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Thread: Literary Notes

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    It's the birthday of singer and songwriter Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, (music by this artist) born in Mooringsport, Louisiana (c. 188. He is known for his versions of "Goodnight Irene" and "Rock Island Line." He was an inmate at Angola Prison in Louisiana when a white man named John Lomax arrived with his 18-year-old son, Alan, asking to record any songs the prisoners knew. Lomax was traveling across the South making field recordings for the Library of Congress. Lomax helped Leadbelly obtain a pardon and took him to New York where he was a big hit.

    ~


    It was on this day, in 1952, that William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross as the editor of The New Yorker magazine.

    ~


    It's the birthday of Richard P. Blackmur, (books by this author) reclusive literary critic, born in Springfield, Massachusetts (1904). He was expelled from high school in 1918 after a dispute with the headmaster, and he never completed a formal education. He read the classics at the local library, but always felt uneasy about his homemade education and did his best to conceal its shortcomings. He went on to become a leading American literary critic and taught at Princeton.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of the crime novelist Joseph Wambaugh, (books by this author) born in East Pittsburgh (1937). He is best known for his fiction and nonfiction accounts of police work in the United States, particularly California.
    Wambaugh is the son of a policeman. He joined the Marines at age 17 and married a year later. Then he became a Los Angeles patrolman and detective for 14 years. He began to "moonlight" as a writer during his police career, and in 1971 he published The New Centurions. It was greeted with acclaim. Evan Hunter of the New York Times Book Review said, "Let us dispel forever the notion that Mr. Wambaugh is only a former cop who happens to write books. This would be tantamount to saying that Jack London was first and foremost a sailor." John Greenway wrote in National Review that the novel was "incomparably the best revelation of the lives and souls of policemen ever written."
    Wambaugh took extended leave from the police department after he published The Blue Knight (1972), which depicted the final days in the career of a corrupt policeman. It was during this time that Wambaugh wrote his most important book, The Onion Field (1974). It is based on a true story of young police officers taken hostage by small-time criminals. They took the officers to a distant onion field, where the criminals murdered one of the officers. The Onion Field earned comparisons to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1965).
    The tone of Wambaugh's writing changed after he read Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1955). Wambaugh said, "Heller enabled me to find my voice."
    Until Joseph Wambaugh, most police officers were depicted in print and in film as either overly pious or violent heroes. Wambaugh's characters are "just coping." Nearly all contemporary police characters are influenced by his characterizations.

    ~


    It's the birthday of the philosopher, essayist and statesman Francis Bacon, born in London (1561). Bacon is best known as a philosopher and essayist, but he accomplished much of his writing after his political career ended in scandal. He is also known as the writer of Essays, a collection that includes work spanning several years.
    Bacon was a member of Parliament by age 23, but he disagreed with Queen Elizabeth's tax program and had difficulty moving forward in his career. A friend convinced the Queen to place Bacon on her Learned Council. Bacon repaid this friend by participating actively in his prosecution years later, for which Bacon was roundly criticized. Many years later, Bacon pleaded guilty to accepting bribes as Lord Chancellor. Bacon was banished from holding office and sentenced to the Tower of London, but that sentence was revoked and Bacon was allowed to write in his retirement.
    Bacon's main contribution to philosophy was his application of the inductive method of modern science. He supported full investigation and rejected any rational theories based upon incomplete or insufficient data.
    Francis Bacon said, "Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes."

    ~

    It's the birthday of the poet Howard Moss, (books by this author) born in New York (1922). He served as poetry editor of The New Yorker for nearly 40 years. When asked his definition of a good poem, Howard Moss said, "One I like."

