Aug. 18, 1998


by Reed Whittemore


Today's Reading: "Psalm" by Reed Whittemore from THE PAST, THE PRESENT, THE FUTURE, published by University of Arkansas Press (1990).

It's the birthday in Washington, D.C., 1944, of PAULA DANZIGER, author of young adult books like The Cat Ate My Gymsuit (1974) and The Pistachio Prescription (1978). Her family moved to a farm in Pennsylvania and she said, "I knew I'd grow up to be a writer, especially when my father yelled at me: I'd think, 'That's fine, I'll use this in a book someday.'

It's the birthday in Chabris, France, 1932, of virologist LUC MONTAGNIER, the discoverer of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDS.

It's the birthday in 1925 of writer BRIAN WILSON ALDISS, born in 1925, Norfolk, England, best known for his science fiction short-story collections like Hothouse and The Saliva Tree, from the 1960s, and his semiautobiographical novel A Soldier Erect (1971).

It's the birthday in Brest, France, 1922, of writer ALAIN ROBBE-GRILLET, author of a series of books in the 1950s and '60s which he called "new novels." New novels had no real plot or characters, but focused on recurring images and objects without reference to much of anything else: lots of timetables, inventories of things, reports about arrivals and departures, often wrapped into a murder mystery; books like: The Eraser, The Voyeur, and Snapshot.

It's the birthday in 1918, Rome, of the writer ELSA MORANTE, author of short stories, essays and two collections of poetry, but best known for her novels: the first, House of Liars, came out in 1948, the next in 1957, called Arturo's Island; stories about young Italians trying to make their way in the world.

It was on this day in 1782 that the British poet and printer WILLIAM BLAKE MARRIED CATHERINE BOUCHER. A few months earlier, when Blake was 22, he'd proposed marriage to a girl who laughed in his face. He told this story at a dinner one night with friends, and Catherine was sitting there and said that she pitied him. Blake said, "Do you indeed? Then I love you for it." Their marriage lasted 45 years until his death in 1827, and she was constantly by him, helping with his prints and engravings, and commenting on the new poems he wrote.

It's the birthday on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, 1587, of VIRGINIA DARE, the first child of English parents to be born in America. Hatteras is in a string of islands off the east coast of North Carolina — now part of Dare County. Virginia Dare was born one week after her parents and 150 others landed there to set up a colony. Their leader, Virginia's grandfather, set sail for England nine days later to get supplies and help. War with Spain kept him from returning for four years, and when he did, there was no trace of anyone.

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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