Sep. 25, 1998


by Linda Pastan


Today's Reading: "Departures" by Linda Pastan from CARNIVAL EVENING, published by W.W. Norton & Co. (1998).

The 79th annual DURHAM FAIR starts up today and runs through the weekend, in Durham, Connecticut. The TEXAS STATE FAIR kicks off today in Dallas, and runs through October 18. And the NORTHERN PLAINS TRIBAL ARTS show begins in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with traditional and contemporary Native American art and music.

Composer DMITRY SHOSTAKOVICH was born on this day in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1906. He's best known for his 15 symphonies; the seventh, in 1941, written at the height of WWII and subtitled Leningrad, had to be smuggled out of the USSR on microfilm.

It's painter MARK ROTHKO's birthday, born Marcus Rothkovitch, in the town of Dvinsk, Russia, 1903. The Rothko family emigrated to the U.S. when the boy was 10 years old, and settled in Portland, Oregon. Rothko was almost entirely self-taught as an artist. He started off doing pictures of people in city settings, then his paintings became more and more abstract. From the late 1940s on, they were usually made of simple, soft-edged rectangles set upon one another, the colors of the different rectangles playing off each other.

It's the birthday of WILLIAM FAULKNER, born in New Albany, Mississippi, a town in the northeastern corner of the state, 1897. When he was a boy, his family moved north a little ways to Ripley, Mississippi; then south, down to the Lafayette County seat of Oxford, where Faulkner spent most of the rest of his life. It became the setting for over a dozen books, fictionalized as Yoknapatawpha County. These were the stories about the Compson brothers in The Sound and the Fury; the Bundren family in As I Lay Dying, and Lena Grove in Light in August — all three books written in the space of a few years in the late '20s and early '30s. His books and short stories won him the Nobel Prize in 1950, and he also won two Pulitzers. When young people asked him for advice about writing he told them, "Read, read, read. Read everything, trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window." And when asked what he wanted on his own tombstone, he said, "He wrote the books, then he died."

It was on this day in 1890 that a 761,000-acre parcel of the Sierra Nevadas in central California was established as YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK. The word "yosemite" means "grizzly bear" in the language of the Yosemite Indians who lived there. The region was made a state park in 1864, then a national park in 1890. Approximately 3 million people visit Yosemite each year.

The Spanish explorer, BALBOA, DISCOVERED THE PACIFIC OCEAN on this day in 1513. He'd sailed from Antigua on September 1 and followed the coast of Panama until his Indian guides told him a great ocean lay only a short distance overland. On September 6, Balboa and his soldiers began marching. It took them two and a half weeks to make it to the other side of the 50-mile wide isthmus, but on September 25 he climbed a small mountain and was the first European to sight the Pacific. He named it Mar del Sur, or South Sea. A few days later he waded into the water and claimed the ocean for the king and queen of Castile. It got the name Pacific seven years later, from the explorer Magellan.

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 »