    ~


    It's the birthday of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, (books by this author) born George Gordon in London, England (178. He is best known for his poem Don Juan, which he never completed. It was considered one of the most important poems in English since Milton's Paradise Lost. Byron is also known for having lived an extravagant lifestyle, and he was considered controversial in his own time.
    Byron was born with a clubfoot, and he was sensitive about his lameness throughout his life. This did not prevent him from living flamboyantly and becoming romantically involved with several women, including the wife of a viscount.
    Byron was fond of animals, especially his dog, Boatswain, and Byron nursed the animal when it became infected with rabies. His lifestyle, good looks, and lameness contributed to what we call the Byronic legend.
    Byron's maternal grandfather, also his namesake, committed suicide the year after Byron was born. As a result, Byron's mother Lady Catherine had to sell her property and title to pay for her father's large debts. Byron's father was named "Mad Jack" Byron, and he squandered his wife's remaining fortune before they separated. Byron moved with his mother to Aberdeen, Scotland, where they lived in poverty until Byron reached the age of 10 and became the sixth Baron Byron.
    After studying at Cambridge, Byron became a well-known poet and politician in London, though he was just as well known because of constant rumors concerning his romantic life. Byron left England after his marriage to Annabella Milbanke abruptly ended, and he spent time in Geneva with Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Then Byron moved to Italy, where he lived for two years. It was during this time that Byron wrote Don Juan and other famous poems.
    Byron's life ended in bizarre fashion. After leaving Italy, Byron was contacted by representatives of Greek rebels seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire. They asked for his help, and Byron eagerly gave it. He spent freely from his own fortune to upgrade the rebel military, he assumed control of part of the military forces, and he collaborated with the rebel leader regarding plans of attack. But Byron became sick before he saw any military action. The typical remedy of bleeding only made his condition worse, and he died.
    Lord Byron said, "Actions are our epochs."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of one of France's most famous novelists, Stendhal, (books by this author) born Marie Henri Beyle in Grenoble, France (1783). We're not sure exactly why Stendhal chose the pseudonym that he did. Some scholars suggest he chose it because it is an anagram of the word "Shetland." Others think he chose the name because it is also the name of a German city. Whatever the reason, today Stendhal is well known for the dry style of his writing and for his insightful character analysis.
    Stendhal was raised in an oppressive Jesuit home in Grenoble, and he did not get along with his family. He moved to Paris as soon as possible, and he soon became a dragoon in Napoleon's army. He traveled widely throughout Europe, lived in Paris for a time, and in 1812 Stendhal again served in Napoleon's army, accompanying the failed mission to Russia.
    Stendhal began his literary career only after Napoleon's fall in 1814. He had developed a fondness for Milan, Italy, during his travels in Europe, and he lived there until 1820. During this time, Stendhal began writing in a realistic style quite different from other writing being produced in the Romantic period in which he lived. As a result, Stendhal dedicated his work to "the Happy Few," the term he used for those who recognized his brilliance. Indeed, Stendhal's writing was not fully appreciated until the 20th century.
    Stendhal was best known in England during his life, and in 1817 he began writing for British journals. He also became involved in an unhappy love affair, and as a result he wrote De l'amour (1822), a psychological analysis of love.
    Stendhal's first novel, Armance (1827), was panned by critics, but he responded by writing one of the most important novels in French literary history, The Red and the Black, (1831). The story follows an ambitious young man who uses seduction to get what he wants, and who is executed for killing his mistress. Five years later, Stendhal began writing his other great novel, The Charterhouse of Parma (1939), while living in Paris or again traveling throughout Europe.
    Stendhal also published nonfiction in his lifetime, including a biography of Rossini, which is today lauded for its musical criticism more so than its factual accuracy. His own memoir, Memoirs of an Egotist (1892), was published long after his death.
    Stendhal said, "One can acquire everything in solitude except character."

    ~


    It's the birthday of the poet Derek Walcott, (books by this author) born in Castries on the island of Saint Lucia (1930). The island is one of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. Walcott is known for his epic poem Omeros (1990), which retells The Odyssey and is set in the Caribbean, and for being awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1992.
    Walcott published his first collection of poetry, 25 Poems (194, when he was 18. But his breakthrough as a poet came much later, with the publication of In a Green Night (1962). In the meantime, Walcott studied at St. Mary's College and at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, before moving to Trinidad in 1953. He founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959, which went on to produce many of his early plays. Walcott also worked as a journalist in Trinidad, before the publication of In a Green Night brought him international attention.
    Derek Walcott said, "The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination."

