Jan. 31, 2000

The Proverb as Warning

by Diana Der-Hovanessian

Broadcast Date: MONDAY: January 31, 2000

Poem: "The Proverb As Warning" by Diana Der-Hovanessian from The Circle Dancers published by The Sheep Meadow Press.

It's novelist NORMAN MAILER'S birthday, Long Branch, New Jersey (1923). Mailer made it big when he was 25 years old with his first novel, The Naked and the Dead (1948). The book, about his experiences in the Pacific during World War II, was number one on the best-seller list for 11 straight weeks. Critics hit his next books hard, but he rebounded in the late 60s with The Armies of the Night (1968) (about Vietnam War protests); then again ten years later with The Executioner's Song (1979) about death-row inmate Gary Gilmore — both of which won the Pulitzer Prize. Writing about himself in the third person, he said: "There was no villainy in obscenity for him, just his love for America. He had come to love what editorial writers were fond of calling the democratic principle, with its faith in the common man. He found that principle and that man in the Army, but what none of the editorial writers ever mentioned was that the noble common man was as obscene as an old goat, and his obscenity was what saved him. The sanity was in his humor; his humor was in his obscenity."

It's the birthday of the Trappist monk and writer THOMAS MERTON, in the city of Prades (PROD), in the south of France (1915) In 1941 entered the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsamani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, southeast of Louisville about a half-hour, where he remained for the rest of his life. He is best remembered for his early memoir, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), which became an international best seller right about the time he was building a shack deep in the monastery woods where he could live in total seclusion. Aside from writing, he said his interests were: "Zen. Indians. Wood. Birds. Beer. Subversive tape recordings for nuns. Tea. Bob Dylan."

It's the birthday of novelist JOHN O'HARA, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania (1905) the town he renamed Gibbsville in a series of novels and short stories. He said, "There is no greater theme than men and women." From 1955 until he died in 1970, he averaged one novel a year. "You must always leave a chance for a sequel. People die, love dies — but life does not, and so long as people live, stories must have life at the end."

It's the birthday of Wild West novelist, ZANE GREY, born in Zanesville, Ohio (1872). He published 50 novels and sold millions. His biggest hit was Riders of the Purple Sage (1912).

It's composer FRANZ SCHUBERT's birthday (Vienna, 1797). He spent his whole life in Vienna, producing nine symphonies, dozens of string quartets and piano works, and over 600 songs. But he died at 31, disappointed that he hadn't succeeded as an opera composer.

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
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  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
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  • “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
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  • “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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