Friday

Aug. 21, 1998

One Winter Night in August

by X. J. Kennedy

FRIDAY 8/21

Today's Reading: "One Winter Night in August" by X.J. Kennedy from ONE WINTER NIGHT AND OTHER NONSENSE JINGLES, published by Atheneum Publishers.

TWO STATE FAIRS start up today and run through September 7. The ALASKA STATE FAIR, in Palmer. And the CALIFORNIA STATE FAIR in Sacramento.

It's writer ROBERT STONE's birthday, Brooklyn, 1937, author of A Hall of Mirrors (1967) about Mardi Gras in New Orleans; and Dog Soldiers (1974), a story about drug dealing from California to Vietnam, which won the National Book Award. He said "I don't drink a lot. That's perhaps one of the reasons that my characters are always drinking and taking drugs, because I am not." His latest book came out this spring, Damascus Gate.

It's the birthday in Yorkshire, 1933, of DAME JANET BAKER, the English mezzo-soprano. By her own choice she never sang the big operatic roles by Wagner or Mozart. Instead she did supporting roles in relatively obscure operas. She retired at the height of her career in 1982.

It's the birthday of poet X. J. KENNEDY, born in Dover, New Jersey, 1929. He taught poetry in the late '50s and early '60s at the University of Michigan, then for many years at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. His first collection came out in 1961, called Nude Descending a Staircase.

It's the birthday in New York City, 1926 of lyricist CAROLYN LEIGH. She started out writing ad copy for a New York radio station, then in 1951 a music publisher encouraged her to try her hand at lyrics. One of her first was a big hit with Johnny Richards' music, "Young at Heart." That was in 1954, the same year that she wrote the words for Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin. In 1960, Lucille Ball returned to Broadway and Leigh wrote the musical Wildcat for her; it had the big tune "Hey, Look Me Over."

It's COUNT BASIE's birthday, born in Red Bank, New Jersey, 1904. He accompanied singers on vaudeville tours in the 1920s and '30s, and made it out to the Midwest where he fell in love with the hard-driving Kansas City jazz. He played at the Reno Club in Kansas City seven nights a week, and on Saturdays started playing at 8 p.m. and finished at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. He took the nucleus of that band back east, first to Chicago, and then New York, where the Count Basie Orchestra was headquartered for nearly 50 years.

The LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES began on this date in 1858: seven debates around the state of Illinois mostly about slavery. Stephen A. Douglas was the Democratic Illinois senator and a famous man at that time; Abraham Lincoln was from the new Republican party and was trying to unseat him. They debated whether new states in the West, like Kansas and Nebraska, should be slave or free. Douglas said the states should decide for themselves; Lincoln said the founding fathers framed the Constitution against the spread of slavery beyond the original states. Douglas won the November election, but the debates made Lincoln a national figure.

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
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »