LitBirthdays March 27 – April 2, 2011

April is

National Frog Month


National Poetry Month

Tweet us today with author birthdays!

March 27

Budd Schulberg

Budd (Seymour Wilson) Schulberg (b. 1914) – U.S. screenwriter – On the Waterfront (1954)

Read the excellent Authors Calendar biography of Budd Schulberg

Read the Internet Movie Database filmography of Budd Schulberg

Read obituaries for Budd Schulberg here and here

Schulberg was the eldest son of Jewish parents who had risen from East Side poverty to a life of comfort and elegance on New York’s West Side. His father, Benjamin, known as “BP”, wrote screenplays for Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players film company before moving to Hollywood in 1920, where he became the cigar-chomping, poker-playing, hard-drinking head of production at Paramount studios. The sound of his father throwing up at dawn after an evening “script conference” with his latest female star was a familiar one to Budd.

His mother Adeline, or “Ad”, was a tough-minded literary agent. A cultured woman, she believed in Freud and progressive education, and despised the trash emitted by her husband’s studio. She had little time for parenting, and none for maternal affection, but was proud of her son’s intellectual and artistic interests.

Schulberg grew up a crown prince in the heyday of the Hollywood studios. With the run of the studio lot, he was spoiled by everyone who sought BP’s favour, and grandly drove around town in his father’s Duesenberg. When BP temporarily left his wife for the actor Sylvia Sidney, Budd screamed at his father: “You son of a bitch! You’re coming home with me. Right now!”

(from the U.K. Guardian obituary for Budd Schulberg, August 6, 2009)

Listen to Wired for Books, a 1990 interview with Budd Schulberg


Born March 27

Ai Qing (艾青) (Jiang Haicheng) (b. 1910) – Chinese poet

Michael Aris (b. 1946) – U.K. Himalayan Buddhist scholar

Abelardo Castillo (b. 1935) – Argentine novelist, playwright, and short story writer


March 28

Jennifer Weiner
Jennifer Weiner (b. 1970) – U.S. novelist

Read about Jennifer Weiner here

Read Weiner’s thoughts on gender and the classification of her writing into “popular fiction”

Jennifer Weiner: I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention.

The only mention my books have ever gotten from the Times have been the occasional single sentence and, if I’m lucky, a dependent clause in a Janet Maslin flyover piece.

I write books that are entertaining, but are also, I hope, well-constructed and thoughtful and funny and have things to say about men and women and families and children and life in America today. Would I like to be taken at least as seriously as a Jonathan Tropper or a Nick Hornby? Absolutely.

Watch a video clip of Jennifer Weiner with Joyce Carol Oates

Weiner: I should tell you all that Joyce Carol Oates was my professor back in Princeton for a year. It’s a little surreal for me to be here. I just want to bow down in front of you guys.

Oates: Jennifer was my best student ever. Except maybe for William Faulkner, for a while.


Born March 28

Dimcho Debelianov (Димчо Дебелянов) (b. 1887) – Bulgarian poet

Maxim Gorky (Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov) (b. 1868) – Russian novelist– socialist realism genre


March 29

Vangelis (Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou) (Greek: Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου) (b. 1943) – Greek composer – Blade Runner (film score)

Read about Vangelis here and here

Listen to a BBC4 interview with Vangelis

Vangelis (comparing his early compositions with today): The approach and the system I used to use is exactly the same. I never changed the approach. What I changed is the source of sound, that’s all. [The soundscape is] larger and the sound quality is better, but the playability is a big problem. The way that you approach the situation today, you have to use computers and you have to program and you have to choose, all these kinds of things — which I can’t, I can’t do it that way. So I’m using the sound, and then I created my own system in order to bypass this difficulty and to be instant; immediate. Imagine you have a symphony orchestra in front of you and you have a lot of instruments. Then what you have to do is to give the right amount of room during the composition in order to create colors.

Listen to the 2002 World Cup anthem, composed by Vangelis

FIFA logo


Born March 29

Andrija Maurović (b. 1901) – Croatian illustrator, comic book author

Lennart Meri (b. 1929) – Estonian history and travel writer, President of Estonia from 1992 to 2001


March 30

Thierry Cabot
Thierry Cabot (b. 1958) – French poet

Excerpt from an email interview with Thierry Cabot on the Eclairement blog (French language)

Eclairement: The saving grace of writing revolves around the computer, the modern version of the act of writing. Is electronic writing missing the gestures of writing, that is to say, the contact and movement of the hand on paper? Can both methods coexist; is it just modernity — a new way to do or pursue it?

Cabot: Writing has obviously played a decisive role in human history, but let’s not forget that the Sumerians originally adopted it in order to make a physical record of their business dealings. It was not until much later that the famous clay tablets would see the birth of literature through myth and epic tales.

The fact that the these records were created five thousand years ago in Mesopotamia should therefore encourage us artists to be more modest, even humble.

The saving grace of writing? This term with its strongly religious connotation does not match my literary approach. For my part, I prefer to speak of the act of accomplishment. Besides, how many musicians, painters, and sculptors could, in many respects, apply the expression to themselves?

It seems to me that the sensational entrance of the Internet into the world of creativity has had more of an effect on the distribution of writing than on the nature of writing. On a personal level — but I won’t obscure the generational dimension here — writing via making gestures and contact with paper is one of the main components of emotional response.

A child of Gutenberg, I would not dare to drop a text that was completed and finished on the screen. During the development of a poem, I will strike out a word, cross out a sentence, write over parts of a stanza.

Sometimes, when faced with “the white void of paper” I have clipped wings, and lack of inspiration is transformed into true pain.

When the work is finally cleaned up, the computer immediately takes over. And then, somewhat moved, I rediscover my text with a pride mixed with anxiety. Other eyes will soon land on it through the phenomenon of “re-creation. ” Already, it is no longer mine.

In the final analysis, whatever the direction of our choices, we must admit in any case that the eruption of new communication and information technologies onto the cultural playing field has not only changed our relationship to writing, but also has shaken these ancient industries. Without a doubt it is still too soon to measure all the consequences.

Read the entire interview (in French) here:

Read some of Thierry Cabot’s poems here

L’Age d’Or

Qui se souvient un peu dans le soleil enfui, / Those who dimly remember in the fleeing sun,
Des grands cieux tournoyant comme une âme légère / The grand skies twirling like a gossamer soul
Et des chaudes amours à la couleur si chère, / And hot loves colored so dear,
Où l’éternité même, un instant, avait lui ? / Where was that moment, eternity in itself?
Cet âge-là mêlait passion et bien-être ; / That age of mingled passion and well-being;
Le jour voluptueux chantait en séraphin ; / The voluptuous day sung by seraphim;
C’était parmi la joie un vertige sans fin / It was joy in the midst of endless vertigo
Peuplé de longs désirs jamais las de renaître. / Full of long desires never tiring of rebirth.
Au comble de l’extase au beau rire de miel, / In the climax of ecstasy the honey of a good laugh,
Chaque enfant tout pareil à quelque fol artiste, / Each child exactly like some crazy artist,
Survolait, radieux, des marches d’améthyste / Skimming by, radiant, on steps of amethyst
Sous le chevalet nu d’un grandiose arc-en-ciel. / Naked under the bridge of a spectacular rainbow,
Les vents clairs s’étoilaient de lunes magnifiques ; / Light breezes starred with magnificent moons;
L’aurore en se voilant s’enivrait de douceur ; A dawn misted over with intoxicating sweetness;
L’azur qui s’avançait avec des mains de sœur, / Azure skies holding out their sisterly hands,
Se délectait pour nous d’incroyables musiques. / Delighting us with incredible music,
Puis, figure céleste aux charmes frémissants, / Then, a heavenly figure with quivering charms,
Le rêve sur nos jeux infinis et frivoles, / The dream of our infinite and frivolous games,
Ouvrait des chemins purs choyés par mille idoles, / Opened the pure blessed paths of a thousand idols,
Et réchauffait la vie en ses doigts caressants. / And warmed up life with caressing fingers.

Celine Dion

Céline Dion b. 1968 – Canadian singer

Read the Wikipedia article about Céline Dion

Watch Dion perform “I’m Alive”


Dion sings “My Heart Will Go On” in 2017

Born March 30

Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (Bangla: শরদিন্দু বন্দোপাধ্যায়) (b. 1899) – Bengali novelist, screenwriter

Moses Maimonides (b. 1135) – Spanish/Egyptian Jewish philosopher – Mishneh Torah (compilation of Jewish law) (1180)


March 31

Octavio Paz Octavio Paz (b. 1914) – Mexican poet, Nobel Prize in Literature (1990)

Read about Octavio Paz here and here

Read the 1991 Paris Review article about Octavio Paz

The years I lived in San Francisco, New York, and Paris were a period of gestation. I was reborn, and the man who came back to Mexico at the end of 1952 was a different poet, a different writer. If I had stayed in Mexico, I probably would have drowned in journalism, bureaucracy, or alcohol. I ran away from that world and also, perhaps, from myself.

With Eyes Closed

With eyes closed
you light up within
you are blind stone

Night after night I carve you
with eyes closed
you are frank stone

We have become enormous
just knowing each other
with eyes closed.

