Apr. 28, 2002

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Poem: "Leisure," by William Henry Davies.


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

It's the birthday of Scottish crime novelist Ian Rankin, born in Carnenden, Fife, Scotland (1960). He's worked as a swineherd, a tax collector, and a journalist, but he's best known as a writer of crime novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus. The books, set in Edinburgh, are full of skillful character development, authentic Scottish dialect, and carefully recreated police procedure. The Inspector Rebus series includes the novels Knots and Crosses (1987), Mortal Causes (1994), Dead Souls (1999) and Set in Darkness (2000). He said: "A critic with an eye for an oxymoron once stated that I'd invented 'Tartan Noir.' Maybe that's not so far from the truth."

It's the birthday of American poet Carolyn Forché, born in Detroit, Michigan (1950). She's known for poetry that takes up issues of human rights around the world. Her first book of poetry was Gathering the Tribes (1975), followed by The Country Between Us (1980).

It's the birthday of novelist (Nelle) Harper Lee, born in Monroeville, Alabama (1926). When she submitted the manuscript of her novel to J.B. Lippincott Company in 1957, the publisher told her it read more like a series of short stories than a novel. She spent the next two years revising it. The novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was finally published in 1960. It remains the only book Harper Lee has published.

On this day in 1925, T.S. Eliot accepted a position as editor with the British publishing house, Faber and Faber. The offer allowed him to leave his job as a bank clerk for Lloyd's Bank in London.

It's the birthday of American writer Bernard Malamud, born in Brooklyn, New York (1914). His first novel was The Natural (1952). The hero of the novel, the baseball player Roy Hobbs, is a familiar type in Malamud's novels: the innocent Everyman who stumbles, or is tricked, into hardships. The Natural was followed by six other novels, including The Assistant (1957); The Fixer (1966), which won the Pulitzer Prize; and Dubin's Lives (1979). He also won a National Book Award for his collection of short stories, The Magic Barrel (1959). He said: "People say I write so much about misery, but you write about what you write best. As you are grooved, so you are grieved. And the grieving is that no matter how much happiness or success you collect, you cannot obliterate your early experience."

It's the birthday of German photographer Erich Salomon, born in Berlin, Germany (1886). In 1927, he took a job as a photojournalist for an illustrated Berlin newspaper, and became well-known for photographs of statesmen and politicians conferring together at high-level meetings. He was a master at catching his subjects in unguarded moments, giving the readers of his newspaper the feeling that they were on the spot when important decisions were being made. It was for Salomon's work that the term "candid camera" was coined, and he became known as the father of candid photography. The prime minister of France, Aristide Briand, called him "the king of prying." As the Nazis consolidated power in Germany in the 1930s, he moved with his family to Holland. In May 1944, he was captured by the Nazis in Holland and deported to Auschwitz, where he and his wife and son were killed.

On this day in 1789, master's mate Fletcher Christian led twenty-five crew members in a mutiny against Captain William Bligh, of the H.M.S. Bounty.

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