Apr. 8, 1998

Home Thoughts from Abroad

by Robert Browning

The Sensitive Plant (excerpt)

by Percy Bysshe Shelley


Today's Reading: Lines from "The Sensitive Plant" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Lines from "Home Thoughts from Abroad" by Robert Browning.

Buddhists observe today as the birthday of the BUDDHA, the most important holiday in their calendar. He was born around the year 563 B.C. and lived until 483. B.C. He was given the name Siddartha at birth and is thought to have lived in India. Buddha means "the enlightened one" in Sanskrit.

It's the birthday in Annapolis, Maryland, 1955, of novelist BARBARA KINGSOLVER. The family moved to rural eastern Kentucky when she was a girl, and she wrote about it in her first novel, the 1988 The Bean Trees. She said, "if I was going to write anything worthwhile at all, I knew I would have to honor who I really was, a kid who grew up, literally, in the middle of an alfalfa field." She wrote it while pregnant with her first child, when she had severe insomnia. She sat with her typewriter on her knees in a closet, the only place in their little house where the light wouldn't wake her husband. It's now been translated into a dozen languages.

It's the birthday in Harlem, 1920, of jazz singer CARMEN MCRAE, who got her start like so many jazz greats, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, winning an amateur talent contest in the late 1930s. She could play the piano, she could sing, and she could write: Billie Holiday had a hit with McRae's song "Dream of Life," in 1939. She never had the fame of Ella Fitzgerald, or Sarah Vaughan or Billie Holiday, but critics and jazz lovers say she was every bit their equal. Tunes like "Alfie," "The Music That Makes Me Dance," and "Mean to Me," won her an NEA Jazz Fellowship award for lifetime achievement.

It's the birthday of lyricist EDGAR "YIP" HARBURG, in New York, 1898. He was the owner of an electrical appliance company that went under the Great Depression, then he started writing lyrics for Broadway. From personal experience, he wrote the hit "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"...then went on to win an Academy Award for "Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz.

Silent film star MARY PICKFORD was born on this day in Toronto, 1893. She had long blonde curls and in movies like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Pollyanna and Little Lord Fauntleroy played the young, sentimentalized teenager which won her the title of "America's Sweetheart" though she was always arguing with the studios, and a Hollywood joke back then ran that it took longer to write her contract than to make her movie. In 1920, she married actor Douglas Fairbanks and the wedding was a national event; for years the parties in their Beverly Hills mansion were the place to be. Together with Charlie Chaplin they formed the first major movie company, United Artists.

It was on this day in 1513 that the explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, landed in FLORIDA and claimed it for the Spanish throne. He'd already completed the conquest of Puerto Rico, and was searching for the fountain of youth. He landed on Easter Sunday near what is now St. Augustine, and thought at first the new land was an island. He named it "Pascua Florida," Spanish for "Flowery Easter."

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
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