Franz Schubert and Norman Mailer

Franz SchubertIn 1923, the great novelist Norman Mailer was born. It is kind of sad that he is remembered today more for being an egotistical jerk than a great artist. And indeed, he did have that whole Ernest Hemingway thing going on. But my take on him is that it was just his way of dealing with deep feelings of inadequacy. I heard him talk shortly before he died, and I still got that from him, even though he had calmed down a lot. Anyway, in addition to his novels, he was a wonderful nonfiction writer—arguably better than a novelist. Above all, Mailer was an interesting man who could express himself really well. In a world filled with fairly boring people who can’t string a sentence together, that’s saying something.

Two Arrested Development actors have birthdays today. Jessica Walter, who plays the matriarch of the family, is 73. Portia de Rossi, who plays the narcissistic sister, is 41. I’ve known for some time that de Rossi is married to Ellen Lee DeGeneres, who is 15 years older than she is! Who would have thought DeGeneres would be a cradle robber? But in her defense, she doesn’t seem any older. (Of course, I’ve never seen her up close…) Regardless, I love the show and these two actors are a big part of it.

Other birthdays: chemists Theodore William Richards (1868) and Irving Langmuir (1881); ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax (1915); architect E Fay Jones (1921); composer Philip Glass (77); the great comedy writer Connie Booth (70); actor Glynn Turman (68); actor Kelly Lynch (55); actor Minnie Driver (44); and singer Justin Timberlake (33).

The day, however, belongs to the great early Romantic composer Franz Schubert who was born in 1797. He was only 31 when he died—four less than Mozart. This is remarkable given the enormous amount of music he produced. He was one of the best melody creators ever, but it is a mistake to think that this is all he was. He was extremely innovative in his approach to harmonic structure, for example. But more to the point, his mature work is as good as anything that has ever been composed. Here is the Belenus Quartett doing his String Quartet in G major, which is a technical marvel as well as an incredibly beautiful piece of music:

Happy birthday Franz Schubert!

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