Jul. 14, 2000

Catch, A

by Henry Aldrich

Drinking Song, A

by William Butler Yeats

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 14 July 2000

"A Drinking Song," by William Butler Yeats; and, "A Catch," by Henry Aldrich (1647-1710).

In France, July 14th is the national holiday Bastille Day. In 1789 on this date, after two days of rioting, Parisians stormed the state prison-the Bastille-and freed the prisoners held there.

It's the birthday of Arthur Laurents, born in Brooklyn (1918). He wrote the book for the musical West Side Story (1957), and then the book for Gypsy (1959).

Today is the birthday of film and stage director (Ernst) Ingmar Bergman, born in Uppsala, Sweden (1918), the son of a Lutheran minister. His films include Through a Glass Darkly (1961, Oscar), Winter Light (1963) and The Silence (1963) and The Seventh Seal (1957). In 1983, when many assumed his film career had ended, he astounded them with his exuberant autobiographical film Fannie and Alexander, which won 4 Oscars, including Best Foreign Film.

It's the birthday of novelist Natalia Ginzburg, born in Palermo, Italy (1916). She wrote her first novella, The Road to the City (1942), using a pen name to get around anti-Jewish publishing laws. She also wrote The Dry Heart (1947), A Light for Fools (1952), and other books.

It's the birthday of songwriter/singer Woody Guthrie (Woodrow Wilson Guthrie), born in Okemah, Oklahoma (1912). He wrote many songs, including "This Land is Your Land," and "Pastures of Plenty."

Today is the birthday of novelist Isaac Balshevis Singer, born in a small flour-milling town 15 miles northeast of Warsaw, Poland (1904). At 31, he was alarmed by the rise of Nazism, and moved to New York. "My first impression was that here Yiddish literature was dead. It took me five years to convince myself that Yiddish is still very much alive." He wrote stories about lonely immigrants, old men in cafeterias, life in Miami, and life on the sidewalks of New York's Upper West Side. He wrote for New York's Yiddish paper, The Jewish Daily Forward, which published many of his novels in serialized form. Even after decades in America, he still wrote first in Yiddish and then translated them into English.

"God gave us so many emotions, and such strong ones-every human being, even if he is an idiot, is a millionaire in emotions."

It's the birthday of Irving Stone (Irving Tennenbaum), born in San Francisco (1903). While living in France, he encountered the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, which he described as the single most emotional experience of his life. He decided to write a fictionalized biography of the painter, and when it was published, in 1934, Lust for Life became a best-seller. He also wrote The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961), a life of Michelangelo.

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 »