Jan. 22, 2001

Lending Out Books

by Hal Sirowitz

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 22 January 2001

Poem: "Lending Out Books," by Hal Sirowitz, from My Therapist Said (Crown).

Lending Out Books

You're always giving, my therapist said.
You have to learn how to take. Whenever
you meet a woman, the first thing you do
is lend her your books. You think she'll
have to see you again in order to return them.
But what happens is, she doesn't have the time
to read them, & she's afraid if she sees you again
you'll expect her to talk about them, & will
want to lend her even more. So she
cancels the date. You end up losing
a lot of books. You should borrow hers.

On this day in 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision for the case Roe v. Wade in favor of the plaintiff Norma McCorvey, a Texas woman using the name "Jane Roe." The defendant was Henry Wade, the district attorney from Dallas, who, by Texas law, was responsible for enforcing antiabortion statutes.The Supreme Court's decision made abortion legal in the U.S. and invalidated all laws in all states that restricted access to abortions during the first trimester, or three months, of pregnancy.The decision was split, 7-2. Six judges joined Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote for the majority, saying: "In a line of decisions ... the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy ... does exist under the Constitution.These decisions make it clear that ... the right has some extension to activities relating to marriage...procreation... relationships...and child rearing. The right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty...or ... in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy."

On this day in 1953, "The Crucible," Arthur Miller's play about the Salem witch hunts, premiered in New York City.The production received mixed reviews, but went on to become Miller's most performed play.

It's the birthday of writer Joseph Wambaugh, born in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1937). The son of a police officer, Wambaugh followed in his dad's footsteps, wearing the uniform of the Los Angeles Police Department for 14 years.He wrote realistic books about the daily life of policemen, including The Onion Field, The New Centurions, The Blue Knight, and The Choir Boys.

It's the birthday today of poet Howard Moss, born in New York City (1922).He worked as an English teacher, a fiction editor, and then went to work for the New Yorker magazine, where he was the poetry editor for nearly forty years.

Today is known as "Bloody Sunday" in Russia. On the afternoon of this day in 1905, 150,000 unarmed factory workers marched to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, home of Czar Nicholas II. They were on strike, and carried with them a petition asking for an eight-hour work day, improved working conditions, medical care, and better pay for women. The organizers had written the Czar's minister the day before, notifying him of their intent to assemble and asking that Nicholas "come forth like a true czar, with courage in his heart, to meet his People and take unto his hands our petition." They were protesting peacefully when troops opened fire, killing hundreds, and wounding thousands of others. Vladimir Lenin hailed the January events—the strike and the massacre—as the beginning of the revolution.

It's the birthday of choreographer and dancer George Balanchine, born Georgi Balanchivadze, in St. Petersburg, Russia (1904).His father was a composer who studied under Rimsky-Korsakov, so Balanchine knew music well by the time he took up dance.He studied at the Maryinsky Theater's ballet school and at age 20 joined Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris.In 1933 he moved to New York, where in the next few decades, he helped to found the American Ballet Company, and the New York City Ballet. Balanchine's motto was "Music must be seen, and dance must be heard."

It's the birthday of pioneer movie-maker D(avid) W(ark) Griffith, born in Floydsfork, Kentucky (1875).He made Birth of a Nation (1915; originally called The Clansmen), Intolerance (1916), and Broken Blossoms (1919), and many other films.

It's the birthday of playwright August Strindberg, born in Stockholm, Sweden (1849), a deeply troubled man who seemed most productive when he was in a state of near nervous collapse.He wrote The Father (1887), Miss Julie (1888),A Dream Play (1902), The Ghost Sonata (1907), and other plays.

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 »