Friday

Aug. 28, 1998

Morning Person

by Vassar Miller

FRIDAY 8/28

Today's Reading: "Morning Person" by Vassar Miller from IF I HAD WHEELS OR LOVE, from Southern Methodist.

It's the anniversary of the 1963 CIVIL RIGHTS MARCH ON WASHINGTON. Around 200,000 people crowded onto the Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and heard Dr. Martin Luther King give his "I Have a Dream" speech.

It's poet RITA DOVE's birthday, born in 1952 in Akron, Ohio, winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, and between 1993 and 1995, the Poet Laureate of the United States. Her collection, Thomas and Beulah, won the Pulitzer — a set of poems about her grandparents.

It's the birthday of the Canadian author, ROBERTSON DAVIES, Thamesville, Ontario, 1913. He wrote over thirty novels; edited an Ontario newspaper for years, and taught English at the University of Toronto; but is best known for his Deptford Trilogy, books about the small Canadian town of Deptford and the lives of three men there; the series started in 1970 with Fifth Business, continued with The Manticore two years later, and ended with World of Wonders in 1975.

Ornithologist ROGER TORY PETERSON, author of A Field Guide to the Birds, was born on this day in 1908, Jamestown, New York. He went to art school to learn to paint, and when he was 26 years old in 1934 came out with A Field Guide to the Birds. The book was different from any other guide: first off, it was small, it could fit in your pocket; the birds were grouped by what they looked like, not by scientific classification; and he used little arrows to point directly to the distinguishing colors or beak shapes. Peterson died in July, two years ago.

It's the birthday in County Galway, 1896, of the Irish novelist and short-story writer LIAM O'FLAHERTY, one of the leaders in the 1920s Irish Renaissance. He went to seminary, but abandoned that to become a soldier in the First World War, then for several years a traveler in North and South America, working as a lumberjack, hotel porter, miner, dishwasher, bank clerk, and deckhand to pay his way. He settled in Dublin in the mid-1920s, and his first success was with the novel, Thy Neighbor's Wife, followed by Skerrett (1932), a story about the conflict between a parish priest and a teacher; then Famine (1937), about the 1849 Irish Potato famine.

LEO TOLSTOY, the author of War and Peace, and Anna Karenina, and dozens of other books and stories, was born on this day in 1828, on his family's estate about 100 miles south of Moscow. He spent most of his life right there on the estate. War and Peace, set during the Napoleonic Wars early on in the century, took him four years to write, 1865-69.

It was on this day in 1749 that the German writer and philosopher JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE was born in Frankfurt. His best known works are his plays, Faust, and Werther, but Goethe also held a cabinet post in the court of Weimar, directed the city theater, and did important research in biology, particularly the early theories of evolution. Goethe himself thought he'd be mostly remembered for his work in science, not literature.

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 Jeffrey Harrison 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 »