Thought of the Day

“The only important elements in any society are the artistic and the criminal, because they alone, by questioning the society’s values, can force it to change.” --Samuel R. Delany

Today in Literary History – June 10, 1915 – Novelist Saul Bellow is born

The Nobel Prize-winning American novelist Saul Bellow was born on June 10, 1915. In addition to the Nobel he won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award three times. Bellow, whose parents were Jewish refugees from St. Petersburg, Russia, was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal. When he was nine years old …

Today in Literary History – June 8, 1949 – George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is published

George Orwell's explosive dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (sometimes re-released as 1984) was first published on June 8, 1949. Orwell completed the manuscript in 1948 and simply inverted the date to provide a year in the not too distant future. Orwell himself died from tuberculosis eight months after its publication, at the age of forty-six. Orwell …

Today in Literary History – June 5, 1910 – Short Story Writer O. Henry dies

The great short story writer O. Henry (whose real name was William Sydney Porter) died on June 5, 1910 at the age of only forty-seven. O. Henry's short stories are famous for their surprise endings. Sadly, there wasn't much surprise in the ending of William Porter's life. He was an alcoholic who was negligent about …

Book Review – MIRROR, SHOULDER, SIGNAL by DORTHE NORS – A Clever Novel About Coping in Copenhagen

Danish writer Dorthe Nors has had two books translated into English so far, a book of short stories, Karate Chop, and a book containing two experimental novellas, So Much For That Winter. The droll and compassionate Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, the first of her five novels to appear in English, was published last year in the UK, …

Today in Literary History – June 3, 1771 – Clergyman and Wit Sydney Smith is born

Sydney Smith, the Anglican cleric, writer and famous wit, was born on July 3, 1771. After a brilliant career at Oxford University Smith took Holy Orders. He served as the priest at several small rural parishes, including Combe Florey, later the home of Evelyn Waugh. Smith was one of the founders of The Edinburgh Review …

Today in Literary History – June 2, 1962 – Novelist Vita Sackville-West dies

Vita Sackville-West, the Bloomsbury era novelist, poet and memoirist died on June 2, 1962 at the age of 70 at her home in Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England. She wrote 13 novels during her life and the was the inspiration for the title character of the novel Orlando by Virginia Wolff, one of her many …

Thought of the Day

There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul. — Arnold Bennett

Book Review – MY GERMAN BROTHER by CHICO BUARQUE – A Ribald and Wise Coming of Age Tale and a Family Mystery

Before I began My German Brother, Chico Buarque's fifth novel, I didn't know a lot about the author. I was vaguely aware that he was a beloved Brazilian singer/songwriter and novelist who often writes on themes of love and politics, and who is now a handsome elder statesman in his seventies. In short, a sort …

Today in Literary History – May 31, 1669 – Samuel Pepys stops writing his diary

On May 31, 1669 Samuel Pepys made his last entry in the diary that he had kept since January 1, 1660. He wrote that he was concerned about damaging his eyesight by writing by candlelight. Pepys diary is one of the most fascinating and multi-faceted written undertakings, providing a portrait of its author and his …

Today in Literary History – May 26, 1897 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula is published

Bram Stoker's Gothic horror novel, Dracula, was published in London on May 26, 1897. Stoker was the business manager for the Lyceum Theatre but he also wrote horror and supernatural books on the side. Dracula came out of his long interest in folktales about vampires in Eastern Europe. Stoker researched accounts of vampires and shapeshifters, …

Today in Literary History – May 25, 1938 – Raymond Carver is born

Raymond Carver, the masterful short story writer and poet, was born on May 25, 1938. Carver was born in Oregon and raised in the state of Washington. He married at the age of 19 (to his pregnant 16 year-old girlfriend) and moved to California. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop but left before graduating. He …

Book Review – SLAVE OLD MAN by PATRICK CHAMOISEAU (translated by Linda Coverdale) – A Heart Pounding Tale of a Runaway Slave and a Monstrous Hound

Patrick Chamoiseau is a French writer from the Caribbean island of Martinique, which is an "overseas region" of France. His novel Texaco won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1992. His 1997 novel, L'Esclave vieil homme et le molosse, has just been translated into English as Slave Old Man (in the UK it is called The …