Aug. 28, 2000
It's the birthday of poet Rita Dove, born in Akron, Ohio (1952)-- Poet Laureate of the United States, 1993-95. Her poem cycle Thomas and Beulah (1986--Pulitzer Prize in Poetry) traces the history of her maternal grandparents, born in the Deep South at the turn of the century. The poems are arranged in two sequences: one devoted to Thomas, born in 1900 in Wartrace, Tennessee; the other to Beulah, born in 1904 in Rockmart, Georgia. Her other poetry collections include Grace Notes (1989), Mother Love (1995), and On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999).
It's the birthday of novelist Robertson Davies, born in Thamesville, Ontario (1913). He went to London and became an actor at the Old Vic in the early 1940s, but returned to Ontario to edit his family's newspaper, The Peterborough Examiner. He had a column in which he came up with a character called Samuel Marchbanks, an irascible old bachelor who issued blistering opinions about Canadians from his home in Skunk's Misery, Ontario. It was the beginning of Davies' career in fiction. Among Davies's 30 volumes are 3 trilogies; the most highly regarded is the middle one, the Deptford Trilogy, written in the 1970s: Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972), and World of Wonders (1975).
It's the birthday of bird expert Roger Tory Peterson, born in Jamestown, New York (1908). His first Field Guide to the Birds came out when he was 26, and was an immediate success. It was different from other bird manuals in that it grouped birds by their resemblance to each other, which helped bird watchers find them.
It's the birthday of poet and architecture critic Sir John Betjeman, born in London (1906), who was the Poet Laureate of England for many years.
It's the birthday of Count Leo Tolstoy, born to an aristocratic family at Yasnaya Polyana in the Tula Province of Russia (1828). He started a school for peasant children on his estate, and developed practical views on the subject of education. At 34 he married, and the couple had 13 children together. After he married he spent six years writing War and Peace (1869), an epic tale that follows 5 Russian families during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. His other masterpiece, Anna Karenina (1877), examines a married woman who confronts society with her adulterous passion. Two years of its publication, Tolstoy underwent a severe spiritual crisis, and became a sort of Christian anarchist. He gave up his estate, gave away all the possessions he was allowed to give away, and tried living as a poor and celibate peasant under his wife's roof. At the age of 82, Tolstoy left home secretly and died in a remote railway station.
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