Aug. 10, 1998


by Denise Levertov


Today's Reading: "Living" by Denise Levertov from POEMS 1960-1967, published by New Directions.

It was on this day in 1945 that JAPAN ANNOUNCED ITS SURRENDER, ending the Second World War. The two U.S. atomic bombs had been dropped on the 6th and 9th of August, killing about 150,000 civilians, and Emperor Hirohito told his generals that taking the war any further would just mean more Japanese casualties. The Allies drew up a plan to allow Hirohito and his government to remain in power but under the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, who was General Douglas MacArthur. The formal surrender took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, September 2.

It's the birthday in Memphis, 1938, of novelist and short-story writer BEVERLY LOWRY, author of Come Back, Lolly Ray; Emma Blue; Daddy's Girl and other books. Lowry grew up in Greenville, Mississippi – a Delta town that shows up in her fiction named Eunola. She is probably best known for her 1992 nonfiction book, Crossed Over: A Murder, A Memoir; about Karla Faye Tucker, who was killed by lethal injection in a Texas prison earlier this year for a 1983 double-murder.

It was on this day in London, 1912, that the two writers LEONARD WOOLF and VIRGINIA STEPHEN got married. They'd met the summer before at a dinner party in the Bloomsbury section of London where Virginia lived.

It's the birthday in Anaheim, California, 1909, of LEO FENDER, who in 1948 began the mass production of solid-body electric guitars. Les Paul actually built the first one on his own, but Fender's Broadcaster guitar – at $75 – was the one that caught on. Two years later, in 1950, it was renamed the Telecaster; the Stratocaster guitar was introduced in 1954.

The SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION was founded in Washington, D.C. on this date in 1846, named for James Smithson, an English scientist. Smithson was a wealthy man and when he died in 1829, his will designated that his entire estate go "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." The Smithsonian Institution now includes nearly two dozen museums and galleries; like the National Portrait Gallery, The National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of Natural History.

It's the birthday in West Branch, Iowa, 1874, of HERBERT HOOVER, the nation's 31st president. He'd had a brilliant career in civilian life directing food aid to Europe during and after WWI, a job that earned him the nickname "the great humanitarian." With that reputation he easily won the 1928 presidential election, but the next year when the markets crashed and the Depression hit, he caught most of the blame for doing "too little too late" to help the nation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated him in a landslide in 1932. Hoover was a lifelong Quaker, and a passionate advocate of non-violence; in 1944, at the height of WWII, he addressed the Republican National Convention in Chicago and said, "Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow, and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war."

It was on this day in 1787 that the 21-year-old Mozart completed his little four-movement serenade for violins, violas, cellos and bass, called "EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK," or "A Little Night Music."

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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