May 29, 1998

St. Joe, The Angelus

by Joyce Sutphen


Today's Reading: "St. Joe, The Angelus" by Joyce Sutphen from STRAIGHT OUT OF VIEW, published by Beacon Press (1995).

It was 11:30 in the morning on this day in 1953 when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of MOUNT EVEREST. They stayed on top for only about 15 minutes, long enough to plant the Union Jack, the Nepalese flag, the United Nation's flag; and take a few pictures. The mountain lies in the eastern Himalayas between Tibet and Nepal. Before heading downhill Hillary and Norgay left a Buddhist offering of cookies and cake.

It's the birthday in Brookline, Massachusetts, 1917, of JOHN F. KENNEDY, elected the nation's 35th President in 1960, the first Roman Catholic and at 43 the youngest man ever elected to the Presidency. Before his death in Dallas, 1963, Kennedy founded the Peace Corps, proposed key civil rights legislation, worked out a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets. And he increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam from 700 to nearly 16,000.

Igor Stravinsky's ballet RITE OF SPRING was premiered in Paris on this day in 1913, the story of a primitive fertility ceremony that ends in a human sacrifice, set to a kind of music that no one had ever heard before. From the opening curtain, about half the audience began booing and hissing and laughing while the other half tried to shush them up. Fights eventually broke out. When the curtain finally came down, the fights got worse, the police were called - and the whole thing was great publicity for Stravinsky.

It's the birthday of (Terence Hanbury White) T.H. WHITE, in 1906, Bombay, India, the English writer best known for adapting a 15th-century text into a series of novels that came out in 1958 called The Once and Future King - stories about Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

It's the birthday of the comedian BEATRICE LILLIE, born in Toronto, 1894. She started off in London in 1914 as a singer, then gradually began adding jokes between her songs, till she was better known for them than her voice. One of her best-known creations was the character, Mrs. Blagdon Blogg, a woman who'd had a few too many and went to Harrod's department store to buy "two dozen double-damask dinner napkins," which after a while was coming out as "two dazzle dimask dibble dimmer napples."

It's the birthday of G.K. CHESTERTON, 1874, London, author of essays, poems and short stories, but best known for his series of mystery novels that started coming out in 1911 about Father Brown, the detective-priest.

It's the birthday in Hanover County, Virginia, 1736, of PATRICK HENRY, the Revolutionary War statesman. Henry was 29 years old to the day when he presented his Seven Virginia Resolutions, a militant rejection of King George's Stamp Act. Colonists hated the Stamp Act, it essentially taxed most everything that was printed in America. But most colonists were still loyal to the crown at that point. Henry read the Resolutions out loud in the Virginia House of Burgesses. "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third may profit by their example!" At this point some in the audience began yelling "treason" and he shouted back "If this be treason, make the most of it!"

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  • “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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