November 1, 1997


Writers often don't make headlines, but they're always news. 1975 was no exception.

A number of voices were stilled by death this year. In February, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (P. G. to his fans) left us and dashed off the planet, leaving behind many readers, as well as Bertie, Jeeves, assorted upper-class male and female twits and nitwits, pompous fascists and formidible Wooster aunts. Super sleuth Nero Wolfe and his snidekick Archie Goodwin would go on without their creator, as Rex Stout died in October. Also encountering the inescapable and final writers' block were Our Town creator Thornton Wilder, historian Arnold Toynbee, scientist-author Julian Huxley, and critics Hannah Arendt and Lionel Trilling. Denis Cecil Hills almost joined their number when he referred to Ugandan ruler Idi Amin as a tyrant, in an unpublished document. The execution was called off by Amin, who may have had his reasons.

Russia was not Uganda, but historian Roy Medvedev had his papers confiscated by the KGB for a second time, when his revisionist history of Stalin's Russia, Let History Judge, was brought out in his native land. He would survive into the Gorbachev era and become a major voice in the reform movement.

Those other writers still with us were prolific. 1975 brought us E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime, Robert Stone's Dog Soldiers, James Clavell's Shogun, Peter Matthiessen's Far Tortuga, Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang, and Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Gift. Paul Theroux guided us through The Great Railway Bazaar. Brendan Gill guided us through Here at the New Yorker. Ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn gave us her autobiography. Richard Adams followed up his successful Watership Down with a rather tedious Shardik. Joan Rivers weighed in with Having a Baby Can Be a Scream. Dumas Malone won the Pulitzer prize for history for his ongoing series Jefferson and His Time and Michael Shaara won the fiction prize for his Civil War account of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels. Still to come were Richard Nixon's memoirs, for which talk show host David Frost announced he had acquired the rights.

It was a non-writer that had the largest impact on today's literature. In November Soviet deputy submarine commander Valery Sablin sailed his vessel the Storozhevoi out of Riga, Latvia, seized control of the bridge, and made a run for Scandanavia. He was captured and quickly sent to wherever godless communists go when they die. Author Thomas Leo Clancy, Jr. heard of the incident. In 1984 his The Hunt for Red October was published, by the Naval Institute Press no less, and made techno-military thriller history.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.

© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte