudius the God (1934), as well as his memoir about World War One, Goodbye to All That (1929). He said,

"Nine-tenths of English poetic literature is the result either of vulgar careerism or of a poet trying to keep his hand in. Most poets are dead by their late twenties."

On this day in 1847, Brigham Young, leading a band of 147 Mormon pioneers, arrived at the present site of Salt Lake City. He had his carriage driven from the trail to a high point from which he could survey the view. "Enough," he said. "This is the place."

It's the birthday of novelist Alexandre Dumas, Père, born in Villers-Cotterêts, France (1802). He wrote The Count of Monte Cristo (1845), The Three Musketeers (1845), and other works.

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