Book Review – TROUBLE IN MIND: BOB DYLAN’S GOSPEL YEARS by CLINTON HEYLIN – A Good Word for Dylan’s God Spell

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 – A Finely Woven Tapestry of a Novel

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

Today in Literary History – January 5, 1987 – Margaret Laurence, beloved Canadian writer, dies

The beloved Canadian novelist and short story writer Margaret Laurence died on January, 5, 1987, by suicide at the age of sixty. Laurence, a lifelong smoker had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and chose to take her own life in order to spare herself and her family a prolonged and painful death. Laurence was …

Today in Literary History – January 4, 1960 – Albert Camus, existentialist author, dies

The essayist, novelist and existentialist philosopher Albert Camus was killed in a car accident on January 4, 1960. Camus had been spending the holidays in the south of France at his country house (which he had bought with his Nobel Prize money three years earlier) with his wife and their twin children and his publisher …

Book Review – ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by GAIL HONEYMAN – A Darkly Funny Novel of a Lonely Misfit

It was announced today that Scottish writer Gail Honeyman's darkly comic debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, has won the Costa Book Prize in the "Best First Novel of 2017" category. I read it when it came out last spring, and despite a shaky start I really enjoyed it. After reading the first few …

Thought of the Day

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people." --G.K. Chesterton

Today in Literary History – December 31, 1933 – Edward Bunker, crimonal turned crime novelist, is born

Edward Bunker, the criminal turned crime writer, was born on December 31, 1933, in Los Angeles, California. Bunker's parents were both drawn to Hollywood by the lure of opportunities in the film industry. His mother, originally from Vancouver, was a dancer in Busby Berkeley musicals and his father was a stage hand and grip. They …