Today in Literary History – September 7, 1601 – Death of William Shakespeare’s father

William Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, died on September 7, 1601, at the age of 70, when Shakespeare was 37 and tasting success in London, having opened The Globe Theatre in 1599. John Shakespeare had a life of steady rise in fortune and social standing followed by a precipitous decline starting in the 1570s when William …

Today in Literary History – September 6, 1951 – The day William Burroughs shot and killed his wife

On September 6, 1951, William S. Burroughs, famous now for his hallucinatory novels such as Junky and Naked Lunch, shot and killed his wife Joan Vollmer at a drunken house party in Mexico City, where they were living at the time. Stories about the shooting vary wildly but the tale that Burroughs and Joan were …

Today in Literary History – September 5, 1957 – On the Road is published

On the Road, Jack Kerouac's second novel (and his masterpiece) was published 60 years ago today, on September 5, 1957. I happened to be just short of five months old at the time myself, so it was another 16 or 17 years until it finally made a big impact on my life. Like Salinger's Catcher …

Thought of the Day

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” ― James Baldwin

Book Review – The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat

  Haitian-born American writer Edwidge Danticat has written the latest installment in Graywolf Press's "The Art of" series in which prominent authors meditate on how best to write about specific subjects or particular aspects of craft in creative writing. In The Art of Death Danticat uses the theme of death to not only look at …

Today in Literary History – September 2, 1892, J.R.R. Tolkien was born

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of J.R.R.Tolkien, Old English scholar and The Lord of the Rings author. J.R.R., by the way, stands for John Ronald Ruel. At school he was known as "J.R. squared." His academic colleagues called him Ronald and his close friends called him Tollers. He also answered to John …

Book Review – Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours) by Harold R. Johnson

  Harold R. Johnson is a Cree lawyer and writer who grew up on a trapline in Northern Saskatchewan. He did a stint in the Canadian Navy, worked as a logger, a miner and a heavy equipment operator before earning law degrees from The University of Saskatchewan and Harvard University. After spending over a decade …

On September 1, 1952, ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ was published

The Old Man and the Sea was published 65 years ago today. It was the last significant work by Ernest Hemingway published in his lifetime. Watch this stop-motion film based on the book. Russian director Alesandr Petrov used 29,000 images hand-painted on glass by himself and his son Dimitri. The film won the 2000 Academy …

Book Review – Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford

  I've been a fan of Richard Ford's novels and short stories for years. This spring he published his first non-fiction book, a touching memoir about his parents' lives. Ford is now 73 and has lived longer than either of his parents. His father, Parker, died of a massive heart attack in 1960 at the …

Thought of the Day

“Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern. Why, then, should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?” ― William Hazlitt

Book Review – The Conjure-Man Dies: A Harlem Mystery by Rudolph Fisher

I just finished reading The Conjure-Man Dies: A Harlem Mystery (first published in 1932) which has the distinction of being the first U.S. detective novel written by an African-American and the first one with an all Black cast of characters, including its wonderfully named sleuths Archer and Dart. I had never heard of it before …