Thought of the Day

"Fire hath its force abated by water, not by wind; and anger must be allayed by cold words, and not by blustering threats." – Anne Bradstreet

Today in Literary History – January 18, 1989 – travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin dies

Bruce Chatwin, the British travel writer, novelist and art historian died on January 18, 1989 at the age of forty-eight. Chatwin, who was married but carried on many homosexual affairs, died from AIDS. Although he tried to keep the real reason for his final illness secret (to protect his conservative parents from knowing the truth …

Book Review – The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)

NThe Perfect Nanny by the Morrocan-French writer Leïla Slimani is a taught, beautifully crafted suspense story that won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2016 and was the country's top-selling novel. It has been a bestseller across Europe and has just been released in an English translation. (In Britain the book is released with the title Lullaby, …

Today in Literary History – January 16, 1605 – Part One of Don Quixote is published

Part One of Miguel de Cervantes's masterpiece Don Quixote was published in Spain on January 16, 1605 as El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha ("The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha"). Don Quixote is generally referred to as the first modern novel. Its plot arc and its scenes of dialogue distinguish it …

Today in Literary History – January 15, 1962 – The Derveni Papyrus, the oldest book in Europe is discovered

The Derveni Papyrus, "The Most Ancient Book in Europe" according to UNESCO, was discovered on January 15, 1962 in Derveni, Greece. The partially burned papyrus was found in a burial tomb during excavations for a new highway from Thessalonika to Kavala. The papyrus was found in the tomb's funeral pyre and the bottom part of …

Today in Literary History – January 14, 1977 – diarist and novelist Anaïs Nin dies

Anaïs Nin, the diarist and novelist, died on January 14, 1977, at the age of 73, from cervical cancer. Nin was born in France to Cuban parents. Although she lived in Paris off and on she spent most of her life in the United States. She is best known for her diaries, which she began …

Today in Literary History – January 12, 1628 – Charles Perrault, the “Father of Mother Goose,” is born

Charles Perrault, the "Father of the Mother Goose Stories," was born in Paris on January 12, 1628, the son of a wealthy lawyer. Perrault was later to become lawyer and government functionary himself. He was an aide to Jean-Baptisre Colbert, King Louis XIV's finance minister, and advised on the construction of public buildings, most especially …

Thought of the Day

“What ails the truth is that it is mainly uncomfortable, and often dull. The human mind seeks something more amusing, more caressing.” --H.L. Mencken

Book Review – Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years by Clinton Heylin

I'm too young to remember when Dylan went electric in 1965, but I am old enough to remember the shock and dismay many of us fans felt when Dylan "found Jesus" at the tail end of the 1970s. I was in university then and had followed Dylan's career path both in real time (buying and …

Today in Literary History – January 10, 1961 – Dashiell Hammett, the great detective novelist, dies

The great mystery and detective novelist Dashiell Hammett died from lung cancer on January 10, 1961, at the age of sixty-six. He had been living a mostly reclusive life for the past decade. His health was so poor that he needed full time care and Lillian Hellman, with whom he'd had a 30 year romance …

Today in Literary History – January 9, 1890 – Karel Čapek, the science fiction writer who invented the term “robot” is born

The Czech writer Karel Čapek was born on January 9, 1890. He was a prolific writer in multiple forms -- drama, novels, essays -- but is best known now as a writer of science fiction (a category that didn't exist in his day) and as the inventor of the word "robot." The word originated in …

Book Review – Improvement by Joan Silber

Interconnections abound in Improvement, Joan Silber's deft new novel. Silber uses a recurring motif of Turkish carpets -- which several of the book's characters collect, sell or trade -- and lets their intricate and subtly woven patterns mimic the intricacies of the novel's plot. Decisions that characters make are shown to  have effects not just …

Today in Literary History – January 8, 1601 – Baltasar Gracián, the great 17th century aphorist, is born

Baltasar Gracián, the Jesuit philosopher and aphorist, was born in Aragon, Spain on January 8, 1601. The Art of Worldly Wisdom is the book he is best known for (and one I love). It is a collection of over 300 pithy Maxims (or aphorisms) with Gracián's commentary on them. There have been many translations of …

Today in Literary History – January 7, 1891 – Zora Neale Hurston, black feminist pioneer, is born

Zora Neale Hurston, the American novelist, short story writer and anthropologist, was born in rural Alabama on January 7, 1891. When she was three years old her family moved to Eatonville Florida, one of America's first all-black self-governing municipalities, where her father served as a Baptist minister and later as mayor. The town features in …

Today in Literary History – January 6, 1883 – Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet, is born

Khalil Gibran, the author, poet, and artist most famous for his book The Prophet, was born on January 6, 1883, in what is now Lebanon but was then the Syrian province of the Ottoman Empire. Gibran grew up in poverty with an alcoholic gambling-addicted father who was sent to prison when he was caught embezzling …

Thought of the Day

“Humanity’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but humanity’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” --Reinhold Niebuhr