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Poem: "To His Lover, That She Be Not Overdressed" by X.J. Kennedy from The Lords of Misrule. (Johns Hopkins University Press). (buy now)

To His Lover, That She Be Not Overdressed

And why take ye thought for raiment?
—Matthew 6:28

The lilies of the field
That neither toil nor spin
Stand dazzlingly revealed
In not a thing but skin

And in that radiant state
Sheer essences they wear.
Take heed, my fashion plate.
Be so arrayed. Go bare.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris. It was one of the most audacious art thefts of all time. Vincenzo Peruggia walked into the museum, headed straight for the world's most famous painting, took it off the wall, hid it beneath his clothes, and walked out. The whole nation of France was stunned. There was a popular rumor in Paris that the Germans had stolen da Vinci's masterpiece to humiliate the French. Police had no leads until two years later, when Peruggia tried to ransom the painting. He was caught, the painting was unharmed, and the Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre, where it still is today, with much better security.

On this day in 1858, the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates began in Illinois. Slavery was once again becoming a big issue in America after a quiet forty years since the Missouri Compromise, which banned slavery in territories north of the 36°30' latitude. But in 1858, there was argument about whether slavery should be allowed in Kansas and Nebraska, and the Republican Party had been formed largely to keep slavery out of the western territories.

When Lincoln received the Republican nomination to run against democrat Stephen A. Douglas for the U.S. Senate, he said, referring to the question of slavery "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Douglas called Lincoln a radical, and Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of seven debates around Illinois. Each debate lasted three hours. Crowds in the thousands turned out, and newspapers covered the story across the country. Douglas won the election, but during the debates Lincoln had forced him into a position that alienated southern Democrats. Meanwhile, Lincoln won national fame as an eloquent speaker, and when he faced Douglas again in the 1860 presidential race, Lincoln was victorious, becoming the first Republican to be elected to the White House.

It's the birthday of novelist Robert Stone, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn (1937). His first novel, A Hall of Mirrors (1968), was based on time he spent in New Orleans bouncing around from job to job. His second novel, Dog Soldiers (1974), about corruption and the Vietnam War, won the National Book Award. His latest novels are Damascus Gate (1998) and Bay of Souls (2003). Stone said, "I start early in the morning. I'm usually out in the woods with the dog as soon as it gets light; then I drink a whole lot of tea and start as early as I can, and I go as long as I can."

It's the birthday of jazz great Count (William) Basie, born in Red Bank, New Jersey (1904). He started out on the vaudeville circuit through the Midwest and got stranded in Kansas City. He fell in love with the hard-driving jazz there, and became leader of a nine-piece band. One night, while the band was broadcasting on a Kansas City radio station, the announcer called him "Count" to say that he was a jazz "aristocrat," like Duke Ellington. Those broadcasts launched his career. Other pianists were famous for their flashy style, but Basie was known for playing his solos as simply as possible. One of his band members said, "Count don't do nothin'. But it sure sounds good." His classic songs included, "Basie Boogie," "Shorty George," and "One O'Clock Jump."

It's the birthday of poet X. J. Kennedy, (books by this author) born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey (1929). He served in the Navy, where his job was to take pictures of sailors on destroyers for their hometown newspapers. On long cruises he could finish his work in a few days, so for the first time in his life he started writing a lot of poetry. He took the pen name X.J. while he was on a ship with a name similar to his own, the U.S.S. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

The crew gave him a hard time about his name, and when he sent his poems to magazines he used the pen name. The New Yorker was the first to publish him, so he thought the "X" was good luck and he kept it. Kennedy's books include Nude Descending a Staircase (1961) and The Lords of Misrule (2002). He is also the author of textbooks and books of poetry for children, including Exploding Gravy: Poems to Make You Laugh (2002).

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Poem: "For a Sleepless Child" by Peter Schmitt from Country Airport (Copper Beech Press). (buy now)

For a Sleepless Child

If your room is ever too dark,
small one, look out through your window
up at the moon, that little bulb
left on for you in the sky's black wall.
It will still be there come morning,
burning in a bright room of blue.

