Sep. 14, 2000

The Kingfisher

by Mary Oliver

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 14 September 2000

"The Kingfisher," by Mary Oliver, from House of Light (Beacon Press).

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, he 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.

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

It's 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.

It's 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).

It's 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 Today's Students (1987).

It's the birthday of American theater critic and director Eric Bentley, born in Bolton, Lancashire, England (1916)-- who translated Bertold Brecht's plays into English.

It's the birthday of children's writer Edith Hurd, born in Kansas City, Missouri (1910). She wrote over 75 children's books, including "Engine, Engine, Number 9" (1940), "Benny the Bulldozer" (1947), and "Toughy and His Trailer Truck" (1948).

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

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

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Hamlin Garland, born in West Salem, Wisconsin (1860). After his farm family moved west, 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).

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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