Feb. 4, 2010


by Kim Addonizio

They hang around, hitting on your friends
or else you never hear from them again.
They call when they're drunk, or finally get sober,

they're passing through town and want dinner,
they take your hand across the table, kiss you
when you come back from the bathroom.

They were your loves, your victims,
your good dogs or bad boys, and they're over
you now. one writes a book in which a woman

who sounds suspiciously like you
is the first to be sadistically dismembered
by a serial killer. They're getting married

and want you to be the first to know,
or they've been fired and need a loan,
their new girlfriend hates you,

they say they don't miss you but show up
in your dreams, calling to you from the shoeboxes
where they're buried in rows in your basement.

Some nights you find one floating into bed with you,
propped on an elbow, giving you a look
of fascination, a look that says I can't believe

I've found you
. It's the same way
your current boyfriend gazed at you last night,
before he pulled the plug on the tiny white lights

above the bed, and moved against you in the dark
broken occasionally by the faint restless arcs
of headlights from the freeway's passing trucks,

the big rigs that travel and travel,
hauling their loads between cities, warehouses,
following the familiar routes of their loneliness.

"Ex-Boyfriends" by Kim Addonizio, from What Is This Thing Called Love. © W.W. Norton, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 2004 that Mark Zuckerburg launched Facebook (at first called "the facebook"). The Web site's name comes from the student directory book with names and photos that is distributed to incoming students at many universities. Harvard sophomore Zuckerburg, a comp-sci major, had gotten the idea for doing an online facebook when he was slightly drunk on a Tuesday night. He'd just been dumped by his girlfriend, he was looking for a distraction, and he hacked into a Harvard database and copied student names and photos from dorm lists and put them online into a site for which he'd written the code. It was immensely popular: In the first four hours it was up, 450 Harvard students used it to look at 22,000 photos of their classmates. A few days later, the site was shut down by Harvard and Zuckerburg was charged with a number of disciplinary things, including violating privacy rules and breaching security. Eventually, the university dropped the charges, and Zuckerburg moved to Palo Alto set up Facebook, Inc. without graduating from Harvard. Today, about 350 million people around the world actively use Facebook as a social networking tool.

It's the birthday of Betty Friedan, (books by this author) born in Peoria, Illinois (1921). She's the author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), a book that The New York Times described as being "widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century." Friedan wrote about what she called "the problem that has no name," found particularly among educated suburban women in the years after the end of World War II, women who were leading ostensibly idyllic domestic lives as busy housewives and mothers and yet who felt inexplicably unfulfilled, unhappy, and restless.

She wrote:

"The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — 'Is this all?'

"For over fifteen years there was no word of this yearning in the millions of words written about women, for women, in all the columns, books and articles by experts telling women their role was to seek fulfillment as wives and mothers."

Friedan once led tens of thousands of women — and quite a few men — down New York's Fifth Avenue and over to the New York Public Library in a strike for women's equality. She held signs that said things like "Don't Cook Dinner — Starve a Rat Tonight!" and "Don't Iron While the Strike Is Hot."

She went on to write several more books, including a memoir, Life So Far (2000). She died on this day in 2006, her 85th birthday.

It's the birthday of Stewart O'Nan, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh (1961). His novels include Snow Angels (1994), The Speed Queen (1997), A Prayer for the Dying (1999), and Last Night at the Lobster (2007).

He maintains that a person who wants to be a writer should always carry around a notebook: "If you don't write it down, it's gone."

In an article entitled "Finding Time to Write," he paraphrased Joseph Conrad's maxim "that there are only two difficult things about writing: starting and not stopping."

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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