LitBirthdays May 22 – 28, 2011

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May 22

Betty Williams
Betty Williams (born May 22, 1943) – Irish peace activist, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner

Read about Betty Williams here and here

Betty Williams:  Cities must be created; cities of compassion and peace, cities where children would be treated with the dignity, respect and love they deserve. Such cities would alleviate the huge refugee and orphan problems in many countries.

As a result of many years of work in Italy, World Centers of Compassion for Children International is building the first City of Compassion for children in south Italy in the Region Basilicata.

Watch Betty Williams talk about the events that led to her sharing the Nobel Peace prize

“The death of three children, which I witnessed, that’s what initiated the spark that got me off my butt to get out and do something in Belfast. Rather than saying how horrible it was. You can sit back all your life and say how horrible things are, but unless you take a step to change it, it’s never going to change.

“I said, we have just collected six thousand signatures for peace. And he said, have you been drinking? And I said, no, my house is packed with women. And then he said — I’ll never hear it again, I know I won’t — and I heard Tom yell, Hold that front page! We have a new one.”

Bernie Taupin (born May 22, 1950) – U.K. lyricist, poet – “Candle in the Wind” (with Elton John, 1973)


Born May 22

Georges Remi / Hergé (born May 22, 1907) – Belgian comic book author – Tintin series

Arthur Conan Doyle (born May 22, 1859) – Scottish detective fiction writer (Sherlock Holmes series) – The Sign of the Four


May 23

Sebastian Cordero

Sebastian Cordero (born May 23, 1972) – Ecuadorean filmmaker – Rabia / Rage (2009)

Read about Sebastian Cordero here and here

Read an interview with Cordero about his film Rage / Rabia

Watch Cordero summarize Rabia and talk about writing and filming it

and watch an interview in Spanish with Cordero


Born May 23

Walter Reisch (born May 23, 1903) – U.S. / Austrian screenwriter – Ninotchka 1939
Pär Lagerkvist (born May 23, 1891) – Swedish essayist, novelist, 1951 Nobel Prize winner – Barabbas (1950)


May 24

Patti LaBelle
 Patti LaBelle (born May 24, 1944) – U.S. singer / songwriter – Don’t Block the Blessings (1996 autobiography)

Read about Patti LaBelle here

Watch Patti LaBelle perform

Somebody Loves You, Baby

Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald sing

On My Own

Dream Divas: Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, and Dionne Warwick sing


Patti LaBelle sings “A Change Is Gonna Come” in 2016

A Change Is Gonna Come

Born May 24

Joseph Brodsky (born May 24, 1940) – Russian / U.S. poet

Mikhail (Aleksandrovich) Sholokhov (born May 24, 1905) – Russian novelist, Nobel Prize for Literature winner (1965) – And Quiet Flows the Don

Bob Dylan (born May 24,. 1941) – U.S. singer/songwriter – “Like a Rolling Stone”

May 25: Happy Towel Day!

Dont Panic Towel

Alastair Campbell

May 25

Alastair Campbell (born May 25, 1957) – U.K. political spokesperson (“spin doctor”), journalist, memoirist – The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell DiariesAlastair (2007)

Read about Alastair Campbell here and here

From Wikipedia:

In the runup to the Iraq War Campbell was involved in the preparation and release of the “September Dossier” in September 2002 and the “Iraq Dossier” in February 2003. These documents argued the case for concern over possible weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. Subsequent investigation revealed that the September Dossier had been altered, on Campbell’s orders, to be consistent with a speech given by George W. Bush.

Alastair Campbell indicts The Mail (and perhaps news media in general)

We cannot give Dacre all the credit, but we can certainly give him some, for how woefully misinformed the British public often are about important public issues, as revealed by a fascinating, and depressing, Ipsos-MORI study for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London before the last election.

To take just a few of Dacre’s special interests: Teenage pregnancies: the public thought 15 per cent of young girls get pregnant. In fact, it is 0.6 per cent.

Violent crime: more than half thought it was rising, when the opposite was the case.

Welfare: around a third of people said the government spent more on Jobseeker’s Allowance than on pensions. In fact, pensions accounted for 15 times as much as JSA.

Welfare fraud: the public estimated that £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits is claimed fraudulently. In fact it was 70 pence.

Overseas aid: it accounts for just over one per cent of government spending. Yet a quarter of British people believe it is one of the top three items of public expenditure, ahead of schools and pensions.

Religion and race: we think a quarter of the UK population is Muslim (it’s five per cent). We think 34 per cent call themselves Christian. (59 per cent). We think 31 per cent are immigrants (13 per cent). We think 30 per cent are black or Asian (eleven percent).

