Feb. 5, 2010

Father to the Man

by Tom C. Hunley

The OBGYN said babies almost never
  arrive right on their due dates, so
the night before my firstborn was due
  to make his debut, I went out with the guys

until a guilt-twinge convinced me to convince them
  to leave the sports bar and watch game six
on my 20-inch, rabbit eared, crap TV. After we
  arrived, my wife whispered, "My water broke"

as the guys cheered and spilled potato chips
  for our little dog to eat up. I can't remember
who was playing whom, but someone got called
  for a technical, as the crowd made a noise

that could have been a quick wind, high-fiving
  leaf after leaf after leaf. I grabbed our suitcase
and told the guys they could stay put, but we
  were heading for the hospital and the rest of

our lives. No, we're out of here, they said.
  Part of me wanted to head out with them,
back to the smell of hot wings and microbrews,
  then maybe to a night club full of heavy bass

and perfume, or just into a beater Ford with a full
  ash tray, speeding farther and farther into
the night, into nowhere in particular. Instead I walked
  my wife to our minivan, held her hand as she

stepped down from the curb, opened her door,
  shut the suitcases into the trunk, and
ran right over that part of me, left it
  bleeding and limping like a poor, stupid squirrel.

"Father to the Man" by Tom C. Hunley, from Octopus. © Logan House, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of a Catholic priest, sociologist, best-selling romance novelist, mystery writer and weekly newspaper columnist, and a writer so prolific that it's been said he "has never had an unpublished thought": Andrew Greeley (books by this author) in Oak Park, Illinois (1928).

He wrote sociological studies starting in the 1960s, with titles like Why Can't They Be Like Us? Facts and Fallacies about Ethnic Differences and Group Conflicts in America (1969), That Most Distressful Nation: The Taming of the American Irish (1972), and The Sociology of the Paranormal: A Reconnaissance (1975).

In the 1970s, he also started publishing novels, and in 1981 he had his first best-seller, The Cardinal Sins. He continued publishing scholarly works of sociology while writing novels with titles like Thy Brother's Wife (1982), Ascent into Hell (1984), Lord of the Dance (1987), Love Song (1988), and All about Women (1989). For the last two and a half decades, Greeley has averaged more than two published books per year. In the year 1987, he published six books: four works of fiction and two of nonfiction.

In his novels, his characters are generally from Chicago, and usually Irish-American and Roman-Catholic. There are steamy sex scenes, mystery-solving priests, alluring female folk singers, Irish psychics, condemnations of official church teachings, and calls for reformation and liberalization within the Catholic Church. He's often at odds with church hierarchy, including in his native Chicago, where an archbishop once turned down a million dollars from his publishing royalties that Greeley wanted to give to establish an inner-city school fund. The fund has since been established.

Recent books include The Senator and the Priest (2006), Irish Crystal (2006), Irish Linen (2007), and The Archbishop in Andalusia (2008).

It's the birthday of William S. Burroughs, (books by this author) born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1914, the year America entered World War I, who went to a boarding school for rich kids in New Mexico and then to Harvard, kept a revolver and a ferret in his dorm room, lived off a generous stipend his parents gave him and off of money he made selling drugs, moved around the country, and then made his way to New York City, where he hung out at bars in Harlem and Greenwich Village with Beat poets. He became friends with Allen Ginsburg and with Jack Kerouac.

He moved to Texas, grew cotton and marijuana, and then moved to Mexico. He and his wife, Joan, were drinking with friends one night in 1951 when they decided to do a party trick for their friends, one where Joan would balance a glass on her head and William would shoot it off. She put the glass on her head and he fired, but he missed the glass and shot her in the temple. She died.

Burroughs was convicted of criminal negligence but not made to serve jail time. He left Mexico. He later said, "I am faced with the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan's death. It brought me in contact with the invader, the ugly spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle in which I have had no choice but to write my way out."

He wrote many books, including Junkie (1953), and Naked Lunch (1959). He eventually got a job as a university professor, moved to Kansas, and lived until 1997 to be 83 years old.

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