Displaying articles for: October 2009

"Her fools, her prigs, her worldlings"

October 30: On this day in 1811 Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, her first novel, was published. Promotional advertisements suggested that it was a conventional love story, its anonymous author “a Lady” or “Lady ____,” this cover-up for privacy but also to add romantic allure. Read more...

Dylan Thomas

October 29: On this day in 1933 Dylan Thomas's “The force that through the green fuse” was published. Now one of his most anthologized poems, its publication in a London newspaper just two days after Thomas's nineteenth birthday caused the scholar William Empson to mark the literary calendar: “What hit the town of London was the child Dylan publishing ‘The force that through the green fuse’ ... and from that day he was a famous poet.” Read more...

Bottling Methodistbrau

October 28: The Volstead Act, also known as the National Prohibition Act, was passed in the U. S. Congress on this day in 1919. An anti-Puritan in all things, H. L. Mencken attacked Prohibition from all sides, portraying it as the enemy of freedom, conviviality, even health: “Most of the trouble from so-called overeating comes from underdrinking.” Mencken was also a devoted home-brewer, though one letter to a friend admits that this could indeed get unhealthy. Read more...

No Scaffolding

October 27: On this day in 1922 Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room was published. This was the first full-length book published by the Woolfs' Hogarth Press. Having her own publishing house -- this is literal, as the Woolfs began with a small handpress in their dining room -- meant the freedom to experiment. Shortly before starting the book, Virginia said she was after "a new form for a new novel ... no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen; all crepuscular, but the heart, the passion, the humour, everything as bright as fire in the mist." Read more...

Master and Pupil

October 26: Henry James wrote his first letter to Edith Wharton on this day in 1900, beginning one of the most celebrated literary friendships of the century. Almost twenty years younger, Wharton had hoped and tried for several years to engage James in a correspondence, sending him editions of her early stories as well as letters. In his first extant reply, "the Master" gives a critique of Wharton’s "The Line of Least Resistance," just published in Lippincott’s Magazine, and urges the young writer forward Read more...

Virginia Woolf

October 24: Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own turns eighty today — eighty-one, if we count not from the Hogarth Press October 24, 1929 publication date but the previous October, when Woolf first delivered the text as a two-part talk to a goup of female college students. Read more...

Robbery on Main Street

October 23: On this day in 1920 Sinclair Lewis's Main Street was published. This was the first of his string of hit novels over the next decade, most of which poked and scolded at the puritan terrors of small town life — knee-jerk conformity, boosterism, "a range of grotesque vulgarity," says one critic, "which but for him would have left no record." Read more...

Ernest Hemingway & Dorothy Parker

October 22: Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises was published on this day in 1926. The first of Hemingway’s major novels, it established his readership, his style, and through the “You are all a lost generation” epigraph, his position as spokesman. Read more...

Dueling Dystopias

October 21: On this day in 1949, Aldous Huxley wrote to George Orwell to say how much he liked Nineteen Eighty-Four, published the previous June. Despite the praise, Huxley goes on to say that he would still back his own version of totalitarian horror over Orwell’s. Read more...

Last Adventure

October 20: Arthur Rimbaud was born on this day in 1854, and on this day in 1890 Richard Francis Burton died. As writer-adventurers, the two cross paths in Harar, Ethiopia. Burton arrived in Harar almost exactly on Rimbaud's birthday, having accomplished his goal of becoming the first European to visit the forbidden Muslim city-state and come out alive Read more...

"No More Vigils"

October 19: On this day in 1950 Edna St. Vincent Millay died, aged fifty-eight, in a fall down the stairs of her "Steepletop" home in New York's Berkshire hills. Though she had long since tumbled from fame --a Pulitzer, nationwide tours and radio readings, front-page political activism --Millay is regarded as one of the last American poets to have had a general readership and, whether through the love poems or the love life, to have enjoyed wide popularity. Read more...

Mark Twain

October 17: Mark Twain returned to the U. S. on October 15, 1900, after nine years away. The nation had just recently escalated its military involvement in the Philippines, and a prolonged debate over motives and battlefield behavior was underway. Read more...

