LitBirthdays June 10 – 16, 2012

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June is

African-American Music Appreciation


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June 10

Maurice Sendak b. 1928 – U.S. writer and illustrator of children’s books – Where The Wild Things Are (1963)

Read about Maurice Sendak here and here

Sendak shakes his head beneath the low-beamed ceiling, in this room full of art and old rugs. “I can’t believe I’ve turned into a typical old man. I can’t believe it.” He smiles and his face transforms. “I was young just minutes ago.”

To his millions of readers, of course, Sendak will always be young, a proxy for Max in Where the Wild Things Are, who runs away from his mother’s anger into the consoling realm of his own imagination. There are monsters in there, but Max faces them down before returning to his mother for reconciliation and dinner. Sendak’s own exile took rather longer to resolve. The monsters from Wild Things were based on his own relatives. They would visit his house in Brooklyn when he was growing up (“All crazy – crazy faces and wild eyes”) and pinch his cheeks until they were red. Looking back, he sees how desperate they all were, these first-generation immigrants from Poland, with no English, no education and, although they didn’t know it in 1930, a family back home facing extinction in the concentration camps. At the time, all he saw was grotesques.

That included his parents. If he had come from a happy home, says Sendak, he would never have become an artist, at least not the kind of artist he is. Sendak’s picture books acknowledge the terrors of childhood, how vicious and lonely it can be. In his latest book, Bumble-Ardy, the hero is a piglet who loses his neglectful parents to a slicing machine on the first page and is left in the care of an aunt. When Bumble turns nine, she throws him his first ever birthday party and, in the manner of most Sendak stories, things take a dark turn: older pigs gatecrash and, in a kind of porcine burlesque, wreck the place. The pictures are feverish and transporting – and, although the book ends in forgiveness and a hug between aunt and nephew, the sense of precariousness around Bumble remains. “I refuse to lie to children,” says Sendak. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”

[U.K. Guardian, October 2, 2011]

Read Sendak’s 2012 obituary here

Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.

Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.

His visual style could range from intricately crosshatched scenes that recalled 19th-century prints to airy watercolors reminiscent of Chagall to bold, bulbous figures inspired by the comic books he loved all his life, with outsize feet that the page could scarcely contain.

[New York Times obituary, May 9, 2012]

Born June 10

Benjamin Millepied (b. 1977) – French dancer, choreographer – Black Swan (2010) (choreographer)

Samartha Vashishtha (b. 1983) – Indian poet, translator, technical writer

Saul Bellow (b. 1915) – Canadian novelist, short story writer, winner 1976 Literature Nobel Prize – Herzog

Terence Rattigan (b. 1911) – U.K. playwright – The Winslow Boy

June 11

Born June 11

 Bill Findlay (b. 1947) – Scottish playwright, translator – Scottish People’s Theatre

Siavash Ghomayshi
(b. 1945) – Iranian-U.S.  singer/songwriter, composer

Yasunari Kawabata (b. 1899) – Japanese novelist, 1968 Literature Nobel Prize winner – Snow Country (1956)

June 12

Born June 12

Tess Gerritsen (b. 1953) – U.S. novelist – Harvest (1996)

Anne Frank (b. 1929) – German diarist – The Diary of Anne Frank

June 13

Anis Mojgani b. 1977 – U.S. poet – In the Pockets of Small Gods (2018)

Read about Anis Mojgani here

Anis Mojgani TEDTalk “Equal Parts Science and Magic”

Listen to Mojgani perform “Four Stars”

… I stuck my hand out there. The sun buzzed loudly. Nothing could bite me. A caterpillar did. I had climbed its tree, so it kissed me with its back…

Born June 13

Dorothy Leigh Sayers (b. 1893) – British novelist

William Butler Yeats (b. 1865) – Irish poet

June 14

Born June 14

Ernesto Che Guevara (b. 1928) – Argentinian physician, author, revolutionary activist – The Motorcycle Diaries

Margaret Bourke-White (b. 1904) – U.S. photojournalist – Portrait of Myself

Mona Simpson (b. 1957) – U.S. novelist – Anywhere but Here(1987)

June 15

Born June 15

Ibn-e-Insha (ابن انشاء) (b. 1927) – Pakistani poet

Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) (b. 1969) – U.S. rapper

Waylon Jennings (b. 1937) – U.S. country music singer/songwriter

June 16

Born June 16

Lamont Dozier (b. 1941) – U.S. songwriter – The Legendary Soul Master: Black Bach / Out Here On My Own

Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938) – U.S. novelist, short story writer, essayistLittle Bird of Heaven: A Novel (September 2009)

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