Displaying articles for: June 2011

The Trial of Thomas More

July 1: On this day in 1535 Sir Thomas More went on trial for refusing to swear an oath making Henry VIII head of the Church of England (and husband of whomever he pleased). Whatever the moral and legal issues, More’s confinement and eventual beheading is regarded as a window upon his towering personality and upon his relationship to "his anchor and confidante," his daughter Margaret.

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The Centenary of Czesław Miłosz

June 30: The Lithuanian-Polish poet Czesław Miłosz was born on this day in 1911. Though the Miłosz Centennial is a year-long event in Poland, the poet's birthday will be especially celebrated, given that it comes on the eve of Poland taking over the presidency of the European Union--a "symbolic concurrence of dates," says the official Centennial website, which honors "the birth of the great poet and the triumph of Polish freedom."

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Making the Brontë Myth

June 29: Charlotte Brontë married Arthur Bell Nicolls on this day in 1854. Brontë was forty-one, and she would die just nine months later, during pregnancy. In her influential 1857 biography, Elizabeth Gaskell used the marriage as a capstone to her influential portrait of Charlotte (and her sisters) as captive to some gothic nightmare, this view now regarded as part of the enduring Brontë myth(s).

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Henry James, Englishman

June 28: On this day in 1915 seventy-two-year-old Henry James wrote to the British prime minister to inform him of a "desire to offer myself for naturalisation in this country." Becoming a British citizen in the early days of WWI was James’s way of signaling "my explicit, my material and my spiritual allegiance, and throwing into the scale of her fortune my all but imponderable moral weight."

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Beach, Joyce & Fitzgerald

June 27: On this day in 1928 Sylvia Beach hosted a dinner party so that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who "worshipped James Joyce, but was afraid to approach him," might do so. In her Shakespeare and Company memoir Beach describes Fitzgerald’s "fallen-angel fascination" but avoids the details of the dinner, these including alcohol and a threat to jump from the window ledge.

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The Childhoods of Eric Carle

June 25:  The author-illustrator Eric Carle turns eighty-two today. Carle was born in Syracuse, New York, and spent six happy years there; then he accompanied his immigrant parents on their return to Germany. Carle has spoken often about how these two experiences stand as formative "dabs of color" in his development as an artist and person.

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Picasso in Paris

June 24: Nineteen-year-old Pablo Picasso had his first exhibition of paintings on this day in 1901, in Paris. Although some noted evidence of haste, or imitation of Toulouse-Lautrec, one reviewer saw a "brilliant virility," a painter who "is in love with every subject and to [whom] everything is a subject." All in all, says John Richardson (A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 1881-1906), the exhibition was "a stunning bravura performance."

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Orwell in Spain

June 23: Fearing possible execution for espionage and treason, George Orwell fled Spain on this day in 1937. A corporal on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell had fought until shot in the throat by a sniper. With the revolution in chaos and a warrant issued for his arrest—Orwell escaped by train, posing as a tourist.

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Anne Morrow Lindbergh

June 22: Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born on this day in 1906. Lindbergh's biographers make it clear that she regarded her fame as both worthwhile and worthless--proud of her accomplishments as an aviator-adventurer and author, but scornful and puzzled by her celebrity status as bereaved mother and spokeswoman.

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Sartre & Sagan

June 21: Jean-Paul Sartre was born on this day in 1905, and Françoise Sagan was born on this day in 1935. Though some described Sagan as merely "a luxury hotel existentialist," her "Love Letter to Jean-Paul Sartre," published in honor of his seventy-fifth birthday, spoke for many who viewed Sartre as the intellectual-political hero of mid-century France.

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World Refugee Day

June 20: Today is World Refugee Day. Included in Behzad Yaghmaian's Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West is the story of Tufan, a Kurd in his mid-twenties living on sardine handouts in Paris. Tufan's dream is to get his wife out of Tehran; his nightmare is to be revealed as one of those in double flight, as both refugee and homosexual.

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Unabashed Butler

June 18: The British novelist Samuel Butler died on this day in 1902. Butler is now regarded as an essential Victorian writer, but his posthumous literary reputation is the inverse of what it was while alive, as he was all too aware: “It will be noted that my public appears to be a declining one. I attribute this to the long course of practical boycott to which I have been subjected for so many years — or if not boycott — of sneer, snarl, and misrepresentation."

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Perkins & Sons

June 17: Maxwell Perkins died on this day in 1947. His decades at Charles Scribner's Sons have been chronicled in a handful of letter collections, the title of The Sons of Maxwell Perkins (2004) coming from F. Scott Fitzgerald's letter of April 23, 1938: "What a time you've had with your sons, Max—Ernest gone to Spain, me gone to Hollywood, Tom Wolfe reverting to an artistic hill-billy."

