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Archive for the 'A Week in Literary History' Category

A Week in Literary History

December 8th, 2002

In 1894, American humorist James Thurber (The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze, 1935), is born in Columbus, Ohio.

James Thurber, b. December 8, 1894, d. 1961

thurberselfportrait.jpgThurber’s humor is not precisely like that of other talented North Americans. Like Robert Benchley, S.J. Perelman, or Stephen Leacock he can be goofy, satirical, sly, or hilarious, but an elusive quality, tinged with melancholy, is always present in his stories. T.S. Eliot said, “There is a criticism of life at the bottom of it.” The books listed below, with the exception of Is Sex Necessary? (a wacky and perversely wise “manual”), are collections of pieces he published over a long career, mostly in The New Yorker. They constitute a sumptuous compendium of timeless morsels.

Suggested Reading Essays, Stories, Sketches, & Drawngs Is Sex Necessary?, 1929 (with E.B. White). The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities, 1931. The Seal in the Bedroom and Other Predicaments, 1932. My Life and Hard Times, 1933. The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze, 1935. My World—And Welcome to It!, 1942. Men, Women and Dogs, 1943. The Thurber Carnival, 1945. The Beast in Me and Other Animals, 1948. The Thurber Album, 1952. Thurber Country, 1953. Fables & Fantasies Fables for Our Time, 1940. The Thirteen Clocks, 1950. Further Fables for Our Time, 1956.

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

A Week in Literary History

December 8th, 2002

In 1868, English novelist Norman Douglas (South Wind, 1917), is born in Thüringen, Austria.

Norman Douglas, b. December 8, 1868, d. 1952

douglas.pngDouglas’s personal life, punctuated with sexual scandals and crimes, was considerably more colorful than even his best book, the charming and timeless South Wind, based on life on the isle of Capri, where he died. Despite brushes with the law in various countries, mostly involving underage boys, Douglas found time to write a great deal, and his travel books and volumes of autobiography are well worth reading.

Suggested Reading Novels South Wind, 1917. Travel Siren Land, 1911. Fountains in the Sand, 1912. Old Calabria, 1915. Alone, 1921. Together, 1923. Autobiography Looking Back, 1933. Late Harvest, 1946. More or less obscene poetry Some Limericks, 1928.

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

A Week in Literary History

December 7th, 2002

In 1888, Anglo-Irish novelist Joyce Cary (The Horse’s Mouth, 1944) is born in Londonderry.

caryportrait.pngJoyce 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.

Suggested Reading 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.

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

A Week in Literary History

December 6th, 2002

In 1942, Austrian novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Peter Handke (The Left-Handed Woman, 1976) is born in Griffen, Austria.

Peter Handke, b. December 6, 1942

handkecolorHandke established himself as an avant-garde novelist and playwright in the Sixties and Seventies, and later became controversial for his support for the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. He has been especially active in film writing in recent decades.

Suggested Reading Novels The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, 1970. The Left-handed Woman, 1976. Don Juan — his Own Version, 2004. Stories Slow Homecoming, 2009. Plays Kaspar and Other Plays, 1970. Ride Across Lake Constance and Other Plays, 1976.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

December 6th, 2002

In 1919, English travel writer Eric Newby (A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, 1958) is born in Hammersmith Bridge, London.

Eric Newby, b. December 6, 1919, d. October 21, 2006

newby1.pngWhether sailing on the high seas, hiking through the mountains of Italy, or portaging down the Ganges, Eric Newby watched, noticed, and then recorded in a clear, evocative, and humorous style, particularly making light of various misadventures. Like all great travellers, he had infinite interest in, and patience with, strange people, strange food, strange ways, and his collected works amount to a vast paean of praise for the questing life.

Suggested Reading Travel The Last Grain Race, 1956. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, 1958. Something Wholesale, 1962. Slowly Down the Ganges, 1966. Love and War in the Apennines, 1971. The Big Red Train Ride, 1978. A Traveller’s Life, 1982. On the Shores of the Mediterranean, 1984. A Book of Travellers’ Tales, 1985. Round Ireland in Low Gear, 1987.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

December 5th, 2002

American writer Calvin Trillin (American Fried, 1974) is born in 1935 in Kansas City, Mo.

Calvin Trillin, b. December 5, 1935

Trillin is perhaps best known as a food writer, but his books, whatever the subject, are all humorous and charmingly light-hearted. Start with The Tummy Trilogy (American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat, and Third Helpings) and then go on from there. A true delight, and sometimes very moving, as when writing about his late wife.

Suggested Reading Books U.S. Journal, 1971. American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater, 1974. Alice, Let’s Eat: Further Adventures of a Happy Eater, 1978. Uncivil Liberties, 1982. Third Helpings, 1983. If You Can’t Say Something Nice, 1987. Travels with Alice, 1989. American Stories, 1991. Family Man, 1998.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

December 4th, 2002

In 1835, English novelist Samuel Butler (The Way of All Flesh, 1903) is born at Langar Rectory, Nottinghamshire.

Samuel Butler, b. December 4, 1835, d. 1902

butlersamuelIf Butler had written nothing except The Way of All Flesh, he would still be remembered as one of the best of the Victorian novelists. G.B. Shaw, E.M. Forster, and Aldous Huxley were all admirers. Butler, who lived in New Zealand for a time, also wrote on a number of subjects — Darwinism, art, religion — and his Erewhon was important in the development of utopian/dystopian literature.

Suggested Reading Novels Erewhon, 1872. The Way of All Flesh, 1902. Literary studies The Authoress of The Odyssey, 1897. Shakespeare’s Sonnets Reconsidered, 1899.

Posted by: The Editors
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A Week in Literary History

December 3rd, 2002

In 1857, novelist Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim, 1900) is born Josef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski in Berdichev, Polish Ukraine.

conradphoto.pngJoseph Conrad, b. December 3, 1857, d. 1924

Conrad, born 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 help on three subsequent novels from Ford Madox Hueffer (later Ford Madox Ford), who later said, “Conrad spent a day finding the mot juste and then killed it.” 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 insofar as we do.

Suggested Reading 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.

Posted by: The Editors
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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
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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

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