Sep. 14, 1999

The Kingfisher

by Mary Oliver

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: September 14, 1999

Poem: "The Kingfisher" by Mary Oliver, from House of Light, Beacon Press, Boston, 1990.

On this day in 1982, novelist John Gardner, 49, died in a motorcycle accident near Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He made his reputation with Grendel (1971), a retelling of the Beowulf story as told by the monster, then, in 1976, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his novel October Light. His book of essays, On Moral Fiction (1978), claims that the pessimism of many modern writers misses the true goal of art, which is to celebrate life.

Itís the birthday of black American writer John Steptoe, born in Brooklyn, New York (1950), who wrote the hit childrenís book Stevie (1969), about a black childís struggle to get over peer jealousy, when he was just 16. He went on to write childrenís books that dealt with such themes as parent/child tension, in Daddy Is a Monster (1980).

Itís the birthday of Irish novelist and scriptwriter Bernard MacLaverty, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, (1942). He writes of modern Irish inhabitants who smash up against rough reality, as in his novel Cal, about a young Catholic who falls in love with the widow of a murdered Protestant policeman.

Itís the birthday of Czech novelist and playwright Ivan Klima, born in Prague (1931)—after the Prague Spring of 1968, Klima was among 200 Czech writers banned in their own country. He chose to stay in the country and write as well as possible under such conditions. Among his fiction titles are: Love and Garbage (1990), Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light (1994), and The Ultimate Intimacy (1997).

Itís the birthday of philosopher Allan Bloom, born in Indianapolis (1930), who wrote The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Todayís Students (1987).

Itís the birthday of American critic and stage director Eric Bentley, born in Bolton, Lancashire, England (1916)—who translated Bertold Brechtís plays into English.

Itís the birthday of childrenís writer Edith (Thacher) Hurd, born in Kansas City, Missouri (1910). She wrote over 75 childrenís stories—50 of them, including Engine, Engine, Number 9 (1940), Benny the Bulldozer (1947), and Toughy and His Trailer Truck (1948).

Itís the birthday of birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger, born in Corning, New York (1883).

Itís the birthday of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, born in the Roxbury, Massachusetts (1867). His pen-and-ink drawings of ĎGibson Girlsí—women with pale skin and delicate features and elegantly upswept hair, who wore long tight-waisted skirts and tailored blouses with Ďleg-of-muttoní sleeves—were everywhere in the 1890s.

Itís the birthday of novelist and poet (Hannibal) Hamlin Garland, born in West Salem, Wisconsin (1860). After his farm family moved further and further westward, he left them and joined the literary set in Boston. Still, his novels and poetry were about the Midwest—A Son of the Middle Border (1917) and A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921, Pulitzer Prize).

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