Displaying articles for: November 2011

Rosa Parks, Montgomery

December 1: Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, on this day in 1955 for not giving up her bus seat to a white passenger. The historic denial is captured by former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove in "Rosa," one of the title-sequence poems in her collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks: "How she sat there, / the time right inside a place / so wrong it was ready…."

Read more...

Churchillian Style

November 30: Winston Churchill was born on this day in 1874. Churchill received the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature for being a stylist, one who could turn history and biography into a good read. In his autobiography, Churchill says that he learned to write as a schoolboy, where "I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence -- which is a noble thing."

Read more...

Remembering C. S. Lewis

November 29: C. S. Lewis was born on this day in 1898. After a long and varied career as writer and scholar, Lewis died on the same day as John F. Kennedy's assassination, as did Aldous Huxley. As Lewis's and Huxley's biographers have pointed out, this coincidence shifted attention away from both men’s careers. In Lewis’s case, the recent Narnia movies have more than righted things by triggering a handful of biographies and memoirs, plus a tide of critical studies and new editions published over the past five years.

Read more...

The Wright Sledgehammer

November 28: On this day in 1960 the expatriate American writer Richard Wright died in Paris. Wright's last fifteen years in France were the final stop in a life of migrations; wherever he went, says historian John Henrik Clarke, he "came like a sledgehammer, like a giant out of the mountain with a sledgehammer, writing with a sledgehammer...." 

Read more...

Casablanca Crazy

November 26: The movie Casablanca opened on this day in 1942. The movie, or its enduring fandom, has a cameo in travel writer Tahir Shah's recent bestseller, The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca; and Bogie shares star billing with Woody Allen's hapless, loveless hero in Play It Again, Sam.

Read more...

Christie Mysteries

November 25: Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap began its fifty-nine-year (and counting) run in London's West End on this day in 1952. Christie's biographers suggest that the longest-running mystery in the author's life is the odd tale of her own disappearance, which inspired both Dorothy Sayers and Arthur Conan Doyle to join the search.

Read more...

Frances Hodgson Burnett

November 24: Frances Hodgson Burnett was born on this day in 1849. Burnett published her first story at age eighteen, hoping to help her impoverished family, recently emigrated from Manchester to a log cabin in Tennessee. Through the next half century she published over fifty novels, thirteen plays, and a steady flow of magazine stories and articles, becoming famous on both sides of the Atlantic -- and the highest-paid female author of her day.

Read more...

Getting the Picture

November 23: Life magazine debuted at the newsstands on this day in 1936, the half-million copies selling out immediately. Though not the first mass-circulation photo magazine, Life was immediately recognized as an innovative attempt, as publisher Henry Luce put it, "to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things -- machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon…."

Read more...

The Impossible Musical

November 22: Man of La Mancha opened in New York City on this day in 1965, running for the next five and a half years and earning many awards and accolades -- among them, the rarely bestowed "A Metaphysical Smasheroo!" (from the Life magazine review). But the hit show had a bumpy start, as told in The Impossible Musical, Dale Wasserman's 2003 memoir.

Read more...

Balloonomania

November 21: On this day in 1783, the first manned flight took place; and on this day in 2006 Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day was published. The first flight was an untethered, twenty-five minute, five-mile ride over the Parisian countryside in a hot-air balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers. In Pynchon's novel, the "Chums of Chance" fly their airship, Inconvenience, unpredictably forward into WWI.

Read more...

Listening to Lincoln

November 19: Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address on this day in 1863. The newspapers of the day managed to play politics with perhaps the most famous of American speeches. Republican papers reported hearing a speech that "will live among the annals of man," while Democratic papers wished to "pass over the silly remarks of the President," given that "the cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances."

Read more...

Bowles in Morocco

November 18: Paul Bowles died on this day in 1999, aged eighty-eight. Bowles continued working on his translations, his music, and the odd short story until the end, and continued living in Tangiers -- fifty-three years there in all, over forty of them in the same nondescript apartment. But Bowles had also been a lifelong, off-road traveller, many of his excursions written up for the magazines of the day and now brought together in the 2011 collection Travels.

Read more...

The Art of Vituperation

November 17: The journalist-novelist Auberon Waugh was born on this day in 1939, second child to Evelyn Waugh. Many anecdotes in Auberon’s Will This Do? reflect his difficult, distant relationship with his father; and many anecdotes in Kiss Me, Chudleigh, a recent biography-sampler, reflect author William Cook’s attempt to expand Waugh’s reputation beyond "master of the vituperative arts."

Read more...

