Jan. 13, 2000

A Vote For the Gentle Light

by Charles Bukowski

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: January 13, 2000

Poem: "A Vote For the Gentle Light" by Charles Bukowski from What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire published by Black Sparrow Press.

It's the birthday of novelist Jay McInerney, born in Hartford, Connecticut (1955). The son of an international sales executive who was transferred at least once a year, he attended 18 schools before starting high school in Massachusetts. At Williams College he majored in philosophy. After graduation he rambled around the U.S.A, went to Japan, took courses, taught English, and studied martial arts. He returned to America and spent a few months as a fact-checker for The New Yorker, then entered the creative writing program at Syracuse, where he met his wife, of whom he later said, "All my serious writing dates from the time I met my wife." His first novel was Bright Lights, Big City (1984).

On this day in 1941, Irish novelist James Joyce died in Zurich, Switzerland, following stomach surgery for an ulcerated duodenum. Many factors contributed to his ulcer: his beloved daughter Lucia's failing mental health; the mocking reception his mammoth novel Finnegans Wake was drawing; and his own encroaching blindness. While working on the final galley proofs of Finnegans Wake, he had used different-colored crayons and a large magnifying glass to read his notes. He was 58 years old.

It's the birthday of children's writer (Thomas) Michael Bond, born in Newbury, Berkshire, England (1926)—who created the 'Paddington Bear' series of books after coming upon a small stuffed bear on a shelf in a store the night before Christmas. Bond bought the bear, took him home, named him Paddington—the store was near Paddington Station—and began to write about him. Some of the Paddington titles are: Paddington Helps Out (1960), Paddington Takes the Air (1970), and Paddington Takes the Test (1979).

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 »