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Honorary Black Lambs

December 1st, 2004

BY BLACK LAMB

December is a fertile month for artistic birthdays, from which we’ve chosen four Honorary Black Lambs to add to our accumulating Black Lamb Literary Calendar. Here are four short assessments and selected bibliographies, your capsule guides to some of literature’s great figures.

conrad.jpgJoseph Conrad, b. December 3, 1857, d. 1924

Conrad, born Jozef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski in Poland, has often been praised for his mastery of his second language, but in fact he wrote in a strange un-Engish. After a couple of notable books he published his so-called masterpiece, Lord Jim, in 1900, then needed the help of Ford Madox Hueffer (later Ford Madox Ford) on three subsequent novels. We confess to a weakness for The Nigger of the Narcissus, but then we’re soft on sea stories, which is probably why we tolerate Lord Jim so far as we do. Conrad’s is a bizarre and non-influential body of work.

Novels The Nigger of the Narcissus, 1897. Lord Jim, 1900. Nostromo, 1904. The Secret Agent, 1907. Short stories & tales Typhoon, 1902. Youth: A Narrative and Two Other Stories, 1902. The Complete Short Stories of Joseph Conrad, 1933.

cary.jpgJoyce Cary, b. December 7, 1888, d. 1957

The Anglo-Irish novelist was a wonderfully wise and elegant writer. His Gully Jimson-Sara Monday trilogy — Herself Surprised, To Be a Pilgrim, and The Horse’s Mouth — is a masterpiece, but all of his vivid novels reward rereading. Just work your way through in chronological order and discover one of the twentieth century’s best writers.

Novels Alissa Saved, 1932. The American Visitor, 1933. The African Witch, 1936. Castle Corner, 1938. Mister Johnson, 1939. Charley is My Darling, 1940. The House of Children, 1941. Herself Surprised, 1941. To Be a Pilgrim, 1942. The Horse’s Mouth, 1944. The Moonlight, 1946. A Fearful Joy, 1949. Prisoner of Grace, 1952. Except the Lord, 1953. Not Honour More, 1955.

paley.jpgGrace Paley, b. December 11, 1922

Grace Paley will perhaps not loom large in histories of late-twentieth-century American literature, because she wrote only in the short story genre, and wrote slowly. But what stories! Like Hemingway and Raymond Carver, she taught a generation how to make a piece of short fiction memorable, and her stories can be returned to time and again for the sheer delight they give in exuberant, witty, and wise writing.

Short stories The Little Disturbances of Man, 1959. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, 1974. Later the Same Day, 1985. Essays Just As I Thought, 1998.

ford.jpgFord Madox Ford, b. December 17, 1873, d. 1939

Ford was an immensely prolific writer of novels, travelogues, history tales, poems, and art criticism, and in each genre he excelled. Despite being unfailingly generous to his literary contemporaries, he was often betrayed by his inferiors and vilified by his equals. Conrad, several of whose books he helped write, broke with him cruelly. Throughout his life he was constantly at work on one book or another, and he represents a career devoted to his art. His The Good Soldier is one of the finest novels of the twentieth century, and his World War I tetralogy Parade’s End is the best writing we have on that conflict and its aftermath in Britain. A master. The listing below is very selective.

Novels The Fifth Queen, 1906. An Engish Girl, 1907. Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, 1911. The Good Soldier, 1915. The Parade’s End books Some Do Not, 1924. No More Parades, 1925. A Man Could Stand Up, 1926. The Last Post, 1928. Poetry Collected Poems, 1913. Collected Poems, 1936. Reminiscences Thus to Revisit, 1921. Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance, 1924. No Enemy, 1929. Return to Yesterday, 1931. It Was the Nightingale, 1933. Criticism, Studies, & Travel Ford Madox Brown, 1896. The Cinque Ports, 1900. Rossetti, 1902. Hans Holbein, the Younger, 1905. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1907. Henry James, 1913. Between St. Denis and St. George, 1915. A Mirror to France, 1926. The English Novel, 1926. Provence: from Minstrels to the Machine, 1935.

other december birthdays and events 2nd Greek poet and novelist Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957). 4th Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), English novelist Samuel Butler (1835-1902), and German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). 5th British poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), American novelist and essayist Joan Didion (b. 1934), columnist and satirist Calvin Trillin (b. 1935), and German novelist and playwright Peter Handke (b. 1942). 6th English poet and writer Osbert Sitwell (1892-1969) and Broadway lyricist Ira Gershwin (1896-1983). 7th American novelist Willa Cather (1876-1947) and M.I.T. linguist and leftist Noam Chomsky (b. 1928). 8th Roman poet Horace (65 B.C.-8 B.C.), Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959), and Ohio humorist James Thurber (1894-1961). 9th English poet John Milton (1608-1674) and Babar creator Jean de Brunhoff (1899-1937). 10th French composer César Franck (1822-1890) and American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). 11th French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) and Egyptian Nobelist Naguib Mahfouz (b. 1911). 12th French novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) and English playwright John Osborne (1929-1994). 13th German poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) and American poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972). 15th American poet Muriel Ruykeser (1913-1980) and Irish short story writer Edna O’Brien (b. 1932). 16th German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817), Spanish philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), British playwright Noel Coward (1899-1973), and English short story writer and literary critic Victor Sawdon Pritchett (1900-1997). 18th Scottish short story writer Hector Hugh Munro, known as Saki (1870-1916) and English playwright Christopher Fry (b. 1907). 19th Trieste novelist Italo Svevo (1861-1928) and French writer Jean Genet (1910-1986). 21st British political novelist and statesman Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), English novelist Anthony Powell (1905-2000), and German Nobel novelist Heinrich Böll (1917-1985). 22nd Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), and American poets Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) and Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982). 23rd Chicago editor Harriet Monroe (1860-1936). 24th English poet and critic Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). 25th English scientist Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and novelist and travel writer Rebecca West (1892-1983). 26th English poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771) and American novelist Henry Miller (1891-1980). 30th English Nobel novelist Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) and American composer and writer Paul Bowles (1910-1999). •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Christmas Issue, Books and Authors, Honorary Black Lambs | Link to this Entry

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