Apr. 3, 2012

Glad sight wherever new with old

by William Wordsworth

Glad sight wherever new with old
Is joined through some dear homeborn tie;
The life of all that we behold
Depends upon that mystery.
Vain is the glory of the sky,
The beauty vain of field and grove
Unless, while with admiring eye
We gaze, we also learn to love.

"Glad sight wherever new with old" by William Wordsworth, from Selected Poems. © Penguin Books, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The first truly portable personal computer was released on this date in 1981. The 25-pound Osborne 1, sold by the Osborne Computer Company, with two floppy drives, a five-inch screen, was a big success, selling 10,000 units a month.

The Pony Express began mail delivery on this date in 1860. The first mail pouch contained 49 letters, five telegrams, and a variety of papers. A rider would switch to a fresh horse every 10 to 15 miles; each rider rode a leg of 75 to 100 miles. Seventy-five horses were needed to make a one-way trip between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, a distance of 1,800 miles. At an average speed of 10 miles an hour, the Pony Express could cover the distance in 10 days.

The Pony Express, as it came to be known, had only been in operation for about 10 weeks when Congress authorized construction of a telegraph line to stretch between the Missouri River and the California coast. Once the telegraph connection was completed, the Pony Express became obsolete, and it folded in October 1861.

Today is the birthday of Washington Irving (books by this author), born in New York City (1783), who publicized his book A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty by pretending it was written by a man named Dietrich Knickerbocker. He put out missing person notices and posed as Knickerbocker's landlord, threatening to publish the manuscript to cover back rent. The reading public in 1809 was intrigued by all the drama, the book sold very well, and Irving became the first person in the United States to earn a living by writing. He then wrote a collection of short stories under the name of Geoffrey Crayon, which included his stories, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle."

It's the birthday of Henry Luce, born to Presbyterian missionaries in the Shantung province of China (1898). In 1923, he co-founded Time magazine, and by the time he retired in 1964, he was head of an enormous publishing empire that included Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated magazines.

Today is the birthday of novelist Leon Uris (books by this author), born in Baltimore (1924) author of the best-selling Exodus (1958). The movie was directed by Otto Preminger, who thought the book was too anti-Arab and anti-British, and he rewrote much of the dialogue. Uris denounced him, saying that he had "ruined" the book.

It's the birthday of San Francisco columnist Herb Caen (books by this author), born in Sacramento (1916) whose column in the San Francisco Chronicle began in 1938, when he was 22, the year after the Golden Gate Bridge opened. He continued writing 1,000 words a day, six days a week, for almost 60 years — it was the longest-running columnist in American history. He coined the term "beatnik" in 1958, and he made the word "hippie" popular in the 1960s. He said: "I'm going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to Heaven. I'll look around and say, 'It's not bad, but it ain't San Francisco.'"

It's the birthday of a writer whose children's books have sold more than 20 million copies, Sandra Keith Boynton (books by this author), born to Quaker parents in Orange, New Jersey (1953), one of whom was an English teacher. She went to Yale where she majored in English. She became a designer of humorous greeting cards. It was she who designed a Happy Birthday card with a hippopotamus, a bird, and two sheep on it that said: "Hippo Birdie Two Ewes" which sold 10 million copies.

Her children's books include Hippos Go Berserk, Chocolate: The Consuming Passion and Philadelphia Chickens (2002).

The outlaw Jesse James was shot on this date in 1882. Jesse had fought on the side of the South in the Civil War and after the war, formed a gang with his brother Frank which ranged all over the Midwest for more than a decade, robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches. He was shot in his home in Missouri by a member of his own gang, Bob Ford, who did it for the $10,000 reward. Jesse James was standing on a chair, dusting off a picture on the wall, and Bob Ford shot him in the back of his head.

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