The Other Keats

This is the world -- thus we cannot expect to give away many hours to pleasure -- circumstances are like Clouds continually gathering and bursting -- While we are laughing the seed of some trouble is put into the wide arable land of events -- while we are laughing it sprouts it grows and suddenly bears a poison fruit which we must pluck….

John Keats was born on this day in 1795. Keats's poems and letters -- the above is excerpted from an 1819 letter to his brother, George -- are in a tone that often runs parallel to the tragic circumstances of his life. But a number of biographers remind us that "there was another Keats, altogether more vigorous, colorful and animated":

His mother was a man-hungry teenager; his father -- one could never be sure -- an innkeeper on the make. Their eldest son, the school bully, grew into a dandy who dressed like Lord Byron, scrawled bawdy rhymes, burned himself with gonorrhea and tried to cure himself with mercury. Delinquent Keats was in the front row at bloody prize-fights, measuring his poetic "reach" like a boxer landing a jab. (John Keats: A New Life, Nicholas Roe, 2012)

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at


Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.