Jun. 10, 2000

Broadcast Date: SATURDAY: June 10, 2000

Poem: "Leisure," by W.H. Davies (1871-1940).

On this day in 1943, the ballpoint pen was patented by the Hungarian inventor Laszlo Biro, in Argentina, where he had gone to escape the Nazis. In many countries the word for ballpoint pen is still simply "Biro."

It's the birthday of journalist and novelist Philip Caputo, born in Chicago (1941)—best known for A Rumor of War (1977), an account of his time as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam in the mid-sixties.

It's the birthday of children's book writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, born in Brooklyn (1928). A sickly child, he suffered measles and pneumonia at 2, scarlet fever at 4, and spent much of his childhood drawing pictures of life he saw outside his window. At 9 he hand-lettered and drew pictures for his stories on shirt cardboards bound with tape. He wrote and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), and many other books. He said,

"It is my involvement with the inescapable fact of childhood—the awful vulnerability of children, and their struggle to make themselves King of all Wild Things—that gives my work whatever truth and passion it may have."

It's the birthday of novelist James Salter, born in New York City (1925), author of Dusk: And Other Stories (1988), The Hunters (1957), A Sport and a Pastime (1967), Light Years (1976). His recent memoir is called Burning the Days (1998).

It's the birthday of journalist and novelist Nat(han Irving) Hentoff, born in Boston (1925).

Today is the birthday of Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm), born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (1922). She and her sisters changed their stage name to Garland; she took her new first name from the Hoagy Carmichael song "Judy."

It's the birthday of novelist .html title="Review of Invisible Man>Saul Bellow, born in Lachine, near Montreal (1915). His novels include Humboldt's Gift (1975 Pulitzer Prize), The Dean's December (1982), More Die of Heartbreak (1987), A Case of Love (1992), and The Actual (1997). He was the first novelist to win the National Book Award 3 times, for The Adventures of Augue March (1953), Herzog (1964), and Mr. Sammler's Planet (1971). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976.

It's the birthday of playwright Sir Terence Rattigan, born in London (1911)master of what is called the 'well-made play.' His father agreed to support him in a trial period of play-writing—after which, if he failed, he was to go into banking or the diplomatic service. Shortly before the trial period expired, he wrote a farce, French Without Tears (1936), which enjoyed one of the longest runs in the history of British theater.

"A novelist may lose his reader for a few pages—a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute."

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 »