Wednesday

Jul. 5, 2000

Complainin' Jack

by Shel Silverstein

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 5 July 2000

Poem
: "Complaininí Jack," by Shel Silverstein, from Falling Up (HarperCollins).

In 1965 on this day, bel canto soprano Maria Callas gave her last opera performance, singing Tosca at Convent Garden in London. She was 41.

On this day in 1945, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, having led Britain through the darkest days of World War Two, was soundly defeated in the general election. His Tory Party won 213 seats in the election; the labor party, led by Clement Attlee, won nearly twice as many--393 seats.

Today is the birthday of dancer and choreographer Eliot Feld, born in Brooklyn (1942). He danced in the New York City Balletís Nutcracker, and in both the Broadway and film versions of West Side Story. He was the founder of the American Ballet Company, later renamed the Eliot Feld Ballet.

Itís the birthday of avant-garde poet, playwright, and film director Jean Cocteau, born in Maisons-Laffitte, near Paris, best known for his films The Blood of the Poet (1932), and The Beauty and the Beast (1945).

On this day in 1880, George Bernard Shaw, a few weeks shy of 24, quit his job at the Edison Telephone Company in London to become a writer.

Today is the birthday of harpsichord virtuoso Wanda Landowska, born in Warsaw (1879), who, at the age of 70, recorded the complete preludes and fugues of Bachís Well Tempered Clavier.

Itís the birthday of astronomer and archaeologist Andrew Ellicott Douglass, born in Windsor, Vermont (1867), who established the principles of dendochronology--the analysis of tree rings to date and interpret events of the past. He theorized that variations in width of tree rings corresponded to sunspot activity.

Itís the birthday of hoax artist and circus impresario P.T. Barnum, born in Bethel, Connecticut (1810), who took up the circus business only in his sixties after a tireless career promoting everything from fake freaks--such as the "Feejee Mermaid," her purportedly human head topping the finned body of a fish--to a 25-inch tall midget he dubbed "General Tom Thumb." At 81, on his deathbed, he persuaded a New York newspaper to print his obituary so he could enjoy it before he died.

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 »