Sunday

Apr. 12, 1998

Postscript

by Seamus Heaney

SUNDAY 4/12

Today's Reading: "Postscript" by Seamus Heaney from THE SPIRIT LEVEL, published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

It's the birthday of novelist SCOTT TUROW, in Chicago, 1949, author of the 1989 legal thriller Presumed Innocent, written in a spiral notebook while he was riding to his law office on a Chicago commuter train every day. It took him a couple years to get it drafted that way, then he quit his job for three months to finish it up. He sent it to his agent and started back to work, and the manuscript fetched the highest advance that Farrar, Straus & Giroux ever paid for a first novel, $200,000. It spent 44 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He followed that up with another bestseller, The Burden of Proof.

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT died on this day in 1945 in his vacation home of Warm Springs, Georgia. Even though he'd been in a wheelchair (from polio) for years, he always gave his speeches standing up until the last few months when he was getting weaker and weaker and had to remain seated, a fact his opponent in the fall election, Thomas Dewey, jumped on and tried to make political hay out of. But voters rallied behind FDR and sent him back to office for a record fourth term. He was going over some papers at his desk while an artist was sketching his portrait. He suddenly pressed his hand to his temple and said, "I have a terrific headache" and slumped over unconscious. He was 63 and died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

In his will, FDR left nearly a half-million dollars to the Warm Springs Foundation, which was a spa for polio sufferers like himself. Ten years later on this day, THE SALK VACCINE was announced for polio. At that time the disease was striking about 58,000 Americans a year, killing 3,000 of them. Researcher Jonas Salk had begun testing the vaccine on himself and his family a year earlier, then he tried it on polio patients, and finally on a group of almost 2 million school children until April 12, 1955 when he announced it was safe and effective. A nationwide inoculation campaign began immediately, and within a half-dozen years new cases of the disease were down to a 1,000 a year.

THE CIVIL WAR began on this day in 1861 when Confederates fired on the federal Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. The fort was under construction at the time and had about 85 troops on hand. President Lincoln had just been inaugurated a month earlier and had immediately angered southern states by opposing the Second Crittenden Amendment that would have allowed states to be either "slave" or "free"; as a result six states joined South Carolina in seceding from the Union and forming the Confederate States of America. They shelled Fort Sumter for 34 hours, but no one was killed. Nevertheless, the Confederates celebrated their victory and during the party a cannon exploded and a rebel soldier, Dan Hough became the first casualty of the Civil War a war that would last almost four years to the day and kill another half-million people.

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 Sharon Olds 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 »