Monday

Dec. 1, 2008

Driving into Our New Lives

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Years ago, driving across the mountains
in West Virginia, both of us are so young
we don't know anything. We are twenty-eight
years old, our children sleeping in the back seat.
With your fresh Ph.D. in your suitcase, we head out
toward Kansas City. We've never been anywhere.
We decide to go the long way around
instead of driving due west.

Years ago, driving across mountains, your
hand resting on my knee, the radio playing the folk
music we love, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, or you
singing songs to keep the children entertained.
How could we know what is to come?

We are young. We think we'll be healthy
and strong forever. We are certain we are invincible
because we love each other, because our children
are smart and beautiful, because we are heading

to a new place, because the stars
in the coal-black West Virginia sky are so thick,
they could be chunks of ice.
How could we know what is to come?

"Driving into Our New Lives" by Maria Gillan, from All That Lies Between Us. © Guernica Editions Inc. 2007 Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the front of a bus to a white passenger. A relatively unknown young pastor, Martin Luther King Jr., took up her cause and called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company, which lasted 382 days. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of buses was unconstitutional.

It was on this day in 1860 that the first installment of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations was published. Dickens needed money. He had recently purchased a mansion, he had separated from his wife and had to pay her separate living expenses, his children needed allowances, and he had founded a magazine called All the Year Round, and its sales were dropping. So he decided to write a new novel. He published it as a serial in All the Year Round, and by the final installment, it sold more than 100,000 copies.

It's the birthday of the writer John Crowley, (books by this author) born in 1942 in Presque Isle, Maine. His most famous novel is Little, Big (1981). It's a fantasy story, full of fairies and enchantment, but it's also an epic saga of a New England family, complete with historical details. The critic Harold Bloom chose Little, Big as one of the books that changed his life. He said, "I have read and reread Little, Big at least a dozen times, and always am startled and refreshed." John Crowley has a cult following, and his novels always get great reviews, but they still don't sell very well, partly because they're so hard to categorize.

It's the birthday of director and screenwriter Woody Allen, born in Brooklyn (1935). His parents wanted him to become a doctor or a dentist. Woody Allen said, "I loathed every day and regret every day I spent in school." And sure enough, he would come home from school each day, go into his bedroom, and shut the door. He did magic tricks, he played clarinet, he watched films. And eventually, he started submitting jokes to gossip columnists. He went to NYU, but he was expelled because he never went to class.

He made some movies, but when he was 40, he felt like a failure. So he decided to try a new kind of film, which he called Anhedonia. It was several hours long, and it had almost no plot. He ended up cutting out almost everything except scenes with Diane Keaton, who played the love interest. So he named the movie after her character, Annie Hall (1977), and it won Academy Awards for best picture, best director, and best actress. Woody Allen said, "It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens."

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 »