Aug. 8, 1998

214 I taste a liquor never brewed

by Emily Dickinson


Today's Reading: "I taste a liquor never brewed" by Emily Dickinson.

It's the birthday in Washington, D.C., 1954, of short-story writer and novelist, ELIZABETH ANN TALLENT. She was raised in Peoria, Illinois and after college moved out to Santa Fe, New Mexico. She began writing stories, selling her first one, "Ice," to The New Yorker when she was 26 years old, then following that up with "Why I Love Country Music," and collections Time with Children, Honey, and a novel, Museum Pieces.

The GERMAN LUFTWAFFE began its attack of the British Isles on this day in 1940. The BATTLE OF BRITAIN was intended to wipe out the Royal Air Force before Germany invaded England. The R.A.F. was outnumbered four-to-one, but they had the new invention of radar which allowed them to concentrate their defenses. The R.A.F. knocked down three times as many German aircraft as it lost, and Hitler called off the invasion. It was Germany's first major defeat, and it became a rallying point for the British. Prime Minister Winston Churchill praised his pilots, saying, "Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few."

It's the birthday in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1901, of the poet and novelist NINA BERBEROVA best known for her 1969 autobiography, The Italics Are Mine; in which she wrote: "I have learned to seek intensity rather than happiness, not joys and prosperity but more of life, a concentrated sense of life, a strengthened feeling of existence, fullness and concentration of pulse, energy, growth, flowering, beyond the image of happiness or unhappiness." She taught for many years in the Slavic departments of Yale, then Princeton, gaining notoriety for her writing only when she was in her 80s.

It's the birthday in 1901, Canton, South Dakota, near Sioux Falls, of physicist ERNEST ORLANDO LAWRENCE. He won the 1939 Nobel Physics Prize for his invention, the cyclotron – a particle accelerator that he and his students built at the University of California, Berkeley.

It's the birthday in Washington D.C., in 1896, of writer MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS, author of The Yearling, which came out in 1938 and won the Pulitzer Prize. The Yearling is about one year in the life of the Baxter family living in the Florida river country, focusing on Jody Baxter and his conflicted relationship to deer.

It's the birthday in St. Louis, 1884, of poet SARA TEASDALE. She received the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – when the awards started up in 1918 – for her collection called Love Songs.

It's the birthday in Yorkshire, England, 1861, of the biologist WILLIAM BATESON, who founded and named the science of genetics. In 1900, when he was 39 years old, Bateson stumbled on the article "Experiments with Plant Hybrids," written several decades earlier by the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel. Mendel's theories of crossing different varieties of garden peas matched up with Bateson's own experiments in poultry breeding, and taken together they laid the foundation for genetics.

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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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