Widgets April 17 ~  Razor's Edge Letters of Stein & Wilder

"Every good and excellent thing stands moment by moment on the razor's edge of danger and must be fought for." ~ Thornton Wilder, Skin of Our Teeth

Thornton Wilder

Born on this day in Madison, Wisconsin and raised in China, distinguished writer Thornton Niven Wilder (1897-1975) had such great command of the classics that his nickname was "The Library."

"The less seen, the more heard," he said. "The eye is the enemy of the ear in real drama."

A Pulitzer Prize winner as both a playwright and novelist, Wilder studied archaeology, served in both World Wars, and taught literature as well as gaining fame as a writer.

"It's when you're safe at home that you wish you were having an adventure. When you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home," said Wilder. His writing observed human experience with compassion. His words celebrated life.

"The theater carries the art of narration to a higher power than the novel or the epic poem," he said. His play Our Town (1938) captured life in the small village of Grover's Corners.

Wilder described the classic drama as, "The most beautiful little play you can imagine...It's a little play with all the big subjects in it; and its a big play with all the little things lovingly impressed into it."

For a world in the midst of World War II, Skin of Our Teeth (1942) was an optimistic look at human history and showed how mankind survived disaster. As topical as ever, Thornton examined life and death, family, good and evil, and tragedy and salvation.

"What is essential does not die but clarifies," he wrote, "the highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude."

Another play, The Matchmaker (1956) was the basis for the musical Hello Dolly, an international box-office hit.

"Ninety-nine per cent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in great danger of contagion," said Wilder who was a contemporary of writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner and good friend to Gertrude Stein.

About life, Wilder once observed, "My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate--that's my philosophy."

More Thornton WILDER Quotations

Fight for what you know is good.