Grace Paley, an iconic and idiosyncratic American literary voice, died Wednesday. She was 84, and had battled breast cancer. Paley wrote short stories and poems, and much of her writing was inspired by the people she knew growing up in New York, the daughter of Russian Jews. Her first collection of stories, The Little Disturbances of Man: Stories of Men and Women at Love, was published in 1959. Her other collections included Enormous Changes at the Last Minute and Later in the Same Day.
Writer Kurt Vonnegut died Wednesday at the age of 84. His most famous book was the anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five; based on Vonnegut's own experiences in World War II, the book became a cultural touchstone at the height of popular protest against the war in Vietnam. In this archived interview, he talks to Terry Gross about writing, censorship, and the experience of war. Rebroadcast from May 13, 1986
Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews a reissued book called Visa for Avalon by Bryher, the pen name of an Englishwoman named Annie Winifred Ellerman. Visa for Avalon is a political allegory first published in 1965.
Band leader Woody Herman. Herman was the leader of numerous big bands, all variously called The Thundering Herd. His bands were noted for their dazzling improvisation combined with their incisive ensemble playing. He died in 1987. (ORIGINAL BROADCAST: May 1986 and 8/19/986)
Phil Donahue host and creator of The Phil Donahue show which originally went on the air in 1967 in Dayton, Ohio. It went into syndication in ‘69, moved to Chicago in ’74, and then to New York before going off the air. Donahue’s show gave rise to the daytime talk shows of today with audience participation and outrageous guests. (REBROADCAST FROM 11/12/85)
Dick and Tom Smothers of the comedy duo The Smothers Brothers. In 1967, their show The Smothers Brothers Comedy hour first went on the air. The show has been credited with helping pave the way for a new generation of TV comedy shows including Saturday Night Live. (REBROADCAST from a 12/31/1985 interview.)
Former late-night talk show host Dick Cavett. He got his start writing gags for Jack Parr, when Parr was the host of The Tonight Show. Cavett then went the route of the standup comic, and in 1968 landed a morning talk show gig. Eventually he hosted his own late-night talk show opposite The Tonight Show which ran on ABC until 1975. From 1977-1982 he hosted The Dick Cavett Show five times a week on PBS. (REBROADCAST from 9/24/85)
Band leader and clarinetist Artie Shaw. In the 1930s and 40s his band ranked with the Goodman, Dorsie, and Miller bands in popularity. But he rejected many of the pop tunes and stuck with music by composers like Porter, Gershwin, and Berlin. Shaw is also known for working with many fine Black musicians and singers, including Billie Holiday. Shaw is now retired from performing. He celebrated his 90th birthday last week. (Rebroadcast from a 12/241985 interview.)