Dec. 8, 1999

The Three Goals

by David Budbill

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: December 8, 1999

Poem: "The Three Goals" by David Budbill from Moment to Moment, published by Copper Canyon Press.

It's the birthday of novelist Mary Gordon, born on Long Island (1949)—whose novels and short stories concern growing up Catholic in America, and how a Catholic daughter deals with guilt and piety. Her father, who had converted from Judaism to Catholicism, died when she was 8; her mother had suffered from polio from age 3. Mary Gordon's first novel, Final Payments (1978), features a woman who is 30 before she leaves home after caring for her dying father. Her most recent fiction includes The Rest of Life (3 novellas, 1993) and Spending, a 1998 novel. Mary Gordon, who said, "Even though life is quite a sad business, you can have a good time in the middle of it. I like to laugh, and I think the unsung, real literary geniuses of the world are people who write jokes. Both the Irish and Jews are very fatalistic, but they laugh a lot. Only the Protestants think that every day in every way, life is getting better and better. What do they know?"

It's the birthday of poet, story-writer and critic Delmore Schwartz, born in Brooklyn (1913)—who found fame with his very first book, published when he was 26: In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, a collection of short stories and lyric poems. Brilliant but mentally unstable, he served as the model for the title character in Saul Bellows novel Humboldt's Gift (1975).

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Richard Llewellyn (Richard Dafydd Vivian Llewellyn Lloyd), born in Pembrokeshire, Wales (1906). Best known for his novel, How Green Was My Valley (1939).

It's the birthday of cartoonist Elsie Crisler Segar, the creator of "Popeye;" he was born in Chester, Illinois (1894).

It's the birthday of humorist James (Grover) Thurber, born in Columbus, Ohio (1894)—a comic writer with an angry underbite. In 1927 he met E.B. White at a party and talked his way onto the staff of The New Yorker, which he influenced with his anecdotes, stories, and line sketches of predatory women, timid men and unlikely animals, mostly canine. He created the classic daydreaming hero in his story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947), and ridiculed psychoanalysis in a book written with E.B. White, Is Sex Necessary? (1929). Thurber, who went blind in mid-life, recalled his New Yorker career in a memoir, The Years With Ross (1959). He also wrote the children's books The 13 Clocks (1950) and The Wonderful O (1957).

It's the birthday of novelist Hervey [yes, HER-vey] Allen, born in Pittsburgh (1889)—whose historical novel Anthony Adverse (1933) took him 5 years to write. A fat novel, set in Napoleonic Europe, it included many characters and locales, had a complex plot and several passages that treated sexual matters more candidly than the public was then accustomed to reading about.

On this day in 1886, the American Federation of Labor was founded at a convention of union leaders in Columbus, Ohio. Samuel Gompers served as the AFL's first President, and remained its leader until 1924. Gompers: "The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. You can't weigh the soul of a man with a bar of pig iron."

It's the birthday of Queen Christina of Sweden, born in Stockholm (1626)—a proud and remarkable woman who stunned Europe by abdicating her throne after 10 years of rule. The day after giving up her crown to a cousin, she left for Rome where she became a Catholic.

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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