Oct. 4, 2006

Oldies But Goodies

by Grace Bauer

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Oldies But Goodies" by Grace Bauer from Beholding Eye. © Custom Words. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Oldies But Goodies

Because she's had more than her share
of sad stories and Molson's Ale,
she finds herself at midnight
circling the City of Brotherly Love
singing her heart out with the girl groups
playing on the radio.

The Chiffons do One Fine Day
like it's still 1963
and all the boys she dreamed
she'd fall in love with weren't dead
or gay or still strung out from Nam,
drinking off a rough divorce or looking
for a wife they think will look good
on their resumes.

To the fast-talking DJ
this is just a good night's work,
but he's doing a job on her.
Her head spins like a worn-out 45,
back to when she'd bump and grind
all night to The Temptations or The Miracles,
before she realized lost love
was worse than any lyric, when she still
wondered what the Kingsmen
really sang in Louie, Louie.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Edward L. Stratemeyer, (books by this author) born in Elizabeth, New Jersey (1862). He created the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, the Rover Boys, and Nancy Drew. After writing about 150 books of his own, he created a company called the Stratemeyer Syndicate with a team of ghostwriters to write books based on his outlines. He swore everyone to secrecy and even invented fictional biographies for the pseudonymous authors. The Stratemeyer Syndicate went on to publish about 700 titles under more than 65 pseudonyms.

It's the birthday of journalist Brendan Gill, (books by this author) born in Hartford, Connecticut (1914). He wrote novels, plays, and essays, and was a popular columnist for The New Yorker for more than 50 years.

It's the birthday of journalist and fiction writer Damon Runyon, (books by this author) born Alfred Damon Runyon, in Manhattan, Kansas (1884). He was only 14 when the Spanish-American War broke out. He couldn't get a local Army recruiter to sign him up for service, so he went north and enlisted with the 13th Minnesota Volunteers. He didn't see combat, but he wrote about the experience for a soldier's magazine.

After the war was over, he began to bounce around, writing for various papers, and he eventually began to focus on sports, becoming one of the early baseball journalists. In time, he made his way to New York City, during the prohibition era, and he started hanging around on Broadway with the crowd of gamblers, bookies, fight managers, theatrical agents, bootleggers, and gangsters. In 1929, Runyon began to write a series of stories about the lowlife characters he'd gotten to know, and he helped popularize the evolving slang of the era, in which a woman was called "a doll," a gun was called "a rod," money was called "scratch," and people didn't die, they "croaked."

His short stories were collected in books such as Blue Plate Special (1934) and More than Somewhat (1937), and they became enormously popular. Sixteen movies were made from his short stories. He's best remembered today for the musical Guys and Dolls, based upon several of his stories and characters he created.

It's the birthday of humorist Roy Blount Jr., (books by this author) born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1941). His English teacher in high school thought his essays reminded her of New Yorker writers like James Thurber and S.J. Perelman, so she introduced him to those writers and they became his idols. But instead of getting a job at The New Yorker after college, he got a job at Sports Illustrated. His first book was a humorous account of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team: About Three Bricks Shy of a Load (1974). The book was successful enough that Blount quit his job at Sports Illustrated and has made his living ever since as a freelance writer. He has contributed profiles, essays, sketches, verse, short stories, and reviews to more than a hundred different publications.

It's the birthday of the novelist Anne Rice, (books by this author) born in New Orleans, Louisiana, (1941). Her father was a postal worker who wrote fiction in his spare time, and her mother was a failed Hollywood actress who was interested in the occult. Rice's mother would take her for long walks in old New Orleans neighborhoods, and she would tell Anne Rice stories about which of the various old mansions was haunted and which had been used by covens of witches.

After getting married and having a daughter, she struggled to become a writer. She began writing a short story every day as an exercise, but she couldn't get much published. Then, her five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with acute leukemia and died.

Rice fell into a deep depression, and only got herself out of it by writing. She wrote constantly, and in five weeks, she had finished her first novel. It was about a vampire who becomes so lonely that he decides to turn a five-year-old girl into a vampire to keep him company. He's horrified when he realizes that she will never age, that she will remain a five-year-old forever. That novel was Interview with a Vampire (1974). It got mixed reviews and didn't sell very well. But it developed a cult following, and throughout the early 1980s, it kept selling copies, slowly becoming one of the most popular vampire novels of all time. When Rice published a sequel, The Vampire Lestat (1985), it was an immediate best-seller.

It's the birthday of one of the most popular novelists of all time, Jackie Collins, (books by this author) born in London (1941). Her first major American best-seller was Hollywood Wives (1983), which remained on The New York Times best-seller list for 28 weeks, and ultimately sold 15 million copies. Jackie Collins has gone on to average about a novel a year for the last two decades.

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