This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 77th birthday to Al Pacino, born in East Harlem April 25, 1940. He’s one of the guys who put 1970s film on the map—The Godfather, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, all solid. Since snagging an Oscar for portraying Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman, Pacino has spent most of his screen time shouting—his characters apparently are all ferocious.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Pacino on-stage twice; in The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel back in the day and Huey roughly a decade or so ago, and he’s equally affective in theater as in film.

My favs of his Hollywood work are as Michael Corleone in The Godfather I & II and Lefty Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco. Both characters are Mafiosos and killers with no consciences, but Pacino’s approach to Michael and Lefty couldn’t be more different. Something as simple as sitting in a chair reveals each character’s personality: Michael is a king; calculating, intelligent, in full control. His tailored suit and posture reflect his power. Lefty is a dumb slob. He’s a mutt slouching in a T-shirt and cheap track suit.

Perfect, Al.

Birthday greetings to Harper Lee, born in Monroeville, Alabama, April 28, 1926. Most fans think of Lee as a strictly southern gal, but like her friend Truman Capote, she lived a good portion of her adult life in Manhattan.

How many people produced one book after another and died broke and as forgotten as the dirt they’re buried in, while she wrote just one and is America’s sweetheart with never-ending royalties. A neat trick.

Has anyone read the second one with redneck Atticus? She was so old and sick when it debuted that I still wonder if it was a fugazzi.

Happy 84th birthday to Willie Nelson, singer songwriter, and strange visitor from the planet Weed, born April 29, 1933 in Abbott, Texas. He’s probably smoking a bone the size of the Washington Monument right now.

Have a good one, Willie!

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.