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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Archive for February, 2002

A Week in Literary History

February 28th, 2002

American Nobel novelist John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath, 1939) is born in Salinas, Calif.

John Steinbeck, b. February 27, 1902, d. 1968

steinbeckyoung.pngSteinbeck has often been relegated to the second tier by critics, who find all his books except The Grapes of Wrath preachy and somewhat sentimental. But the fact remains that Steinbeck’s books are moving and full of compassion and hope and emotional understanding, whatever the plot lines. He has been widely read since the beginning of his career and will continue to be widely read.

Suggested Reading Novels Of Mice and Men, 1937. The Grapes of Wrath, 1939. Cannery Row, 1945. East of Eden, 1952. Other Travels with Charley: In Search of America, 1962.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 28th, 2002

French essayist Michel de Montaigne (Essays, 1580) is born near Bordeaux in 1533.

Michel de Montaigne, b. February 28, 1533, d. 1592

As the inventor of the personal essay, Montaigne is the patron saint of Black Lamb, and also the paragon whom we all emulate in vain. Fluent in Latin before he could speak French, Montaigne as a boy was followed around his father’s castle by a musician, who made music for the lad all day long. He devoted the entire second half of his life to his monumental work, which is still a delight to read.

Suggested Reading Essays, 1580-88.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 27th, 2002

English novelist Lawrence Durrell (The Alexandria Quartet, 1957-60) is born in Jullundur, in Darjeeling, India, 1912.

Lawrence Durrell, b. February 27, 1912, d. 1990

durrelllawrenceonwinecaskIn the Sixties and Seventies, Durrell’s books sold very well and were widely read, especially his Alexandria Quartet. Curiously, his reputation fell away and nowadays no one talks much about him. This is a shame, because he was a talented and prolific writer in several genres, and his observations on the places he wrote from make for very good reading.

Suggested Reading Novels The Black Book, 1938. The Alexandria Quartet (Justine, 1957. Balthazar, 1958. Mountolive, 1958. Clea, 1960). Tunc, 1968. Nunquam, 1970. The Avignon Quintet (five books, 1974-1985). Travel Propero’s Cell, 1945. Reflections on a Marine Venus, 1953. Bitter Lemons, 1957. Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel, 1969. Blue Thirst, 1975. Sicilian Carousel, 1977. The Greek Islands, 1978.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 27th, 2002

American lyric poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Ballads and Other Poems, 1841) is born in 1807 in Portland, Me.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, b. February 27, 1807, d. 1882

longfellowLongfellow was both hailed and reviled in his lifetime, and for a long period he was the most successful poet in America. The popular taste for his epics Evangeline and Hiawatha didn’t wane until the 1960s, but his best work is in shorter, non-narrative poems, for which he deserves a modest niche in the American literary pantheon.

Suggested Reading Poetry Voices of the Night, 1839. Ballads and Other Poems, 1841. The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems, 1845. The Seaside and the Fireside, 1850. The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems, 1858. Household Poems, 1865.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 25th, 2002

English novelist Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange, 1962) is born in 1917 in Manchester.

Anthony Burgess, b. February 25, 1917, d. 1993

burgess.jpgBurgess is often considered the most gifted twentieth-century novelist not to have written a great novel, but the Enderby books, especially the first two of them, and A Clockwork Orange come mighty close. Even if Burgess had never written a piece of fiction, we would remember him for his books about literature; in addition to Joyce and Shakespeare, he wrote on D.H. Lawrence, Hemingway, and many others. And language lovers will always savor his virtuosity with words.

Suggested Reading Novels A Clockwork Orange, 1961. The Wanting Seed, 1962. The Enderby books (Inside Mr. Enderby, 1963. Enderby Outside, 1968. A Clockwork Testament, or Enderby’s End, 1974. Enderby’s Dark Lady, 1984.) The Eve of St. Venus, 1964. A Tremor of Intent, 1966. Earthly Powers, 1980. About literature Here Comes Everybody: An Introduction to James Joyce for the Ordinary Reader, 1965. A Shorter Finnegans Wake, 1966. Shakespeare, 1970. Other A Mouthful of Air: Language, and Languages, Especially English, 1992. Autobiography Little Wilson and Big God, 1987. You’ve Had Your Time, 1990.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 25th, 2002

In 1940, American novelist Frank Chin (Donald Duk, 1991) is born in Berkeley, Calif.

Frank Chin, b. February 25, 1940

A pioneer in Asian American theater, Chin is also a powerful novelist and potent essayist, stressing the need to avoid stereotyping in presenting Asian characters. His criticisms of Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston have made him an outsider, but his work rewards study in its freshness, humor, and seriousness.

Suggested Reading Drama The Chickencoop Chinaman, 1971. The Year of the Dragon, 1974. Novels The Chinaman Pacific and Frisco R.R. Co., 1988. Donald Duk, 1991. Gunga Din Highway, 1994. Nonfiction Bulletproof Buddhists and Other Essays, 1998. Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947, 2002.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 24th, 2002

Irish novelist George Moore (Esther Waters, 1894) is born in 1852 in Ballyglass, County Mayo.

mooregeorge.jpgGeorge Moore, b. February 24, 1852, d. 1933

Moore is little read nowadays, but he was a pioneer in the use of realism in imaginative writing. He was the first to write about the Impressionist painters in Britain; his early short stories, influenced by Zola, preceded Joyce’s Dubliners; he wrote realistic plays dealing with Irish themes before Yeats and the others; and his early novels were the first of their kind in English literature. Esther Waters, his masterpiece, has been continuously, and deservedly, in print for more than a hundred years.

Suggested Reading Novels A Modern Lover, 1883. A Mummer’s Wife, 1885. Esther Waters, 1894. Evelyn Innes, 1898. Short stories Celibates, 1895. The Untilled Field, 1903. Plays The Strike at Arlingford, 1893. The Bending of the Bough, 1900. Autobiography Confesssions of a Young Man, 1888. Memoirs of My Dead Life, 1906. Hail and Farewell, 1911-1914. Avowals, 1919. Conversations in Ebury Street, 1924. Other Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters, 1906.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 23rd, 2002

American writer John McPhee (Coming into the Country, 1977) is born in Princeton, N.J., 1931.

John McPhee, b. March 8, 1931

mcphee.jpgSince the Sixties McPhee has been turning out his inimitable books on a huge range of subjects: the produce market, basketball, aviation, marine shipping, volcanos in Iceland, the art market, geology… the list goes on. To each he brings immense curiosity and the ability to find a fascinating spokesman and guide. We’ve listed most of his books below, leaving out only a couple in his series on American geology, the one area in which he occasionally allows textbook material to dominate. You cannot fail to learn, and to enjoy learning, with McPhee’s books.

Suggested Reading A Sense of Where You Are, 1965. The Headmaster, 1966. Oranges, 1967. The Pine Barrens, 1968. A Roomful of Hovings, 1968. Levels of the Game, 1969. The Crofter and the Laird, 1970. Encounters with the Archdruid, 1971. The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed, 1973. The Curve of Binding Energy, 1974. Pieces of the Frame, 1975. The Survival of the Bark Canoe, 1975. Coming into the Country, 1977. Giving Good Weight, 1979. Basin and Range, 1981. La Place de la Concorde Suisse, 1984. Table of Contents, 1985. The Control of Nature, 1989. Looking for a Ship, 1990. The Ransom of Russian Art, 1994. Irons in the Fire, 1997. The Founding Fish, 2002. Uncommon Carriers, 2006.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 23rd, 2002

English diarist Samuel Pepys is born in London in 1633.

Samuel Pepys, b. February 23, 1633, d. 1703

pepyscolor2.jpgThe famous Diary has been ransacked by historians for information on late seventeenth-century events in London, including eyewitness accounts of the Great Plague of London, and Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London. It claims its place in literature for the liveliness and frankness of the writing, in which the diarist emerges as a fully-formed character, brimming with his period’s enthusiasms.

Suggested Reading Diary, 1660-1669, first published in the nineteenth century.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

February 22nd, 2002

American illustrator and author Edward St. John Gorey (The Hapless Child, 1961) is born in 1925 in Chicago.

Edward Gorey, b. February 22, 1925, d. 2000

Primarily an illustrator, Gorey qualified himself as a littérateur with his stream of inventive small books, some surrealistic, some populated by only inanimate objects, all entirely asexual and beautifully done. His macabre sense of humor is everywhere apparent but never completely offsets the awfulness of his subject matter. Enormously appealing and entirely original.

Suggested Reading Collections Amphigorey, 1972. Amphigorey Too, 1975. Amphigorey Also, 1983. Amphigorey Again, 2006.

Posted by: The Editors
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