Monday

Oct. 11, 1999

Broadcast Date: MONDAY: October 11, 1999

Poem: "Delay" by Elizabeth Jennings from Collected Poems published by David Dufour Editions.

Today, the second Monday in October, is officially celebrated in the United States as Columbus Day—a holiday first observed in New York City in 1792, 300 years after Columbus' first landing on the Bahamian [bah-HAY-mee-an] island of Guanahani [gwah-nah-HAH-nee]—which he renamed El Salvador and claimed for the Spanish crown.

The premiere of the TV comedy show "Saturday Night Live"—now commencing its 25th season on the air—was broadcast on this date, at 11:30 PM, in 1975 (called "NBC's Saturday Night"). The first "Saturday Night" show was guest-hosted by comedian George Carlin and featured comic Andy Kaufman performing his famous 'Mighty Mouse' bit; the show's regular stars were Chevy Chase—with his satirical newscast and impressions of President Gerald Ford—Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, and Gilda Radner. The show was produced by Lorne Michaels, a young Canadian without much TV experience apart from some comedy performing.

It's the birthday of crime writer Elmore Leonard, born in New Orleans (1925). While writing ad copy in Detroit during the 1950s—work he hated—he wrote western novels in the morning before leaving for work. Hombre (1961), one of his 8 westerns, was voted among the 25 best western novels of all time by the Western Writers of America (1977). But by the early 1960s the genre had peaked in popularity. So he turned to writing crime novels. His first, The Big Bounce, was rejected by 84 publishers and film producers before appearing as a paperback original (Gold Medal Books, 1969). Some of his 27 crime novels include: Fifty-Two Pickup (1974), Swag (1976), Get Shorty (1990), Be Cool (1999). His understated, wisecracking style, he says, was less influenced by other crime writers than by Hemingway, Steinbeck, and John O' Hara. "I became a stylist by intentionally avoiding style. When I go back and edit and something sounds like writing, I rewrite it. I rewrite constantly, four pages in the basket for every one that survives."

It's the birthday of novelist Francois Mauriac [fraw-SWAH more-YOCK], born in Bordeaux, France (1885)—the author of tense, tightly constructed novels in a setting of unrelieved tension with devout Catholic heroes.

On this day in 1835, after a cleaning lady inadvertently burned his just-finished manuscript of Volume One of his masterpiece, The French Revolution, Thomas Carlyle started writing it again. He had lent his only copy to John Stuart Mill, who in turn showed it to a friend, who read it but left the pages in a jumble the charwoman mistook for trash and threw in the fire. Legend has it he rewrote Volume One (which would be published, to great acclaim, 4 years later) from memory.

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 »