Aug. 23, 2010


by Dorothea Tanning

On one of those birthdays of which I've had so many
I was walking home through the park from a party,

pleased that I'd resisted mentioning the birthday—
why hear congratulations for doing nothing but live?

The birthday was my secret with myself and gave me,
walking under all those trees, such a strong feeling of

satisfaction that everything else fell away: party sounds,
the hostess who stared and as suddenly disappeared

on seeing her husband walk in with a young(er ) friend;
another guest examining garment labels in the room

where I went to leave my jacket; one of two waiters
balancing a trayful of foot-high champagne glasses;

a bee-like buzz of voices I ought to have enjoyed
but heard as foreign babble, so remote it was from

a birthday, so empty of import nothing would remain.
I got my jacket, waved from the hall, pressed Down.

In summer the park, for an hour or so before night,
is at its greenest, a whole implicit proposition

of green leaves, a triumph of leaves enfolding me
that day in a green intimacy so trustworthy I told

them my secret: "It's my birthday," I said out loud
before turning away to cross the avenue.

"Secret" by Dorothea Tanning, from A Table of Content. © Graywolf Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Nelson Richard DeMille, (books by this author) born in Queens, New York (1943). He's the author of the novels Word of Honor (1985), The Charm School (1988), The Gold Coast (1990), and Night Fall (2004).

His books are often set in Long Island, New York. They feature a cast of recurring characters, like CIA agent Ted Nash, retired NYPD detective John Corey, and Corey's wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield. And there's U.S. Army Investigator Paul Brenner, who is played by John Travolta in a film version of DeMille's book The General's Daughter (1992), which was a big success at the box office.

DeMille writes his first drafts by hand on legal pads using a pencil.

It's the birthday of Queen Noor of Jordan, (books by this author) born Lisa Halaby in Washington, D.C. (1951). In 1977, she met the recently widowed King Hussein of Jordan at a business-related social event. The next year, Lisa Halaby renounced her American citizenship, converted to Islam, changed her name to Noor Al-Hussein ("Light of Hussein"), and married the King of Jordan.

She was Queen of Jordan from 1978 until King Hussein's death in 1999. Now she's "Queen dowager," the title given to a king's widow. She's also the author of the New York Times best-seller Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (2003).

Robert Merton Solow, (books by this author) who won the 1987 Nobel Prize in economics, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on this day in 1924. Solow is currently an economics professor emeritus at MIT.

He once said, "You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics."

The winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, American microbiologist Hamilton Smith, (books by this author) was born in New York City on this day in 1931. Along with co-laureates Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans, he helped discover something called a type II restriction enzyme. Type II restriction enzymes are usually found in bacteria, and they help provide a defense against invading viruses. They provide this defense by cutting up the DNA strands of invading viruses.

The winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry, Robert Curl, (books by this author) was born on this day in 1933 in Alice, Texas. Along with co-laureates Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley, he helped to discover fullerenes. A fullerene is a ball or enclosed shell of carbon atoms.

The discovery of fullerenes has been hugely influential in improving technology in a number of fields, including computers and other electronics, as well as medical implants, metals, plastics, and ceramics.

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