Listen to “Jardín con niño” from Mi Casa, Mi Gente, Mi Tierra by Octavio Paz

A tientas, me adentro. / Groping blindly, within me.
Pasillos, puertas que dan a un cuarto de hotel, / Passages, doors that lead into a hotel room
a una intersección, a un páramo urbano. / an intersection, an urban wasteland.
Y entre el bostezo y el abandono, / And between the yawning space and abandonment,
tú, intacto, verdor sitiado por tanta muerte, jardín revisto esta noche. / You, intact; greenery amid too much death; tonight a garden revisitedSueños insensatos y lúcidos, geometría y delirio / Dreams senseless and lucid, geometric and delirious
entre altas bardas de adobe. / enclosed in high walls of adobe.La glorieta de los pinos, ocho testigos de mi infancia, / The square of pines, eight witnesses to my childhood,
siempre de pie, sin cambiar nunca de postura, / always standing, never changing,
de traje, de silencio. / same look, same silence.El montón de pedruscos de aquel pabellón / The pile of stones from that pavilion
que no dejó terminar la guerra civil, / which could not stop the civil war,
lugar amado por la melancolía y las lagartijas. / a place loved by melancholy and lizards.

Los yerbales, con sus secretos, su molicie de verde caliente, / The herb beds, with their secrets,
su molicie de verde caliente, / their hot green lusciousness,
sus bichos agazapados y terribles. / their crouching, terrifying insects

La higuera y sus consejas. / The fig tree and its myths.
Los adversarios: los floripondio y sus lámparas blancas / Its adversaries: the angel’s trumpets with their white bells
frente al granado, / across from the pomegranate,
candelabro de joyas rojas ardiendo en pleno día. / a candelabra of red jewels burning in broad daylight.

El membrillo y sus varas flexibles, / The quince fruit, dangling,
con las que arrancaba ayes al aire matinal. / with cries of woe, picked in the morning air.

La lujosa mancha de vino de la bugambilia / The luxurious wine-stained bougainvillea
sobre el muro inmaculado, blanquísimo. / upon an immaculate wall of whitest white.

El sitio sagrado, el lugar infame, el rincón del monólogo: / the sacred site, a place of infamy, a corner for soliloquy
la orfandad de una tarde, / the orphan of an afternoon,
los himnos de una mañana, / the hymns of a morning,
los silencios, / the silences,
aquel día de gloria entrevista, compartida. / an interview of that day of glory, shared.

(Read the entire poem, in Spanish, here)

Born March 31

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (b. 1823) – U.S. Civil War diarist

René Descartes (b. 1596) – French philosopher


April 1

John Wilmot

John Wilmot (2nd Earl of Rochester) (b. 1647) – British poet

Read about John Wilmot here and here and here

From the biography

Rochester’s own writings were at once admired and infamous. Posthumous printings of his play Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery gave rise to prosecutions for obscenity, and were destroyed. During his lifetime, his songs and satires were known mainly from anonymous broadsheets and manuscript circulation; most of Rochester’s poetry was not published under his name until after his death.

One of the most accessible and attractive of the major English poets, Rochester has long been the least available. Though his poetry is as persistently literary as it is lively, it has been marginalised by the very forces which gathered and gave profile to, the writings that compose English Literature.

Rochester has not lacked distinguished admirers. Defoe quoted him widely and often. Tennyson would recite from him with fervour. Voltaire admired Rochester’s satire for ‘energy and fire’ and translated some lines into French to ‘display the shining imagination his lordship only could boast’. Goethe could quote Rochester in English, and cited his lines to epitomise the intensely ‘mournful region’ he encountered in English poetry. Hazlitt judged that ‘his verses cut and sparkle like diamonds‘, while ‘his contempt for everything that others respect almost amounts to sublimity‘.

Excerpts from “A Satyre Against Mankind”

Were I – who to my cost already am
One of those strange, prodigious creatures, man –
A spirit free to choose for my own share
What sort of flesh and blood I pleased to wear,
I’d be a dog, a monkey, or a bear,
Or anything but that vain animal,
Who is so proud of being rational.

