Displaying articles for: November 2009

The Gumshoe and the Playboy

December 1: Woody Allen was born on this day in 1935, and Playboy began publishing on this day in 1953. The reader that Hugh Hefner said he wanted might have stepped out of Allen’s “The Whore of Mensa,” in which hardboiled detective Kaiser Lupowitz goes undercover, looking for intellectual prostitutes: “Suppose I wanted Noam Chomsky explained to me by two girls?...” Read more...

Wilde & the Wallpaper

November 30: Oscar Wilde died on this day in 1900, in the nick of time: “If another century began and I was still alive, it would really be more than the English could stand.” During his three-and-a-half years after prison, the only writing Wilde completed was The Ballad of Reading Goal, and though he maintained his ability to turn a phrase as he roamed Europe over these last years, looking for companionship or handouts, most of his comments are darkly shaded. Read more...

Chandler’s Long Goodbye

November 27: On this day in 1953 Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye was published. Many say it is his best novel, and though Chandler always scoffed at being compared to Marlowe, the biographers trace many links between the book and his personal life, specifically the death of his wife after thirty years of marriage: “I have said goodbye to my Cissy in the middle of the night in the dark cold hours many, many times….” Read more...

Faulkner Flying High

November 26: On this day in 1919, twenty-two-year-old William Faulkner published his first prose, a short story about an air force cadet's first solo flight. “Landing in Luck” is a lighthearted and possibly autobiographical tale: Faulkner’s time in the Canadian Air Force is clouded by bourbon and other embellishments, and his hero is the “Biggest liar in the R.A.F.” Read more...

Marketing D. H. Lawrence

November 25: D. H. Lawrence’s Love Among the Haystacks was published on this day in 1930. The story collection was an attempt to capitalize on Lawrence’s recent death and his reputation for titillation, the cheap reprint editions featuring dust-jackets in the bodice-ripping style. But Lawrence was complicit: his newspaper article “Sex Locked Out,” one of many such polemics, was published on this day in 1928. Read more...

"On the Origin of Species" Turns 150

November 24: Today marks the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Envisioning an eventual career in the Church, Darwin had boarded the Beagle on the belief that “the pursuit of Natural History...is very suitable to a clergyman,” and part of the ship’s mission, eventually abandoned, had been to spread the Word. Read more...

"Kill a Man as Kill a Good Book"

November 23: On this day in 1644 John Milton published his pamphlet, Areopagitica, a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, to the Parliament of England. Having just returned from a visit to the imprisoned Galileo, Milton’s famous metaphor equating murder and censorship was in earnest, and part of his larger argument against establishing any sort of inquisition, sacred or secular. Read more...

Voltaire's Arrest

November 21: On this day in 1694 Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet) was born. Few could have predicted his Age-defining stature, but apparently the young Voltaire showed every sign of making a career from toppling rather than upholding the idea of received authority. As a teenager in Paris, Voltaire was so fond of the freethinking "libertins" that his father had him removed to Caen and then the Netherlands, for instruction in the political arts. This did not work, nor did attempts to become a lawyer - these encouraged by father's threats of sending him to the West Indes or even prison, by way of a lettre de cachet. At age twenty-one he was exiled from Paris for five months, having stepped on the wrong toes with some satiric verses about the decadent life at Versailles. Six months later he was arrested again for similar offences, this time put in the Bastille. Read more...

White Whales

November 20: Rammed several times by a large, white whale, the Essex sank on this day in 1820, some 2,000 miles west of South America. An account written by First Mate Owen Chase was published the next year, becoming an important source for Melville’s Moby-Dick, published thirty years later. Read more...

Poe, Frost, Birds

November 19: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and Other Poems was published on this day in 1845. This was the final collection published in his lifetime, and the one most closely associated with his enduring profile as poet of the macabre. Robert Frost’s West-Running Brook, his fourth book, was published on this day in 1928. Read more...

Proust Mort

November 18: Marcel Proust died on this day in 1922, aged fifty-one. His last months offered more material for the legendary decade which began Nov. 16, 1913 with the publication of Swann’s Way, first volume of In Search of Lost Time. His housekeeper-nurse described Proust living only on café au lait as he raced to revise his remaining volumes; his friends described witnessing “the extraordinary fate of a creator who was devoured by his own creation.” Read more...

Sylvia Beach and Company

November 17: On this day in 1919 American expatriate Sylvia Beach opened her bookshop-library, Shakespeare and Company, in the Left Bank section of Paris, where it became an intellectual and social center for the international literary community throughout the next decades. As Beach's determination to publish Joyce's Ulysses made her bookshop famous, it seems fitting that it was her refusal to sell her last copy of Finnegans Wake which finally caused her doors to close…. Read more...

The Beat Gen

November 16: John Clellon Holmes published “This is the Beat Generation” in the New York Times Magazine on this day in 1952. His article contains the first print use of the term “Beat Generation,” and his novel Go, published earlier that year, is regarded as the first Beat novel. On this day seven years later, Jack Kerouac appeared on the Steve Allen Show, introduced as the author of On the Road and “the embodiment of the Beat Generation.” Read more...

