Sep. 15, 2000

The Sunlight on the Garden

by Louis MacNeice

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 15 September 2000

"The Sunlight on the Garden," by Louis MacNeice, from Collected Poems (Faber and Faber).

It's the birthday of James Fenimore Cooper, who was born in Burlington, New Jersey (1789), but grew up in Cooperstown, New York--founded by his father, a judge who built a house at the edge of the wilderness. From an early age, the boy was fascinated by Indians and the frontier. Today he is best known for his five Leatherstocking Tales, novels featuring Natty Bumppo, the wilderness scout: The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841).

It's the birthday of humorist and Broadway critic Robert Benchley, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1889). He served as drama critic for Life magazine (1920-29), then for The New Yorker (1929-40), from which he was fired for his heavy drinking. He went to Hollywood, where he wrote and performed in 46 short films--one of which, "How to Sleep," won an Academy Award in 1935. He's known for these quotes, among many others: "Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of dying, he sings." "In America there are two classes of travel--first class and with children." "It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."

It's the birthday of detective writer Agatha Christie (Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie), born in Torquay, Devon (1890), author of 70 murder mysteries. She introduced the egotistical Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).

It's the birthday of black American poet and novelist Claude McKay, born in Sunny Ville, Jamaica (1890)-- who became a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance.

It's the birthday of film director Jean Renoir, born in Paris (1894). The son of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, he created the classic films Grand Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939), which included the famous line: "You see, in this world there is one awful thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons."

It's the birthday of "psycho-biography" author Fawn M. Brodie, born in Ogden, Utah (1915)--who wrote the biographies No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet (1971); Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (1974); and Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character (1981).

Today is Battle of Britain Day in England. On this day in 1940, the German Luftwaffe finally ended its longest daylight bombing campaign against British air bases, in a mistaken belief that it had shattered the Royal Air Force--and shifted to attacking civilians in night attacks known as the Blitz.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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