Nov. 15, 2009


by Howard Nemerov

Prig offered Pig the first chance at dessert,
So Pig reached out and speared the bigger part.

"Now that," cried Prig, "is extremely rude of you!"
Pig, with his mouth full, said, "Wha, wha' wou' 'ou do?"

"I would have taken the littler bit," said Prig.
"Stop kvetching, then it's what you've got," said Pig.

           So virtue is its own reward, you see.
           And that is all it's ever going to be.

"Manners" by Howard Nemerov, from The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov. © Ohio University Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of graphic novelist Jessica Abel, (books by this author) born on this day in Chicago in 1969. Growing up, she liked the Wonder Woman comics, but she thought that most comics were just for boys, although she liked to sneak into her stepbrother's room and read his Daredevil and Electra books when he wasn't there. As a kid, she didn't exactly write comics, but she did illustrate a book about a monster that ate her favorite teacher. Her first real comic was for her freshman year at Carleton College, when she drew a comic book of Medea in outer space for her final on Ancient Greek literature. After that, she couldn't stop, and she attracted quite a few readers between 1992 and 1999 with her self-published comic Artbabe, about young hipsters in Chicago. Then she worked with Ira Glass to write and illustrate Radio: An Illustrated Guide (1999)about making This American Life. She also wrote La Perdida, published between 2001 and 2005, about a naïve young American hoping to find her roots in Mexico and become more like Frida Kahlo.

She said, "One thing I've figured out as I learn to teach art students to make comics is that my own method of making comics is at least unteachable, if not just plain unadvisable."

It's the birthday of novelist Brock Clarke, (books by this author) born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1968. He wrote An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England (2007), the story of an 18-year-old named Sam who accidentally burns down the Emily Dickinson house and kills two people, and spends some time in jail. When he gets out, he finds that along with a lot of hate mail, he has received letters from people all across the country asking Sam to come and burn down the houses of other dead famous writers from their local towns, writers whom for whatever reason they do not like. Soon, writers' houses across New England start getting burned down, and Sam gets blamed. So he goes on a mission to try and find out who is doing it, and why.

Brock Clarke is also the author of The Ordinary White Boy (2001), What We Won't Do (2002), and Carrying the Torch (2005).

It's the birthday of artist Georgia O'Keeffe, born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (1887). In 1923, she said, "One day seven years ago I found myself saying to myself — I can't live where I want to — I can't go where I want to go — I can't do what I want to — I can't even say what I want to … I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to."

It's the birthday of novelist Thomas Williams, (books by this author) born in Duluth, Minnesota (1926). He taught at the University of New Hampshire for more than 30 years, and he published a book of short stories and eight novels, most of them set in an imaginary town called Leah, New Hampshire. One of these Leah novels was The Hair of Harold Roux (1974), which won the National Book Award.

It's the birthday of science fiction writer J.G. Ballard, (books by this author) born in 1930 in Shanghai, where his father was working on business. During World War II, the Japanese occupied Shanghai, and Ballard and his family lived in an internment camp for three years. He gained a cult following for his novels, sometimes labeled science fiction, most of which are disturbing dystopias of a society obsessed with celebrities and sex and car crashes, novels like The Atrocity Exhibition (1969), Crash (1973), and Millennium People (2003). In 1984, he wrote Empire of the Sun, a novel based loosely on his own childhood in Shanghai, and it was a huge success, and in 1987 it was made into a movie starring John Malkovich and Christian Bale.

It's the birthday of poet Marianne Moore, (books by this author) born in Kirkwood, Missouri (1887). Moore was a celebrity, frequently appearing at baseball games and boxing matches dressed in her signature outfit: a cape and a tricorn hat. And she was well known outside poetry circles. She threw the first pitch in Yankee Stadium for the 1968 season. In 1955, the Ford company asked for her help in naming their newest car, although they eventually rejected her titles, which included "The Utopian Turtletop," "The Mongoose Civique," and "The Thunder Crester." Instead, they named it after Henry Ford's son, Edsel, and the car was a failure.

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 »