    ~


    It's the birthday of the painter Edouard Manet, born in Paris (1832). He is best known as a bridge between realism and impressionism.
    Manet's father was a magistrate, and he wanted his son to pursue a career in law also. Manet saw things differently, in part because his uncle often had taken the young Manet to the Louvre, where he would urge his nephew to pursue painting seriously. When Manet failed his naval examinations in 1850, he began to study under the academic painter Thomas Couture, and then he traveled Europe where he was influenced by the painters Frans Hals and Diego Velásquez.
    Manet's paintings were considered controversial in his own time. Even his masterpiece Olympia was criticized because it featured a prostitute in a suggestive position. His technical innovations were viewed as heresy by some academics. But today his paintings appear in art museums across the world, and have sold for as much as $26 million.
    And he said, "There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see. When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of author Edith Wharton, (books by this author) born Edith Newbold Jones in New York City (1862). She came from a distinguished New York family, and she grew up stifled under all the rigid social customs of high society. She said, "I have often sighed, in looking back at my childhood, to think how pitiful a provision was made for the life of the imagination behind those uniform brownstone facades." She decided she wanted to be a writer at an early age, but her parents did not encourage her. She said, "Authorship was considered something between a black art and a form of manual labor."
    Wharton was grateful that her parents took her traveling in Europe for much of her childhood, because she got away from many of the New York debutante parties, and she was able to spend most of her time reading. It was in Europe, when she was about 20 years old, that she first met the writer Henry James, though she barely had the courage to speak to him at the time.
    Her parents married her off to a man she didn't love when she was 23, and she had to spend the next decade in New York, living the life of a society matron, hosting parties, and leaving herself almost no time to write. Having lived in Europe, she now found New York City to be an awful place to live. She said, "New York is cursed with its universal chocolate-coloured coating of the most hideous stone ever quarried, cramped horizontal gridiron of a town without towers, porticoes, fountains or perspectives, hide-bound in its deadly uniformity of mean ugliness."
    She eventually had a nervous breakdown, and it was while she rested at a sanitarium that she began to write seriously. One of her doctors suggested that writing might impair her recovery, but after The Greater Inclination (1899), her first book of short stories, got great reviews, she disregarded the doctor's advice.
    A few years later, she met Henry James again, and the two became great friends. She had just published a few historical novels, which weren't every successful. His advice was that she write about contemporary New York City, the time and place she new best. He said, "Don't pass it by — the immediate, the real, the only, the yours."
    Wharton took James's advice, and the result was her first great novel, The House of Mirth (1905), about the frustrated love affair between Lawrence Selden and a young woman named Lily Bart. Wharton wrote: "He had a confused sense that she must have cost a great deal to make, that a great many dull and ugly people must, in some mysterious way, have been sacrificed to produce her. ... She was like some rare flower grown for exhibition, a flower from which every bud had been nipped except the crowning blossom of her beauty."
    Wharton went on to write many more novels about frustrated love, including Ethan Frome (1911) and The Age of Innocence (1920), which was the first novel written by a woman ever to win the Pulitzer Prize.
    In her lifetime, most of her novels were best-sellers, even though they had unhappy endings. But after the rise of modernist fiction by writers like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, Wharton's novels began to seem dated. She never understood why stream-of-consciousness writing came into fashion. She said of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), "Until the raw ingredients of a pudding make a pudding, I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation and thought can make a work of art without the cook's intervening."
    After her death, many critics considered Wharton a stuffy old woman who wrote novels about manners, and most of her books went out of print. Then in 1975, the biographer R.W.B. Lewis discovered that she had conducted a passionate affair during her marriage, and that she had been much more radical in her letters and her journals than her fiction. Suddenly, feminists and others began to reevaluate her work. Several of her novels were made into movies, most of her books came back into print, and she is now considered one of the great American novelists.
    Edith Wharton said, "Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope."

    ~


    It's the birthday of war poet Keith Douglas, (books by this author) born in Tunbridge Wells, England (1920). His father was a military man who got laid off by the British army after World War I. His parents struggled to pay the bills, and they separated when he was eight years old. He never saw his father again. He was a student at Oxford when World War II started. He enlisted in the army in 1939 and was stationed in North Africa.
    Soon after he arrived, a battle broke out, but he was told to stay out of the combat because he didn't have enough experience. He stole a truck and drove into battle anyway. It turned out that his truck was badly needed in the battle, and his commanding officer was so impressed by his bravery that he put Douglas in charge of a tank battalion. He kept a diary for the next two years, describing the desert campaign from El Alamein, Egypt to Zem Zem, Tunisia. The diary was later published as Alamein to Zem Zem (1946), and it's considered one of the best memoirs of World War II.
    Douglas spent several months in a hospital in 1943, and from his hospital bed he wrote a series of unflinching poems about the battles he had witnessed. He said to a friend, "My object is to write true things. ... I see no reason to be either musical or sonorous about things at present. ... To be sentimental or emotional now is dangerous to oneself and others." After he got out of the hospital, he participated in the invasion of Normandy, and he died in battle on June 6, 1944. His poems were published in The Collected Poems of Keith Douglas (1951).
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of Robert Burns, born in Alloway, Scotland (1759). He's the man who wrote the lines: "Oh, my luve's like a red, red rose, / That's newly sprung in June; / Oh, my luve's like the melodie / That's sweetly played in tune."
    He only published one book in his lifetime, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786), but many of the poems were set to music and are still sung today in Scotland and around the world. A few years after his death, friends began to gather on his birthday to celebrate his life, and the event slowly grew in size and became a Scottish tradition. This day is now a Scottish national holiday.

