Saturday, November 1, 2014

Grantland Rice wrote elegant sports prose

It is the birthday of legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice (1880), who contributed significantly to sports journalism and dominated it during the Roaring Twenties with elegant prose and thoughtful poetry. He was the first to call the 1924 Notre Dame backfield the Four Horsemen and the first to broadcast a World Series on the radio.

Rice interviewed all the major sports figures of the era and made heroes of many of them, including Jack Dempsey, Red Grange, Bobby Jones, Knute Rockne, Babe Ruth, and Babe Zaharias. His writing raised sports events to a new mythical level, comparing the contests to ancient quests of strength and courage.

Of the 1924 Notre Dame-Army game he wrote, "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Crime and Punishment made Dostoyevsky famous

It is the birthday of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821), whose book Crime and Punishment (1866), made him one of the most celebrated writers in Russia. Among his best known works are The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), all written in the last years of his life.  He wrote his first novel, Poor Folk (1846), out of financial desperation because of his gambling addiction. The book tells the story of a clerk and his relationship with an upper class woman through letters between them. Critics gave it high marks, some finding touches of parody and satire. Dostoyevsky's classic, Crime and Punishment, examines the psychology of a poor ex-student who plots to kill a dishonest pawnbroker and take her money. He reasons he can do good deeds with her cash to offset the crime.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Giraudoux wrote The Madwoman of Chaillot

It is the birthday of post-World War I French novelist and playwright Jean Giraudoux (1882), who is credited with creating an impressionistic form of drama that emphasizes dialogue and style rather than realism.  Among his best known works are the plays Siegfried (1928), Intermezzo (1933), The Trojan War Will Not Take Place (1935), Ondine (1939), and The Madwoman of Chaillot (1945). His work is known in the English-speaking countries mainly because of the translations by English playwright Christopher Fry. The Madwoman of Chaillot is a political satire about an eccentric Parisian noblewoman who naively views the world as happy and beautiful and a group of corrupt businessmen who frequent the Cafe de l'Alma. The men plan to excavate Paris to find the oil beneath its streets. They represent wealth and power and greed. One businessman exclaims, "what would you rather have in your backyard: an almond tree or an oil well?" The noble madwoman eventually realizes the evil of the developers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood

It is the birthday of Welsh writer Dylan Thomas (1914), whose 1954 radio drama Under Milk Wood was inspired early one morning when he walked about the small town where he was living and wondered about its inhabitants. That led him to write a short story, Quite Early One Morning, which was recorded for BBC Wales in 1944. Ten years later he expanded the idea and his Under Milk Wood was broadcast. Enjoy.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy birthday, playwright Moss Hart



It is the birthday of playwright Moss Hart (1904), who is best remembered for teaming with George S Kaufman for a string of hit Broadway plays, including You Can't Take It With You (1936), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937. It tells the story of a warm, wacky family's impending marriage to an young man from a stiff, cold and distant wealthy family. It is set during the Depression. The two also wrote The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939), which is about a caustic man who injures himself on a ice and must remain in a wealthy Midwestern family's home for six weeks, much to their consternation. It is based on the playwrights' friend, Alexander Woollcott, who was a commentator for The New Yorker magazine.

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