Jul. 10, 2001

the way it is now

by Charles Bukowski

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "the way it is now," by Charles Bukowski from Open All Night (Black Sparrow Press).

the way it is now

I'll tell you
I've lived with some gorgeous women
and I was so bewitched by those
beautiful creatures that
my eyebrows twitched.

but I'd rather drive to New York
than to live with any of them

the next classic stupidity
will be the history
of those fellows
who inherit my female

in their case
as in mine
they will find
that madness
is caused by not
being often enough

It's the birthday of the writer Alice Munro, born in Wingham, Ontario, in 1931. She established herself with her first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades, which was published in 1968. She has published many books since then, including The Progress of Love, Friend of My Youth, and Open Secrets, stories set in the small towns and countryside of southwestern Ontario.

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Jean Kerr, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1923. She had a long-running hit with the play Mary, Mary in 1961, but she was most famous for her book Please Don't Eat the Daisies, a comic look at suburban family life.

It's the birthday of writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley, born in London in 1875. He invented the light verse form known as the clerihew, two couplets in which the first rhyme is provided by a name. For example:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
If anybody calls,
Say I am designing St. Paul's."

It was a weakness of Voltaire's
To forget to say his prayers.
And one which, to his shame,
He never overcame.

Bentley also wrote a detective novel, Trent's Last Case, in 1913, in which he created a rather slipshod detective to counter what he thought of as the implausibility of Sherlock Holmes. It was the first mystery novel that used the psychology of the characters to provide clues to the crime. It is still in print today.

It's the birthday of novelist Marcel Proust, born in Paris in 1871. His great work is the multi-volume novel, Remembrance of Things Past, which was written between 1913-27. He wrote most of it in bed, in a room lined with cork to keep out noise, going out rarely, and then usually at night. He left Paris only for infrequent trips to the seashore, where he would stay in rooms with the windows shut tight. He worked on it furiously despite his poor health, managing to finish a draft and see the publication of the first three volumes. Three more appeared after his death in Paris from pneumonia and bronchitis in 1922.

It's the birthday of humorist and journalist Finley Peter Dunne, born in Chicago in 1867, the creator of Mr. Dooley. The son of Irish immigrants, he had worked for various Chicago newspapers when he created the character of an Irish saloonkeeper as a mouthpiece for his reformist views. Spoken in a thick brogue, Mr. Dooley's acerbic observations on politics and society were soon syndicated nationally. One of Mr. Dooley's favorite targets was Theodore Roosevelt, noting once that Roosevelt's self-promoting book, The Rough Riders, should have been titled Alone in Cuba. Mr. Dooley, who said, "No matther whether th' constitution follows th' flag or not, th' supreme coort follows th' iliction returns," and "Thrust ivrybody, but cut th' cards."

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 »