And if your room, restless one,
is much too still, listen to the clatter
of the freight, rattling past trestles
on the cool night breeze. Then follow
the moon to the side of the tracks,
where the train is a long, slow dream

you can jump on. An open car
is waiting for you—one step up—
you're on! Now watch the dark towns, the lights
deep in the porches, and lie down
in the soft straw, and sleep till morning,
when the train chugs into station,

noisy with birds and wires overhead.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of (Edna) Annie Proulx, (books by this author) born in Norwich, Connecticut (1935). She was virtually unknown until the early 1990s, when she burst on to the literary scene, publishing her first novels, Postcards (1992) and The Shipping News (1993) in her late fifties. She said she doesn't regret becoming a writer later than most people because, she said, she knows a lot more about life than she did twenty years ago. She said, "I think that's important, to know how the water's gone over the dam before you start to describe it. It helps to have been over the dam yourself."

She had a reckless past: She tried to leap over a barbed-wire fence and didn't make it; she ran away through the rain on the eve of her wedding and found herself lying on a railroad bridge in front of an oncoming train; she got caught in a thunderstorm on her third flying lesson; she threw a knife at someone she thought she hated; she swam across a lake while she was eight months pregnant; she was speeding and rolled a car late one night.

She moved to Vershire, Vermont, and founded a newspaper called Vershire Behind the Times. She wanted to write fiction, but there wasn't any money in it. Still, when she wasn't fishing or canoeing, she wrote one or two short stories a year, set in rural towns in New England, and she was able to sell most of them to magazines. Those stories became her first book, Heart Songs and Other Stories (1988).

Proulx's contract for Heart Songs stipulated that she produce a novel. She said she had no desire to write a novel, or even a clue about how to do it. Then one day she found herself drawn to some old postcards from the 1930s and '40s that featured mug shots of escaped convicts. One photograph that caught her eye was of a handsome man with wavy hair, and she said that within a half-hour of sitting down to write, she had her whole novel, Postcards (1992), in her head. It's about a man named Loyal Blood, who accidentally kills his girlfriend, abandons his family on their little Vermont farm, and escapes to a life of adventure on the road.

Proulx does extensive research for her novels. To get the Newfoundland dialect right for The Shipping News (1993), she said she "literally slept with" the Dictionary of Newfoundland English for two years. She said, "This is the point in work. You get it right, or you don't do it. Everything depends on your getting it right." Proulx's books include Accordion Crimes (1996), Close Range: Wyoming Stories (1999), and Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 (2002).

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, (books by this author) born in Waukegan, Illinois (1920). He's the author of the classic The Martian Chronicles (1950), about humans who colonize and corrupt a Martian civilization. His novels include Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962); Dandelion Wine (1957), about a boyhood in the fictional Green Town, Illinois; and Fahrenheit 451 (1953), which is set in a future where reading is forbidden and people called "firemen" burn books.

It's the birthday of cartoonist George Herriman, (books by this author) born in New Orleans, Louisiana (1880). He became a cartoonist after he fell off a scaffold and couldn't paint houses for a living anymore. The basic plot of his Krazy Kat and Ignatz strip was simple. It was a love story: Krazy Kat loved Ignatz Mouse, but Ignatz just threw bricks at him. Offisa Pup loved Krazy and tried to protect him and throw Ignatz in jail. The strip appeared in the papers of William Randolph Hearst for more than thirty years and became a classic.

It's the birthday of poet and short-story writer Dorothy Parker, (books by this author) born in West End, New Jersey (1893). In 1920, she was fired from Vanity Fair because her drama reviews were so harsh, so she put her cynicism and wit into her first book of poems, Enough Rope, and it was a best-seller when it was published in 1926. She went to The New Yorker to write book reviews under the name "Constant Reader," and she was one of the founders of the famous Algonquin Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. She established a reputation as one of the sharpest conversationalists in New York, and she epitomized the liberated woman of the 1920s. Her poems were collected as Not So Deep as a Well (1936), and her short stories were collected in Here Lies (1939). When she was 70, she said, "If I had any decency, I'd be dead. Most of my friends are." And she said, "Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

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Poem: "Suburban" by John Ciardi from Selected Poems. (University of Arkansas Press). (buy now)


Yesterday Mrs. Friar phoned. "Mr. Ciardi,
how do you do?" she said. "I am sorry to say
this isn't exactly a social call. The fact is
your dog has just deposited—forgive me—
a large repulsive object in my petunias."

