Aug. 3, 1998


by Various


Today's Reading: Limericks – "An amoeba named Sam," "A student of nuclear fission" by W. Bernard Wake, "There was a young student named Fred" by V. R. Ormerod, "Said Freud: I've discovered the Id" by Frank Richards from the PENGUIN BOOK OF LIMERICKS, published by Penguin Books (1984).

Samuel Beckett's play, WAITING FOR GODOT, was performed for the first time in English on this day in 1955, at the Arts Theater in London. Beckett, who was Irish, actually wrote Godot in French, and the play had its world premiere in Paris two years earlier. About half the audience walked out during the London premiere.

It's the birthday of poet DIANE WAKOSKI, born in Whittier, California, 1937. Her first collection was a chapbook, and her second, Discrepancies and Apparitions, in 1966, began to attract attention; for the next 10 years she supported herself entirely through her own poetry – writing and publishing new work, giving as many as 80 readings a year, and doing short guest-professorships, finally settling down to teach at Michigan State University.

It's the birthday in Baltimore, 1924, of novelist LEON URIS, author of Exodus, Trinity, Topaz and other books. His name is a shortened version of Yerushalmki, meaning Man of Jerusalem, and Uris struck it big in 1958 with his second book, Exodus, a history of European Jews. Uris spent over a year in Israel for that book, conducting interviews, taking photos, and taping notes.

It's the birthday in Oxford, 1920, of the English crime novelist P. D. JAMES – Phylis Dorothy James, author of Death of an Expert Witness, Cover Her Face, Dark Tower, all featuring detective Adam Dalgleish. James didn't start writing until she was in her mid-30s. She had two young children to support on her own, so she wrote early in the morning before going to work as a hospital administrator, or on weekends. She says, "My children always used to get so mad at me while I was writing. We'd take long walks in the park holding hands and I'd find myself plotting a chapter of a novel, muttering to myself. My daughter would say, 'Oh, Mommy, stop plotting, please.'"

It's the birthday in East Orland, Maine, 1909, of WALTER VAN TILBURG CLARK, novelist and short-story writer whose books are set in the American West. Clark grew up in Reno, the setting for his 1945 book, The City of Trembling. Clark's best-known book came out five years earlier, The Ox-Bow Incident, the story about an 1885 lynching in Bridger's Wells, a sleepy little town near the Sierra Nevada.

It's the birthday in 1904, Millville, Wisconsin – a little town near the Mississippi River in the southwestern corner of the state – of science fiction writer CLIFFORD D. SIMAK. He worked at the Minneapolis Star where he was an editor and columnist for years. He began writing science fiction short stories in 1931, then novels in the early 1950s – books like Way Station, Ring Around the Sun, and Time is the Simplest Thing, producing one nearly every other year until he died a decade ago.

It's the birthday outside of Dana, Indiana, 1900, of the WWII correspondent ERNIE PYLE. In the '30s he was a roving-reporter for Scripps-Howard, traveling the country writing about how ordinary folks coped with the Great Depression. His column was in 200 papers and he was the nation's best-known journalist when the war broke out. For Americans back home, Pyle's columns were the real coverage of the war. He won the 1944 Pulitzer Prize for reporting, but was killed by a sniper in the South Pacific in April, 1945.

It's the birthday in Rugby, England, 1887, of the WWI poet RUPERT BROOKE. He actually saw very little combat in the war, and died of blood poisoning when he was 27 years old. But the British idolized him as a kind of fallen soldier-poet, the author of five idealistic, patriotic war sonnets titled 1914; one of his most popular, "The Soldier," begins with: If I should die, think only this of me:/That there's some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England.

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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