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Archive for November, 2002

Last Week in Literary History

November 30th, 2002

In 1667, Irish satirist Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels, 1726) is born in Dublin.

American novelist Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1884) is born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Mo., 1835.

Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain, b. November 30, 1667 and 1835, d. 1745 and 1910

swift.png twainbw.pngIt is our contention that Twain was the reincarnation of Swift, shorn of Swift’s neuroses and religious allegiances. If you doubt, read the last section of Gulliver’s Travels and then compare it to Twain’s later writings, especially Huckleberry Finn, Pudd’nhead Wilson, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Swift’s beautiful and moving, if ironic, evocation of the superiority of brute animals over human beings finds its fruition in young Huck’s repeated disillusionings in the face of mankind’s mendacity, in the cruel truths of the American slaveholding days, and in modern man’s dismantling of medieval England in the name of progress. And both Swift and Twain were great masters of clear, provocative English prose, the progenitors of the later wizards Bernard Shaw and H.L. Mencken.

SWIFT
Suggested Reading Fiction A Tale of a Tub, 1704. Gulliver’s Travels, 1726. The Battle of the Books, 1704. Essays An Argument against Abolishing Christianity, 1708. A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People of Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents, 1729. Poetry Cadenus and Vanessa, 1713. Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, Written by Himself, 1739.

TWAIN
Suggested Reading Novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876. The Prince and the Pauper, 1882. The Adventures of Huckeberry Finn, 1884. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1889. The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, 1894. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, 1896. Stories The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches, 1867. The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, 1900. Memoirs Roughing It, 1872. Life on the Mississippi, 1883. Mark Twain’s Autobiography, 1924. Travel & Sketches The Innocents Abroad, 1869. A Tramp Abroad, 1880. Following the Equator, 1897.

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

Last Week in Literary History

November 29th, 2002

Irish author C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis (The Screwtape Letters, 1942) is born in 1898 in Belfast.

C.S. Lewis, b. November 29, 1898, d. 1963

Lewis’s writing rises above some of the formats he chose because of its clarity, and the depth of his thinking makes him a riveting read. His imaginative works have taken their places as classics that will be read long after Tolkien’s star has gone dark. Even his writing for children repays careful attention from adults, and he made genuine contributions to the study of Renaissance literature.

Suggested Reading Non-fiction Mere Christianity, 1943. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, 1955. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama), 1954. Fiction The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 1950. The Screwtape Letters, 1942.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 29th, 2002

In 1937, American novelist Jim Harrison (True North, 2004) is born in Grayling, Mich.

Jim Harrison, b. December 11, 1937

Harrison has written a lot of poetry and considers himself first of all a poet, and has also made a lot of money in Hollywood, but he is best known for his novels of the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. Also not to be missed is his very frank and entertaining memoir Off to the Side.

Suggested Reading Fiction A Good Day to Die, 1973. Legends of the Fall, 1979. Warlock, 1981. The Woman Lit by Fireflies, 1990. True North, 2004. The English Major, 2008. Poetry Selected and New Poems, 1961-1981, 1981. The Theory and Practice of Rivers, 1986. The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems, 1998. Memoir Off to the Side: A Memoir, 2002.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 28th, 2002

American novelist Dawn Powell (The Wicked Pavilion, 1954) is born in 1896 in Mt. Gilead, Ohio.

Dawn Powell, b. November 28, 1896, d. 1965

powelldawn1914.jpgA prolific and skillful writer, Powell nevertheless struggled for critical success throughout her writing life, despite a coterie of fans who admired her satirical New York novels and short stories. After her death, Gore Vidal was responsible her resuscitating her reputation, and critic Tim Page made it possible for her works to be republished. Now she’s considered an American classic!

Suggested Reading Novels Dance Night, 1930. Come Back to Sorrento, 1932. Turn, Magic Wheel, 1936. Angels on Toast, 1940. A Time to Be Born, 1942. My Home is Far Away, 1944. The Locusts Have No King, 1948. The Wicked Pavilion, 1954. The Golden Spur, 1962. Stories Sunday, Monday and Always, 1998. Diaries The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965. Letters Selected Letters of Dawn Powell, 1913-1965.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 28th, 2002

In 1757, English artist and poet William Blake (Songs of Innocence, 1789) is born in London.

William Blake, b. November 28, 1757, d. 1827

blakeetching.pngAlmost all of his contemporaries thought Blake crazy, not just for his revolutionary political views and disdain for the Church of England, but for the singularity of his verse. Not since the madman Christopher Smart had anyone written in a more distinctive style. A brilliant graphic artist as well, Blake has become a champion of visionaries everywhere.

Suggested Reading Illuminated books Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1789. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-93. Continental Prophecies, 1793-95. Jerusalem, 1804-20.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 28th, 2002

English writer Nancy Mitford (Love in a Cold Climate, 1949) is born in London in 1904.

Nancy Mitford, b. November 28, 1904, d. 1973

Mitford came from a colorful family — her sisters were famous or infamous in various ways — and she used them in a marvelous series of four novels published between 1945 and 1960. Unapologetically upper-class, she was also a brilliant humorist and a devout francophile who wrote books about Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIV, and Voltaire.

Suggested Reading Novels The Pursuit of Love, 1945. Love in a Cold Climate, 1949. The Blessing, 1951. Don’t Tell Alfred, 1960. Other Voltaire in Love, 1957. The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, 1996.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 27th, 2002

American writer James Agee (A Death in the Family, 1957) is born in 1909 in Knoxville, Tenn.

ageebyevansJames Agee, b. November 27, 1909, d. 1955

During his lifetime Agee was known primarily as an influential film critic for The Nation. His 1941 book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families is often considered his masterpiece, but even better is his autobiographical novel A Death in the Family, for which he won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, and his screenplays for The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter.

Suggested Reading Novels A Death in the Family, 1957. Non-fiction Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1941. Screenplays The African Queen, 1951. The Night of the Hunter, 1954. Film criticism Agee on Film, 1948. Agee on Film II, 1952.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 25th, 2002

English literary husband, publisher, and memoirist Leonard Woolf (Sowing, 1960) is born in London, 1880.

Leonard Woolf, b. November 25, 1880, d. 1969

woolfleonardBest known as a literary husband, Leonard Woolf was a gifted writer in his own right, a thoughtful analyst of social conditions in England and a brilliant memoirist, as shown in the five volumes of his autobiography, which are suffused with a gentle keen-mindedness. They are attractively clear, literate, fair, and compelling.

Suggested Reading Social history After the Deluge, 1931-51. Autobiography Sowing, 1960. Growing, 1961. Beginning Again, 1964. Downhill All the Way, 1966. The Journey Not the Arrival Matters, 1969.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 24th, 2002

In 1713, Anglo-Irish novelist Laurence Sterne (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 1760-67) is born in Clonmel, County Tipperary.

sterneportrait.jpgLaurence Sterne, b. November 24, 1713, d. 1768

For pure wickedness, Sterne has long been considered more salacious, if not more savage, than Swift, but this is a bum rap. The priggish Samuel Johnson’s disapproved of his Yorkshire contemporary shouldn’t blind us to Sterne’s manifest humanity. The character of Uncle Toby in Tristram Shandy — along with Tolstoy’s Andre, Wilkie Collins’ Gabriel Betteredge, and G.B. Edwards’ Ebenezer LePage — is one of the most memorable and loveable in all of literature. And Tristram Shandy made possible, for better or worse, a truly modern literary perspective, in which the narrative and narrator are always subject to authorial scrutiny and, above all, skepticism.

Suggested Reading Novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent., 1759-67. Travel A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Sermons The Sermons of Mr. Yorick, 1760-1769.

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

A Week in Literary History

November 22nd, 2002

English novelist George Eliot (Middlemarch, 1871-72) is born Mary Ann Evans in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, 1819.

eliotgeorge.jpgGeorge Eliot, b. November 22, 1819, d. 1880

A controversial woman in her time, Mary Ann Evans lived openly with a married man, George Lewes (she later married him), and married a second man, twenty years younger than her, when Lewes died. Although women at the time published under their own names, she chose a masculine name because she didn't want to be thought of as a writer of romances. Her novels are masterpieces of naturalistic Victorian fiction, and Middlemarch, in particular, is not be missed.

Suggested Reading Novels Adam Bede, 1859. The Mill on the Floss, 1860. Silas Marner, 1861. Romola, 1863. Felix Holt, the Radical, 1866. Middlemarch, 1871-2. Daniel Deronda, 1876.

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

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