So when it came to the EU referendum, years of Mail-Murdoch-Express-Telegraph-Ukip lies and myths about Europe helped lay the ground for having the referendum in the first place – big mistake, Dave – and helped Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage carry the ball over the line on 23 June.


Born May 25

Naim Frashëri (born May 25, 1846) – Albanian poet

Ralph Waldo Emerson (born May 25, 1803) – U.S. philosopher, essayist, poet

Robert Ludlum (born May 25, 1927) – U.S. novelist – The Bourne Identity


May 26

 Peggy Lee Peggy Lee (Norma Egstrom) (born May 26, 1920) – U.S. singer / songwriter

Read about Peggy Lee at her website

Read another biography of Peggy Lee here

Peggy Lee records her song “He’s a Tramp” at Walt Disney Studios


Born May 26

Nobuhiro Watsuki (born May 26,. 1970) – Japanese Manga author – Rurouni Kenshin series

Frankie Manning (born May 26, 1914) – U.S. dancer, choreographer, creator of the Lindy Hop dance – Frankie Mannning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop (Manning’s autobiography)

Stevie (Stephanie Lynn) Nicks (born May 26, 1948) – U.S. singer/songwriter – “Gold Dust Woman”



May 27

Andrei Bitov

Andrei Georgiyevich Bitov (Russian: Андрей Георгиевич Битов) born May 27, 1937) – Russian novelist, poet

Read about Andrei Bitov here and here

Read a translator’s essay about Andrei Bitov

Bitov is in the tradition of the great Russian writers – Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov – asking the big questions: what is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Yet his big questions are those of the twentieth and now, twenty-first centuries.

Little did I know, when I had innocently agreed to translate the essays, that sunny summer day, how my life would be changed. I lived and breathed those pages. Bitov had told me that the translations would go along with the material that would accompany a CD set of the performances of the “Pushkin Band.” One essay was on the history and escapades of the “Pushkin Band.” The other was called “Memory as Rough Draft (A Controlled Experiment).” In that essay, Bitov describes his attempts at memorizing poetry. He had asked a friend, Russian emigre writer Alexander Blok, how he stays in shape. Blok (known in France as Jean Blot) had said that he swims every day and that he memorizes a poem a day. Bitov, in his essay, describes the experience as he decided that “the time had come for me to exercise my sclerotic brain.”

I immediately spoke about the frustration of not being able to find a satisfactory equivalent, in English, to the first words of the essay, “Memory as Rough Draft.” In Russian, they are, “V moi stalinskie vremena v shkole…,” literally, “In my Stalin times, in school…” (Bitov was born in the Stalin era, in 1937.) Obviously, the English is awkward. So I started thinking of other, no more satisfactory possibilities. “As a schoolboy, in the Stalin era” – too neutral, and blah. No oomph. It didn’t capture the flavor of the original. “In my Stalinist times, at school” – but that makes it sound as if Bitov was a Stalinist, which he definitely is not. “When I was at school, during the days of Stalin.” Yuck. Too wordy. Finally, I called Bitov and told him that I was frustrated because when I translate those words into English, they sound awkward. His reply: “But it sounds awkward in Russian.” So I left it, in its awkwardness in English: “In my Stalin times, at school…”


Born May 27

John Cheever (born May 27, 1912) – U.S. novelist, short story writer – The Stories of John Cheever (1979)

Rachel Carson (born May 27, 1907) – U.S. marine biologist and environmentalist – Silent Spring

Dashiell Hammett (born May 27, 1894) – U.S. detective fiction novelist – The Maltese Falcon


May 28

Muriel Barbery
Muriel Barbery (born May 28, 1969) – French novelist – The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2006)

Read about Muriel Barbery here and here

Muriel Barbery: I was inspired by the idea of a reserved, cultured concierge who turned stereotypes on their head and at the same time created a compelling comic effect. With her keen perspective on things, this character then opened the door on a kind of social criticism. I wasn’t interested in writing a fairytale about a kind concierge and an adorable child. I wanted to confront themes that were tragic, or absurd, real, while maintaining a light touch. I wanted to explore the natures of two people who were both lonely and distant and who end up finding one another.


Born May 28

Patrick White (born May 28, 1912) – Australian novelist, poet, 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature – Voss (1957)

Ian Fleming (born May 28, 1908) – U.K. novelist (James Bond series) – From Russia With Love (1957)

John Fogerty (born May 28, 1945) – U.S. singer/songwriter for rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Born on the Bayou”






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