Mar. 29, 1998


by Mary Oliver


Today's Reading: "March" by Mary Oliver from WHITE PINE, published by Harcourt Brace & Co.

EUGENE McCARTHY, who ran for president in 1968 on an anti-war platform, was born on this day in 1916, in the little central-Minnesota town of Watkins. He served as a congressman and Senator in the 1950s and 60s, earning the nickname "Clean Gene." He said, "the only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency." He's been a prolific author along the way, with nearly two dozen books - everything from history and politics, to poetry and memoir.

And it's the birthday of JUDITH GUEST, 1936, Detroit, who sent a story about a 17 year-old boy and his family to Viking Press in the summer of 1975 - no letter of inquiry and no plot synopsis - and it became the first unsolicited manuscript they published in over 25 years. Ordinary People went on to become a huge bestseller, and a film that won the 1980 Oscar for best movie.

It was on this day in 1916 that Don Marquis wrote in his column for the New York Sun, that "We came into our room earlier than usual in the morning, and discovered a gigantic cockroach jumping about upon the typewriter keys." This was THE DEBUT OF "ARCHY"...a character Marquis created who wrote about life, death, and the everyday goings-on in New York. Marquis said he watched Archy throw himself headfirst at the keys and since he was a cockroach, he wasn't able to reach the shift key, so the words were always in lower case; and because the return carriage bar was a lot of work for Archy every column was spaced oddly. But the writing was good: Archy was actually the reincarnated soul of a philosopher and poet who wrote thought-provoking questions. From time to time an alley cat named Mehitabel would show up - a free-spirited animal who was really the reincarnated soul of Cleopatra. Archy and Mehitabel were enormously popular throughout the 20s and were made into a series of books in the 30s: Archys Life of Mehitabel, Archy Does His Part, and The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitabel.

It's the birthday of CY YOUNG, in Gilmore, Ohio, 1867, the winningest pitcher of all time. He played 22 seasons of professional baseball, from 1890-1911 and won a total of 511 games. He was big for a pitcher back then - six foot two, 210 pounds - and he was famous for his fastball; he used to warm up in the outfield by throwing against the fence, sometime knocking holes in it or splintering the wood. He got the name Cy as a nickname for "Cyclone." He pitched for the Cleveland Indians for nine seasons, then for the Boston Red Sox. In 14 consecutive seasons he won more than 20 games, and in five of those he won more than 30.

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
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