Today is Monday, March 12, 2018. It’s Jack Kerouac’s birthday. Today is also the birthday of Virginia Hamilton and playwright Edward Albee. And on this date in 1987, “Les Misérables” made its Broadway debut. Our poem for today is “Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746” by William Collins. Thank you for reading and sharing Bidwell Hollow. Have a great day.

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac (affiliate link) was born today in 1922 in Lowell, MA. He, along with writers such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, was part of literature’s Beat Movement.Photo of Jack Kerouac.

The Beats rejected middle-class values. They were pacifists who focused on nature and self-consciousness.

Kerouac’s 1957 novel, “On the Road,” is a classic of the Beat Movement. The book’s narrator, Sal Paradise, hitchhikes across the U.S. He meets along the way, other down-and-out drifters.

Kerouac wrote the book as one paragraph, without punctuation, on a 250-foot-long roll of paper. He wanted to publish the book as a scroll, but his publisher disagreed.

The literary community rejected “On the Road.” Truman Capote said about the book, “This isn’t writing; this is typing.”

But young readers loved the book’s story of an individual searching for personal freedom. “On the Road” remains a definitive American novel.

Virginia Hamilton

Cover of Virginia Hamilton's "M.C. Higgins, the Great."
Affiliate link

Virginia Hamilton (affiliate link) used her books to present and honor African-American life to children. She thought of her writing as “liberation literature.”

Hamilton, born today in 1934 in Yellow Springs, OH, published 41 books. They range from mysteries to picture books to science fiction. A common thread in most of her works is a focus on African American legacy and traditions.

In 1975, Hamilton became the first African American author to win a Newbery Medal with her book, “M.C. Higgins the Great.” Her other works include “Zeely,” “Her Stories,” and “The House of Dies Drear.”

Hamilton’s received many awards and honors, such as the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, an NAACP Image Award, and the Coretta Scott King Award. She also became, in 1995, the first children’s book author to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

When asked what writing advice she gives children, Hamilton said, “My writing tips for anybody are to observe people. I do a lot of people watching.”

Edward Albee

Playwright Edward Albee (affiliate link), born in Washington, DC, today in 1928, won three Pulitzer Prizes. But he didn’t win for the play for which he’s most known: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”Photo of Edward Albee.

It’s a three-act play in which two couples, one older and one younger, spend a night drinking and engaging in games, jokes, and discussions that reveal the complications in their relationships.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opened on Oct. 13, 1962. It won five Tony Awards, including Best Play, in 1963. A movie version released in 1966 starring Elizabeth Taylor, for which she received an Oscar.

But why didn’t “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” win the Pulitzer Prize? The award’s jury voted to give Albee the 1963 Prize. The advisory committee, though, didn’t think the play met the Drama Prize standards used at the time.

And so it was four years later that Albee received his first Pulitzer Prize for “A Delicate Balance.” His second Pulitzer came for 1975’s “Seascape” and his third in 1994 for “Three Tall Women.”

“Les Misérables” opens on Broadway

Tonight in 1987, “Les Misérables” debuted on Broadway. The production opened at the Broadway Theatre. It transferred to the Imperial Theatre three years later.

“Les Misérables” is a musical based on the 1862 Victor Hugo novel of the same name. The first musical adaptation of “Les Misérables” appeared in a Paris sports arena in 1980. It wasn’t well received.

But an English-language musical was created with songs from the first musical “Les Misérables.” The new production opened in London in 1985. And, two years later, “Les Misérables” the musical came to New York.

In all, the first Broadway run of “Les Misérables” went for 6,680 performances. It grossed $406.3 million, making it the 10th highest-grossing musical in Broadway history as of December 2017.


“Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746”

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest

By all their country’s wishes blest!

When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,

Returns to deck their hallow’d mold,

She there shall dress a sweeter sod

Than Fancy’s feet have ever trod.

 

By fairy hands their knell is rung,

By forms unseen their dirge is sung;

There Honor comes, a pilgrim grey,

To bless the turf that wraps their clay;

And Freedom shall a-while repair,

To dwell a weeping hermit there!

– William Collins (1721 – 1759), Public Domain

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