    ~


    It's the birthday of William Somerset Maugham, (books by this author) born to English parents in Paris, France (1874). His early childhood was comfortable and happy, but his mother died when he was eight and he never got over the loss. He kept three pictures of her next to his bedside for the rest of his life. His father died a few years later, and he had to go live with an unaffectionate uncle. He developed a terrible stutter and became incredibly shy. He later said, "Had I not stammered I would probably ... have gone to Cambridge ... become a don and every now and then published a dreary book about French literature." Instead, he read voraciously and eventually began to write fiction.
    Maugham decided to study medicine, because he knew his uncle would disown him if he admitted that he wanted to be a writer. After medical school, he became an obstetrician, and got a job making house calls to deliver babies in the worst slums of London. He stayed up for hours every night to work on his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), which was about the extreme poverty he had witnessed as a doctor. The book was successful enough to allow him to quit his job and devote his life to writing.
    He went on to become one of the most popular authors of his lifetime, writing many plays, essays, short stories, and memoirs. He's best known for his novel Of Human Bondage (1915), based on his own childhood. He once read the book on the radio, and when he came to the passage describing the death of the main character's mother, he broke down weeping and was barely able to continue.
    Maugham said, "Few misfortunes can befall a boy which bring worse consequences than to have a really affectionate mother."
    And, "Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all."

    ~


    It's the birthday of the novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf, (books by this author) born Virginia Stephen in London (1882). She came from a family of distinguished scholars and literary critics. She said, "[The] Stephens are difficult, especially as the race tapers out towards its finish — such cold fingers, so fastidious, so critical, such taste. ... How I wish they had hunted and fished instead of dictating dispatches and writing books."
    She never went to school, but her father chose books for her to read from his own library. Her brothers all went to the best universities, and she wrote letters to them about her reading. She was only allowed to move out of her family home after her father's death, when she was 22. She moved into a house with her brothers and sister, and instead of writing letters about what she'd been reading, she began to write literary criticism for the Times Literary Supplement, and she became one of the most accomplished literary critics of the era.
    Of Charles ++++++++++++++++++++ens, she wrote, "++++++++++++++++++++ens makes his books blaze up not by tightening the plot or sharpening the wit, but by throwing another handful of people upon the fire." Of George Moore, she wrote, "Literature has wound itself about him like a veil, forbidding the free use of his limbs."
    In 1917, Woolf and her husband founded Hogarth Press, a printing press that they ran out of their home. It allowed her to publish whatever she wanted, without having to submit her work to editors, and as a result she began to produce a series of experimental novels that might not have been published otherwise, in which she attempted to capture the inner lives of her characters.
    Woolf believed that the problem with 19th-century literature was that novelists had focused entirely on the clothing people wore and the food they ate and the things they did. She believed that the most mysterious and essential aspects of human beings were not their possessions or their habits, but their interior emotions and thoughts.
    She wrote: "We all indulge in the strange, pleasant process called thinking, but when it comes to saying ... what we think, then how little we are able to convey! The phantom is through the mind and out of the window before we can lay salt on its tail, or slowly sinking and returning to the profound darkness which it has lit up momentarily with a wandering light."
    She considered her first few novels failures, but then in 1922, she began to read the work of Marcel Proust, who had died that year. She wrote to a friend, "Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that!" Later that summer, she wrote in her diary "There's no doubt in my mind, that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice."
    Her next book was her first masterpiece, Mrs. Dalloway (1925), about all the thoughts that pass through the mind of a middle-aged woman on the day she gives a party.Woolf wrote: "In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jungle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what [Mrs. Dalloway] loved; life; London; this moment of June."
    Woolf went on to write many more novels, including To the Lighthouse (1927) and The Waves (1931), but she was also one of the greatest essayists of her generation. Many of her essays were collected in The Common Reader (1925).
    In one of her most famous essays, "The Death of a Moth," Woolf described the experience of watching a moth trapped between two windowpanes. She wrote, "Watching him, it seemed as if a fibre, very thin but pure, of the enormous energy of the world had been thrust into his frail and diminutive body ... as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zig-zagging to show us the true nature of life. Thus displayed one could not get over the strangeness of it."
    And in her long essay about women and literature, A Room of One's Own (1929), she wrote: "So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity, which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of cartoonist, novelist, and playwright Jules Feiffer, (books by this author) born in the Bronx (1929). He said of his childhood, "The only thing I wanted to be was grown up. Because I was a terrible flop as a child. You cannot be a successful boy in America if you cannot throw or catch a ball." He decided early on that he wanted to be a comic strip artist, and when he was a teenager, he showed his work to the cartoonist Will Eisner, and Eisner gave him a job. Feiffer said, "[It was] ten dollars a week part-time — erasing pages, filling in blanks, and dreaming great dreams."
    But he was drafted in 1951, and he did not take well to the army. He said, "I was treated with open contempt by one form of authority or the other in the army on a 24-hour basis." The experience inspired him to write a bitterly cynical cartoon strip about a four-year-old boy who is drafted by mistake. He tried to sell the strip to a variety of major newspapers, but nobody would buy it. So he finally turned to a new weekly newspaper in his neighborhood called the Village Voice. Over the next decade, the Village Voice became nationally prominent, and Feiffer's cartoons became nationally syndicated.
    His strip in the Village Voice was one of the first cartoon strips to deal with adult themes such as sex, politics, and psychiatry. For most of his career, he has drawn and written all of his work in Central Park, which he considers his office. His cartoons are collected in books such as Feiffer's Marriage Manual (1967) and Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency (1974).

