Tuesday

Jan. 11, 2000

254 "Hope" is the thing with feathers

by Emily Dickinson

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: January 11, 2000

Poem: " 'Hope' is the thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson.

On this day in 1922, insulin was first used successfully on a human being. The patient, 13-year-old Leonard Thompson, was treated for diabetes at Toronto General Hospital. He had shown the first symptoms of the disease two years earlier, then had been put on a starvation diet, but had gone steadily downhill and was near death when doctors gave him the chance to try the new drug insulin. The boy made a remarkable recovery. He might have lived well into middle age, if not for a motorcycle accident several years later.

It's the birthday of performer and novelist Helen Howe, born in Boston (1905). She was a talented mimic, and performed across the country doing impressions of her characters: a gushing beauty specialist, the president of a garden club, an English girl conducting a rehearsal of madrigals—and the ditzy head of a girls' school, who presented a guest lecturer to her pupils in a speech full of inane non sequiturs. In her late thirties, Howe's first novel, The Whole Heart, was published; from then on she spent more time writing than performing. Her novel The Circle of the Day (1950), in which a woman discovers her husband's infidelity on their 10th anniversary, was a Literary Guild selection.

It's the birthday of mystery-writer-collaborator Manfred B. Lee (Manford Lepofsky), born in Brooklyn (1905)—half the writing duo that went by the joint name 'Ellery Queen,' also the name of their lead character. Lee's collaborator was his cousin, Frederic Dannay (original name Daniel Nathan), also from Brooklyn, who was born and raised just five blocks away. Together they wrote 33 Ellery Queen mysteries.

It's the birthday of novelist Alan (Stewart) Paton. [PAY-tn], born in Pietermaritzburg [pee-ter- MAR-itz-burg], South Africa (1903). He spent 20 years as teacher and headmaster of a reformatory for African boys. Visiting Norway, at the Trondheim [TRAWN-hame] Cathedral, looking at its rose window, he was overcome with homesickness and political despair and went to his hotel and began the first chapter of Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), the novel that informed the outside world about apartheid.

It's the birthday of novelist, historian, and critic Bernard De Voto, born in Ogden, Utah (1897), known especially for his writings on Mark Twain and his histories of the western frontier.

It's the birthday of novelist Alice Rice, born in Shelbyville, Kentucky (1870)—best known for her 1901 best-seller, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. The daughter of an art dealer, at 16 she worked in a Louisville Sunday school in a slum called Cabbage Patch. Ten years after her best-seller came out, with another woman she founded the Cabbage Patch Settlement House—which eventually included a paid staff and more than 100 volunteers. She wrote many other novels, and an autobiography, The Inky Way (1940).

It's the birthday of philosopher and psychologist William James, born in New York City (1842)—a leading spokesman of Pragmatism, a professor at Harvard, and a brother of novelist Henry James. In his most famous book, The Principles of Psychology (1890), James proposed that human consciousness works in an active, purposeful way to relate and organize thoughts, giving them a stream-like quality, and coined the term 'stream of consciousness.' William James said, "Thinking is what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." His other titles include: The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).

It's the birthday of Roman general and Emperor of the East, Theodosius [thee-oh-DOH- she-uhs] the Great, born in Spain (347 AD). He fixed orthodox Christianity as the Empire's official religion, and established the Nicene [NIGH-seen] Creed.

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 Sharon Olds 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 »