Sep. 27, 2000

A Blessing

by James Wright

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 27 September 2000

"A Blessing," by James Wright, from Above the River: The Complete Poems of James Wright (Noonday Press / The University of New England Press).

It's the birthday of writer Joyce Johnson, born Joyce Glassman in New York City (1935). She ran away to Greenwich Village when she was still a teenager, and got to know people at the center of the emerging Beat Generation. Her troubled, two-year affair with Jack Kerouac is recounted in her memoir, Minor Characters, A Young Woman's Coming of Age in the Beat Orbit of Jack Kerouac (1999) which won a National Book Critics Circle Award. She recently published Doors Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters 1957-1958, the letters she and Kerouac exchanged during their relationship.

It's the birthday of the jazz pianist and composer Bud (Earl) Powell, born into a musical family in New York City (1924). He dropped out of school at fifteen and began playing music professionally, making his recording debut at twenty. He was one of the preeminent bebop musicians -- the keyboard counterpart of saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. He died at age forty-three -- a death hastened by both tuberculosis and alcoholism. His recording sessions for the Blue Note label in 1949 and 1951 are considered legendary.

It's the birthday of the British physiologist and medical researcher Robert (Geoffrey) Edwards, born in Witney, Oxfordshire, England (1925). With his colleague Patrick Steptoe at the Centre for Human Reproduction in Oldham, England, he perfected a technique for the in vitro fertilization of the human egg, making possible the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first "test-tube baby," in 1978.

It's the birthday of writer and attorney Louis (Stanton) Auchincloss, born in Lawrence, Long Island, New York (1917). He went to law school, took a position in a Wall Street firm, then wrote his first novel, The Indifferent Children (1947). While continuing to practice law, he has produced a number of novels set in the upper strata of New York society, including A Law for the Lion (1952), The House of Five Talents (1960), and The Embezzler (1966). His most recent work is Her Infinite Variety, published last month.

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
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