His senses are too gross; and he’ll contrive
A sixth, to contradict the other five;
And before certain instinct will prefer
Reason, which fifty times for one does err.
Reason, an ignis fatuus of the mind,
Which leaving light of nature, sense, behind,
* * *
Huddled In dirt the reasoning engine lies,
Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.
Pride drew him in, as cheats their bubbles catch,
And made him venture; to be made a wretch.
His wisdom did has happiness destroy,
Aiming to know that world he should enjoy;
And Wit was his vain, frivolous pretence
Of pleasing others, at his own expense.
For wits are treated just like common whores,
First they’re enjoyed, and then kicked out of doors;
The pleasure past, a threatening doubt remains,
That frights th’ enjoyer with succeeding pains:
Women and men of wit are dangerous tools,
And ever fatal to admiring fools.
Pleasure allures, and when the fops escape,
‘Tis not that they’re beloved, but fortunate,
* * *
This made a whimsical philosopher
Before the spacious world his tub prefer,
And we have modern cloistered coxcombs, who
Retire to think ’cause they have nought to do.
But thoughts are given for action’s government;
Where action ceases, thought’s impertinent:
Our sphere of action is life’s happiness,
And he that thinks beyond thinks like an ass.
*   *   *
My reason is my friend, yours is a cheat,
Hunger calls out, my reason bids me eat;
Perversely, yours your appetite does mock:
This asks for food, that answers, ‘what’s o’clock’
This plain distinction, sir, your doubt secures,
‘Tis not true reason I despise, but yours.
Thus I think reason righted, but for man,
I’ll ne’er recant, defend him if you can:
For all his pride, and his philosophy,
‘Tis evident: beasts are in their own degree
As wise at least, and better far than he.
* * *
Is there a churchman who on God relies
Whose life, his faith and doctrine justifies
Not one blown up, with vain prelatic pride,
Who for reproofs of sins does man deride;
Whose envious heart makes preaching a pretence
With his obstreperous, saucy eloquence,
To chide at kings, and rail at men of sense;
Who from his pulpit vents more peevish lies,
More bitter railings, scandals, calumnies,
Than at a gossiping are thrown about
When the good wives get drunk, and then fall out.
None of that sensual tribe, whose talents lie
In avarice, pride, sloth, and gluttony.
Who hunt good livings; but abhor good lives,
Whose lust exalted, to that height arrives,
They act adultery with their own wives.
And ere a score of years completed be,
Can from the loftiest pulpit proudly see,
Half a large parish their own progeny.
Nor doting bishop, who would be adored
For domineering at the Council board;

A greater fop, in business at fourscore,
Fonder of serious toys, affected more,
Than the gay, glittering fool at twenty proves,
With all his noise, his tawdry clothes and loves.
But a meek, humble man, of honest sense,
Who preaching peace does practise continence;
Whose pious life’s a proof he does believe
Mysterious truths which no man can conceive.

If upon Earth there dwell such god-like men,
I’ll here recant my paradox to them,
Adores those shrines of virtue, homage pay,
And with the rabble world their laws obey.

If such there are, yet grant me this at least,
Man differs more from man than man from beast.

(Read the entire poem and others by John Wilmot here)

Susan Boyle (born April 1, 1961) – U.K. singer Susan Boyle

Read about Susan Boyle here

Watch / listen to Susan Boyle sing “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent

Listen to Susan Boyle’s fantastic “Cry Me a River”

Susan Boyle in February 2018 – Hallelujah


April 1

Milan Kundera (b. 1929) – Czech-French novelist

Edmond Rostand (b. 1868) – French playwright, poet


April 2

Joanna Chmielewska

Joanna Chmielewska (Irena Kuhn) (b. 1932) – Polish detective fiction, screenwriter, essayist

Read about Joanna Chmielewska here and here and here

Listen to an excerpt (in Polish) of Joanna Chmielewska’s novel Wedge:

(from the webpage introduction)  Joanna Chmielewska  says that her first novel, Klin (The Wedge), was born out of misunderstandings over the telephone, which in the novel occur constantly. In the wacky world of fate, the twisted case and confusion suddenly become the authoritative description. The great strength of  “The Wedge” is its combination of the ordinary, familiar to all, everyday experiences (eg, the consequences of fault attributable to mistakes over the phone), with grotesquely comic results. At first glance the artistic creation is not noticed, but through the impressions made on the reader’s imagination, the story seems absolutely credible.

Listen to Joanna Chmielewska’s book Lesio (in Polish language):

From the Wikipedia page (in Polish):

Lesio – Joanna Chmielewska’s novel, written in 1973, consists of three stories that combine the main character and his environment – colleagues from an architectural studio. The protagonist of the novel is Lesio Kubajek, a distraught architect with a romantic soul, who is working in a Warsaw office and is always late for work. His carefree and beaten approach to life often gives him trouble and causes misunderstanding among his colleagues.
“Lesio” is a humorous novel, a satire on living conditions with all the shortcomings and inconveniences in the People’s Republic of Poland during the 1960s. The language,characteristic of Chmielewska’s work, abounds in rich vocabulary and humor. “Lesio” can be treated as a continuation of the novel We Are All Suspects (Wszyscy jesteśmy podejrzani), due to the fact that both books have several of the same characters.

Watch a Polish language video interview with Joanna Chmielewska


Born April 2

Émile François Zola (b. 1840) – French novelist


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