Feb. 20, 1998


by Howard Nemerov


Today's Reading: "Pockets" by Howard Nemerov from TRYING CONCLUSIONS, published by University of Chicago Press.

It's the birthday in Kansas City, Missouri, 1925, of director ROBERT ALTMAN, best known for M*A*S*H in 1970 and Nashville in 1976.

It's the birthday of photographer ANSEL ADAMS, born in San Francisco, 1902. He was originally a pianist and made his living giving concerts and lessons around San Francisco in the 1920s. But he switched to photography in 1930, and became famous for his Western landscapes, particularly those in Yosemite and New Mexico.

The French novelist PIERRE BOULLE was born on this day in 1912, in Avignon. He studied electrical engineering then went to southeast Asia where he worked first as a farmer then as a soldier during the War. In 1952, he came out with his most popular book, The Bridge over the River Kwai, which won six Academy Awards when it was made into a movie in 1957...the story of British prisoners of war who built a bridge for the Japanese.

And it's the birthday of JIMMY YANCEY, in Chicago, 1898, the blues pianist who created boogie-woogie.

It's the birthday in Warsaw, 1888, of the dancer MARIE RAMBERT, who helped choreograph Stravinsky's landmark ballet "The Rite of Spring" - premiered in Paris, in 1912. In the 20s she moved to London and opened a studio where most of Britain's leading ballet dancers and choreographers of this century studied, including one from America, Agnes de Mille.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »