Displaying articles for: September 2011

Chandler Plugs On

October 1: Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely was published on this day in 1940. Like The Big Sleep, this second Marlowe book did not sell; like his hero, Chandler shrugged and went back to work: "I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room."

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The Rainbow and Beyond

September 30: D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow was published on this day in 1915. A month later, all unsold copies were seized and destroyed by the authorities as allegedly pornographic. These events, coming on top of other longer-standing issues, caused Lawrence to renew his efforts to escape to Florida, Australia, Mexico, anywhere but "this banquet of vomit, this life, this England, this Europe."

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Melville and Maugham

September 29: Herman Melville's Redburn was published on this day in 1849. It was popular, though Melville dismissed it as a novel "done for money, being forced to it, as other men are to sawing wood," and amounting to "nothing but cakes & ale." Melville took the phrase from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, as did Somerset Maugham, whose Cakes and Ale was published on this day in 1930.

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The Bayeux Tapestry

September 28: William the Conqueror landed in England on this day in 1066, setting in motion the events which would change British history. The story of William's defeat of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king, is told not just by the contemporary bards and chroniclers but also by the Bayeux Tapestry. The 230-foot-long embroidered panel has its own fascinating history and may be as important as the Norman Conquest itself.

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Carson's Silent Spring

September 27: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published on this day in 1962. Carson's book helped to begin the environmental movement, or tried to—with next year marking the the fiftieth anniversary of Silent Spring, the twentieth anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and the fortieth anniversary of the first global environmental conference, many are gearing up for a new push.

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Surveying Smiley

September 26: Jane Smiley was born on this day in 1949. In the two decades between A Thousand Acres, Smiley's Pulitzer-winner, and Private Life, Smiley has published across almost every genre and on any available subject: literary criticism, political commentary, children's literature, biography, about "farming, horse training, child-rearing, impulse buying, getting dressed, Barbie, marriage, and many other topics."

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"Hack Writer and Plagiarist"

September 24:  On this day in 1896, F. Scott Fitzgerald was born. The letterhead that Fitzgerald had made up for his stationery in the early 1920s reads, "F. Scott Fitzgerald / Hack Writer and Plagiarist / St. Paul, Minnesota." Although often couched in humor, such doubts and self-deprecations, say Fitzgerald's biographers, ran as a back-beat of failure through both his life and career.

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Lewis & Clark

September 23: The Lewis and Clark Expedition came to a triumphant end on this day in 1806, the adventurers returning to St. Louis after their twenty-eight-month trip to the Pacific coast. One of Lewis's journal entries reveals that his expedition almost ended in Montana, in a stare-down with a bear.

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Eliot & Pound

September 22: Twenty-five-year-old T. S. Eliot and twenty-eight-year-old Ezra Pound met on this day in 1914, one of the most famous friendships and collaborations in twentieth-century literature beginning with a cup of tea in Pound's Kensington flat. When The Waste Land appeared eight years later, it was dedicated to Pound; when Eliot died a half century later, Pound elegized him as "the true Dantescan voice."

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Loving Leonard

September 21: Leonard Cohen turns seventy-seven today. The biographers have accelerated their attempts—three full-length studies have been published in the last few years—but Cohen remains attractively elusive, turning aside most attempts to pry or praise: "I wrote for love. / Then I wrote for money. / With someone like me / It's the same thing."

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Blixen & Finch Hatton

September 20: On this day in 1930, Karen Blixen's double love affair with Denys Finch Hatton and Africa reached its high point—her first plane ride over the Ngong hills. There were more flights over the next six months, but all was over within a year: Blixen lost her farm in March, and when Finch Hatton was killed in a plane crash two months later she returned to Denmark for good.

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Escaping Eden

September 19: John Steinbeck's East of Eden was published on this day in 1952. Steinbeck regarded the book as his chance to tell his public and his sons "perhaps the greatest story of all—the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate…." As told in The Other Side of Eden, his sons read the book as a bitter joke about Steinbeck's failures as a parent.

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Looking for Ken Kesey

September 17: Ken Kesey was born on this day in 1935. For some of those attempting to bring biographical order to Kesey's chaotic life, his decision to give up fiction after just six years is a literary tragedy, the promising author becoming "the hero of a tie-dye generation" and then just "famous for being famous...a footnote to an era."

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Parkman's Oregon Trail

September 16: The American historian Francis Parkman was born on this day in 1823. Parkman's The Oregon Trail and his monumental seven-volume France and England in North America greatly shaped the popular view of North American history into the twentieth century. His biases and his romantic tone are now usually debunked, though his writing is still often praised as literature—"among the most brilliant achievements of the writing of history as an art," said Edmund Wilson.

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McKay in Harlem

September 15: The Jamaican-American poet and novelist Claude McKay was born on this day in 1889. McKay's poetry collection Harlem Shadows (1922) is regarded as one of the first and most influential texts of the Harlem Renaissance, and his controversial 1928 novel, Home to Harlem, marked the first time that a black author made the bestseller lists.

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Garland & Lewis

September 14: Hamlin Garland was born on this day in 1860, and Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt was published on this day in 1922. Garland won a Pulitzer for his memoirs of prairie life in the Midwest; Lewis's novel describes the same area several generations later, the honest pioneers now glad-handing realtors.

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The Range of Roald Dahl

September 13: Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff, Wales, on this day in 1916. His memoir Boy: Tales of Childhood and other biographies reveal that Dahl led a varied, adventurous, and shadowed life:"flying ace" in WWII,  spy colleague of Ian Fleming's (this the focus of Jennet Conant's recent The Irregulars), with a family beset by tragedy and a writing audience wider than children.

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In the Caves of Art

September 12: On this day in 1940, while exploring the hills around their Dordogne village, four teenagers and a dog discovered the cave paintings of Lascaux, one of the most important and storied sites of prehistoric art. Scholars continue to debate why Paleolithic artists adorned their cave walls; in The Cave Painters we also learn how the cave itself is an essential part of the gallery experience.

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Foster, Wollstonecraft, Romance

September 10: Hannah Webster Foster was born on this day in 1758, and Mary Wollstonecraft died on this day in 1797. Foster's The Coquette (1797) was one of the most popular early American romance novels, while Wollstonecraft made the case that women were entitled to more than such frivolous reading in her seminal work  Vindication of the Rights of Women; the recent Beyond Heaving Bosoms attempts to legitimize and liberate the genre.

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The Goodman Reformation

September 9: Paul Goodman died on this day in 1972. Goodman is most widely remembered as a provocative thinker and essayist, displaying the voice of "an urban, twentieth-century Thoreau" in books such as his volume of social criticism, New Reformation, and Growing Up Absurd, an essential sixties text.

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Literacy Day

September 8: Today is International Literacy Day, as proclaimed by UNESCO in 1965. One of the two recipients for UNESCO's 2011 Confucius Prizes is the international nonprofit organization Room to Read, now in its eleventh year. John Wood's Leaving Microsoft to Change the World (2007) tells the inspiring story of how he began Room to Read, giving up his life as "a corporate warrior" to do battle on behalf of books.

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The London Blitz

September 7: The London Blitz began on this day in 1940 and continued, in the city and throughout the country, for the next eight months. The image of St. Paul's rising up amid clouds of fiery smoke became one of the iconic photographs of the war, and the defiance demonstrated by ordinary British citizens served as an inspiration to the nation and its allies.

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Cabin to Cairn

September 6: Henry David Thoreau left his Walden Pond cabin on this day in 1847. Thoreau's book was a slow starter, but both it and the cabin site were famous by the time Walt Whitman visited in 1881: "On the spot in the woods where Thoreau had his solitary house is now quite a cairn of stones, to mark the place; I too carried one and deposited on the heap."

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Of Beatniks & Hippies

September 5: Jack Kerouac's On the Road was published on this day in 1957; and the term "hippie," in the contemporary sense of the word, first appeared in print on this day in 1965. Kerouac tolerated the link many made between the beatnik and hippie subcultures, until his politics turned right; but his book and his backpack lifestyle helped to create the archetype.

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Galeano's Nobodies

September 3: The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano was born on this day in 1940. Galeano's books range across journalism, history, and fiction, often at the same time; they frequently tell the story of Latin America's forgotten: "The nobodies: nobody's children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way."

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Tolkien as Bilbo Baggins

September 2: J.R.R. Tolkien died on this day in 1973, aged eighty-four. Tolkien was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon/English Language and Literature at Oxford for thirty-four years, staying on there for over two decades after his novels had swept him to fame and wealth. There were Tolkien Societies from Iceland to North Borneo by this time, but Tolkien always ran from his popularity, if not from the modern world itself.

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

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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.