Displaying articles for: October 2012

Stephen Crane's Backstreets

November 1: Stephen Crane was born on this day in 1871 in the New Jersey shore town of Asbury Park. Crane's parents were prominent among the Methodist devout there; on their list of forbiddens were most of Stephen's present or future passions -- alcohol, tobacco, women, baseball, and novels. But Crane, like another Asbury Park street poet a century later, saw himself as "born to run" as well as write.

 

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England & Evelyn

October 31: The English environmentalist and reformer John Evelyn was born on this day in 1620. Inspiration to Crabtree & Evelyn, Evelyn wrote the first English book on silviculture, also the first book published by the Royal Society he helped to found; he wrote England's first publication on air pollution and city planning; and his Acetaria, the first English-language book on salads, helped start the nation's vegetarian movement.

 

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Jungle Butterfly

October 30: The "Rumble in the Jungle" took place in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) on this day in 1974. The George Foreman-Muhammad Ali championship fight has multiple claims to its place in boxing, sports, and cultural history, and Norman Mailer's eyewitness account still answers the bell: "He went over like a six-foot sixty-year-old butler who has just heard tragic news…."

 

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Seale & Southern

October 29: On this day in 1969 Bobby Seale gave the tumultuous sixties one of their most iconic images when he was bound and gagged during the trial of the Chicago Eight. Terry Southern, who died on this day in 1995, was a witness at the trial that had landed Seale and the others in court, and Southern's "Grooving in Chi" is now regarded as a classic of New Journalism.

 

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Child Dylan

October 27: Dylan Thomas was born on this day in 1914 in Swansea, South Wales. The family was poor, but Thomas was no Welsh pit boy: he had a poet uncle, a schoolteacher father with a full library, and elocution lessons for his local accent. But he was also sickly and unenthusiastic about school, and he would often stay home with real or faked illness, or be allowed to run his "heedless ways" on his Aunt's tumble-down Fern Hill farm, "green and golden" and truant.

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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.

 

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Prodigious Picasso

October 25: Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain, on this day in 1881. In A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, the first book in his award-winning, multi-volume biography, John Richardson establishes that the painter was prodigious in not only his art but his image making. Richardson says that many stories of the painter’s precocious youth are inspired by his own embroidered memories, these promoted by the man who was his secretary, memoirist, and "legend-monger."

 

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Righting the UN

October 24: Today is United Nations Day, commemorating the signing of the UN Charter on October 24, 1945. The postwar negotiations that created the institution reflect a delicate balance, old fears jockeying with new hope, one governance issue solved by ultimatum, another by cooperation and concession. Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that Thomas G. Weiss’s What’s Wrong With the United Nations and How to Fix It is divided equally, the section on "Diagnosing the Ills" balanced by a "Palliatives if Not Cures” section, this “not based on pious hopes…but rather on specific and encouraging examples that could be repeated."

 

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Crowning Cheever

October 23: The Stories of John Cheever was published on this day in 1978, winning the Pulitzer, the American Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Coming just four years before his death, and after four decades of stories, the highly praised collection secured Cheever’s "coronation" (biographer Blake Bailey) as "the best storyteller living" (John Irving).

 

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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.

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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 crossed 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.

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"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.

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Busting Big Al

October 18: Al Capone was put behind bars on this day in 1931, convicted of tax evasion. Capone's story captivated Prohibition-era America, offering ready copy for the scribes and pundits. In his first column covering the trial for one Chicago newspaper, Damon Runyon placed himself on the stand, where he dismissed all charges save that of poor quality control: "I ain't got nothing against Snorky Capone, except wishing he would turn on a better brand of tap beer in the Loop."

 

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Miller, Loman, America

October 17: Arthur Miller was born in New York on this day in 1915. Though an illiterate Polish-Jewish immigrant, Miller's father had done well with his clothing factory and his stock market investments; but with the Wall Street crash of '29 the family moved to an affordable Brooklyn Heights house where Miller would eventually write Death of a Salesman -- modeling Willy Loman upon one of his father's drummers, who crashed in pursuit of his version of the American Dream.