    ~


    It's the birthday of children's book author and editor Mary Mapes Dodge, (books by this author) born Mary Mapes in New York City (1831). She was born into a prestigious New York family. Her grandfather was a personal friend of the Marquis de Lafayette. Her father was an inventor and an entrepreneur who planned to revolutionize the farming industry with new chemical fertilizers. One of the investors in his fertilizer idea was a man named William Dodge, who later married young Mary Mapes.
    Mary Mapes Dodge lived with her husband in New York City for five years, and had two sons. Then one night in 1858, her husband left the house and never came back. It turned out that he had drowned, possibly of a suicide. She was devastated and took her sons to live on her father's farm. She moved into a room in the attic, which she decorated with moss, leaves, flowers, and a painting of the Rhine River on the ceiling. She spent many hours in the attic playing with her sons and telling them stories, and eventually she began to write the stories down and submit them to magazines.
    She had long been interested in writing something about Holland, although she'd never been there. She had some Dutch friends who had emigrated from Amsterdam, and she asked them to tell her everything they knew about their home country, what things looked like and smelled like, and the things people did and the food they ate and the stories they told their children at night. She used all of these details to write a children's book called Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates (1865), which became a best-seller. In the 15 years after it was published, it received more reviews than any other children's book in America.
    The historical background of Holland that Mary Mapes Dodge wrote about in Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates (1865) included a story about a boy who saved Holland by sticking his finger in a dike. That story was her own invention, but it became so famous that many people believed it was an old Dutch folktale.
    In 1872, Charles Scribner and two of his partners were thinking of developing a magazine for children, and they wrote to Dodge to ask for her advice. She replied, "The child's magazine, needs to be stronger, truer, bolder, more uncompromising than the [adult's]. ... Let there be no sermonizing either, no wearisome spinning out of facts, no rattling of the dry bones of history. A child's magazine is its pleasure ground."
    They were impressed enough by her response that they asked her to edit the children's magazine, which became known as St. Nicholas. Dodge chose the name, because she said, "Is he not the boys' and girls' own Saint, the especial friend of young Americans? That he is. ... And, what is more, isn't he the kindest, best, and jolliest old dear that ever was known? Certainly again."
    St. Nicholas became one of the most successful children's publications of all time. It included work by writers such as Louisa May Alcott, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Alfred Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, and Mark Twain. The magazine also encouraged young people to submit stories and poems for publication. Among the writers who first published their work in St. Nicholas were Ring Lardner, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eudora Welty, Edmund Wilson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of Lewis Carroll, (books by this author) born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson near Daresbury, Cheshire, England (1832). He is best known as the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass (1872), and for the characters the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the White Rabbit, and many others. Carroll was also a gifted mathematician and photographer. His photographs of children are still considered remarkable to this day.
    Carroll read Pilgrim's Progress as a young boy, in part to prepare for a life in the ministry. But he suffered an attack of whooping cough at age 17, a late age to get that illness, and as a result he developed a stammer to go along with his natural shyness. After recovering from his illness, Carroll decided that life as a minister would be too demanding.
    Instead, Carroll lectured in mathematics at Christ's College, Oxford, where he had also attended university. Carroll found the work dull and considered most of his students stupid, but he wrote seriously during this time. In 1855, he said, "I do not think I have yet written anything worthy of real publication, but I do not despair of doing so some day." The next year he published under the famous pseudonym "Lewis Carroll" for the first time, when his poem "Solitude" appeared in a magazine called Train. The pseudonym is a play on Carroll's real name.
    Carroll always felt at ease around children. It has been rumored that his stammer would disappear while he talked with children. Nobody can say for certain if this is true, but Carroll was well known as a storyteller, and he liked telling his stories to children. He first came up with the idea for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by telling stories to the children of the dean of Christ's College, who had a daughter named Alice.
    Carroll enjoyed massive success from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and his pseudonym grew into an alter ego that became famous in its own right. Even today, more people know the legends surrounding Lewis Carroll better than they know the biography of the real man, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The stories of Alice and her adventures in the strange wonderland have remained popular to this day. Many readers speculate on the underlying meaning of the tales, but Carroll himself said he only intended the tales as carefree fantasy and nothing more.
    Lewis Carroll said, "If only I could manage, without annoyance to my family, to get imprisoned for 10 years, without hard labour, and with the use of books and writing materials, it would be simply delightful!" And, "If you set to work to believe everything, you will tire out the believing-muscles of your mind, and then you'll be so weak you won't be able to believe the simplest true things."