I thought to ask, "Have you checked the rectal grooving
    for a positive I.D.?" My dog, as it happened,
was in Vermont with my son, who had gone fishing—
    if that's what one does with a girl, two cases of beer,
and a borrowed camper. I guessed I'd get no trout.

But why lose out on organic gold for a wise crack?
    "Yes, Mrs. Friar," I said, "I understand."
"Most kind of you," she said. "Not at all," I said.
    I went with a spade. She pointed, looking away.
"I always have loved dogs," she said, "but really!"

I scooped it up and bowed. "The animal of it.
I hope this hasn't upset you, Mrs. Friar."
"Not really," she said, "but really!" I bore the turd
    across the line to my own petunias
and buried it till the glorious resurrection

when even these suburbs shall give up their dead.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of dancer, choreographer, and film director Gene Kelly, born in Pittsburgh (1912). He changed the way America saw men who danced. In 1942, he made his film debut with Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal, and moviegoers loved him. He tailored his dance to film. He said, "I tried to do things ... that you couldn't do on a stage. ... I tried to invent the dance to fit the camera and its movements." He danced with an image of himself in Cover Girl (1944); with an animated mouse in Anchors Aweigh (1945); and in a downpour in Singin' in the Rain (1952), his most famous role.

It's the birthday of playwright Willy Russell, (books by this author) born in Whitson, England (1947), one of Britain's best-known dramatists. He writes about the lives of working-class Britons, especially in Liverpool, and his works are full of the language of the city. He was a hairdresser and laborer before he was a writer. He owned his own salon, and as the ladies chatted, he paid attention to their dialect. In between appointments, he would write.

When he was twenty-five, three of his one-act plays were noticed at the Edinburgh Festival, and he was commissioned to write a play about the Beatles. John, Paul, George, Ringo ... and Bert (1974) was his first big hit in London's West End. He's also the author of the plays Educating Rita (1980) and Shirley Valentine (1986).

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Edgar Lee Masters, (books by this author) born in Garnett, Kansas (1869). He was a lawyer who also wrote poems and novels. His Spoon River Anthology (1915) became extremely popular, as much for its scandal as its poetry. It's composed of 245 epitaphs for the dead citizens buried in a cemetery near Spoon River, a fictional town based on the small Illinois towns Masters knew in his youth. It was the sex-shocker of its day. Masters exposed the hypocrisy of small-town life, portraying the dead citizens as fornicators and thieves. One man, Henry Barker, impregnates his wife because he knows that childbirth will literally kill her. Old Henry Bennett dies of overexertion in the bed of his young wife. Masters went on to publish many more books, but none of the same quality as Spoon River.

It's the birthday of humorist and literary critic Will Cuppy, (books by this author) born in Auburn, Indiana (1884). He was discharged from the military after World War I and he became a recluse, living in an abandoned cabin on Jones Island, New York, and then spending the last twenty years of his life secluded in a Greenwich Village apartment. He supported himself by writing book reviews—more than 4,000 over twenty-three years—for The New York Herald. His first book of humor was called How to Be a Hermit; or, A Bachelor Keeps House (1929). His later books use a mock-scientific tone: How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes (1931), How to Become Extinct (1941), The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody (1950), and How to Get from January to December (1951).

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Poem: "Pie" by X.J. Kennedy from The Lords of Misrule. (Johns Hopkins University Press). (buy now)


Whoever dined in this café before us
Took just a forkful of his cherry pie.
We sit with it between us. Let it lie
Until the overworked waitperson comes
To pick it up and brush away the crumbs.

You look at it. I look at it. I stare
At you. You do not look at me at all.
Somewhere, a crash as unwashed dishes fall.
The clatter of a dropped knife splits the air.
Second-hand smoke infiltrates everywhere.

Your fingers clench the handle of a cup
A stranger drained. I almost catch your eye
For a split second. The abandoned pie
Squats on its plate before us, seeping red
Like a thing not yet altogether dead.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in 1814, the British captured and burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. British officers dined at the deserted White House. Reconstruction began a year later and was finished in September 1817, whereupon James Monroe moved into the new White House.

