Yesterday was my first time attending “A Company of Authors” – a warm and friendly gathering of about 100 or so booklovers at the Stanford Humanities Center. (Video will be added when available.) Particularly memorable: Elena Danielson‘s breathy presentation of the ethical issues of archiving. Don’t think that sounds exciting? You have to hear Elena tell about it. The author of The Ethical Archivist has been privy to billets-doux of the long-dead and recently dead, and all the burning secrets held in donated letters and memorabilia. Ian Morris, author of Why the West Rules—For Now, as always, stole the show with his story about how everything came to be in the last 15,000 or so years.
We celebrated the parade of April 23d birthdays: William Shakespeare, Alexander Pushkin, Vladimir Nabokov, William Wordsworth, J.M.W. Turner, Shirley Temple Black, St. George, and George Steiner, too.
As promised, Peter Stansky, read George Steiner’s poem:
To choose one’s birthday is the first of arts.Renowned birthdays mark the man of parts.The kalends are replete with faceless days,So why not make one’s entry in a blaze?
And honest Wordsworth tells us in his OdeHow the Platonic soul in its abodeMust before birth make choice of room and board –
But all such glories are but dusty endsWhen set against this laurel-crown of friends. …How could the heart do otherwise than sayHow wise it was to choose St. George’s day!
The Times Online wrote this for Steiner’s birthday two years ago: “The polymath Professor George Steiner said it is rather embarrassing that birthday celebrations are taking place in Florence, Rome and Germany. There is also an event at Churchill College, Cambridge, where he has been a Fellow since 1961. He is researching a book about how great philosophy gets itself written, called The Poetry of Thought. He enjoys walks with his Old English sheepdog, known as Monsieur Ben. Professor George Steiner is 80 today.”
Meanwhile, birthdays march on: Today Anthony Trollope was born in 1815. And Robert Penn Warren, the first U.S. poet laureate in 1905. The Swiss poet Carl Spitteler, a 1915 Nobel winner, in 1845.
From Trollope: “As to that leisure evening of life, I must say that I do not want it. I can conceive of no contentment of which toil is not to be the immediate parent.”
Happy Easter, everyone!
Tags: Alexander Pushkin', Anthony Trollope, Carl Spitteler, Elena Danielson, George Steiner, Ian Morris, J.M.W. Turner, Peter Stansky, Robert Penn Warren, Shirley Temple Black, St. George, St. James, Vladimir Nabokov, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth