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Black Lamb

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Archive for March, 2002

A Week in Literary History

March 20th, 2002

Revolutionary Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (Hedda Gabler, 1890) is born in Skien, 1828.

ibseninnorway.jpgHenrik Ibsen, b. March 20, 1828, d. 1906

The father of modern drama had his first real success with Peer Gynt when he was almost forty, but he then went on to revolutionize playwrighting with a string of masterpieces that seem evergreen on stages throughout the world. Ibsen was an exploder of façades of all sorts, and his plays continue to surprise by their emotional penetration and dramatic force. A giant.

Suggested Reading Plays Peer Gynt, 1867. A Doll’s House, 1879. Ghosts, 1881. An Enemy of the People, 1882. The Wild Duck, 1884. Rosemersholm, 1886. Hedda Gabler, 1890. The Master Builder, 1892. When We Dead Awaken, 1899.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 19th, 2002

American novelist Philip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint, 1969) is born in Newark, N.J. in 1933.

Philip Roth, b. March 19, 1933

Roth has turned the admirable trick of having become one of the most respected and rewarded novelists in the world without having published any truly famous books in more than forty years. Still, all are agreed, especially the Library of America, that his many books constitute one of the great œuvres of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Suggested Reading Novels Goodbye, Columbus, 1959. Portnoy’s Complaint, 1969. My Life As a Man, 1974. Deception: A Novel, 1990. The Zuckerman Bound novels The Ghost Writer, 1979. Zuckerman Unbound, 1981. The Anatomy Lesson, 1983. The Prague Orgy, 1985. Autobiography The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography, 1988.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 19th, 2002

(Mary) Flannery O’Connor (A Good Man Is Hard to Find, and Other Stories, 1955), American short story writer, is born in Savannah, Ga. in 1925.

Flannery O’Connor (b. March 25, 1926, d. 1964)

It is tempting to call O’Connor the greatest short story writer America has produced. All of the stories in the collection A Good Man is Hard to Find, and especially the title story, are absolutely wickedly delicious. But her other stories and her short novels are gold, too. She was a brilliant writer taken too soon from us. She should just be settling into her wise old age now, not forty years in the grave.

Suggested Reading Stories The Artificial Nigger: And Other Tales, 1955. A Good Man is Hard to Find, and Other Stories, 1955. Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1965. Novels Wise Blood, 1949. The Violent Bear It Away, 1960.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 18th, 2002

In 1721, Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett (The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771) is born in Dalquhurn, Dumbartonshire.

Tobias Smollett. b. March 18, 1721, d. 1771

smollett23.jpgDuring his lifetime (and afterwards), Smollett had the misfortune of being placed in competition with Henry Fielding, and his reputation suffered as a result. But Smollett’s novels, especially Humphry Clinker, his masterpiece, are lively, quirky creations, full of memorable characters and a healthy dose of social satire, and informed by Smollett’s broad experience of the world. The episode in Humphry in which the title character’s true parentage is revealed is brilliant, far surpassing Fielding’s similar revelation in Tom Jones.

Suggested Reading Novels Roderick Random, 1748. Peregrine Pickle, 1751. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771. Other Travels in France and Italy, 1766.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 18th, 2002

Prolific American novelist John Updike (The Centaur, 1963) is born in Shillington, Pa., 1932.

John Updike, b. March 18, 1932, d. 2008

updike.jpgUpdike has been hailed as a writer’s writer and as a chronicler of his (our) times, and he has been attacked for his obsession with adulterous sex, which seems to figure largely in almost all his books. He is also a formidable critic, with remarkably catholic tastes in writing. Updike has written so much, it would be a miracle if all of it were excellent, but a lot is. Although he did not win the Nobel Prize before his death last year, many, if not all, of his books have been reprinted. Meanwhile, as the bibliography that follows suggests, read some of the novels, dabble in the short story collections, and do not neglect the literary essays.

Suggested Reading Novels The Poorhouse Fair, 1959. Rabbit, Run, 1960. The Centaur, 1963. Of the Farm, 1965. The Coup, 1978. The Bech Trilogy Bech: A Book, 1970. Bech is Back, 1982. Bech at Bay, 1998. Short stories Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories, 1962. Ohlinger Stories, 1964. Museums and Women and Other Stories, 1972. Problems and Other Stories, 1979. Trust Me, 1987. The Afterlife and Other Stories, 1994. Licks of Love, 2000. Memoir Self-Consciousness, 1989. Essays Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism, 1983. Just Looking: Essays on Art, 1989. Odd Jobs: Essays and Criticism, 1991. More Matter, 1999.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 16th, 2002

German author Sybille Bedford (A Visit to Don Otavio, 1953) is born in Charlottenburg in 1911.

Sybille Bedford, b. March 16, 1911, d. 2006

Born Freiin Sybille Aleid Elsa von Schonenebeck, she became a German noblewoman on the run from the Nazis because she was Jewish; she married an English homosexual to get English citizenship. They divorced soon thereafter, but she kept his name and published her books under it. She became best known for her books about trials and other cultures, but she also wrote novels, good ones.

Suggested Reading Travel A Visit to Don Otavio: A Traveller’s Tale from Mexico, 1953. Biography Aldous Huxley: A Biography, 1973. Legal The Best We Can Do: The Trial of Dr Adams, 1958. The Faces of Justice: A Traveller’s Report, 1961. As It Was: Pleasures, Landscapes and Justice, 1990. Novels A Legacy, 1956. A Favourite of the Gods, 1963. A Compass Error, 1968. Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education, 1989. Memoir Quicksands: A Memoir, 2005.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 15th, 2002

Biographer Richard Ellmann (James Joyce, 1959) is born in Highland Park, Michigan.

ellmann.jpgRichard Ellmann, b. March 15, 1918, d. 1987

Ellmann was instantly recognized as the twentieth century’s greatest literary biographer with the publication in 1959 of his life of Joyce. His books on Wilde and Yeats are equally authoritative and beautifully written.

Suggested Reading Biographies Yeats: The Man and the Masks, 1948, rev. 1979. James Joyce, 1959. Four Dubliners: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, 1986. Oscar Wilde, 1987.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 14th, 2002

Book-seller and publisher Sylvia Beach is born in Baltimore, 1887.

Sylvia Beach, b. March 14, 1887, d. 1962

Sylvia Beach’s English language bookstore and lending library Shakespeare and Company opened in Paris in 1919 and almost immediately became a gathering place for expatriate writers as various as Ford Madox Ford and Ernest Hemingway. Beach published James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922 when no other publisher would touch it.

Suggested Reading Memoir Shakespeare and Company, 1956.

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

Last Week in Literary History

March 13th, 2002

flannerinchair.jpgJournalist Janet Flanner, who under the name Genêt will write letters from Paris for The New Yorker, is born in 1892 in Indianapolis.

Janet Tyler Flanner, b. March 13, 1892, d. 1978

For fifty years The New Yorker’s Paris correspondent, Flanner, who wrote under the nom de plume Genêt long before the criminal Jean Genet made his dubious literary reputation, was the quintessential ex-pat. Although she started in 1925, when the Paris literary community was at its height, and although she was part of that community, she was also not part of it, and her detached, insider’s perspective provided a clearer view than anyone else’s of that remarkable city.

Suggested Reading Essays An American in Paris: Profile of an Interlude Between Two Wars, 1940. Men and Monuments, 1957. Paris Journal, 1944-1965, 1965. Paris Journal, 1965-1970, 1971. Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939, 1972. London Was Yesterday, 1934-1939, 1975. Book-length profile Pétain, 1944.

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

A Week in Literary History

March 12th, 2002

American playwright Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1962) is born in 1928 in Washington, D.C.

albeeyoung.pngEdward Albee, b. March 12, 1928

Albee is perhaps America’s reigning elder statesman among playwrights, the recipient of three Pulitzers, and the subject of countless literature syllabuses. His early plays brought the Theater of the Absurd to the American stage and he has continued his career past its fiftieth year with a Tony Award at the age of seventy-three.

Suggested Reading Plays The Zoo Story, 1958. The Sandbox, 1959. The American Dream, 1960. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1962. Tiny Alice, 1964. A Delicate Balance, 1966. Seascape, 1974. Three Tall Women, 1991. The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? 2002. Essays Stretching My Mind, 2005.

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

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