Aug. 24, 2000
It was on this day in the year 79 AD that Mount Vesuvius erupted in the south of Italy, and buried Pompeii and other cities in volcanic ash.
It's the birthday in 1899, Buenos Aires, of the Argentinean poet and short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges. He was raised in the poor district of Palermo, and he learned English before he learned Spanish--his father came from British ancestry, and taught at an English school. Borges was the director of the national library. By the time he reached his mid-fifties, he suffered from total blindness, a hereditary condition that had also afflicted his father. It forced him to abandon writing long texts, and to dictate work to his mother or secretaries or friends. The books from this period combine prose and poetry: The Dreamtigers, The Book of Imaginary Beings, and The Book of Sand, are a few.
It's the birthday in Sheffield, England, 1936, of novelist A.S. Byatt, born Antonia Susan Drabble. She's the author of Possession which won Britain's Booker Prize in 1991, the story of two academics and their research into the lives of a pair of Victorian poets.
Malcolm Cowley, the literary critic, historian, editor, poet and essayist, who was best known as the most trenchant chronicler of the so-called Lost Generation of post-World War I writers, was born in Belasco, Pennsylvania on this day in 1898. He lived in Paris in the 1920s, in a circle that included Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Hart Crane, e.e. cummings, Thornton Wilder and Edmund Wilson. He was a valued editor at The New Republic, later at Viking Press, where he worked, at least part time, until he was 86. He rescued William Faulkner from early oblivion by publishing a collection of his short stories in 1946, and writing a wonderful introduction to the book. It was also Cowley who discovered John Cheever and goaded him to write. Later he championed Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey.
It's the birthday in Roseau, West Indies, 1890, of novelist Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea, which came out in 1966. She moved to Europe when she was young, and worked as a dancer, model, and chorus girl. In the 1920s and '30s she became famous for a series of short stories and novels about bohemian life in Paris: The Left Bank, and Good Morning, Midnight.
It's the birthday of poet Robert Herrick, born in London, 1591, best known as the author of... "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying, And this same flower that smiles to-day To-morrow will be dying."
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