Saramago’s Portugal

November 16: Nobel laureate José Saramago was born on this day in 1922. In an interview several years before his death, Saramago said Journey to Portugal, his 1981 travel book, was the best introduction to his work for anyone unfamiliar with his unusual novels; surely second place goes to Small Memories, his charming recollections of his early years.

Read more...

A Second Dawn

November 15: Dawn Powell died on this day in 1965. Powell was praised by some contemporary critics, and one of her fifteen novels made the bestseller list (for a week), but virtually all her books were already out of print when she died. But the recent Powell revival has returned all her novels to print, and the critics now rank her diverse talents alongside those of Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, and Evelyn Waugh.

Read more...

Melville in Bedlam

November 14: Herman Melville's Moby-Dick was published in the U.S. 160 years ago today. Melville could not have predicted its eventual masterpiece status, but he was hopeful that the novel would rescue his reputation and his finances. When, through a sequence of errors, poor judgment, and bad timing, it was dismissed as "so much trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam literature," the author's dashed expectations became a personal and professional disaster.

Read more...

Immigrant Images

November 12: The Ellis Island immigration center closed on this day in 1954, after 12 million immigrants over 62 years had passed through its gates. The recently published Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905-20 offers a fascinating photo gallery: circus performers, war orphans, armed Cossacks, Romanian shepherds, Ethiopian tribesmen, kilted Scots….

Read more...

Auden & Achilles

November 11: W. H. Auden's The Shield of Achilles was published on this day in 1955, winning the National Book Award for poetry in America. The choice of November 11 as publication day could only have been intentional given Auden's provocative views on war, raised again by a couplet in the new collection titled "Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier": "To save your world you asked this man to die: / Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?"

Read more...

Remarque & the Nazis

November 10: Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front began newspaper serialization on this day in 1928, the book being published the following January. Serialization caused the newspaper's circulation numbers to triple; the book sold a million copies in its first year; and a storm of controversy swept Germany. The most militant among those who condemned Remarque's book on the first war were those who began the next one.

Read more...

Escaping Auschwitz

November 9: Imre Kertész, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize, was born in Budapest on this day in 1929. In his Nobel lecture and interviews Kertész discussed his experiences in the Nazi death camps -- of the "banality of evil," of how he contrived to survive, of feeling "deep and tortuous ties with the millions who perished and who never knew mercy."

Read more...

Bodleian & Louvre

November 8: Two of the Western world's oldest cultural institutions opened on this day: Oxford's Bodleian Library in 1602 and the Louvre in 1793. Born of the French Revolution, the Louvre is attracting attention these days for its efforts to break down the patron barricades with a highly popular and well-reviewed series of  "Nights at the Museum" books -- graphic novels for adult readers, telling tales of art history.

Read more...

Camus in Algeria

November 7: Albert Camus was born in Mondovi, Algeria, on this day in 1913. Camus's father, a day laborer, died in WWI, and Camus was brought up by his illiterate, deaf mother and his grandmother. Many details of his impoverished early life are included in The First Man, his last, incomplete novel, dedicated to his mother and devoted to those like her: "Give all the land to the poor, to those who have nothing…."

Read more...

Sam Shepard’s Horse

November 5: Sam Shepard was born on this day in 1943. In interviews, Shepard has expressed "nostalgia for a place, a place where you can reckon with yourself." In his recent Kicking a Dead Horse, the reckoning takes in the dead horse, its lost rider, and the collapse of America.

Read more...

Thomas in Laugharne

November 4: Dylan Thomas’s Quite Early One Morning was published on this day in 1954. Many of the two dozen stories and sketches in the collection is "Laugharne," about the Welsh village and life at the Boat House there. The idyllic portrait is both confirmed and challenged by My Father’s Places, a recent memoir  by Aeronwy Thomas.

Read more...

Chesterton & Cheese

November 3: G. K. Chesterton’s Alarms and Discursions was published on this day in 1910. As the collection’s title suggests, Chesterton was a fearless and unpredictable essayist, now attacking the largest issues, now scurrying off on the wildest tangents. With two new biographies published this year, Ian Ker’s G. K. Chesterton and Kevin Belmonte’s Defiant Joy, Chesterton might regain the reputation he enjoyed among his contemporaries as the consummate man of letters, able to turn any topic into telling or stylish reading.

Read more...

The Thurber Question

November 2: James Thurber died on this day in 1961. One of Thurber’s most popular books, co-authored with E. B. White, was Is Sex Necessary? (1929). The battle of the sexes, a favorite theme in Thurber’s writing and cartoons, approaches endgame in Maureen Dowd’s Are Men Necessary? (2005): "As a species, it’s possible that men are ever so last century…."

Read more...

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.