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Archive for January, 2002

A Week in Literary History

January 31st, 2002

In 1893, British memoirist and travel writer Freya Stark (Alexander’s Path, 1958) is born in Paris.

Freya Stark, b. January 31, 1893, d. 1993

stark1.pngA fearless adventurer and explorer, Stark used her mastery of Arabic and other languages in travelling throughout the Near East and Asia. Her books combine travelogue with cultural analysis in language both poetic and evocative. She continued travelling and writing into her seventies and eighties and lived to see her hundredth birthday.

Suggested Reading Travel The Valleys of the Assassins, 1934. The Southern Gates of Arabia, 1936. A Winter in Arabia, 1940. Letters from Syria, 1942. Perseus in the Wind, 1948. Alexander’s Path, 1958. The Minaret of Djam, 1970. Autobiography Beyond Euphrates, 1951. The Coast of Incense, 1953. Dust in the Lion’s Paw, 1961.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: A Week in Literary History, Books and Authors | Link to this Entry

A Week in Literary History

January 31st, 2002

American short story writer and novelist John O’Hara (Appointment in Samarra, 1934) is born in 1905 in Pottsville, Pa.

John O’Hara, b. January 31, 1905, d. 1970

O’Hara began his career as a short story writer; he published more than 200 in The New Yorker, starting in 1928. Brendan Gill thought him “among the greatest short-story writers in English.” He successfully turned his hand to novels with Appointment in Samarra in 1934, but thereafter his standing among critics fell, partly due to his defensive, abrasive personality. A master all the same.

Suggested Reading Short stories 14 collections, 1935-74. Novels Appointment in Samarra, 1934. BUtterfield 8, 1935. Pal Joey, 1940. Ten North Frederick, 1955.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

January 31st, 2002

In 1923, American novelist Norman Mailer (The Naked and the Dead, 1948) is born in Long Branch, N.J.

mailer1.jpgNorman Mailer, b. January 31, 1923, d. 2007

Why did Norman Mailer seem like the Ur-American writer? Because he actually believed in the Great American Novel? Yes. Because he carried on Hemingway’s tradition of the novelist as pugilist, always involved in a fistfight with Shakespeare or Turgenev or Twain (or one of his six wives)? Yes. Because he was brash and ambitious, like a gauche American businessman buying up companies overseas? Yes. Because he consistently brandished his primitive views on sexuality and never could write a credible female character? Most assuredly, yes. And yet, and yet…. Mailer’s novels started pretty well and got steadily worse, but his non-fiction writing was always engaged, pungent, and thought-provoking. If his constant confessional impulse somtimes got tiring, his mind never did, even at its most outrageous. For more than fifty years he confronted the big themes of his time and shed light on them. Mailer was frequently been implausible, but he was never boring.

Suggested Reading Fiction and non-fiction The Naked and the Dead, 1948. Barbary Shore, 1951. The Deer Park, 1955. The White Negro, 1957. Advertisements for Myself, 1959. The Presidential Papers, 1963. An American Dream, 1964. Cannibals and Christians, 1966. Why Are We in Vietnam?, 1967. The Armies of the Night, 1968. Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1969. A Fire on the Moon, 1970. The Prisoner of Sex, 1971. Existential Errands, 1972. St. George and the Godfather, 1972. Marilyn, 1973. The Fight, 1975. Some Honorable Men, 1976. Genius and Lust, 1976. The Transit of Narcissus, 1978. The Executioner’s Song, 1979. Of Women and Their Elegance, 1980. Of a Small and Modest Malignancy, 1980. Pieces and Pontifications, 1982. Ancient Evenings, 1983. Tough Guys Don’t Dance, 1983. Harlot’s Ghost, 1991. Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man, 1996. Oswald’s Tale, 1996. The Gospel According to the Son, 1997. The Time of Our Time, 1998. Films Beyond the Law, 1968. Maidstone, 1969. Wild 90, 1969. Tough Guys Don’t Dance, 1987. Ringside, 1997.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

January 27th, 2002

Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, 1959) is born in 1931 in Montréal.

Mordecai Richler, b. January 27, 1931, d. 2001

The best and best-known novelist to come out of Canada, and certainly the best and best-known Canadian Jewish novelist, Richler first made his mark with The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz in 1959, which established him as the Canadian Saul Bellow. What Bellow did for Chicago in Augie March, Richler did for East Montreal in a number of novels, and he was known throughout his late career as an ardent and outspoken polemicist.

Suggested Reading Novels The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, 1959. Cocksure, 1968. The Street, 1969. St. Urbain’s Horseman, 1971. Joshua Then and Now, 1980. Travel Images of Spain, 1977. This Year in Jerusalem, 1994. Nonfiction On Snooker: The Game and the Characters Who Play It, 2001.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

January 27th, 2002

Mathematician and author Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865) is born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in Daresbury, Cheshire, 1832.

Lewis Carroll, b. January 27, 1832, d. 1898

carroll.jpgCharles Dodgson need have written nothing else besides his two Alice books to achieve immortality. Everything’s there in an enchanting blend of whimsy and intellectual rigor — questions of belief, existence and fate, treatises on physics that prefigure Einstein’s relativity, commentary on moral conundrums. And all treated with an appetite for language that cannot fail to seduce any literate reader, whether child or adult. If Carroll chose to take pictures of little girls in their underwear, so what? That’s as far as it went; he was a harmless and affectionate man, and his books are as fresh today as when they were written.

Suggested Reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865. Bruno’s Revenge, 1867. Phantasmagoria: And Other Poems, 1869. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871. A Tangled Tale, 1885. Sylvie and Bruno, 1889. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, 1893. The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, 1960. The Hunting of the Snark, 1975.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

January 25th, 2002

Anglo-Irish playwright, short story writer, and novelist W. Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage, 1915) is born in 1874 at the British Embassy in Paris.

W. Somerset Maugham, b. January 25, 1874, d. 1965

maughamyellowportraitDuring his long lifetime, Maugham was criticized for the “popular” nature of his novels and stories and also lionized by many of his fellow authors as a master. A prolific writer, he excelled at all types of fiction, short and long, was a potent essayist, and had more plays in simultaneous production in London than any other playwright except Shaw.

Suggested Reading Novels Mrs Craddock, 1902. Of Human Bondage, 1915. The Moon and Sixpence, 1919. Cakes and Ale, 1930. The Razor’s Edge, 1944. Short stories The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, 1951. Essays & Memoirs The Summing Up, 1938. Books and You, 1940. Strictly Personal, 1941 Great Novelists and Their Novels, 1948. A Writer’s Notebook, 1949. The Partial View, 1954. Points of View, 1958. Essays on Literature, 1987. Travel On a Chinese Screen, 1922. The Gentleman in the Parlour. A record of a journey from Rangoon to Haiphong, 1930. Don Fernando, or, Variations on some Spanish themes, 1935.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

January 25th, 2002

Irish novelist J.G. (James Gordon) Farrell (The Siege of Krishnapur, 1973) is born in Liverpool in 1935.

J.G Farrell, b. January 25, 1935, d. 1979

Farrell’s promising career was nipped in the bud when he drowned at the age of forty-four, but he had already published his very impressive Empire Trilogy by then, the second novel of which won the Booker Prize. (All three might well have.) His 1970 novel Troubles is an impossible-to-forget tale of British privilege and Irish recalcitrance.

Suggested Reading Novels Troubles, 1970. The Siege of Krishnapur, 1973. The Singapore Grip, 1978.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: A Week in Literary History, Books and Authors | Link to this Entry

A Week in Literary History

January 25th, 2002

Russian playwright Anton Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard, 1904) is born in Taganrog, 1860.

Anton Chekhov, b. January 29, 1860, d. 1904

The master of both drama and prose was a genius of the ambivalent resolution of plot, thereby taking a giant step in the creation of the modern play and short story. The plays make superb reading and give endless pleasure on stage, and you can dip into the stories wherever you like and never be disappointed. A giant.

Suggested Reading Plays The Seagull, 1896. Uncle Vanya, 1899-1900. The Three Sisters, 1901. The Cherry Orchard, 1904. Stories (dates of English publication) The Darling and Other Stories, 1916. The Duel and Other Stories, 1916. The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, 1917. The Party and Other Stories, 1917. The Wife and Other Stories, 1918. The Witch and Other Stories, 1918. The Bishop and Other Stories, 1919. The Schoolmistress and Other Stories, 1920. The Horse Stealers and Other Stories, 1921. The Schoolmaster and Other Stories, 1921. The Cook’s Wedding and Other Stories, 1922. Love and Other Stories, 1922.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

January 25th, 2002

Novelist and future Bloomsberry Virginia Woolf (Mrs Dalloway, 1925) is born in South London in 1882, daughter of the famous literary intellectual Leslie Stephen.

Virginia Woolf, b. January 25, 1882, d. 1941

woolf.pngAll of Virginia Woolf’s fans have their favorites among her books, but the two that ensure her standing as a great author are Mrs Dalloway, which has been recently disfigured into another book and an absurd film, and To the Lighthouse. Picking up Lighthouse for the first time and reading it through, you will immediately want to start at the beginning and read it again, not only for the wonderful interplay of motifs, but for the sheer beauty of the language. And there are few moments in literature more magisterial than when Mrs Dalloway, at the end of her book, descends the staircase to her party. Woolf’s art was fragile, but as precious as crystal.

Suggested Reading Novels The Voyage Out, 1915. Night and Day, 1919. Jacob’s Room, 1922. Mrs Dalloway, 1925. To the Lighthouse, 1927. Orlando: A Biography, 1928. The Waves, 1931. Flush: A Biography, 1933. The Years, 1937. Between the Acts, 1941. Other The Common Reader, 1925. Roger Fry: A Biography, 1940. Collected Essays, 1966-67. The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vols. I-V, 1984.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: A Week in Literary History, Books and Authors | Link to this Entry

A Week in Literary History

January 24th, 2002

American novelist Edith Newbold Jones Wharton (The Age of Innocence, 1920) is born in New York City in 1862.

Edith Wharton, b. January 24, 1862, d. 1937

whartonedith.jpgEdith Wharton was once associated with a single, somewhat uncharacteristic book, Ethan Frome (1911), but now she is rightly recognized, along with Henry James, as a masterful chronicler of life in early twentieth-century New York. Although born into one of the wealthiest families in the world, she worked hard all her life to produce several dozen novels, a dozen collections of short stories, and generous collection of non-fiction books, including an autobiography. Like George Eliot in England, she is a giant of American literature.

Suggested Reading Novels The House of Mirth, 1905. Ethan Frome, 1911. The Custom of the Country, 1913. The Age of Innocence, 1920. Short stories Twelve collections, 1899-1937. Non-fiction A Motor-flight Through France, 1908. French Ways and Their Meaning, 1919. In Morocco, 1920. The Writing of Fiction, 1925. Autobiography A Backward Glance, 1934.

Posted by: The Editors
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