Today in Literary History – November 7, 1913 – Albert Camus is born

Albert Camus, the philosopher and novelist was born in French Algeria on November 7, 1913. He was was closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and existentialism (although he rejected that label) although he often disagreed with both of them. I have been reading and re-reading Camus for years. Like a lot of …

Today in Literary History – November 6, 1558 – Thomas Kyd is baptized

Thomas Kyd, the Elizabethan dramatist, was baptized on November 6, 1558. His actual date of birth is not known. He was one of London's most popular playwrights in the years before Shakespeare, but little is known about him now and many of his plays have been lost, including a supposed pre-Shakespeare version of Hamlet written …

Book Review – BLOOD BROTHERS: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between by DEANNE STILLMAN

There are some public figures who become iconic over time (think Lincoln, Churchill, Queen Victoria or Charlie Chaplin). Instantly recognizable in their unchanging images, forever locked into their easily remembered narratives, to the general public they are known but unknown. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody certainly fits this category as does the Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. …

Today in Literary History – November 4, 1899 – Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams is published

Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung in German) was first published on November 4, 1899, although the year 1900 is printed on the title page. Despite it eventually becoming regarded as Freud's seminal work it was anything but an instant success. Its original print run was only 600 copies and it took eight …

Today in Literary History – November 3, 1871 – Walt Whitman turns down a marriage proposal

On November 3, 1871, the American poet Walt Whitman replied for the first time to his British admirer, Anne Gilchrist, tactfully declining her offer of marriage. Gilchrist was the widow of a British literary critic. She had completed her late husband's biography of William Blake and was friends with Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane …

Today in Literary History – November 2, 1938 – the setting for Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano

Today is All Souls Day in the Christian tradition. In Mexico it is celebrated as Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead. One of my favourite novels, Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano is set in the Mexican town of Quauhnahuac on a single day, November 2, 1938, the Day of the Dead. The …

Book Review – SNARE by LILJA SIGURÐARDÓTTIR – A Chilly Icelandic Crime Caper Novel

For a remote island with a small population (340,000 people) and a miniscule crime rate, Iceland punches above its weight when it comes to crime fiction. Ragnar Jónasson, Arnaldur Indriðason, Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir have all done very well with mystery novels translated into English. A new addition to their ranks is Lilja Sigurðardóttir, …

Today in Literary History – November 1, 1895 – Jude the Obscure is published

Thomas Hardy's final novel, Jude the Obscure, was first published on November 1, 1895. When Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles had been published four years earlier it was denounced by critics and clergy as immoral and irreligious. Jude the Obscure fared no better in some quarters. One reviewer called it "Jude the Obscene." Another wrote, …

Today in Literary History – October 31, 1880 – Julia Peterkin is born

Another undeservedly forgotten writer for "Today in Literary History." Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Julia Peterkin was born into a wealthy South Carolina family on October 31, 1880. She earned a Masters degree and taught school before marrying, William Peterkin, a cotton plantation owner. She lived with her husband on the 2,000 acre plantation that he …

Today in Literary History – October 30, 1938 – Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast

On October 30, 1938, one day before Halloween, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre of the Air actors broadcast an adaptation of War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells' science fiction novel about aliens invading the Earth. Welles' adaptation was played as a real time radio broadcast of increasingly frightening news bulletins interrupting a program of …