Oct. 3, 2000

Stillness, O Stillness

by David Budbill

Broadcast date: TUESDAY, 3 October 2000

Poem: "Stillness, O Stillness," by David Budbill, from Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse (Copper Canyon Press).

It's the birthday of writer Gore Vidal, born in West Point, New York (1925). He gained notoriety in 1948 with his fourth novel, The City and the Pillar -- a frank portrayal of homosexual life -- and had another sensation in 1968 with Myra Breckenridge. Vidal has run for office several times, despite his disdain for the American political system and his characterization of the United States as "the land of the dull and the home of the literal."

It's the birthday of James Alfred Wight, born in Sunderland, England (1916). He was a veterinarian who, everyday for twenty-five years, told his wife something funny that had happened that day, and said that he was saving it all for a book. When he was fifty, she said, "Who are you kidding? Vets of fifty don't write books." So he bought himself some paper, and taught himself to type. Under the pen name James Herriot, he brought out his book All Creatures Great and Small, which was a big bestseller in 1972.

It's the birthday of writer Thomas Wolfe, born in Asheville, North Carolina (1900). He moved to New York when he was 23, and began working on a massive novel. The manuscript he finally submitted to Charles Scribner's Sons was two feet high, and had to be drastically revised by Wolfe and his editor, the legendary Maxwell Perkins, before it was finally published in 1929 as Look Homeward, Angel. The novel was frankly autobiographical, and though it caused a scandal in Asheville, Wolfe's mother laughed as she read it on her front porch, crying out, "It's all true! It's all true!"

It's the birthday of publisher Alexander Macmillan, born in Irvine, Scotland (1818). He began publishing textbooks in 1844, and by the 1850s was branching out into novels. He established the American branch in 1867, and founded the journal Nature, which is still published today. His company published the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling and William Butler Yeats, among others. He died in 1896, but his firm continues as Macmillan Publishers Limited.

It's the birthday of writer and utopian George Ripley, born in Greenfield, Massachusetts (1802). He was a Unitarian minister, a cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the founder of Brook Farm (1841), an experimental commune meant to put the principles of Transcendentalism and social reform into practice.

It's the birthday of historian George Bancroft, born in Worcester Massachusetts (1800). He wrote History of the United States from the Discovery of the Continent (1834), was an ambassador to Great Britain, and served as Secretary of the Navy under President James Polk.

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