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October 10, 2011

Mt. Rushmore of Pop Music, Lit and Sports

Michael Kurtianyk

There are quite a few podcasts out there, and all of us who download and listen to them gain quite a bit of enjoyment. My tastes run the gamut: real estate, sports, music, literature, and the like.


One podcast in particular caught my ear this past week, and it had to do with Mount Rushmore. We all know that Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt currently have their faces carved onto the side of the mountain in Keystone, South Dakota. If you’ve ever been there, then you know that it is a wonderful tribute to four great presidents.


The podcast I was listening to was a literary one, and the question was asked: “Who would be on your literary Mount Rushmore?”


The two podcasters, booksellers and self-professed bibliophiles, came up with their lists. They included living authors, and then, after some conversation, came up with the following authors: William Shakespeare, Anton Chekov, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ian McEwan, J. K. Rowling, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. There was some discussion about whether the authors should be alive or dead (all the presidents were deceased at the time of the carvings on Mt. Rushmore), and what genres should be covered: science fiction, graphic novels, short stories, etc.


It occurred to me that this would be a fun challenge for me (and you, dear reader).I would ask you to email me your list of literary representatives on Mt. Rushmore. My criteria are as follows: they must be deceased, and have influenced the literary arts in some way.


My list now includes William Shakespeare, Raymond Carver, Emily Dickinson, and Ernest Hemingway. I did ask my daughters whom they’d pick. Their choices: J.K. Rowling, Jan Brett, and Beverly Cleary.


By the way, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer won the Nobel Prize for Literature last week. I am not familiar with his work, but because of his victory, I hope to read his poems sometime soon.


This foray into a literary Mt. Rushmore led me to think about other areas wherein we could have a discussion about leaders in different fields. For example, in the world of music, who would be the four carvings on your Mt. Rushmore? Groups count as one (e.g. Abba or Motley Crue would count as one), so all that matters is deciding what your tastes are. Would you include bands that are still around? Would you include only bands that no longer exist, yet still have members who are alive (e.g. Led Zeppelin)?


My bands, since I’m starting this discussion, would be as follows: REM (loyal readers know how much I like them!), The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Presley. Who would be on your list? Granted, musicians do have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but these four acts that you would choose would have carvings on the side of a mountain.


We could extend this into sports also. Could there be a Mt. Rushmore for athletes who achieved greatness within the state of Maryland? If so, who would be on the Maryland version of Mt. Rushmore? Cal Ripken, Jr., Carmelo Anthony, and Michael Phelps come to mind. Maybe Babe Ruth, since he was born in Baltimore (though known as a New York Yankee). That would be an interesting question: should a state honor the athlete who was born in that state, or the state in which the athlete made the most impact?


On another note, I do like the Baltimore Orioles, but I was born a New York Yankee fan. It was tough seeing them lose in Game 5 of the American League Division Series to the Detroit Tigers. You could see in the eyes of the fans at Yankee Stadium that they were as shocked as anyone that their team had lost. The fans after the game looked like they had just gotten off the plane from an 18-hour flight.


However, the series did yield the latest trivia question: Who is the only player in baseball history to strikeout in the final at-bat twice to end their team’s playoff hopes?


The answer, of course, is Alex Rodriguez.


So much money paid to him, so little return on the investment.


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