Today in Literary History – February 19, 1917 – Carson McCullers is born

The novelist Carson McCullers was born in Columbus, Georgia on February 19, 1917. Although she lived much of her life in New York her books are usually referred to as Southern Gothic, which I think is a bit misleading. Her novels are set in the American south but they are are all realistic and free …

Today in Literary History – February 16, 1741 – Benjamin Franklin publishes the first issue of The General Magazine

Benjamin Franklin printed the first issue of his periodical, The General Magazine, on February 16, 1741. He had hoped to be able to be the first to publish a monthly magazine in the American colonies. He was in a race with another Philadelphia printer and publisher, Andrew Bradford, his great rival. Bradford beat him by …

Today in Literary History – February 15, 1883 – Sax Rohmer, author of the Fu Manchu books is born

Arthur Ward, who wrote mystery novels about the evil mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu under the pseudonym "Sax Rohmer," was born in Birmingham, England on February 15, 1883. Ward began his writing career scripting comedy sketches and humorous songs for Music Hall acts. He developed his fictional character the nefarious Chinese master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu …

Book Review – The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette

In his last book, 2015's Haints Stay, Colin Winnette magnificently skewered the Western genre with splashes of violence, drunkenness and gender confusion. Oh, and ghosts too. His latest novel explodes the Gothic horror genre and the coming- of-age novel, with just as much skill and black humour. Oh, and it has ghosts too. Throughout the …

Today in Literary History – February 12, 1938 – YA novelist Judy Blume is born

Judy Blume, the path-breaking American author of novels for young adults, was born on February 12, 1938. Her novels deal explicitly and realistically with everyday concerns of teen-aged girls and often serve young readers as a bridge between children's books and more mature YA titles. Her novels, mostly written in the 1970s, explored themes and …

Today in Literary History – February 11, 1963 – Sylvia Plath dies by suicide

The poet and novelist Sylvia Plath died on February 11, 1932 by suicide at the age of thirty. She had suffered from severe depression throughout her life. She had attempted suicide previously and spent time in a mental health facility. She also had several rounds of electro-convulsive shock therapy. Plath's only novel, The Bell Jar, …

Today in Literary History – February 10, 1837 – Alexander Pushkin dies after being shot in a duel

Alexander Pushkin, one of the pioneers of Russian literature died at the age of 37 on February 10 (January 29 under the Old Style calendar) 1837, two days after being shot in a duel. Pushkin was born into a noble family but embraced politically radical ideas and was suspected of being an atheist. He was …

Today in Literary History – February 9, 1923 – Irish writer Brendan Behan is born

The Irish playwright, novelist and memoirist Brendan Behan was born in Dublin on January 9, 1923. He had a short life, with a meteoric rise as a gifted and famous writer and just as swift a fall into alcoholism, poor health and shoddy work. He died in 1964 at the age of 41 from diabetes …

Today in Literary History – February 7, 1478 – Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia is born

Sir Thomas More (Saint Thomas More in the Catholic tradition), Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII and author of the book Utopia, was born on February 7, 1478. More was beheaded in 1535 for his opposition to Henry's break with the Roman Catholic Church and the annulment of the King's marriage to his …

Book Review – King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich – Jazz and Violence in New Orleans

Between an axe murderer on the loose, an outbreak of Spanish influenza, the end of The Great War, the birth of jazz and the construction of a massive canal linking the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Pontchartrain there is a lot going on in Nathaniel Rich's hometown of New Orleans in his boisterous third novel. …

Today in Literary History – February 6, 1937 – John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is published

John Steinbeck's dramatic novella Of Mice and Men was published on February 6, 1937. It was one of Steinbeck's "California novels" about migrants to California and preceded The Grapes of Wrath by two years. The Nobel Prize committee singled it out as a "tiny masterpiece" when Steinbeck won the prize in 1962. The book is …

Thought of the Day

"There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person." --Anaïs Nin

Today in Literary History – February 5, 1941 – “Banjo” Paterson, author of “Waltzing Matilda,” dies

Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, the popular Australian "bush poet," died on February 5, 1941 at the age of seventy-four. He wrote the poem "Waltzing Matilda" in 1895 and set it to the tune of an old folk song that a family friend played for him on the zither. The song is now considered by many …