Wednesday

Sep. 15, 1999

The Sunlight on the Garden

by Louis MacNeice

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: September 15, 1999

Poem: "The Sunlight on the Garden" by Louis Macneice, from Collected Poems, Faber and Faber.

Itís the birthday of James Fenimore Cooper, who was born in Burlington, New Jersey (1789) but grew up in Cooperstown, New York—founded by his father, a judge who built a house at the edge of the wilderness. From an early age, the boy was fascinated by Indians and the frontier. Today he is best known for his five Leatherstocking Tales, novels featuring Natty Bumppo, wilderness scout: The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841).

Itís the birthday of humorist and Broadway critic Robert (Charles) Benchley, born in Worcester [WUH-stir], Massachusetts (1889). He served as drama critic first for Life magazine (1920-29), then for The New Yorker (1929-40), from which he was fired for his heavy drinking. Next he went west to Hollywood, where he wrote and performed in 46 short films—one of which, "How to Sleep," won an Academy Award in 1935. He's known for these quotes, among many others: "Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of dying, he sings." "In America there are two classes of travel—first class and with children." "It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldnít give it up because by that time I was too famous."

Itís the birthday of detective writer Agatha Christie (Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie), born in Torquay, Devon (1890), author of 70 murder mysteries. She introduced the egotistical Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).

Itís the birthday of black American poet and novelist Claude McKay, born in Sunny Ville, Jamaica (1890)—who became a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance.

Itís the birthday of film director Jean Renoir [ruh-NWAHRR], born in Paris (1894). The son of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, he created the classic films Grand Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939), which included the famous line: "You see, in this world there is one awful thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons."

Itís the birthday of "psycho-biography" author Fawn M(cKay) Brodie, born in Ogden, Utah (1915)—who wrote biographies: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet (1971) Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (1974), and Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character (1981).

Today is Battle of Britain Day in England. On this day in 1940, the German Luftwaffe finally ended its longest daylight bombing campaign against British air bases, in a mistaken belief that it had shattered the RAF [Royal Air Force]—and shifted to attacking civilians in night attacks known as the Blitz.

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 »