Feb. 3, 2000


by Howard Moss

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: February 3, 2000

Poem: "Shorelines" by Howard Moss from his New and Selected Poems published by Atheneum.

It's the birthday of the French essayist and philosopher SIMONE WEIL, in Paris (1909). She fought the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War, and then, during World War Two, worked with the French Resistance. She is best known for her three volumes of Notebooks, published in 1951, 8 years after her death, and for her collection of social essays, called The Need for Roots.

It's the birthday of novelist JAMES MICHENER, born in New York City (1907). Abandoned as an infant, he was raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania by a woman named Mabel Michener. He joined the Navy during the World War Two, and wrote about it in Tales of the South Pacific (Pulitzer Prize, 1948). He followed it with over 40 novels and non-fiction works that sold millions of copies. Michener was famous for his philanthropy, giving over $117 million to charities.

It's the birthday of avant-garde writer GERTRUDE STEIN, born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (1874). She lived in Paris most of her life, a self-proclaimed literary genius, writing such books as Tender Buttons (1914) and The Making of Americans (1911) in a style partly based on Picasso's cubist paintings. Most people found them unreadable. She responded: "People are not interested in what the present generation is thinking or painting or doing if it doesn't fit the enclosure of their personal apprehension. Present day geniuses can no more help doing what they're doing than you can help not understanding it, but if you think we do it for effect and to make a sensation, you're crazy." In addition to her writing, Stein was famous for the salon evenings she held in her Paris apartment. Many young American expatriate writers hung out there, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and Archibald MacLeish.

It's the birthday of editor and politician HORACE GREELEY, born in Amherst, New Hampshire (1811) — founder of The New York Tribune (1841), which championed educational reforms and labor cooperatives, and railed against liquor, gambling, and, most of all, slavery.

On this day in 1690, the FIRST PAPER MONEY IN AMERICA was issued by the colony of Massachusetts. The currency was used to pay soldiers fighting a war against Quebec.

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 »