Sep. 25, 2000
We'll Go No More A Roving
It's the birthday of romance novelist Luanne Rice, born in New Britain, Connecticut (1955). Her first novel, Angels All Over Town, published in 1986, tells the story of a soap-opera star, Una Caven, forced to choose between her off-screen and on-screen lives while receiving visits from her dead father, who has become an angel.
It's the birthday of the Canadian pianist Glenn (Herbert) Gould, born in Toronto (1932), where his mother taught piano. His recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" (1956) made him famous and led to engagements around the world. But he came to detest "live" performances -- he said he felt "demeaned, like a vaudevillian."-- and in 1964 he abandoned the concert stage and devoted himself to recording. He was eccentric and reclusive: he sang loudly when he played, wore overcoats on stage at the height of summer, and sat so low at the piano that the keyboard was nearly at eye level.
It's the birthday of poet, cartoonist, and children's author Shel (Shelby) Silverstein, born in Chicago (1932). His career as a children's writer and illustrator began in 1963 with Uncle Shelby's Story of Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, in which a lion gets hold of a hunter's gun and practices until he becomes a marksman good enough to join a circus. In the following year he published The Giving Tree, the story of a tree that gives up its shade, fruit, branches, and finally its trunk to make a little boy happy.
It's the birthday of the Russian-American painter Mark Rothko (Marcus Rothkovich), born in Dvinsk, Russia (1903). When he was ten, his family emigrated to America, settling in Portland, Oregon. He went to Yale, but dropped out after two years and took up painting in New York City. Although his early work was realistic, by the late 1940s he had become one of the leading figures of abstract expressionism, filling enormous canvases with two or three soft-edged rectangles that seemed to float before the viewer.
It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer William (Cuthbert) Faulkner, born in New Albany, Mississippi (1897). He left high school without graduating, and worked as a carpenter, a painter, a paperhanger, a coal heaver in a power plant, and an assistant postmaster--a job from which he was fired for neglecting the customers. His first publications were poems, and he said that he turned to stories only when convinced that he could not be a great poet, and turned to novels only when convinced that he could not be a great story writer. His novel Sartoris was rejected by a dozen publishers, but it was the first of his books to be set in the mythical Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, and it ushered in a feverishly creative period in which he produced six major novels, including The Sound and the Fury, in barely seven years. He was preoccupied, he said, with "the old universal truths, lacking which, any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice." He said,
"The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If the writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies."
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