 

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Grass in Gdansk

October 16: Günter Grass was born on this day in 1927, in Gdansk (then Danzig), Poland, where he is now an honorary citizen -- though just barely. Several years ago, Grass revealed in his memoir Peeling the Onion that as a teenager he had been a member of an infamous Nazi division, the Waffen-SS. Coming after decades of outspoken anti-Nazi pacifism, the disclosure had many beating the drum to condemn Grass and revoke his citizenship of Gdansk.

 

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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.

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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.

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Ann Petry's The Street

October 12: Ann Petry was born on this day in 1908. Her first, record-breaking novel, The Street, describes the desperate and losing battle which a single, working mother in Harlem wages against petty crime, predatory men, and systemic racism: "Streets like the one she lived on were no accident. They were the North's lynch mobs, she thought bitterly; the method the big cities used to keep Negroes in their place."

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"Live from New York…"

October 11: Saturday Night Live premiered on this day in 1975. When co-creators Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol conceived of SNL, they wanted "the first television show to speak the language of the time," a show that escaped the pandering "need to please." In the Samurai-speaking John Belushi, they knew they had a kindred, though perhaps uncontrollable, spirit: "In John's first interview with Lorne," recalls Judith Belushi, "one of the first things he said was, 'My television has spit all over it.' "

 

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Porgy in Moscow

October 10: The Broadway musical Porgy and Bess opened on this day in 1935. Conceived by George Gershwin as an "American folk opera," the musical has sometimes attracted criticism as a racist portrayal of African-American subculture. When it played in Moscow in 1952, it attracted Truman Capote, whose two-part article for The New Yorker told an amusing tale of red tape, Red-bashing, and bewilderment.

 

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Chasing Che

October 9: Che Guevara was executed on this day in 1967, the day after he and most of his small guerrilla band had been captured in central Bolivia. The most recent contributions to the debate over Che reflect the polarizations (or polemics) that have set in over the past forty-five years, some portraying a loving father and a Byronic warrior-poet, others the "Military Doofus" who was "Fidel's Favorite Executioner."

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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.

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Beach, Hemingway & Boxing

October 6: Sylvia Beach died on this day in 1962. Her memoir Shakespeare and Company contains a series of charming anecdotes about life at her Parisian bookstore, hardly a day going by there without one famous modernist or another showing up to browse or chat. Hemingway was "My Best Customer" because he actually bought books instead of just thumbing them, and because he tutored Beach in a range of sporting events. "Our studies began with boxing," writes Beach….

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Adapting Anne Frank

October 5: The Diary of Anne Frank opened on Broadway on this day in 1955. The adaptation by the husband-and-wife team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett was an immediate hit and a prizewinner, the reviewers praising a "lovely, tender drama" conveying the heroine's "dream of impossible perfection" and inspiring "everyone into lifting himself up by his bootstraps." The play, the production, and the praise also attracted immediate and enduring controversy.

 

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Sputnik Dreams

October 4: The Soviet Union launched Sputnik on this day in 1957. This was the starting pistol for the Space Race -- a race, laments Marina Benjamin in Rocket Dreams, that turned out to be more of a sprint than a marathon. Benjamin's book is both a memoir and an investigation of what happened to "the utopian, escapist, and conquistadorial hopes that originally enlivened the effort to put humans in space and meant so much to a generation of Space Age dreamers like me."

 

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Giving Thanks, Boosting Numbers

October 3: George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday on this day in 1789, and on this day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln set the third Thursday in November as the permanent date. Historical records show that various kinds of thanksgiving observances had come and gone in North America since the late 1500s, some celebrations akin to a harvest festival, others giving thanks to God or settlement founders.

 

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Schulz and Peanuts

October 2: The first Peanuts comic strip was published on this day in 1950. For the next half century, Peanuts ran daily in thousands of newspapers around the world, making it "arguably the longest story ever told by one human being." That story is an intensely personal one, says David Michaelis in Schulz and Peanuts (2007), a double history of both the cartoonist and the cartoon.

 

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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…

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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.