Nov. 3, 2000

Laozi in Indiana

by William Slaughter

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 3 November 2000

Laozi in Indiana
by William Slaughter from The Politics of My Heart (Pleasure Boat Studio)

Whatever it is
presents itself
to you,
accept it.
is at work
in the universe.
Live with it
It has much
to teach you.
is its first
and second virtue.
Do not
spend yourself
It requires
nothing of you.
Be glad.
is its third
and last virtue.

On this day in 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first inhabited space capsule, Sputnik II, carrying a dog named Laika. The story of Laika caught the imagination of a young Swedish boy, Reidar Jonsson, who was only thirteen at the time, would grow up to write the novel, My Life as a Dog (1983).

It's the birthday of American novelist Martin Cruz Smith, born in Reading, Pennsylvania (1942). He wrote dozens of paperback novels—pulp thrillers—under the pseudonyms Martin Smith, Simon Quinn, Jake Logan and Nick Carter. The first to bring him success was Nightwing (1977), a supernatural thriller about an Indian vampire bat legend. His most famous book is Gorky Park. When he was refused a visa for a return visit to the Soviet Union, he grilled Russian émigré acquaintances about all aspects of Soviet life, including the quality of shoes, the taste of coffee, and whether a ranking police officer would have to be a member of the Communist Party.

"Paperbacks are the place to learn the craft ... I learned to write constantly, to simplify the narrative, to throw out the adjectives."

It is the birthday of American journalist James B(arrett) Reston, born in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, Scotland (1909), one of the most influential journalists of his generation. His great strength as a writer was his ability to explain complex political issues in plain language. He worked for the New York Times for fifty years. His first day on the job at their London bureau was the day Hitler's armies marched into Poland—the beginning of World War II. He worked the Washington beat, was an executive editor, then director and columnist. He recruited and trained many of the Times' best-known journalists over the years, and once said, "All politics are based on the indifference of the majority."

It is the birthday of American photographer Walker Evans, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1903) . He thought he might like to write, and dropped out of college after his freshman year to work at the New York Public Library. In his early twenties, he spent a year in Paris, where he became fascinated with painting.

"The school of Paris painting was so incandescent then, a revolutionary eye-education. In recollection, I was really in Paris to absorb intellectual stimulus. The best training in the world."
When he returned to the United States, he discovered photography, but his style was quite different from the commercial and arty photographs of that time. His photographs were primarily black and white, stark and unblinking, and captured the faces of the poor, the angles of architecture, and served as realistic records of American history. His first published work was a collection of photographs used to illustrate Hart Crane's book, The Bridge. He was a roving social historian during the 1930s, documenting the face of rural poverty during the Depression with his book, American Photographs (1938). He and James Agee were commissioned to do a piece on the life of sharecroppers, but Fortune magazine decided not to run it, so they published the work as the book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941).

It is the birthday of French novelist, art historian, and hero of the French resistance, André Georges Malraux, born in Paris (1901). He went to the jungles of Cambodia to find Khmer artifacts, and was arrested and detained there. He was involved in revolutionary struggles in China; he helped organize and fly in the Loyalist air force during the Spanish Civil War; he discovered the legendary city of the Queen of Sheba; he fought with distinction in the French underground in World War II, was wounded, imprisoned, and then escaped; and he sat in the inner councils with French President Charles de Gaulle. He wrote what many call the greatest novel of revolution, Man's Fate (1933), about the belief of Chinese revolutionist that self-sacrifice would produce a happier society. He also wrote Man's Hope (1937), about the Spanish Civil War."

It is the birthday of German publisher Karl Baedeker, born in Essen, Germany (1801), the son of a printer and bookseller. When he was 26, he started a publishing firm in Koblenz, and brought out an early guide book to the Rhine region. His book was designed to alleviate the need for paid guides by giving travelers all of the practical information they would need when visiting a new place. He did the traveling himself to make sure that all of the information was completely accurate, and used a system of stars to indicate spots of special interest and reliable hotels. His publishing house became famous for this type of travel guide, and eventually covered nearly all of Europe. The name BAEDEKER became synonymous with "guide book."

It is the birthday of poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant, born in Cummington, Massachusetts (1794), best known for his poem "Thanatopsis," that he wrote when he was 17. After a brief time as an attorney—a career he did not enjoy—he published a book of poems and then turned to journalism. He was the editor of the New York Evening Post for fifty years, and made it one of the country's most noteworthy liberal newspapers, taking positions in support of Andrew Jackson and the Democrats, defending the right of workers to strike, speaking out against slavery and proposing a central park for his city.

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




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