Book Review – THE ADULTURANTS by JOE DUNTHORNE – A Touching and Comic Look at Millennials and their Elusive Search for Adulthood

Joe Dunthorne's third novel is short, poignant and very, very funny. Ray, The Adulturants' not very reliable narrator, has charm and a quick wit -- or so he believes -- and he tends to deploy them at the most inopportune times. There is no situation so serious -- getting caught in a compromising position with …

Book Review – TOMB SONG by JULIÁN HERBERT – A Son’s Haunting Story of His Dying Mother Told in Fiction, Memoir and Fantasy

Julián Herbert is a poet and novelist famous in his native Mexico for his dazzling wordplay. Tomb Song, his 2011 novel, is the first of his books be translated into English, fluidly by Christina MacSweeney who also translated Valerie Luiselli's wonderful The Story of My Teeth. Tomb Song is another entry in the recently popular …

Today in Literary History – March 29, 1895 – World War I memoirist Ernst Jünger is born

Ernst Jünger, the German soldier, essayist and philosopher, was born on March 29, 1895. He is most famous for his searing World War I memoir Storm of Steel, which was first published in Germany in 1920. Jünger served in the German army on the Western Front throughout the First World War. He was wounded many times, …

Today in Literary History – March 27, 1988 – hardboiled crime writer Charles Willeford dies

One of my favourite "hardboiled" writers, Charles Willeford, died in Miami, Florida on March 27, 1988, of a heart attack at the age of 69. An orphan, Willeford joined the Army at the age of 16. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, earning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star for outstanding bravery, …

Thought of the Day

On the Birth of a Son Families, when a child is born Want it to be intelligent. I, through intelligence Having wrecked my whole life, Only hope the baby will prove Ignorant and stupid. Then he will crown a tranquil life By becoming a Cabinet Minister. --Su Tung-p’o A.D. 1036-1101

Today in Literary History – March 26, 1969 – John Kennedy Toole, author of “A Confederacy of Dunces” dies

John Kennedy Toole, the author of the posthumously published novel A Confederacy of Dunces, took his own life on March 26, 1969, at the age of 31. He had laboured over his serio-comic novel of an eccentric New Orleans loner for years but couldn't get it published, at least not without making changes that he …

Today in Literary History – March 25, 1925 – Flannery O’Connor is born

Flannery O'Connor, the American short story writer and novelist, was born on March 25, 1925. She lived most of her life in Georgia, although she took breaks to study at the University of Iowa's prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop and spent time at the Yaddo writers colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. O'Conner suffered from lupus, …

Book Review – HOW TO STOP TIME by MATT HAIG – The Comic Perils of a 1,000 Year Life

"I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong." So Tom Hazard, the narrator of Matt Haig's exuberant new novel, How to Stop Time, tells us in …

Today in Literary History – March 24, 1919 – poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti is born

American poet, publisher, bookseller and political activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born on March 24, 1919. As he turns 99 years old he is still active in literary causes. A widower, he lives alone in the same San Francisco apartment he has lived in since 1980. Ferlinghetti is most closely associated with the San Francisco bookstore …

Thought of the Day

“In my experience, men who respond to good fortune with modesty are harder to find than those who face adversity with courage.” --Xenephon

Today in Literary History – March 22, 1941 – poet Billy Collins is born

American poet Billy Collins was born on March 22, 1941, in New York City. He was the United States Poet Laureate for two terms as well as being the New York State Poet Laureate. Collins is regularly described as "America's favourite poet." Collins writes in a low-key, witty style that seems simple and "non-poetic" at …

Today in Literary History – March 20, 1852 – “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is published

Harriet Beacher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was published on March 20, 1852. Stowe was a New England school teacher, an ardent Christian and an active abolitionist. Parts of Uncle Tom's Cabin had already been serialized in an abolitionist newspaper when the book was published. It was successful well beyond the publisher's or Stowe's expectations …

Book Review – EDUCATED: A MEMOIR by TARA WESTOVER – A Sensitive Story of a Journey From Isolation to a PhD

Today, at 32, Tara Westover lives in London, England, has a PhD in history from Cambridge University and has been a visiting fellow at Harvard University. But, she didn't set foot in a classroom until she was 17 and had never heard of the Holocaust or the Civil Rights movement. She grew up without a …

Today in Literary History – March 18, 1893 – poet Wilfrid Owen is born

The great World War I poet Wilfrid Owen was born on March 18, 1893 in Shropshire, England. Owen was 22 years old and teaching English and French at the Berlitz School in Bordeaux, France, when the First World War broke out. Owen hesitated about his commitment to the war but eventually returned to England and …

Today in Literary History – March 17, 180 – Marcus Aurelius dies

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, died on March 17 in the year 180. Apart from his historical prominence as emperor and military leader Marcus is important for his book of advice and aphorisms which is commonly known as Meditations. Marcus wrote it in Greek during the twenty years that he was emperor, …

Today in Literary History – March 16, 1850 – Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” is published

Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter was first published on March 16, 1850. It was an immediate success and its original print run of 2,500 copies sold out in ten days. A second edition of 2,500 books was released on March 30. Part of the book's large print run and quick reprinting had to do …

Book Review – AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by TAYARI JONES – What Happens to a Young Marriage When Catastrophe Strikes?

Tayari Jones new novel (which is also the latest addition to Oprah's Book Club) is a powerful and heartbreaking dissection of a marriage that goes sour after an unexpected tragedy. Celestial and Roy are perfect embodiments of Atlanta's new black middle class. She is an artist who is gaining success with her collectible dolls, which …

Today in Literary History – March 15, 1937 – Cult horror writer H.P. Lovecraft dies

H.P. Lovecraft, the American writer of horror and supernatural tales, died on March 15, 1937, in dire poverty and near complete obscurity at the age of 46. It was only years after his death that his reputation began to spread, originally promoters of his work like influential literary critic Edmund Wilson who considered Lovecraft to …

Thought of the Day

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” --Alexander the Great