Tuesday

Apr. 4, 2000

Solitaire

by John Updike

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: April 4, 2000

Poem: "Solitaire," by John Updike, from Collected Poems 1953-1993 (Alfred A. Knopf).

On this day in 1968, REVEREND MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., WAS ASSASSINATED in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had gone to support the city's sanitation workers in their strike for better working conditions. At 6 in the evening, as he stood at the railing of his motel balcony, chatting with friends the next floor down, a gunman shot him dead.

It's the birthday of writer and performer MAYA ANGELOU, born in Long Beach, California (1928). At age 3 she was sent to live her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas—which served as the starting point for her autobiographical memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). The book describes Angelou's rape when she was 8, goes on to describe the St. Louis phase of her childhood when she stayed with her glamorous, dynamic mother—a nightclub performer—and concludes with the birth of her illegitimate son.

It's the birthday of Blues great MUDDY WATERS (McKinley Morganfield), born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi (1915). In 1941 he recorded blues songs for folklorist Alan Lomax. But it wasn't until he moved north to Chicago, and combined his early delta blues with electric guitar and drums, that his style emerged. The title of his song "Rolling Stone" was chosen as the name for an English rock group, and for the title of a commercial rock magazine. His other hits include "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Caledonia."

It's the birthday of novelist MARGUERITE DURAS, born in Gia Dinh, Vietnam (1914). She studied at a prestigious lycee in Saigon, then went to Paris to study law and politics at the Sorbonne. She wrote the screenplay for Alain Resnais' film Hiroshima Mon Amor (1959). Her novel The Lover (1984), published when she was 70, was her greatest literary triumph; it won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt. It's the semi-autobiographical story of a French high school girl, living in Vietnam, who has an affair with a Chinese man twice her age.

It's the birthday of playwright and historian ROBERT SHERWOOD, born in New Rochelle, New York (1896). He was a member of the Algonquin round table, and was a popular playwright in the thirties—he wrote The Petrified Forest (1935), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938), and There Shall Be No Night (1940) among others. In the forties he became FDR's chief speechwriter, and later wrote his historical account, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (1949). He also wrote the screenplay for the film The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

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 »