Oct. 16, 2000

At Last the Secret is Out

by W. H. Auden

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 16 October 2000

Poem: "At Last the Secret is Out," by W.H. Auden, from As I Walked Out One Evening (Vintage Books).

It's the birthday of novelist, poet and playwright Günther Grass, born in Danzig, Germany (1927), who last year was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Drafted at 16 into the German army during the last days of the war, he was sent off to the front with a young company, many of whom were ripped to shreds by American shells. After the war, he supported himself as a black marketeer, jazz drummer and speechwriter. In the fifties, he began to make his living as a sculptor and writer in Paris, and had both his first poetry and his first play published there. He received international attention for his novel The Tin Drum (1959), which was part of The Danzig Trilogy, along with Cat and Mouse (1963) and Dog Years (1965).

It's the birthday of playwright Eugene O'Neill, born in New York City (1888), in a hotel room on Broadway. His mother was given morphine to help her through Eugene's difficult birth, and she remained addicted to it for many years. His actor father and morphine-dependent mother served as models for James and Mary Tyrone in his play Long Day's Journey Into Night (1956, produced after his death). His other plays include Emperor Jones (1921), Desire Under the Elms (1924), Strange Interlude (1928), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), and The Iceman Cometh (1946). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936.

Today is the birthday of playwright and wit Oscar (Fingall O'Flahertie Wills) Wilde, born in Dublin, Ireland (1854). His mother was a poet, and his father was an eye-and-ear surgeon. After graduating from Trinity College in Dublin and Magdalen College at Oxford, Wilde wrote 9 plays between 1879 and 1894, but his fame rests on 4 comedies: Lady Windermere's Fan (1892); A Woman of No Importance (1893); An Ideal Husband (1895); and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He also wrote a novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and two collections of fairy tales. In 1895, wild was convicted of gross indecency - he was a homosexual, which was illegal in England at that time - and sentenced to two years hard labor. After his release from prison, his health shattered, Wilde wandered Europe for three and a half years under the name Sebastian Melmoth, during which time he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898). He died, bankrupt, 46 years old, in a Paris hotel room (1900) - having been received, in his final moments, into the Roman Catholic church.

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

It's the birthday of lexicographer Noah Webster, born in West Hartford, Connecticut (1758) - who did as much as anyone to form the sense of a distinct American English, separate from the English of England. He published his American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828.

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




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