Aug. 21, 2000
Softly By Tracks
On this day in 1831, Nikoli Gogol, 22 years old, went down to the printer to see the production of his early work, Evenings on a Farm. He found the typesetters sitting and laughing at his jokes, and he knew then that he was going to be a success.
On this day in 1858, the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates began in Illinois. The first one--in Ottawa, Illinois--drew 12,000 listeners. This was in the days when Senators were elected not by popular vote, but by a joint ballot of the legislature--and the Illinois legislature, in 1856, was dominated by Democrats. Douglas went on to win that fall's election to the Senate, but the debates gave Lincoln national exposure and led to his nomination for President by the new Republican Party two years later.
It's the birthday of illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, born in Brighton, England (1872). He was famous as a member of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and also as the creator of erotic drawings.
It's the birthday of jazz great Count (William) Basie, born in Red Bank, New Jersey (1904). He went west to Kansas City where he made his reputation and also picked up his nickname.
It's the birthday of novelist Robert Stone, born in Brooklyn (1937). His mother was schizophrenic; his father abandoned the family when Stone was a baby. After spending time in an orphanage, the boy bounced from one Catholic school to another, dropping out before graduation to enlist in the peacetime Navy (1955-58). After studying for two years at N.Y.U., he went to New Orleans and hung out with Leroi Jones and Gregory Corso and read his poetry to jazz accompaniment in the French Quarter. Then it was off to California, where he became one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, riding their bus on its 1964 cross-country jaunt. Stone's second novel, Dog Soldiers (1974), was the one that made his reputation. His other books include Children of Light (1986) and Outerbridge Reach (1992).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®