Mar. 30, 2005

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: There is no poem for Wednesday, March 30, 2005.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Jon Hassler, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1933). He was a high school English teacher for 14 years before he wrote his first novel, Staggerford (1977), whose main character is an English teacher in a small Minnesota town. His other novels include Simon's Night (1979), Grand Opening (1987), North of Hope (1990), and Rookery Blues (1995).}

It's the birthday of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, born in Zundert, The Netherlands (1853). In 1879, he went as a missionary to the coal miners on southwestern Belgium. The result was a spiritual crisis that led him to try to express himself through art. For the next 10 years, from 1880 to 1890, he painted fast and furiously. He painted sunflowers, wheat fields, self-portraits—all while his mental health was steadily breaking down. One of his greatest paintings, Starry Night (1889), was painted while he was confined in an asylum. In 1988, his Irises, painted in the asylum courtyard, sold for $49,000,000. At the time it was the highest price ever paid for a painting.

It's the birthday of the French poet Paul Verlaine, born in Metz, France (1844). He published his first poem in 1863, when he was 19. He was married, then abandoned his wife to wander around Europe with the poet Arthur Rimbaud. He spent two years in prison for wounding Rimbaud with a revolver during an argument.

It's the birthday of British novelist Anna Sewell, born in Yarmouth, Norfolk, England (1820). When she was 14, she injured her ankles in a bad fall and became a partial invalid. Unable to walk, she relied on horse-and-carriage to get around. Her dependence on horses grew into a deep affection, which she expressed in her only novel, Black Beauty (1877). She wrote the novel, she said, "to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses."

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