Sep. 26, 2000

The Wasteland (excerpt)

by T. S. Eliot

Broadcast date: TUESDAY, 26 September 2000

from "The Wasteland," by T.S. Elliot (Faber & Faber).

It's the birthday of novelist Jane (Graves) Smiley, born in Los Angeles (1949). She wrote several novels and short stories about family life in the Midwest before winning both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991 for her novel A Thousand Acres. Reworking the story of Shakespeare's King Lear, Smiley tells of a patriarchal father who divides his Midwestern farm among his three daughters.

It's the birthday of poet and children's author Ned (Edward Charles) O'Gorman, born in New York City (1929). He wrote The Night of the Hammer (1959) and other collections of poetry.

It's the birthday of composer George Gershwin, born Jacob Gershvin in Brooklyn, New York (1898). He was 26 when he wrote "Rhapsody in Blue."

It's the birthday of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, one of the central figures of existentialism, born in Messkirch, in the Black Forest region of Germany (1889).

It's the birthday of poet, playwright and critic T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1888). He studied philosophy at Harvard, then settled in London, where he married unhappily and worked as a bank clerk at Lloyd's. In 1917, he brought out Prufrock and Other Observations, but shortly thereafter suffered a nervous breakdown. He recovered, and eventually became director of the publishing house Faber and Faber. His most famous work was The Waste Land, published in 1922; it began as a poem called "He Do the Police in Different Voices," and was extensively edited by Eliot's friend, mentor, and fellow expatriate, Ezra Pound.

It's the birthday of frontier nurseryman and horticulturist John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, born in Leominster, Massachusetts (1774). As a young man, Chapman was a disciple of the Swedish scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg. It was said that he turned to apple-growing after a horse kicked him in the head, and he had a vision of heaven as filled with apple trees in bloom. He began to collect apple seeds from cider presses in Pennsylvania and to carry them westward, planting apple nurseries from the Alleghenies to Indiana and Michigan.

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