Today in Literary History – November 30, 1900 – Oscar Wilde dies

Oscar Wilde died in Paris on November 30, 1900, at the age of forty-six. (For years it was believed that he died from syphilis, but it has been proved that the cause was actually cerebral meningitis after an ear infection.) After serving a prison term for sodomy he was released from Reading Gaol in May, …

Today in Literary History – November 29, 1832 – Louisa May Alcott is born

Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was born on November 29, 1832. Unlike her fictional creations Alcott had a very difficult and mostly unhappy life. Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was an educational reformer who became entranced with Transcendentalism and moved the family to Concord, Mass., to be closer to other believers like …

Today in Literary History – November 28, 1757 – the birth of William Blake

The artist, poet and mystic William Blake was born on November 28, 1757. His work is virtually unclassifiable. He was considered to be mad by many of his contemporaries. Yet he influenced later generations of poets and painters and is now considered to be one of Britain's greatest literary geniuses. Blake apprenticed as an engraver …

Today in Literary History – November 26, 1731 – William Cowper is born

William Cowper, the poet and hymn writer, was born on November 26, 1731. He was one of the most popular poets of his day, composing mostly on scenes of nature and rural life. He had a large influence on the Romantic poets. Cowper's poems have given us many phrases that have become commonplace in English. …

Today in Literary History – November 25, 1970 – Yukio Mishama’s ritual suicide

On November 25, 1970, Japanese author Yukio Mishima committed ritual suicide, seppuku, a form of hara-kiri involving ritual disembowelment, literally falling on your sword. Mishima was one of the most popular and important novelists of the Japanese post-war years. He was also very popular in the English language world. I read two of his novels …

Today in Literary History – November 24, 1877 – Black Beauty is published

Anna Sewell's only novel, Black Beauty, was published on November 24, 1877. It has gone on to be one of the most successful novels of all time. Sadly, Sewell died only five months after the publication. Reports differ on wether it was tuberculosis or hepatitis. Sewell had suffered a fall as a child and as …

Today in Literary History – November 18, 1865 – Mark Twain’s first story

Mark Twain was enormously famous in his day and continues to be so today. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are still read and enjoyed and there is a steady flow of Twain quotations (some a bit bogus) on the Internet. Twain's first taste of fame came on November 18, 1865, with the publication of his …

Today in Literary History – November 17, 1939 – Auberon Waugh is born

Auberon Waugh, the journalist and novelist was born on November 17, 1939. He was the eldest son of Evelyn Waugh, and never quite escaped from the shadow of his famous (and famously disagreeable) father. Waugh (who was known to family, friends and colleagues by the diminutive name "Bron") suffered a serious and bizarre injury at …

Today in Literary History – November 16, 1930 – Chinua Achebe is born

Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist, poet and essayist was born on November 16, 1930. He is often called the most important modern African writer, mostly because of his groundbreaking first novel, Things Fall Apart, published in 1958. It was one of the first novels written in English by an African and examining African themes. It …

Thought of the Day

"Real wisdom is not the knowledge of everything, but the knowledge of which things in life are necessary, which are less necessary, and which are completely unnecessary to know." --Leo Tolstoy  

Book Review – Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner

  Matthew Weiner has gone from the sprawling multiple-character longform world of the television series Mad Men, which he created, wrote, produced and directed over seven seasons to a minimalist and tightly focused character study in his first novel (at 144 pages, more a novella really) Heather, the Totality. There is almost no dialogue in …

Today in Literary History – November 15, 1978, Margaret Mead dies

The anthropologist Margret Mead died on November 15, 1978. She did extensive field work in Samoa, New Guinea and Bali, working mostly on gender roles and adolescent sexuality. She is best known for her book Coming of Age in Samoa, published in 1928, where she showed that sexual development in children and adolescents is determined …

Today in Literary History – November 12, 1984 – Chester Himes dies

Ond of my favourite writers, Chester Himes,  died on this date, November 12, 1984. He had a remarkable career, two in fact, and fought against stereotypes all his life. Himes came from a middle class Black family, his mother was a teacher and his father was a college professor. Himes, however was drawn to the …

Today in Literary History – November 11, 1922 – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is born

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., whose satirical novels are a wonderful mix of wild imagination and bleak humour, was born on November 11, 1922. To me, Vonnegut was always aware of the sadness in the world - its unfairness and cosmic ironies. Even though he viewed life with anger and bitterness, he still managed to turn life's …