Pepys & Saki

November 14: The November 14, 1666 entry in The Diary of Samuel Pepys describes the first known blood transfusion — Pepys and company going on to wonder about the possibility “of the blood of a Quaker to be let into an Archbishop, and such like.” Saki (H. H. Munro) died on this day in 1916, killed at the age of forty-five by a sniper on the front lines during WWI. Read more...

Real and Ancient Mariners

November 13: On this day in 1797 William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge began a walking holiday in the Quantock Hills of Somerset, during which they would conceive “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Robert Louis Stevenson and Joseph Conrad, two genuine seafarers — the two Romantics had no experience beyond a Channel crossing — are also tied to this day. Read more...

New England Coptic

November 12: Emily Dickinson’s Poems, her first posthumous collection, appeared on this day in 1890, Some praised “a power, a vision that enthralls”; many others expressed regret for a mind “that has suffered some obscure lesion,” capable only of “a farrago of illiterate and uneducated sentiment,” in language that “is no more English than it is Coptic.” Read more...

War & Remembrance

November 11: On this day of remembrance, we remember two forgotten war books — Frederic Manning's The Middle Parts of Fortune and A. P. Herbert’s The Secret Battle. Hemingway said he read Manning’s book once a year “to remember how things really were so that I will never lie to myself nor to anyone else about them.” Winston Churchill’s introduction Herbert’s book described it as “a soldier's tale cut in stone to melt all hearts.” Read more...

Prophets of the Road

November 10: Ken Kesey died on this day in 2001. The author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the ringleader of the Merry Pranksters, whose exploits on a psychedelically decorated bus were chronicled in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, was buried on his Oregon farm, in a homemade pine box sprayed in Day-Glo, beneath a headstone inscribed with “Sparks Fly Upwards” (from the Book of Job: “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upwards”). The coffin received an assortment of blessings and provisions. Read more...

Anti/Establishment

November 9: The first issue of the Atlantic Monthly appeared on this day in 1857, and the first issue of Rolling Stone was published on this day in 1967. As a child of the Boston Establishment, the Atlantic promised readers that, although "Narrative, Wit, and Humor, will not go uncared for," they could mostly expect "articles of an abstract and permanent value." The first issue of Rolling Stone had John Lennon on the cover, and promised Hunter S. Thompson…. Read more...

Flanner on France

November 7: On this day in 1978 Janet Flanner died. For a half-century her bi-weekly "Letter From Paris" was published under her pen name, "Genet," in the New Yorker. Flanner's stylish articulation of the je ne sais quoi was regarded as among the best windows on modern France, from post-war politics to the premiere of a new play by Camus (born on this day in 1913) to the inimitable Josephine Baker. Read more...

Pamela vs. Shamela

November 6: Samuel Richardson published Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded on this day in 1740. Often described as the first modern novel, the book proved so popular that there were soon Pamela displays in Vauxhall Gardens, a steady stream of Pamela products, and a deluge of literary or musical sequels, spin-offs and send-ups. The most famous entry in the latter category was Henry Fielding’s Shamela. Read more...

James Clerk Maxwell, Physicist-Poet

November 5: The Scottish physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell died on this day in 1879. Maxwell’s work in physics was "the most profound and most fruitful … since the time of Newton" (Albert Einstein). Maxwell was also something of an original as a poet in a crossover genre: "Gin a body meet a body / Flyin' through the air. / Gin a body hit a body, / Will it fly? And where?..." Read more...

Wilfred Owen's Passing Bell

November 4: On this day in 1918 twenty-five-year-old Wilfred Owen died in France, killed by machine-gun fire while leading his men across a canal by raft. In a letter written a month before his death, Owen reflected on the military-literary mission he had given himself: "I came out in order to help these boys -- directly, by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can. I have done the first." Read more...

Walt Whitman & Mrs. Gilchrist

November 3: On this day in 1871 Walt Whitman wrote to the British essayist Mrs. Anne Gilchrist to delicately decline her offer of marriage. Gilchrist was a forty-three-year-old widow, author of "An Englishwoman's Defense of Walt Whitman." Her ardent reading of Leaves of Grass imagined its author as "the voice of my mate"; her letters to Whitman imagined that voice saying, "My Mate. The one I so much want. Bride, Wife…." Read more...

Boone, Byron, Coleridge & Pantisocracy

November 2: On this day in 1734 Daniel Boone was born, becoming an inspiration for not just the romantic legends but the Romantic poets. Byron's Don Juan imagines Boone as "happiest amongst mortals anywhere," if not as Adam in Eden. Coleridge took this vision a few steps (or a continent) further: his imagination fired by Boone, Rousseau and the ideals of the French Revolution, he planned a "pantisocratic" commune in America. Read more...

Byron & Casanova

October 31: Twenty-one-year-old Byron began Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage on this day in 1809. The poem created a sensation when published in 1812, occasioning Byron’s legendary, “I woke up one morning and found myself famous.” 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
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).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.