Jun. 25, 2003

The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb

by Sharon Olds

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb," by Sharon Olds from Blood, Tin, Straw (Alfred A. Knopf).

The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb

Whatever he needs, he has or doesn't
have by now.
Whatever the world is going to do to him
it has started to do. With a pencil and two
Hardy Boys and a peanut butter sandwich and
grapes he is on his way, there is nothing
more we can do for him. Whatever is
stored in his heart, he can use, now.
Whatever he has laid up in his mind
he can call on. What he does not have
he can lack. The bus gets smaller and smaller, as one
folds a flag at the end of a ceremony,
onto itself, and onto itself, until
only a heavy wedge remains.
Whatever his exuberant soul
can do for him, it is doing right now.
Whatever his arrogance can do
it is doing to him. Everything
that's been done to him, he will now do.
Everything that's been placed in him
will come out, now, the contents of a trunk
unpacked and lined up on a bunk in the underpine light.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist George Orwell, born Eric Blair in Motihari, India, in 1903. He won a scholarship to the prestigious prep school Eton, but he didn't fit in because he was poorer than most of his classmates. He deliberately slacked off, finishing 138th in a class of 167. Instead of going to a university he joined the Imperial Police and went to Burma, but he felt ashamed of British rule and so he resigned, came home, and decided that he would become a writer. When Orwell came home from Burma he lived as a tramp for four years. He put on ragged clothes and lived with laborers and beggars in the slums of London and Paris. He worked in the hopfields in Kent and as a dishwasher in a French hotel, and wrote about it in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) under the pen name George Orwell, after the River Orwell in East Anglia. He published his first novel, Burmese Days (1934), the next year. Animal Farm (1945) was the book that made him famous. It's a political fable about Stalinism. A group of barnyard animals chase off their human masters and set up their own society, but then the smartest animals, the pigs, take control and turn out to be even more ruthless than the humans. He wrote, "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." At first Orwell couldn't find a publisher for Animal Farm, but when it came out it was an instant success and for the first time Orwell had some money in his pocket. In some countries, Animal Farm was distributed by the United States government. When Orwell died, the C.I.A. secretly bought the movie rights to the book from Orwell's widow, made an animated-film version in England, and sent it all over the world. Orwell used the royalties from Animal Farm to buy a remote house on the island of Jura, off the coast of Scotland. He had tuberculosis, and when he wasn't too sick to type he smoked black shag tobacco and wrote his masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), a novel set in a future where the world is controlled by totalitarian police states. The book gave us words and phrases such as "Big Brother is watching you," "Thought Police," "newspeak," and "doublethink." He said, "On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."

On this day in 1857, the French poet Charles Baudelaire published Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). About a month after it went on sale, Baudelaire was brought to trial because the book was in contempt of laws protecting religion and morality.

Today is the day that Rosemary has her baby, in the book Rosemary's Baby (1967) by Ira Levin.

It's the birthday of the playwright, director, and producer George Abbot, born in Forestville, New York (1887). He made his first appearance on Broadway in 1913, and for more than 80 years he was involved, in one way or another, with 120 productions. Some years, he had three hits running at once. He directed a long list of successful musical comedies, including Boy Meets Girl (1935), The Pajama Game (1954), Damn Yankees (1955), Fiorello! (1959), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962).

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
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show