It's the birthday of fiction writer Oscar Hijuelos, (books by this author) born in New York City (1951) to Cuban parents. In 1990, he became the first Hispanic writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, for his novel Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. It's about two Cuban musicians who come to New York, where they work menial jobs during the day and perform at raucous dance halls at night.

It's the birthday of Malcolm Cowley, (books by this author) born in Belasco, Pennsylvania (1898). He was a literary critic, historian, editor, poet, and essayist, who's known as the best chronicler of the so-called "Lost Generation" of post-World War I writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Cowley said, "Authors are sometimes like tomcats: They distrust all the other toms but they are kind to kittens."

It's the birthday of poet Robert Herrick, (books by this author) born in London (1591), the author of the lines, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, / Old Time is still a-flying, / And this same flower that smiles to-day / To-morrow will be dying." He worked as a goldsmith, went to college, and left London for the English countryside, where he stayed for many years and wrote most of his poetry. He wrote short lyric poems and songs. He wrote about seducing women and taking advantage of your youth, but he never married and most of the women in his poems were probably imaginary. He also wrote religious poems. His poetry was distributed among friends, and eventually reached people in higher places, making Herrick known throughout England. In 1648, he published Hesperides, which contained over 1,000 poems. He wrote:

Give me a kiss, and to that kiss a score;
Then to that twenty, add a hundred more:
A thousand to that hundred: so kiss on,
To make that thousand up a million.
Treble that million, and when that is done,
Let's kiss afresh, as when we first begun.

It's the birthday of novelist A.S. Byatt, (books by this author) born Antonia Susan Drabble in Sheffield, England (1936). She was a professor in London for about twenty years, and she writes academic criticism about Victorian literature in addition to her popular novels like Possession (1990) and Angels and Insects (1992).

It's the birthday of the Argentine poet and short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges, (books by this author) born in Buenos Aires (1899). He said, "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library."

It's the birthday of writer Jean Rhys, (books by this author) born Ella Gwendoline Rees Williams in Roseau, Dominica, West Indies (1890). She was a depressed alcoholic who called herself "a doormat in a world of boots," and she often wrote about seedy characters who live in poverty. Her novel Good Morning, Midnight (1939) is about a girl who leaves her Caribbean island to live in England, where she is abandoned by her stepmother, works as a chorus girl, falls in love with an older man, and finally has an abortion.

Rhys wrote throughout the 1920s and '30s, and then dropped out of public view for about twenty years when she went off to live in a cottage in the English countryside. She started to write again at the end of the '50s, and wrote short stories that were published in British magazines. In 1960, she came out with her most famous novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, about the relationship between a powerful European man and a poor West Indian woman.

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Poem: "Tin Ear" by Peter Schmitt from Country Airport. (Copper Beech Press). (buy now)

Tin Ear

We stood at attention as she moved
with a kind of Groucho shuffle
down our line, her trained music
teacher's ear passing by
our ten- and eleven-year-old mouths
open to some song now forgotten.
And as she held her momentary
pause in front of me, I peered
from the corner of my eye
to hers, and knew the truth
I had suspected.
In the following days,
as certain of our peers
disappeared at appointed hours
for the Chorus, something in me
was already closing shop.
Indeed, to this day
I still clam up
for the national anthem
in crowded stadiums, draw
disapproving alumni stares
as I smile the length of school songs,
and even hum and clap
through "Happy Birthday," creating
a diversion—all lest I send
the collective pitch
careening headlong into dissonance.
It's only in the choice acoustics
of shower and sealed car
that I can finally give voice
to that heart deep within me
that is pure, tonally perfect, music.
But when the water stops running
and the radio's off, I can remember
that day in class,
when I knew for the first time
that mine would be a world of words
without melody, where refrain
means do not join,
where I'm ready to sing
in a key no one has ever heard.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of writer (Francis) Bret Harte, (books by this author) born in Albany, New York (1839). He moved with his mother to California when he was eighteen. He worked as a miner, a schoolteacher, an express messenger, a printer, a clerk, and a journalist and editor. In 1868, he wrote the famous story "The Luck of Roaring Camp," about the only baby in a wild mining town during California's 1849 Gold Rush. In the story, they call the baby The Luck, but the baby and the two men who looked after him end up dying in a flash flood. The story was an instant success, all across the country.

