Jul. 20, 2000

Constant North, The

by J. F. Hendry

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 20 July 2000

"The Constant North," by J.F. Hendry.
  • On this day in 1969, man first walked on the moon. About 600 million people watched the black-and-white images on television, as astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped down from the Apollo 11 landing craft, onto the surface of the moon. Nineteen minutes later, he was joined by Colonel Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., and the two astronauts bounded around the moon's surface. When they departed, they left behind a plaque signed by President Richard Nixon that said, "We came in peace for all mankind."

    It's the birthday of American novelist Cormac McCarthy, born Charles McCarthy in Providence, Rhode Island (1933), the son of a lawyer who worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Throughout his career, he has actively avoided public attention, refusing to participate in lecture tours and seldom granting interviews. "Of all the subjects I'm interested in [talking about]," he says ". . .writing is way, way down at the bottom of the list." His sixth book, All The Pretty Horses (1992), won the National Book Award for Fiction, and found him a popular following and a place on the best-seller lists. It was the first of three books known as The Border Trilogy, which includes The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1998).

    On this day in 1869, Innocents Abroad was published, firmly establishing its author, Mark Twain, as a serious writer. The book, Twain's second, was an outgrowth of an assignment from a California newspaper, which had sent him around the world to write travel sketches. It remained his best selling book throughout his lifetime.

    It's the birthday of English physician Sir Thomas Allbutt, born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England (1836). He practiced medicine in Leeds for 28 years, and contributed much to our understanding and treatment of nervous and arterial disorders. He introduced the modern, short version of the clinical thermometer, and was the first to surmise that the painful heart condition known as angina pectoris originates in the aorta. A noted medical historian, his main contribution to his field was an eight-volume treatise called Systems of Medicine (1896-99).

    It's the birthday of religious leader Anne Hutchinson, born in Alford, Lincolnshire, England (1591). She emigrated to Massachusetts, where she chafed under the harsh Puritanical rules that gave no voice to women, and because she expressed this opinion - not openly, but in her own meetings - she was tried and convicted of holding disorderly meetings and banished from the state.

    It's the birthday of Italian scholar, poet and Humanist Petrarch, born Francesco Petrarca, in Arezzo, Tuscany (1304). He studied in Bologna and in Avignon, where he became a clergyman and entered the household of an influential cardinal. It was in Avignon that he first saw Laura - possibly Laura de Noves - who was married, but who inspired him with a great passion. It was to Laura that he wrote his sonnets, collected in the book Canzoniere.

    Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®


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    • “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
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    • “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
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    • “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
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