Jul. 12, 1998

Walden (excerpt)

by Henry David Thoreau


Today's Reading: Lines from WALDEN by Henry David Thoreau.

It's the birthday of comedian Milton Berle, born in New York City in 1908. He was just ten years old when he started out in vaudeville. He acted in more than 50 silent films, worked in nightclubs and in radio, but found his greatest success on television beginning in the 1940s (1940-66).

It's the birthday of the Chilean poet and political activist PABLO NERUDA, born in Parral, Chile, in 1904. He started writing poetry when he was ten years old around the time he met the famous Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, who introduced him to the works of Walt Whitman, a poet Neruda said had a profound influence on him. His poetry has been translated into almost every language, and in 1971, two years before his death, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

It's the birthday of the architect, engineer and theoretician R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER, born in Milton, Massachusetts, in 1895, famous for the creation of the geodesic dome, a system of interlocking triangles that enclosed the maximum volume of space with the minimum of materials.

And today is the birthday of essayist, naturalist and poet HENRY DAVID THOREAU, born in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817. A member of the Transcendentalists, a 19th Century literary movement that celebrated the individual over the masses, emotion over reason and nature rather than man, he once spent a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes to a government that endorsed slavery and waged an imperialist war against Mexico. The essay "Civil Disobedience," which he wrote afterwards, argued that individual conscience takes precedence over political expediency. His most famous work, Walden, came out in 1854 but was largely ignored during his lifetime. "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."

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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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