Sep. 25, 2001

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out

by Shel Silverstein


Poem: “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” by Shel Silverstein from Where The Sidewalk Ends (Harper & Row).

It’s the birthday of William Faulkner, born in New Albany, Mississippi (1897), the eldest of four sons of a noted southern family, and grandson of a plantation owner and novelist who had been shot down on the streets of his hometown. Faulkner wanted to write like his grandfather, and he dropped out of high school, worked at odd jobs—he was a house painter, a dishwasher, a rum runner, and a night security man at a power plant. In 1929, working at the power plant, he wrote The Sound and The Fury, and a year later, As I Lay Dying, which he wrote in just six weeks, writing from midnight to 4 a.m., then sending it off to the publisher without changing a word. It was about a poor white family accompanying their mother’s body home for burial. In 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Faulkner said that "man has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.”

It is the birthday of sportswriter Red Smith born in Green Bay, Wisconsin (1905). He wrote a syndicated column for more than 30 years. He wrote about most major spectator sports, and once in a while, about his favorite sport, fly fishing. He had a great grasp of language, was a careful and clever writer, and received the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He once said, “I think sports constitute a valid part of our culture, our civilization, and keeping the public informed, and if possible, a little entertained about sports, is not an entirely useless thing.”

It’s the birthday of Francine du Plessix Gray, born in Warsaw (1930), and raised in Paris—her father was a diplomat and fought with the French Resistance, and after his death when she was 11, she came to the United States. She is the author of books about Catholic radicals, Hawaii, women in the Soviet Union, and an autobiographical novel called Lovers and Tyrants (1976).

It’s the birthday of Shel Silverstein born in Chicago (1932),  a cartoonist for Stars and Stripes during the Korean War, and then Playboy magazine. He came out with his first children’s book in 1963, Uncle Shelby’s Story of Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back (1963). A year later he wrote The Giving Tree about a tree that sacrifices itself for a growing boy’s happiness. His 1974 book, Where the Sidewalk Ends, has sold one million copies in hardcover.

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