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Joyce Carol Oates

June 16: Joyce Carol Oates was born on this day in 1938. Oates says she began making picture stories at age three, "complicated narratives" often created on the backs of her father's sheets of sandpaper. She now has well over a hundred books published, the latest a grief-driven chronicle of trying to cope with the sudden death of her husband after forty-eight years of marriage. 

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Joyce, Dublin, Dubliners

June 15: James Joyce's Dubliners was published on this day in 1914. Joyce fumed that “nine years of my life” had been consumed by efforts to get the story collection into print. Objecting to the book’s irreligious, spit-in-the-eye tone, some forty publishers had declined Joyce’s attempt to give the Irish "one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass."

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Going Further

June 14: On this day in 1964, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters boarded their bus, "Further," for their first coast-to-coast trip. Novelist Robert Stone recalls some of the details in Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties (P.S.): “Like everything that was essential to the sixties, the cross-country trip has been mythologized. If you can remember it, the old saw goes, you weren’t there….”

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John Ball & William Morris

June 13: The Peasants’ Revolt reached London on this day in 1381, some 30,000 entering the city to formally voice before King Richard II and his lords the complaints they had been making throughout England for days, or decades. The peasant-rebels chanted the poetry of John Ball while on the march: “When Adam delved and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?”

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"Strata Smith"

June 11: After dinner on this day in 1799, the Rev. Joseph Townsend, the Rev. Benjamin Richardson and William Smith created the "Table of Strata" that would became The Map That Changed the World, and make "Strata Smith" the Father of British Geology.

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Bellow's Beginnings

June 10: Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec on this day in 1915, two years after his parents immigrated there from Russia. Denied Augie March’s famous origins — "I am an American, Chicago born" — Bellow moved to Chicago at age nine, his father taking a night shift job as a baker. In "Starting Out in Chicago," a talk he delivered at age sixty, Bellow reflected upon his blue-collar upbringing and his pie-eyed career choice.



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Dickens as David Copperfield

June 9: On this day in 1870 Charles Dickens died. Though only fifty-eight, Dickens was beset by increasing debility and depression throughout his last months. A family memoir says that the man so associated with Christmas Day had to spend his last one in bed, though in the evening he hobbled to the drawing room to play "The Memory Game," recalling his days as a child laborer.

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Orwell's Warning

June 8: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on this day in 1949. Shortly afterwards, to point his theme and his lifelong commitment, Orwell issued a post-publication press release: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one:  Don't let it happen. It depends on you. The quotation was soon given the status of a last statement or deathbed appeal, given that Orwell was hospitalized at the time and dead six months later.



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Beau Brummell

June 7: Beau Brummell was born on this day in 1778. Brummell became prototype for the Regency Dandy and perhaps "the first British celebrity," if not more: "There are three great men of our age," said Lord Byron, "myself, Napoleon and Brummell, but of we three, the greatest of all is Brummell."



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D-Day Voices

June 6: Allied forces began their D-Day invasion on this day in 1944. As the number of World War veterans dwindle — the last combatant in WWI died a month ago — the first-person battle accounts seem to increase in value:  "We crouched in the bottom of the boat in the vomit, urine, and seawater, whatever was there. The assault boat hit a sandbar. We were at least seventy-five yards from shore.…"



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Remembering Tiananmen

June 4: The Tiananmen Square Massacre occurred on this day in 1989. The decades have not much clarified the original news reports that "hundreds, maybe thousands" of pro-democracy demonstrators were slaughtered, but anthologies that bring together the stories of witnesses  have given us an inside view of the events, these often expressed by "A Student Who Survived" or someone else well within range of a rifle or reprisal.

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Tom & Groucho

June 3: On this day in 1964, T. S. Eliot wrote to Groucho Marx to confirm that a car would be waiting at the Savoy to pick "you and Mrs. Groucho" up for dinner. The event had been much- postponed, and Groucho arrived fully armed: "During the week I had read Murder in the Cathedral twice, The Waste Land three times, and just in case of a conversational bottleneck, I brushed up on King Lear…."

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Sackville-West at Sissinghurst

June 2: On this day in 1962, Vita Sackville-West died at the age of seventy. Easy to lose in the glare of the more prevalent images—the jodhpurs-and-pearls Vita, the bedmate of Virginia Woolf and others, the cross-dressing mistress of Sissinghurst Castle—is the fact that Sackville-West was a prolific, prize-winning and commercially successful author, and a master gardener.

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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).