    ~


    It's the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, (music by this composer) born in Salzburg, in what is today Austria (1756). He is considered one of the most important composers the West has ever seen, along with Ludwig van Beethoven.
    Mozart's father, Leopold, was one of Europe's leading music educators, and he gave his son intensive training in the piano and violin. The young Mozart developed so quickly that he began composing original work at five years old. Then Leopold took Mozart and his sister on several tours throughout Europe, where Mozart would write piano pieces for his sister to perform. Mozart was often ill during this time, and the cold weather and constant travel may have contributed to his early death. But Leopold was more concerned with money than the well-being of his son.
    Still, Mozart enjoyed parts of his journeys. He met many famous musicians and composers. During a trip to Italy, Mozart amazed his hosts when he listened only once to the performance of a Gregorio Allegri composition, and then wrote it out from memory, returning one more time to correct minor errors. Another time, Mozart encountered the glass armonica, and he so enjoyed its sound that he composed several pieces of music for it.
    Mozart visited Vienna in 1781, when he was working for a harsh archbishop. The two had a disagreement, and according to Mozart he was fired with a literal kick in the seat of his pants.
    Mozart remained in Vienna thereafter, and in 1782 he married Constanze Weber, the sister of a woman he had loved years before. The couple had six children, but only two of them survived into adulthood. It was in Vienna that Mozart wrote his famous operas The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782) and The Marriage of Figaro (1786).
    The circumstances of Mozart's early death are still speculated about today. Many people conjecture that he died of mercury poisoning while being treated for syphilis, while others think he died from an illness brought on by a meal of badly cooked pork. Others insist that Mozart was murdered by his rival Antonio Salieri.
    It is also popularly believed that Mozart died poor and forgotten, but that is not true. His popularity had declined, but his work was still in demand in Prague and other parts of Europe. His financial difficulties stem from his inability to live within his means, not from a lack of income. Mozart was buried in a mass grave because the country was battling an outbreak of bubonic plague, and not because his family could not afford a proper burial.
    Mozart said, "When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer — say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep — it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best, and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them."
    And, "Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

