Miles Davis began recording “Kind of Blue” on this date in 1959.
It’s anniversary of the birth of Lou Reed (1942).
Author Tom Wolfe is 83 today.
Author John Irving is 72 today.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was born 110 years ago today (1904).
The Writer’s Almanac had good background in 2010.
When Geisel/Seuss was awarded an honorary degree from Princeton in 1985, the entire graduating class stood and recited Green Eggs and Ham. At one time Green Eggs and Ham was the third largest selling book in the English language — ever.
Ron Howard’s brother’s only brother is 60 today.
It’s the anniversary of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807) and John Steinbeck (1902) and the 80th birthday of N. Scott Momaday.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
“Paul Revere’s Ride”
And he rushed into the wigwam,
Saw the old Nokomis slowly
Rocking to and fro and moaning,
Saw his lovely Minnehaha
Lying dead and cold before him,
And his bursting heart within him
Uttered such a cry of anguish,
That the forest moaned and shuddered,
That the very stars in heaven
Shook and trembled with his anguish
Then he sat down, still and speechless,
On the bed of Minnehaha,
At the feet of Laughing Water,
At those willing feet, that never
More would lightly run to meet him,
Never more would lightly follow.
“The Song of Hiawatha”
“I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there. See?”
Tom Joad, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Momaday was presented with the National Medal of Arts in 2007.
The Navajo Ben Benally remembers a snow-filled day (from House Made of Dawn):
And afterward, when you brought the sheep back, your grandfather had filled the barrel with snow and there was plenty of water again. But he took you to the trading post anyway, because you were little and had looked forward to it. There were people inside, a lot of them, because there was a big snow on the ground and they needed things and they wanted to stand around and smoke and talk about the weather. You were little and there was a lot to see, and all of it was new and beautiful: bright new buckets and tubs, saddles and ropes, hats and shirts and boots, a big glass case all filled with candy. Frazer was the trader’s name. He gave you a piece of hard red candy and laughed because you couldn’t make up your mind to take it at first, and you wanted it so much you didn’t know what to do. And he gave your grandfather some tobacco and brown paper. And when he had smoked, your grandfather talked to the trader for a long time and you didn’t know what they were saying and you just looked around at all the new and beautiful things. And after a while the trader put some things out on the counter, sacks of flour and sugar, a slab of salt pork, some canned goods, and a little bag full of the hard red candy. And your grandfather took off one of his rings and gave it to the trader. It was a small green stone, set carelessly in thin silver. It was new and it wasn’t worth very much, not all the trader gave for it anyway. And the trader opened one of the cans, a big can of whole tomatoes, and your grandfather sprinkled sugar on the tomatoes and the two of you ate them right there and drank bottles of sweet red soda pop. And it was getting late and you rode home in the sunset and the whole land was cold and white. And that night your grandfather hammered the strips of silver and told you stories in the firelight. And you were little and right there in the center of everything, the sacred mountains, the snow-covered mountains and the hills, the gullies and the flats, the sundown and the night, everything—where you were little, where you were and had to be.
Momaday was instrumental in the production of the PBS series The West, whose website includes biographical background.
Academy Award winning actress Joanne Woodward is 84 years today. Miss Woodward won the best actress Oscar for The Three Faces of Eve (1957). She was nominated for best actress three other times.
Two-time Academy Award winning actress Elizabeth Taylor was born 82 years ago today. Miss Taylor won best actress Oscars for Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Taylor died in March 2011.
Ralph Nader is 80.
CBS news veteran Bob Schieffer is 77.
Karen Grassle, the mom on Little House on the Prairie, is 72.
Tea Leoni is 48.
John Foster Dulles was born on this date in 1888. Dulles was Secretary of State under Eisenhower from 1953 until April 1959. He is the person for whom Washington Dulles International Airport is named.
Enrico Caruso was born in Naples on this date in 1873. The tenor was the 18th of 21 children but the first to survive past infancy. Caruso was the first artist to sell a million copies of a recording — “Vesti la giubba” (1904).
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on this date in 1841. That’s Renoir’s “Beach Scene, Guernsey” (1883).
In 1999, San Francisco Chronicle readers ranked the 100 best non-fiction and fiction books of the 20th century written in, about, or by an author from the Western United States.
NewMexiKen has posted the top 10 from the lists several times — because the lists are interesting — but primarily to honor Wallace Stegner, who was born 105 years ago today.
Stegner is first in fiction, second in non-fiction; now that’s a writer.
TOP 10 FICTION
1. “Angle of Repose,” by Wallace Stegner
2. “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck
3. “Sometimes a Great Notion,” by Ken Kesey
4. “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London
5. “The Big Sleep,” by Raymond Chandler
6. “Animal Dreams,” by Barbara Kingsolver
7. “Death Comes for the Archbishop,” by Willa Cather
8. “The Day of the Locust,” by Nathanael West
9. “Blood Meridian,” by Cormac McCarthy
10. “The Maltese Falcon,” by Dashiell Hammett
TOP 10 NON-FICTION
1. “Land of Little Rain,” Mary Austin
2. “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian,” Wallace Stegner
3. “Desert Solitaire,” Edward Abbey
4. “This House of Sky,” Ivan Doig
5. “Son of the Morning Star,” Evan S. Connell
6. Western trilogy, Bernard DeVoto
7. “Assembling California,” John McPhee
8. “My First Summer in the Sierra,” John Muir
9. “The White Album,” Joan Didion
10. “City of Quartz,” Mike Davis
Our greatest president was born 205 years ago today. It seems a good reason to read, once again, some of his most meaningful words — read them slowly and meticulously, perhaps almost saying them aloud as he did.
The Address at Gettysburg (November 19, 1863):
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
And, from his Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865):
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.