Literary Birthdays – August 2 – 8

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August 2

James Baldwin (born August 2, 1924) – U.S. poet, playwright, essayist – Blues for Mister Charlie (1964) James Baldwin caricature by David Levine

Listen to James Baldwin in a 1968 interview excerpt
at Pacifica Radio Archives:

Baldwin: All black Americans are treated like niggers. From Sammy Davis Jr. to my mother.

Read Blues for Mister Charlie at Google Books:

Read Shekhar Kapur’s blog post quoting Baldwin on
Michael Jackson in 1985:

The Authors Calendar bio of James Baldwin:

Bei Dao - Chinese poet

Bei Dao (Zhao Zhenkai) (born August 2, 1949) Chinese poet, short story writer – Unlock (2000)

Read an interesting biography and a few of Bei Dao’s poems at Author’s Calendar:

Read more about Bei Dao’s poetry:

More of Bei Dao’s poems in Jacket Magazine Issue 14 (July 2001):

Bei Dao – Thirteen poems
translated by Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheon

Spending the Night

A river brings a trout to the plate
brother alcohol and father sorghum
ask me to spend the night, the glass
has the wrinkles of a murderer

the hotel clerk stares at me
I hear his arrhythmic heart
that heart now bright now dim
lighting the registration form

on the glossy marble
the piano goes out of tune
the elevator turns a yawn into a scream
as it cuts through lamplit foam

coming out of its sleeve
the wind bares an iron fist

Bei Dao reading some of his poetry (Chinese followed by English translation)

August 3

Leon Uris Leon Uris (born August 3, 1924) – U.S. novelist – Exodus

August 4

Robert Hayden (born August 4, 1913) – U.S. poet – “Those Winter Sundays” in Collected Poems

Monet’s Waterlilies

Today as the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
I come again to see
the serene, great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Helen Thomas (born August 4, 1920) – U.S. journalist (covered the White House) – Front Row at the White House (1999) Fornt Row at the White House by Helen Thomas

Read about Helen Thomas here

Read about the “grand dame of the White House Press Corps” in this 2010 Guardian article:

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Barack Obama (born August 4, 1961) – U.S. president – The Audacity Of Hope – Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream

Read the White House biography of Barack Obama here

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article about President Obama, “My President Was Black”

More LitBirthdays on Barack Obama here

August 5

Guy de Maupassant (born August 5, 1850) – French short story writer, novelist – “The Necklace” in Best Short Storiesof Guy de Maupassant

Read “The Necklace” here:

August 6

Alfred Tennyson Alfred Tennyson (born August 6, 1809) British poet – The Charge of the Light Brigade

Read the Authors Calendar biography of Alfred Tennyson

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crookèd hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

(from Idylls of the King and a New Selection of Poems )

Louella Parsons (born August 6, 1881) – U.S. newspaper columnist / radio host (Hollywood), memoirist – Tell It to Louella
Louella Parsons

Read about Louella Parsons here

Watch the 1953 What’s My Line television game show with Louella Parsons as guest
(minute 17:30)

August 7

Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor (born August 7, 1942) – U.S. humorist,  essayist, and radio producer, writer, and host of A Prairie Home CompanionLake Wobegon Days

Watch Keillor chat on a talk show

August 8

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (born August 8, 1896) – U.S. novelist – Cross Creek (1942)

Read a biography of Rawlings here

Read about Rawlings and her editor Max Perkins

Her talent… was individual and real, and she was rock solid — sensible, with excellent judgment, an obsessive worker never satisfied, and full of feeling. She saw life much as Perkins did — in a way, they came to act as moral touchstones for each other. Most of all, they trusted each other. And, of course, she was a tremendous success: ”The Yearling” — to us a boys’ book and a vehicle for Gregory Peck — was the No. 1 best-selling novel of 1938, a Pulitzer Prize winner and admired by everyone from Fitzgerald to Margaret Mitchell to Ellen Glasgow.

An interesting article about Rawling’s childhood home
in Washington DC:

The Authors Calendar bio of Rawlings:

Mel Tillis (born August 8, 1932) – U.S. country music singer/songwriter – I Ain’t Never

Watch Mel Tillis perform the song he wrote and Kenny Rogers made a hit: “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”


Listen to Kenny Rogers sing “Ruby”


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