May 27, 1998

First Marriage

by Kelly Cherry


Today's Reading: "First Marriage" by Kelly Cherry from DEATH AND TRANSFIGURATION, published by Louisiana State University Press (1997).

It was on this day in 1937 that the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE opened at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. It was the bridge that many said could never be built. But it was done on time and under budget - at the height of the Depression. At 4,200 feet long, it took three years to build. And it was the longest main span of any bridge in the world at that time.

It's the birthday in 1925, Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, of mystery writer TONY HILLERMAN, creator of the Navajo tribal policemen Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Jimmy Chee. His first Joe Leaphorn book, "The Blessing Way," came out in 1970. Other Hillerman books include People of Darkness, Talking God, and Sacred Clowns.

It's the birthday in New York, 1915, of HERMAN WOUK, the author best known for his epic war novels like The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978). He served in the Pacific during WWII aboard a minesweeper and based his 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny on those experiences. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

It's the birthday in 1912, Quincy, Massachusetts, of JOHN CHEEVER, author of the novels The Wapshot Chronicle, The Wapshot Scandal, and dozens of short stories set in the Upper East Side of New York, in little New England towns, or in suburban Connecticut. The collected stories, published in 1978, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was one of the few short-story collections ever to make the New York Times best-seller list. His daughter, Susan, wrote: "In the morning, my father would put on his one good suit and his gray felt hat and ride down in the elevator with the other men on their way to the office. From the lobby he would walk down to the basement, to the windowless storage room that came with our apartment. There, he hung up the suit and hat and wrote all morning in his boxer shorts, typing away at his portable Underwood set up on the folding table. At lunchtime he would put the suit back on and ride up in the elevator."

It's the birthday of the biologist, RACHEL CARSON, in 1907, Springdale, Pennsylvania, in the Allegheny River Valley just outside of Pittsburgh. Her 1962 book, Silent Spring, was an attack on pesticides, particularly DDT, that were killing off wildlife and threatening humans. It prompted the passage of stricter pesticide laws around the world.

It's the birthday of mystery writer, DASHIELL HAMMETT, born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, 1894, and the author of The Maltese Falcon, featuring the hard-boiled detective Sam Spade. Hammett grew up in Baltimore, quit school when he was 13 years old, worked as a messenger boy, then a stevedore; then for eight years as a Pinkerton detective, solving crimes and gathering material for his novels. He wrote two of them in the late 1920s, then came out in 1930 with The Maltese Falcon. Two years later Hammett followed that with The Thin Man that spawned a series of movies in the '30s and '40s starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

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 »