    ~


    It's the birthday of Jerome Kern, born in New York City (1885). He is best known as the composer of Broadway musicals like The Cat and the Fiddle (1931) and Roberta (1933).
    Kern's mother encouraged his musical gifts from the time he was very young, but Kern's father wanted his son to join the family retail business. Kern followed his father at first. And then, when he was 16, Kern mistakenly ordered 200 pianos for the family retail store, when he was supposed to order only two. Kern had a long lunch with the factory owner who took his order, and the two of them got drunk, and so they failed to notice the mistake. Then all the pianos were delivered. Kern said, "You've no idea what that many pianos coming off a truck look like."
    After this, Kern's father allowed him to study at the New York College of Music. Then Kern worked as a song-plugger and an in-house composer for a local publisher. When he was 19, Kern traveled to London, and he received his first real training in the theater. He also married his wife, Eva, there in 1910. Kern and his wife returned to America, where he enhanced the scores of European musicals and worked as a rehearsal pianist. Then he met Oscar Hammerstein II, who became a lifelong friend, and the two collaborated on Show Boat in 1927. This musical gave us the songs "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." In 1933, Kern and Hammerstein produced Roberta, which included the famous song "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."
    Kern moved to Hollywood in 1935, and he enjoyed success there. He wrote "The Way You Look Tonight" for the movie Swing Time, and the song won an Academy Award. In 1941, Kern and Hammerstein wrote "The Last Time I Saw Paris" because Paris had just been occupied by Nazi Germany, and that song also won an Academy Award.
    Kern died in 1945 with Hammerstein at his side. At the memorial service, Hammerstein said of his friend Jerome Kern, "He stimulated everyone. He annoyed some. He never bored anyone at any time."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of the French novelist Colette, (books by this author) born Sidonie Gabrielle Colette in Saint-Sauver-en-Puisaye, France (1873). She is best known as the author of Cheri (1920) and Gigi (1945), but Colette published over 50 novels in her lifetime, many of them autobiographical.
    Colette's first books are known as the Claudine series, and they were published under the name "Willy," which was the pen name of her first husband. These books follow the improper adventures of a young French woman. According to one story, her husband would lock Colette in a room until she had written enough words. This treatment, while cruel, also meant that Colette wrote four novels in four years.
    Colette began working in the music halls of Paris when she divorced her husband. She became the talk of Paris for baring a breast on stage. She caused a riot at the Moulin Rouge for doing a pantomime of sexual intercourse during a sketch. It was also during this time that Colette began having affairs with women, as she would do between marriages throughout her life. She became involved with her manager, a woman known as "Missy," who was also a niece of Napoleon III.
    When World War I broke out in Europe, Colette began working as a freelance journalist, but she also converted her home into a hospital for the war wounded. She remarried and gave birth to a daughter, who later claimed that her parents had neglected her. Colette also had a mysterious relationship with her stepson, and many people speculated that they had an affair. The publication of Cheri in 1920 only fueled that speculation. It is the story of an aging woman engaging in an affair with a young, inexperienced man.
    The publication of Cheri also brought Colette great fame as a writer. By the end of the 1920s, Colette was widely regarded as France's greatest woman writer. She became the first woman admitted to the prestigious Goncourt Academy, and in her later years, she achieved the same legendary status as Gertrude Stein, the American expatriate living in Paris.
    In 1935, Colette married her third husband, a pearl salesman who had lost his business in the Depression. He was Jewish and as a result had difficulty finding work. Colette supported him financially and helped him hide when Germany occupied France in World War II. Colette's most famous novel, Gigi, was published in 1945, when she was 72 years old. Three years later the novel was adapted into a film, and in 1958 it was adapted into a popular musical.
    When Colette died in 1954, she was given a state funeral, and thousands of mourners attended the service.
    Colette said, "By means of an image we are often able to hold on to our lost belongings. But it is the desperateness of losing which picks the flowers of memory, binds the bouquet."

    ~


    It's the birthday of Jackson Pollock, born in Cody, Wyoming (1912). He is best known for his innovations in abstract impressionist painting. He was often called "Jack the Dripper" because of his radical painting style.
    Pollock's family moved to Arizona and California when he was a boy, and during this time Pollock first saw Indian sand paintings, which fascinated him. He later attended art school in California, where he studied seriously and drew a series of anatomy drawings.
    In 1929, Pollock began studying under Thomas Hart Benton, the realist mural painter, at Manhattan's Art Students League. Pollock said, "He drove his kind of realism at me so hard I bounced right into nonobjective painting." Pollock became deeply influenced by Pablo Picasso's work and the work of other surrealist painters, and this led Pollock to experiment with his painting. He developed the "drip" technique, where he would draw or drip paint onto enormous canvases. Sometimes he applied paint directly from the tube, and other times he used aluminum paint to make his work more brilliant. He was so energetic in his attacks on the canvas that his approach to painting became known as "action painting."
    Jackson Pollock said, "Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you."

