Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy birthday to four authors

From left, Sherwood Anderson, Alain Locke, J.B. Priestley, Roald Dahl.
It is the birthday of writers Sherwood Anderson (1876), Alain Locke (1885), J.B. Priestley (1894), and Roald Dahl (1916).

Novelist Sherwood Anderson is best remembered for his collection of short stories Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life (1919), which were based on Sherwood's childhood. It is ranked among the best English-language novels of the 20th century, and is considered one of the earliest examples of Modernist literature. The stories focus on the loneliness and isolation of the people in the fictional town. When he was 36, Anderson was settled with a wife and three children in Ohio. He ran a mail-order business and a paint manufacturing firm. Then he had a nervous breakdown and disappeared for four days. When he was found, he left his family and his previous life and set out to be a writer. He encouraged William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Wolfe.

Writer and educator Alain Locke was the first African American Rhodes scholar. He is considered the dean of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1925, Locke served as editor of one issue of the magazine The Survey Graphic, which focused on life in Harlem. Later, he expanded it into an anthology, The New Negro. The book became a declaration of the principles of the movement that grew into the Harlem Renaissance. He is credited with encouraging Zora Neale Hurston's development as a writer. Locke earned a doctorate in philosophy at Harvard University and taught for many years at Howard University.

Novelist and playwright J.B. Priestley is best remembered for his novel The Good Companions (1929), which tells the stories of a troupe of traveling performers between World War I and World War II. Priestley also wrote theatrical pieces. His best known play is An Inspector Calls (1945), the story of a young working-class woman who commits suicide after exploitation, abandonment and social ruin by members of a prosperous middle-class family. During World War II, Priestley served as a broadcaster for the BBC and became nearly as popular as Winston Churchill.

Novelist and screenwriter Roald Dahl wore for children as well as adults. Among his children's books, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits, George's Marvellous Medicine, and The BFG, the amazing story of a Big Friendly Giant who collects good dreams and distributes them to children. He also wrote the screenplays for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Dahl served as a fighter pilot for the RAF in World War II, and later as an intelligence officer. He was married to actress Patricia Neal for 30 years. They had five children. Blood vessels burst in Patricia Neal's brain and she could no longer walk or talk. Dahl directed her rehabilitation and eventually  she regained her health was able to resume her acting career. Dahl wrote the screenplay for the film The Patricia Neal Story, which starred Glinda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde. Dahl and Neale divorced in 1983. He died in 1990.

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