Sunday

Nov. 21, 1999

Martial, the Things For To Attain

by Henry Howard

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: November 21, 1999

Poem: "Martial, the Things For To Attain" from Martialís Epigrams by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

The PILGRIMS landed in what is now Provincetown on this day in 1620, two days after sighting Cape Cod. The 102 passengers had been onboard the Mayflower since September 16, 65 days.

It's VOLTAIRE's birthday, the French writer born in Paris, 1694 as Francois-Marie Arouet (frawn-SWAH mah-REE ahr-WAY). He came from a middle-class family and went to school to become a lawyer. But he was bored with law, and left school to try writing. His first pieces were tragedies for the theater, and he actually kept writing plays for the rest of his life. But he became infamous as a critic of the French government and church in his essays and poems. He was thrown in prison when he was in his early 20s for these. He spent three years in England in exile, then came back to Paris and again spoke out against the government and church, and was forced to flee once more. He died at 83, and his last 25 years or so were spent in Switzerland where he wrote his best known work, the satire Candide.

It's the birthday in 1929, New York City, of novelist MARILYN FRENCH, author of The Women's Room (1977). French was married with children when she picked up a copy of Simone de Beauvoir's feminist treatise The Second Sex in the early 1960s. The part in the book where de Beauvoir talks about women consistently postponing their writing careers to raise families particularly struck French: she divorced, went back to school and got a doctorate at Harvard, and began writing short stories. Her other books include The Bleeding Heart (1980), the nonfiction title, The War against Women (1992), and last year's memoir, A Season in Hell.

It's the birthday in 1933, Liverpool, of British writer BERYL BAINBRIDGE, author of The Dressmaker (1974), An Awfully Big Adventure (1992), and Every Man for Himself (1996) — stories about the lives and neuroses of the English lower-middle class. Bainbridge was an actress for 15 years before she began writing in the late 1950s, and when an editor returned the manuscript of her first novel with "rotten" scrawled on it, she quit writing and went back to acting. But she picked it up again in the 1970s, and is now one of England's best-known fiction writers, producing novels and short story collections at the rate of one a year; her latest, Master Georgie, came out last year. When asked to describe herself, says she is a "lapsed Catholic who, for hobbies, paints, sleeps, and smokes."

It's the anniversary of the ALCAN HIGHWAY, opened in 1942, connecting Fairbanks, Alaska and Dawson Creek, British Columbia, some 1,500 miles.

NEW YORK'S VERRAZANO NARROWS BRIDGE, connecting Brooklyn with Staten Island over New York harbor, opened on this day in 1964 was the world's longest suspension bridge, a title it held until 1981.

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 »