On this day in 1875, Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim across the English Channel. In twenty-one hours and forty-five minutes, he swam from Dover, England, to Calais, France. Nine years later, he drowned in Niagara Falls, trying to swim across and under the churning water.

It's the birthday of conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, born in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1918). He was a prodigy. When he was ten, his Aunt Clara was going through a divorce, and she sent her upright piano to the Bernstein home to be stored. Leonard demanded lessons. When he was sixteen, he heard his first live symphony orchestra concert. The same year, he starred in his own rendition of "Carmen" at summer camp. He wore a wig and a black gown, and stole the show.

He eventually moved to New York, met a bunch of musicians and composers who convinced him to pursue conducting, and befriended Serge Koussevitzky, the director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Koussevitzky offered him a guest-conducting job at age twenty-two, but Bernstein had to refuse because of union rules. Bernstein eventually got an assistantship with the New York Philharmonic. And he was at the right place at the right time on a Sunday afternoon, November 14, 1943. Conductor Bruno Walter got sick, and Bernstein filled in. The concert was broadcast over the radio, and a review was on page one of The New York Times. He instantly became important in the classical music world, at the age of twenty-five.

He was the music director for the Philharmonic from 1959 to 1969. He wrote scores for many musicals, including "On the Town," "Wonderful Town," and "West Side Story." He also wrote symphonies; and he wrote music for ballets like "Fancy Free" and "Facsimile," and operas like "Trouble in Tahiti" and "Candide." He wrote a book called The Joy of Music (1959), a collection of essays and conversations about music.

In it, he wrote, "Music, of all the arts, stands in a special region, unlit by any star but its own, and utterly without meaning ... except its own." The Christmas before Bernstein died, at age seventy-two, he conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Berlin to celebrate the crumbling of the wall. He died just five days after retiring. He conducted his final performance at Tanglewood, in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, on August 19, 1990. It was the Boston Symphony playing Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" and Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.

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Poem: "Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet" by Tony Hoagland from Donkey Gospel. (Graywolf Press). (buy now)

Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet

At this height, Kansas
is just a concept,
a checkerboard design of wheat and corn

no larger than the foldout section
of my neighbor's travel magazine.
At this stage of the journey

I would estimate the distance
between myself and my own feelings
is roughly the same as the mileage

from Seattle to New York,
so I can lean back into the upholstered interval
between Muzak and lunch,

a little bored, a little old and strange.
I remember, as a dreamy
backyard kind of kid,

tilting up my head to watch
those planes engrave the sky
in lines so steady and so straight

they implied the enormous concentration
of good men,
but now my eyes flicker

from the in-flight movie
to the stewardess's pantyline,
then back into my book,

where men throw harpoons at something
much bigger and probably
better than themselves,

wanting to kill it, wanting
to see great clouds of blood erupt
to prove that they exist.

Imagine being born and growing up,
rushing through the world for sixty years
at unimaginable speeds.

Imagine a century like a room so large,
a corridor so long
you could travel for a lifetime

and never find the door,
until you had forgotten
that such a thing as doors exist.

Better to be on board the Pequod,
with a mad one-legged captain
living for revenge.

Better to feel the salt wind
spitting in your face,
to hold your sharpened weapon high,

to see the glisten
of the beast beneath the waves.
What a relief it would be

to hear someone in the crew
cry out like a gull,
Oh Captain, Captain!
Where are we going now?

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1920 that Bainbridge Colby, the Secretary of State, issued a proclamation announcing the incorporation of the 19th Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. It ended more than seventy years of struggle by woman suffragists. It proclaimed, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

It had passed through the House and Senate, and now fell to the states. Thirty-five had ratified it, but thirty-six were required to complete the two-thirds majority. Finally, on August 18, Tennessee pulled through. Twenty-four-year-old legislator Harry Burn decided to vote for the amendment at the last minute because his mother wanted him to, tying the vote. Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to approve suffrage for women.