    ~

    It's the birthday of the English novelist and critic David Lodge, (books by this author) born in London, England (1935). He is the author of several novels, many of which resemble Lodge's own life.
    Lodge was born in suburban London to a traditional Catholic family, and he was raised in the years following World War II. His early novel, The Picturegoers (1960), is about a Catholic family in South London who take in a university student as a lodger. Other early novels bear striking resemblance his life: Ginger, You're Barmy (1962) draws upon Lodge's own compulsory service in the British military, and The British Museum is Falling Down (1970) follows the comical story of a Catholic graduate student working on his thesis. Aside from his semi-autobiographical novels, Lodge closely protects his privacy.
    Lodge is the creator of the fictional town of Rummidge, which is based on Birmingham, England, and has been the setting for several novels. He has also created the imaginary American state of Euphoria, located between North California and South California, and is home to a state university in the city of Esseph, which is a fictionalized version of Berkeley, where Lodge taught for a brief time. His novels set in academia are usually satirical in nature.
    David Lodge said, "A novel is a long answer to the question 'What is it about?' I think it should be possible to give a short answer — in other words, I believe a novel should have a thematic and narrative unity that can be described."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of novelist and essayist Edward Abbey, (books by this author) born in Indiana, Pennsylvania (1927). He's best known for his novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), about a gang of four "environmental warriors" who liberate sections of the Utah and New Mexico wilderness through sabotage.
    When he was 17 years old, he saw the desert for the first time as he hitchhiked and rode the rails across the country. He returned to the East to work for a short time as a caseworker in a welfare office, but then he went back to the Southwest to work as a fire lookout and ranger in Arches National Park. He worked there for three years and turned the experience into the book Desert Solitaire (196.
    Desert Solitaire begins: "This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome - there's no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment."

    ~


    It's the birthday of writer Anton Chekhov, (books by this author) born in Taganrog, Russia (1860). His father came from a long line of serfs, but his grandfather had bought the family's freedom before Anton was born. When Chekhov was 16, his father's grocery store went out of business. The whole family left for Moscow, except Anton, who was left behind to finish school and earn money. He lived in the corner of a house and scraped out a living by tutoring family friends. He later called his adolescence a "never-ending toothache."
    After he graduated from high school, he left for Moscow to study medicine. While he was at medical school, he started writing for comic magazines to earn money for his family and himself. He knocked out short, funny stories in his spare time, and later said it was a relief to write in the evenings after spending the day studying chemistry and anatomy. For years, he couldn't decide whether to devote his life to medicine or literature, so he split his time between the two. In 1884, he got his medical degree and began his career as a doctor, which he called "a sporadic second career which was to bring much hard work but little income." He often treated peasants whose poverty reminded him of his childhood, and he wouldn't ask for very much money in return for his care. He set up free clinics in provincial Russia, and he fought the cholera and famine epidemics of 1891 and 1892.
    He was always a little embarrassed about his love for writing and used pseudonyms for years. He told a friend, "Medicine takes itself seriously; the game of literature requires nicknames." After graduating from medical school, he continued to write stories for weekly magazines and newspapers. His friends encouraged him to try writing something more ambitious, but he didn't think he was as good a writer as everyone told him he was. The magazines he wrote for gave him strict limits on the number of words per story, and he often started and finished the short pieces in one sitting. He wrote to a friend that he treated writing "frivolously, casually [and] nonchalantly." It wasn't until he received encouraging advice from an editor that he began to write seriously and under his own name.
    Chekhov is one of the inventors of the modern short story. His stories were usually short, full of passive characters, and without much of a plot. They didn't have big emotional climaxes, and they usually ended with a moment that revealed something about the main characters' lives.
    His first play, The Seagull, opened in 1885. It got horrible reviews, and he walked out on it at intermission and vowed never to write another play. But two years later, it was produced again, this time to rave reviews. The success inspired him to go on to write the plays Three Sisters (1901), The Cherry Orchard (1904), and Uncle Vanya (1897), which are now considered classics.
    Chekhov said, "Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out."

    ~


    It's the birthday of writer and politician Thomas Paine, born in Thetford, England (1737). His writings helped to inspire the American Revolution.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
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    It's the birthday of poet and novelist Richard Brautigan, (books by this author) born in Tacoma, Washington (1935). He wrote Trout Fishing in America (1967), his best-known work, on a portable typewriter while sitting alongside the many trout streams. He committed suicide in 1984, two years after the publication of his last novel, So The Wind Won't Blow It Away. He was famous for his whimsical, surrealist style. He wrote: "The sun was like a huge 50-cent piece that someone had poured kerosene on and then had lit with a match, and said, 'Here, hold this while I go get a newspaper,' and put the coin in my hand, but never came back."

    ~


    It's the birthday of historian and author Barbara Tuchman, (books by this author) born in New York City (1912). She wrote The Guns of August (1962), a study of the events that led to the outbreak of World War I. She said, "War is the unfolding of miscalculations."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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