Oct. 22, 2000


by Gregory Djanikian

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 22 October 2000

Poem: "Meteor," by Gregory Djanikian, from Years Later (Carnegie Mellon University Press).

It's the anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. American spy planes over Cuba showed the Soviet Union installing nuclear missiles and launch sites. In a nationwide television address, President Kennedy announced that Cuba would be placed under what he called a naval "quarantine" until the missiles were removed. One-eighth of America's B-52s went in the air that night, ready to strike, and for a few days the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Then, on October 28, Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev withdrew the missiles.

It's the birthday of mystery writer Polly Whitney, born in St.Louis, Missouri (1948). Her first novel Until Death (1994) was nominated for an Agatha Award. Her other novels include Until the End of Time (1995) and Until It Hurts (1997).

It's the birthday of Doris Lessing, the British novelist and short-story writer born in Kermanshah, Persia, now Iran (1919). When she was 5 years old, her father took the family to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), near the border with Mozambique. Her first novel, The Grass is Singing (1950), is a study of white civilization in Africa, the theme of many of her early works. She wrote a semi-autobiographical series of novels, Children of Violence, that traces the life of a woman named Martha Quest from girlhood to middle-age. Her most popular novel is probably The Golden Notebook, published in 1962.

It's the anniversary of the Great Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918, which killed nearly 21 million people worldwide. The disease actually started that spring in China and was spread by the movement of sailors and soldiers fighting the last months of World War One; it was called the Spanish flu because in Spain it spread particularly fast. It was particularly difficult to deal with because no one knew exactly what influenza was, and because of the shortage of doctors following the War. It was on this day that fatalities reached their peak. All told, the flu killed a half-million Americans, 19,000 in New York City alone.

It's the birthday of actress Sarah Bernhardt, the greatest tragedienne of her day, born in Paris, 1844.

It's the birthday of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt, born at Raiding, Hungary (1811).

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 »