Aug. 14, 1999

The Cab Driver's Smile

by Denise Levertov

Broadcast Date: SATURDAY: August 14, 1999

Poems: "The Cab Driver's Smile," by Denise Levertov, from The Poet in the World (New Directions).

Europe's biggest public book event, The EDINBURGH BOOK FESTIVAL, kicks off today in Scotland, and runs through the end of the month. The Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, held every fall, is the largest one in the world, but it's just for publishers and booksellers.

It's the anniversary of V-J DAY, 1945, the day when President Harry Truman announced to the nation that Japan had surrendered to the Allies. The official ratification of the surrender took place two weeks later, September 2, when the papers were signed on the decks of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The American casualties in W.W.II totaled more than 1.1 million, around 400,000 dead.

It's the birthday in Bainbridge, Georgia, 1943, of poet ALFRED CORN, author of several collections. He says, "Ever since my older sister taught me, I have loved to read. And around age 10 it occurred to me that someone had to write the books that were on the shelves. No person prompted the desire to write: it simply came over me. Now, though, I think I have a clearer notion of why I write, apart from the wish to shine in public, or for money. I hope it isn't too idealistic to imagine that books can truly make a difference in our lives, that they can delight and teach us."

It's the birthday in Portland, Oregon, 1932, of writer WILLIAM KITTREDGE, who is the author of nine Westerns; his best-known piece is his memoir, Hole in the Sky (1992).

It's RUSSELL BAKER's birthday, born in 1925, in Loudon County, Virginia. His "Observer" column, which many people have read from the editorial page of the New York Times, won him the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Baker won another Pulitzer in 1982, this time for his memoir, Growing Up.

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
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