Tuesday

Jun. 19, 2001

Tuesday, 19 June 2001
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Hell," by David R. Slavitt from Falling from Silence: Poems (Louisiana State University Press).

Hell

Hell is very much like heaven except
that the furniture there has somehow been misarranged,
a pipe in a wall is leaking (the plumber again
has failed to show up), and the freezer compressor is shot
so that food is defrosting, and where is that serviceman?

Such trivial things! Surely, the great-souled and wise
seem not to mind, while we, other and lesser
(but honest about our feelings)...do we know better?
And must we keep still? Don't we have the right to complain?
But where is a pen that works? And where are my glasses?

It's the birthday of author Salman Rushdie, born to an affluent Muslim family in Bombay, India, in 1947. He was educated in England, and he worked as a freelance advertising copywriter for 10 years before publishing Midnight's Children in 1981, which won him the Booker Prize.

It's the birthday of Tobias Wolff, born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1945. He joined the army when he was 18, and learned Vietnamese. He was sent to Vietnam in 1967, and afterward, he studied hard to gain admittance to Oxford University. He wrote for the Washington Post, and then began writing fiction. His first book was In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, published in 1981. Tobias Wolff said: "You could say that all my characters are reflections of myself, in that I share their wish to count for something, and their utmost confusion as to how this is supposed to be done."

It's the birthday of the film critic Pauline Kael, born in Petaluma, California, in 1919. She was raised on a farm by her father, a Polish Jew, who loved going to the movies. She went to college at the University of California at Berkeley, and published her first movie review in the magazine City Lights. She contributed to dozens of magazines while she ran an art-film theater in Berkeley, and broadcast reviews on the radio. In 10 years, though, she made less than $2,000 reviewing films. She moved to New York City and freelanced for Life, Mademoiselle, and McCalls magazines and began an association with the New Yorker in 1968. She stayed there until she retired, in 1991, at the age of 72. Pauline Kael said: "The first prerogative of an artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself."

It's the birthday of the novelist and short-story writer Laura Z. Hobson, born in New York City in 1900. She is famous for her second novel, which came out in 1947, titled Gentleman's Agreement.

It's the birthday of novelist Elizabeth Seifert, born in Washington, Missouri, in 1898. She was the author of more than 80 novels, most of which have female doctor protagonists, and which enabled her to support her family and her husband, a disabled veteran.

It's the birthday of mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal born in Clermont, France, in 1623. He invented a digital calculator, studied hydrodynamics, invented the syringe, and developed the principle for the hydraulic press. "Pascal's principle" in physics states that if a fluid at rest in a closed container has pressure applied, the amount of pressure applied is applied equally to all parts of the fluid and the walls of the container. He once said: "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

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 Sharon Olds 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 »