Jul. 4, 1996


by Sharon Olds


Today's Reading: "Topography" by Sharon Olds from THE GOLD CELL, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

It's Independence Day, the 220th anniversary of the Continental Congress' adoption of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson.

It's the birthday of playwright, screenwriter Neil Simon ("Barefoot in the Park"; "The Odd Couple"), born in Bronx, New York in 1927.

Literary critic and educator Lionel Trilling was born today in New York City in 1905.

It's the birthday of actress, singer Gertrude Lawrence for whom Noel Coward wrote PRIVATE LIVES, born in London in 1898.

Wellesley College Professor Katherine Lee Bate's poem, "America the Beautiful," was first published on this day in 1895.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio head, Louis B. Mayer, was born on this day in Minsk, Russia in 1885; his discoveries included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Rudolph Valentino, and Clark Gable.

Cartoonist Rube Goldberg was born today in San Francisco in 1883.

Walt Whitman published, with his own money, the first edition of LEAVES OF GRASS in 1855.

It was on this day in 1845 that Henry David Thoreau began living in the cabin he built on Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts.

It's the birthday of composer Stephen Foster ("Oh! Susanna"; "Camptown Races") born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania in 1826.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (THE SCARLET LETTER; THE HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES) was born on this day in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804.

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
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