Today's History - Lifted from Minnesota Public Radio's Writer's Almanac
It's the birthday of the novelist John Knowles, (books by this author) born in Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1926. Fairmont was a coal-mining town, and Knowles went to public school there. But then when he was 15, he went off to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, which was a prestigious prep school. At first, Knowles felt awkward around his elite New England classmates, but before long he loved Exeter. He attended a summer session there, and he was part of a secret society whose initiation rite was to jump out of a tree into the river. Knowles fell out of the tree and had to start the school year on crutches. After serving in the Air Force and attending Yale, he worked as a reporter for the Hartford Courant, and then as an assistant editor for Holiday magazine, and he wrote short stories on the side and started writing a novel based on his adolescence at Exeter. He used his memory of the secret society and the tree, and this novel became A Separate Peace (1959). It was a best-seller right away, and even though Knowles continued to write novels, none of them were as successful as A Separate Peace.
In A Separate Peace, John Knowles wrote: "It seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart."