Oct. 1, 1998

No Map

by Stephen Dobyns


Today's Reading: "No Map" by Stephen Dobyns from VELOCITIES, published by Penguin Books.

During the month of October, the planet SATURN will be the brightest its been since 1989 and at its highest place in the sky since 1979. On the 23rd, it will be only 771 million miles from Earth, and its rings tilted so we can take a good look at them. The FULL MOON (on the 5th) this month is called the Hunter's Moon, or the Dying Grass Moon.

After a major restoration New York City's GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL will be rededicated today — a landmark that was almost demolished in the 1970s to make way for an office tower. Built in 1913, the concourse was dubbed "the best big room in America" with its four-story windows at either end, five gold-and-nickel plated chandeliers (144 bulbs each), and its 122-foot ceiling (higher than the nave of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris) painted with 2,500 stars — an autumn-night constellation that was originally painted backward and never corrected.

It's the birthday of novelist TIM O'BRIEN, born in 1946, Austin, Minnesota, and winner of the National Book Award with his 1978 novel Going after Cacciato. That book, and his In the Lake of the Woods, The Things They Carried, and other books — have all featured American soldiers of the Vietnam War. O'Brien served in the infantry there in the late 1960s. He just came out last month with his first comic novel, Tomcat in Love.

It's JULIE ANDREWS' birthday, born Julia Elizabeth Wells, in Walton-on-Thames, England, 1935. Her mother was a pianist and her stepfather a cabaret singer, and she took his last name when she broke into show business at 19, with the musical The Boy Friend.

It's the anniversary in 1908 of the first MODEL T FORD. It rolled off the line in Detroit, and by the time Ford stopped making Tin Lizzies in 1927, 15 million of them had been produced. It was offered in several body styles — a five-seater, a two-seat runabout, and a seven-seat town car — all mounted on the same chassis. Originally you could get the car in a choice of colors, but from 1913 to 1925, the only option was black. The first Model T's cost $850, and top speed was 45 m.p.h.

The first installment of Gustave Flaubert's novel, MADAME BOVARY, began appearing in the Paris Review on this day in 1856; the story of Emma Bovary, an unhappy woman who has an affair and in the end commits suicide. The novel appeared in installments through December 15, 1856. The French government immediately brought Flaubert to trial on grounds of immorality and he barely escaped conviction.

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 »