Oct. 17, 2000
Poem: "Beyond Equinox," by Philip Booth, from Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999 (Penguin).
It's the birthday of columnist Jimmy Breslin, born in Queens, New York (1930), the son of a high school teacher and a social worker. As a columnist for various New York newspapers, he's been a voice for the Irish-American working class; in 1986 he won Pulitzer for his collected columns. His novels include The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1969), Table Money (1986), and He Got Hungry and Forgot His Manners (1987).
"Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers."
It's the birthday of playwright Arthur Miller, born in Harlem, New York (1915). He's best known for his play Death of a Salesman (1949), the story of Willy Loman, the down-and-out salesman trying to do one right thing. His other plays include The Crucible (1953), A View from the Bridge (1955), After the Fall (1964), and The Price (1968).
"I'm the end of the line; absurd and appalling as it may seem, serious New York theater has died in my lifetime."
It's the birthday poet Jesse (Hilton) Stuart, born in W-Hollow, Kentucky (1906). He published a volume of more than 700 sonnets, called Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow (1934), about his native Greenup County, peopled with farmers, moonshiners and horse traders.
It's the birthday of novelist Nathanael West (Nathan Weinstein), born in New York City (1903). He wrote Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), and The Day of the Locust (1939), published a year before his death in a car crash at age 37.
It's the birthday of movie star Jean Arthur, born in Plattsburg, New York (1900). She sparkled as a hard-boiled career woman with a heart of gold in such films as You Can't Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Foreign Affair (1948).
It's the birthday of pathologist E(rnest) W(illiam) Goodpasture, born in Montgomery County, Tennessee (1886) - who devised a way of cultivating viruses and rickettsia in fertile chicken eggs. As a result, vaccines were produced for smallpox, influenza, yellow fever, typhus, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
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