Helen Hooven Santmyer was born on this date in 1895. She became an overnight literary star at the age of 88 in 1983 when her first novel, …And Ladies of the Club, was finally published, hit the bestseller lists, and was turned into a miniseries.
The novel had been published by Ohio State University Press the year before to no fanfare, as it was OSU Press’ first work of fiction, and she was an unknown writer whose most recent work was a local interest memoir published twenty years earlier. Thus, her publishing history was short: a couple unnoticed novels in the 1920s, a memoir in the 1960s, and then a 1400-page novel about the life of a woman’s book club from the 1860s through the 1930s.
One day, an Ohio library patron (Santmyer lived in Ohio) heard a reader declare that the book was the best she’d ever read, so she signed the book out. This reader agreed with the assessment and phoned her son, who worked for a Hollywood agent. Hollywood came calling, and Santmyer, by now a nursing home resident, landed on the front page of the New York Times, the personification of a kind of patience.
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Yukio Mishima committed seppuku on this date in 1970.
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Andrew Carnegie was born on this date in 1835. Joe DiMaggio was born 102 years ago today. The late Noel Neill (“Lois Lane”) was born on this date in 1920. (She died in July.) Percy Sledge was born 75 years ago today. John F. Kennedy, Jr. was born 56 years ago today. Amber Hagerman, for whom the AMBER Alert system is named, was born 30 years ago today.
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Kathryn Crosby is 83 today. Joe Gibbs is 76. John Larroquette is 69. Storm Field is 68. Rita Jenrette is 67. Bucky Dent is 65. Arturo Pérez-Reverte is 65. Amy Grant is 56. Christina Applegate is 45.
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