Jan. 26, 2013


by Philip Booth

So, there's no way to be sure. Not
about much of anything. No more about
anyone else than ourselves. Perhaps
not even of death, except that it's bound
to happen. To you, yes; to me, us: the lot
of humankind, given how humankind sees it
from this near side. So what.

So nothing that we here and now
can perfectly know. Save, though the lens
our eyes raise, the old here and now.
The this, the already-going that moves us.
The red-shift we're constantly part of.
And why not? Between what we were, and
are going to be, is who and how we best love.

"So" by Philip Booth, from Selves. © Viking, 1990. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Jules Feiffer (books by this author), born in the Bronx (1929). He said that when he was young, "the only thing I wanted to be was grown up. Because I was a terrible flop as a child. You cannot be a successful boy in America if you cannot throw or catch a ball." By the time he was a teenager, he wanted to be a comic-strip artist, so he got a job working for the cartoonist Will Eisner. Feiffer said the job was "ten dollars a week part time — erasing pages, filling in blanks, and dreaming great dreams."

He was drafted into the Army, and when he got back he wrote a cynical cartoon strip about a four-year-old who is drafted by mistake. No major newspapers would buy it. So he gave up and submitted the strip to a new weekly in his neighborhood called The Village Voice.

His strip in The Village Voice was one of the first to deal with adult themes. His cartoons are collected in books such as Feiffer's Marriage Manual (1967) and Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency (1974).

It's the birthday of British playwright Christopher Hampton (books by this author), born in Faial in the Azores archipelago (1946). His father was an engineer for a British communications company and got sent all over the world. His parents were interested in sports and social events. Hampton said, "I was the odd one out in the family, this small boy with thick glasses who read all the time." He went to Oxford, studied modern languages — and wrote a play, When Did You Last See My Mother? Which was performed at Oxford and made its way to the West End, and at the age of 20, Hampton was the youngest playwright ever to have a play produced on the West End.

He continued to write plays, including the comedy The Philanthropist when he was 23. Hampton said: "I had a conversation with my agent after The Philanthropist. She said, 'You've got a choice: You can write the same play over and over for the next 30 years, and you'll probably get even better at it, or you can decide to do something completely different every time.' So I said, 'As a matter of fact, I have started writing a play about the extermination of the Brazilian Indians in the 1960s.' And she said, 'Well, that'll do it, dear.'"

He wrote the movie Dangerous Liaisons and also about 20 films that never got produced. He co-wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Sunset Boulevard, adapted Chekhov's The Seagull for the stage, wrote the screenplay for the film Atonement (2007), adapted from Ian McEwan's novel; and translated several plays by French playwright Yasmina Reza, including 'Art ' (1994) and God of Carnage (2006).

He said, "Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs."

It's the birthday of the songwriter Lucinda Williams, born in Lake Charles, Louisiana (1953). Who says, "Above all, the listener should be able to understand the poem or the song, not be forced to unravel a complicated, self-indulgent puzzle. Offer your art up to the whole world, not just an elite few."

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
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  • “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
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