Book Review – WEST by CARYS DAVIES – A Quixotic Search in a Stunning Debut Novel

Welsh writer Carys Davies's impressive first novel, West, opens with a spare dialogue between a widowed mule breeder and his ten-year-old daughter: “How far must you go?” “That depends.” “On where they are?” “Yes.” “So how far? A thousand miles? More than a thousand miles?” “More than a thousand miles, I think so, Bess, yes.” …

Today in Literary History – May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear is born

Edward Lear, the British poet and master of the limerick, was born on May 12, 1812. Lear began his career as an artist, specializing in natural history paintings. He made watercolour illustrations of birds for the British Museum and for private ornithologists and was compared favourably with John James Audubon. Later, he worked for the …

Today in Literary History – May 7, 1927 – Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is born

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the novelist and screenwriter, was born on May 7, 1927 in Cologne, Germany. Her family was Jewish and she and her parents managed to escape to England in 1939. Her father committed suicide after the war, despondent that most of his family had died in the Holocaust. Jhabvala moved to India in …

Today in Literary History – May 4, 1948 – Norman Mailer’s first novel, The Naked and the Dead, is published

Norman Mailer's first novel, The Naked and the Dead, was published on May 4, 1948, to great commercial success, making the 25-year-old Mailer a celebrity. The book sold 200,000 copies in its first three months, over a million in its first year and spent 62 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. It is …

Today in Literary History – May 2, 1611 – the King James Bible is published

The magisterial translation of the Bible that came to be known as The King James Version was first published on May 2, 1611. It is arguably the most important and influential book in the English language; its theological importance aside, it has given the English language countless phrases and allusions in its over 400 year …

Book Review – THE SOLITARY TWIN by HARRY MATHEWS – The Great Trickster’s Final Novel

Harry Mathews was an American novelist and poet who lived most of his life in France. When he died last year at the age of 86, he was perhaps better known in Europe than in the English speaking world. His fan base in his native language may be small, but they are tenaciously dedicated to …

Today in Literary History – April 25, 1719 – Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” is published

Daniel Defoe's The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner was first published on April 25, 1719. The story of an English sailor marooned for 28 years on a deserted island off the coast of South America, it was a huge success with the public, going through four printings in its first …

Today in Literary History – April 22, 1899 – Vladimir Nabokov is born

Vladimir Nabokov, the novelist, memoirist, poet and critic, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 22, 1899. He came from a wealthy and influential aristocratic family. His father was one of the leaders of a liberal political party, The Constitutional Democrats, and was a prominent writer and public figure. Nabokov wrote about his idyllic …

Thought of the Day

“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.” —Charles Baudelaire

Today in Literary History – April 21, 1910 – Mark Twain dies (no exageration)

Mark Twain, the great American humorist and creator of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, died on April 21, 1910, at the age of seventy-four. He had been in poor health for some time and was severely depressed by the deaths of his wife and two of his daughters in addition to several close friends. He …

Today in Literary History – April 19, 1824 – Lord Byron dies in Greece

Lord Byron, the great Romantic poet, adventurer and sexual libertine, died on April 19, 1824, in Missolonghi, Greece at the age of thirty-six. Byron had been in self-imposed exile from Britain since 1816, due to his scandalous romantic entanglements, including a sexual affair with his married half-sister, Augusta Leigh, whose daughter he may or may …

Today in Literary History – April 18, 1947 – novelist and poet Kathy Acker is born

Kathy Acker, the postmodern novelist and punk poet was born in New York City on April 18, 1947. She died in 1997 at the age of 50 in Tijuana, Mexico, where she was pursuing alternative treatments for breast cancer. Acker came from a wealthy New York family, but her father, Donald Lehman, left her mother …

Today in Literary History – April 15, 1755 – Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary is published

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language was first published on April 15, 1755. Its full title was: "A DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: IN WHICH The WORDS are deduced from their ORIGINALS, AND ILLUSTRATED in their DIFFERENT SIGNIFICATIONS BY EXAMPLES from the best WRITERS. TO WHICH ARE PREFIXED, A HISTORY of the LANGUAGE, AND An ENGLISH GRAMMAR, By SAMUEL JOHNSON, A.M. In TWO VOLUMES." Popularly know as  Johnson's Dictionary it wasn't the first …