The certified record of the Tennessee vote was sent by train to Washington, D.C., and arrived early on August 26. Colby signed the proclamation that morning at 8:00 at his residence, with no ceremony of any kind, and no photographers to film the event. Colby had one and a half cups of coffee and then signed the document with a regular steel pen. Then he said, "I turn to the women of America and say: 'You may now fire when you are ready. You have been enfranchised.'" None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement were present.

It's the birthday of Scottish writer John Buchan, (books by this author) born in Perth, Scotland (1875). He's most famous for his thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), which later became an Alfred Hitchcock film. It's about a man who is bored with life in London until he becomes the primary suspect in a murder case.

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Christopher Isherwood, (books by this author) born in Cheshire, England (1904). He's the author of many books, including The Berlin Stories (1939), stories about life in pre-Hitler Berlin that were eventually adapted for the musical Cabaret.

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Poem: "Monet" by Howard Nemerov from The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov. (Swallow Press). (buy now)


Unable to get into the Monet show,
Too many people there, too many cars,
We spent the Sunday morning at Bowl Pond
A mile from the Museum, where no one was,
And walked an hour or so around the rim
Beside five acres of flowering waterlilies
Lifting three feet above their floating pads
Huge yellow flowers heavy on bending stems
In various phases of array and disarray
Of Petals packed, unfolded, opening to show
The meaty orange centers that become,
When the ruined flags fall away, green shower heads
Spilling their wealth of seed at summer's end
Into the filthy water among small fish
Mud-colored and duck moving explorative
Through jungle pathways opened among the fronds
Upon whose surface water drops behave
Like mercury, collecting in heavy silver coins
Instead of bubbles; some few redwinged blackbirds
Whistling above all this once in a while,
The silence else unbroken all about.

Literary and Historical Notes:

The Chinese philosopher Confucius (books by this author) was born on today's date in 551 B.C. Confucius taught his followers to love others, to honor one's parents, to lead by example, and to treat others as you would like to be treated. He said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

It's the birthday of Theodore Dreiser, (books by this author) born in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1871. Dreiser was a novelist known for writing realistic books like Sister Carrie (1900) and An American Tragedy (1925). He grew up working on the family farm. He needed to support himself financially at a young age, and so he was forced to leave college early. He went to Chicago to make a living as a journalist. He considered journalism an art form, as well as a first step into the world of literature. He began intensely studying literature, and took a special interest in the French writer Balzac, who he said opened a new door for him in his life. After years of writing on his own, publishers finally began to accept his manuscripts.

Today is the birthday of jazz saxophonist Lester Young, born in Woodsville, Mississippi (1909). He was the oldest child in a very musical family. His father taught music to all of the children and the family toured around the country giving concerts.

Lester eventually went to New Orleans, where he found jazz great Count Basie. He rose to fame playing with the Basie band and maintained a personal and professional relationship with Count Basie throughout his life. Young was also friends with Billie Holiday, whom he met when he was staying at the apartment of Holiday's mother. Lester Young and Billie Holiday had a very close personal relationship, although it was never romantic.

The most famous musical collaboration between Young and Holiday happened during a television performance of Holiday's song "Fine and Mellow." Young and Holiday had been arguing and were not speaking to each other. Holiday's heroin habit had begun to catch up with her. She was so weak that she could not even stand up to sing during the performance. When it came time for Young's solo in the middle of the song, he stood up from his chair to play. He played a moving solo that one audience member called "the sweetest blues I have ever heard come out of a horn." After the performance the two jazz legends reconciled their differences.

It's the birthday of former U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, (books by this author) born in Stonewall, Texas (1908), into a family that included several politicians. He started his political career early when he entered the National Youth Administration in Texas. He got elected to Congress, where he was a workaholic. He eventually became John F. Kennedy's vice president, and became president when JFK was assassinated in 1963. In 2001, a book of transcriptions of LBJ's White House conversations was published, Reaching for Glory, edited by Michael Beschloss. The tapes were made in 1964 and 1965, and they reveal Johnson's enormous misgivings about the war in Vietnam.



  • “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
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