"The Oscar"

October 16: On this day in 1854, Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin. Though we may not have or want any conventional explanation for Oscar Wilde's personality, it seems cut from his mother’s cloth. A poet who took license in many things, Lady Wilde signed herself "Francesca Speranza Wilde" or just "Speranza" — the "Francesca" coming from her given Frances, the "Speranza" (i.e. hope) from the motto on her stationery. Read more...

P.G. Wodehouse

October 15: On this day in 1881, P. G. Wodehouse — Pelham Grenville, but known as "Plum," his fans as "Plumheads" — was born, in Surrey, England. Although he had Barons, the sister of Anne Boleyn, and noblemen who attended upon Edward the Confessor in his ancestry, Wodehouse's biographers say he liked to avoid the topic of his lineage. Read more...

Miss Brodie & Miss Bartlett

October 14: On this day in 1961 Muriel Spark's "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" was published in The New Yorker, an expanded version appearing in book form the following year. In her 1993 autobiography, Curriculum Vitae, Dame Spark confirms that Miss Christina Kay, one of her teachers at James Gillespie's High School for Girls in Edinburgh, was the model for her flamboyant and domineering Miss Brodie. Read more...

For the Proust-reading stenographer

October 13: On this day in 1962, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? premiered in New York. Despite the success of his earlier Off-Broadway hit, The Zoo Story, the explicit language and emotional battering in the new play had made it a difficult sell to many actors and most Broadway producers in the early '60s. Read more...

Anatole France

October 12: On this day in 1924 Anatole France (Anatole Thibault) died. France took his pseudonym from his father's Parisian bookstore, "Librairie de France," rather than from any premonition of becoming the personification of French literature for his generation — a writer, said the citation for his 1921 Nobel, with “nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament.” Read more...

Harold Pinter

October 10: Harold Pinter was born on this day in 1930. For a Nobel laureate, a Companion of Honour (he turned down the knighthood), and a recipient of Europe's top theater awards (the Shakespeare, the Olivier, the Pirandello, the Moliere ...), Pinter had a rough start. Read more...

William Styron

October 9: William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner was published on this day in 1967. The mainstream press praised the book as a valuable portrait of "the overwhelming historical tragedy that was slavery" , but many African Americans were outraged that Styron, through his first-person narrator, should dare to imagine himself a slave. Read more...

Making Waves

October 8: On this day in 1931 Virginia Woolf's The Waves was published. She was just forty-nine, and she would live and write for another decade, but this was the last of her major works, a series of six books over nine years that would change the face of modern fiction. Read more...

Allen Ginsberg

October 7: Allen Ginsberg read his poem Howl for the first time in public on this day in 1955, the event almost immediately becoming a part of Beat legend. In the audience at the Six Gallery in San Francisco were many later-famous writers, among them Jack Kerouac, thumping on his wine jug and shouting “Go, Go,” at the end of every long line from Ginsberg. Read more...

The Power of Ideas

October 6: On this day in 1921 the first branch of PEN, the now worldwide writers' organization, was founded in England. Its first president was John Galsworthy, and early members included Joseph Conrad, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and D. H. Lawrence. The acronym derives from Poets and playwrights/Editors/Novelists, but today the organization includes critics, translators, journalists, and others. Read more...

A Restless Eye

October 5: Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage was published on this day in 1895. Crane said that he had “deliberately started in to do a potboiler,” but then “I got interested in the thing in spite of myself, and I couldn’t, I couldn’t. Read more...

Gore Vidal

October 3: Gore Vidal was born on this day in 1925. The latest of his sixty-three books is another collection of essays, though only three of The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal (2008) have not already appeared in earlier collections. Read more...

"The greatest intellectual adventure ever experienced by one man"

October 2: Charles Darwin returned home from his Beagle voyage on this day in 1836, five years and three days after he set out. There are many moments in Darwin’s notebook diary, later published as The Voyage of the Beagle, which support Stephen Jay Gould’s comment that the trip reflects “perhaps the greatest intellectual adventure ever experienced by one man.” Read more...

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).