Aug. 31, 1998

A Slice of Wedding Cake

by Robert Graves


Today's Reading: "A Slice of Wedding Cake" by Robert Graves from COLLECTED POEMS 1965, published by Oxford University Press.

It's the birthday of singer and songwriter VAN MORRISON, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1945, whose hits songs included "Gloria" (1965), "Brown Eyed Girl" (1967), and Domino (1970).

It's the birthday in 1945 in Tel Aviv, Palestine (now Israel), of virtuoso violinist ITZHAK PERLMAN. He gave his first public concert in Tel Aviv when he was just 10 years old and went off to New York three years later to study violin at Juilliard. He made his Carnegie Hall debut when he was 18.

THE THREEPENNY OPERA by Kurt Weill (vile) opened today in Berlin, in 1928, with a libretto written by Bertold Brecht.

It's the birthday of lyricist and playwright ALAN JAY LERNER, born in New York in 1918 to parents who owned the Lerner Stores clothing shops. He joined in the shows of the Hasty Pudding group at Harvard University, and wrote more than 500 radio scripts between 1940 and 1942, the year he met composer Frederick Loewe. Their first effort, called What's Up? flopped in 1943, but they went on to create many hit Broadway shows including Brigadoon (1947), Paint Your Wagon (1951), and Camelot (1960). Struggling for five months on My Fair Lady (1956), at one point they almost gave up on the idea of adapting George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalian. But the show went on to set a record at the time for the longest original run of any musical. He said: "The older a writer gets, the harder it is for him to write. This is not because his brain slows down. It's because his critical faculties grow more acute. If you're young you have a sense of omnipotence. You're sure you're brilliant."

It's the birthday of journalist DANIEL SCHORR, born in New York City in 1916. He was hired by Edward R. Murrow at CBS News and left in 1976 after he was suspended for turning over to the Village Voice a suppressed report on illegal CIA and FBI operations. Since 1985 he has been senior news analyst for National Public Radio.

Writer WILLIAM SAROYAN was born today in Fresno, California in 1908. His Armenian immigrant father died just three years later in 1911 and his mother placed the children in an orphanage while she did menial work in San Francisco. When he was 8 the family was reunited, and by his early teens he decided he would become a writer. His first famous story was "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze." The Time of Your Life was set in a waterfront bar in San Francisco. It was a major hit, but he rejected the Pulitzer Prize that it was awarded, saying businessmen weren't qualified to judge art.

It's the birthday of the longtime editor of the New Yorker WILLIAM SHAWN, born in Chicago in 1907. He got his start as a reporter on the Las Vegas (New Mexico) Optic and started working at the New Yorker as a freelancer earning $2 a column inch. He later managed to get hired and went on to lead the magazine for 35 years.

Writer LYNN RIGGS was born today in Claremore, Oklahoma., in 1899, born the son of a cowpuncher, who wrote Green Grow the Lilacs a folk-drama that was adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein to become Oklahoma!

It's the birthday of the founder of the Montessori method of teaching children, physician and educator MARIA MONTESSORI, born in Rome on this day in 1870. She became interested in children's education and developed a system for children based on spontaneity, natural curiously and learning through the senses. She developed materials used by the hands, including beads arranged in graduated-number units and graduated series of cylinders to help children learn math concepts.

It's the birthday of writer DUBOISE HEYWARD, born in Charleston, South Carolina 1885. At 17, he began working on the waterfront, where he observed the lives of black Americans that he went on to write about in works including Porgy (1925), which became the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess.

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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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