Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy birthday, Alice B. Toklas

Toklas (behind) and Stein in Venice in 1908,
from
What is Remembered, by Alice B. Toklas

It is the birthday of Alice B. Toklas (1877), who hosted a salon in Paris (along with her companion Gertrude Stein) for writers and painters in the 1920s and 1930s. Toklas served as Stein's secretary, editor, muse and confidante for 39 years, until Stein's death in 1947. Stein's 1933 book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, was her bestselling volume. In their salon, Toklas and Stein received the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Braque as well as Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway. Stein left most of her estate to Toklas, including Picasso masterpieces, but their relationship had no legal standing and Stein's family took them from Toklas' home while she was away on vacation. Toklas' own memoir, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (1954), contains her recollections of the Paris years and recipes, including one contributed by a friend for Haschich Fudge that contained spices, nuts, fruit and marijuana. Alice B. Toklas Brownies gained popularity in certain circles, especially in the 1960s. In her later years, Toklas wrote articles for The New York Times and The New Republic. She published her own autobiography, What is Remembered, in 1963. Late in life, Toklas became a Roman Catholic. She died in poverty at age 89 in 1967. She is buried in Paris next to Gertrude Stein.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Happy birthday, Duke Ellington!

It is the birthday of composer, pianist and band leader Duke Ellington (1899), whose career spanned a half century in which he wrote more than 1,000 compositions. He is considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Here he plays his band's signature song, Take the A-Train, by Billy Strayhorn.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
It is the birthday of novelist Harper Lee (1926), whose novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) won the Pulitzer Prize. It was an immediate bestseller and brought Lee attention in literary circles and in her home state of Alabama. It is considered a modern classic in American literature, and more than 30 million copies have been sold. It is her only published book. The book deals with racial prejudice in a small Southern town and is told through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl, Scout Finch. It is based on Lee's childhood in Monroeville, Alabama (where she still lives), and includes the themes of loss of innocence, gender roles, compassion, class and courage. She was a voracious reader as a child, mainly because there wasn't much else to do for a youngster in her small town during the Depression. She once wrote, "Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books." Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends, and a character in To Kill a Mockingbird is based on him. As adults, Lee assisted Capote in research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Lee received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Edward Gibbon wrote of Roman Empire

Edward Gibbon
It is the birthday of English historian Edward Gibbon (1737*), who devoted much of his life to writing (and revising) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788), an exhaustive six-volume work (published over 12 years) in which Gibbon advances his theories about why the Roman Empire failed. Gibbon lay the cause of the fall to the weakness of Roman citizens (whom he said had become effeminate), their lack of a sense of civic duty, the outsourcing of the defense of the empire to barbarian mercenaries from the north, the rise of the Praetorian Guard (the emperors' bodyguards), and the rise of Christianity, which, in Gibbon's estimation, made Roman citizens indifferent to the present, holding hope for a better life after death. Numerous writers have taken Gibbon to task for his attack on Christianity, noting that nothing in history indicates that Christians were disinclined toward war to defend the empire. Most historians laud Gibbon for his use of primary sources for much of his work and his exhaustive pioneering of the use of footnotes, which later became standard in scholarly works. Even after publication, Gibbon continued change and revise his work. He noted in his autobiography that the book occupied much of his adult life. The publication of each volume he compared with the birth of a child. (*A note on Gibbon's birthday: He was born April 27, 1737 according to the Julian calendar but in 1752, England started using the Gregorian calendar, putting Gibbon's birthday on May 8. We're sticking to the Old Style calendar for this one.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

David Hume: philosopher, historian

David Hume
It is the birthday of Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711), whose A Treatise of Human Nature (1739) and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1777) are landmark works in the development of Western philosophy. Hume believed that all ideas come from man's impressions and memories of impressions. Passions, he wrote, rule over reason in determining human actions. Morality, he believed, is based on self interest, including the pleasure humans feel in pleasing others. These science of man theories influenced others, such as economist-philosopher Adam Smith and philosopher Immanuel Kant. In Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, he presents a conversation between three fictional characters who debate the nature of God's existence. His work influenced philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Reid and theologian Joseph Butler, among others.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Walter de la Mare: poet, novelist

Walter de la Mare
It is the birthday of English poet and novelist Walter de la Mare (1873), whose poems and ghost stories intrigued British children for generations. After schooling, he went to work in the 1890s for Standard Oil Company in London as a bookkeeper. He was married, had a family but still found time to write. He worked for Standard Oil for 18 years. His first novel, Henry Brocken (1904), a tale of the supernatural, was published. Four years later, through the intervention of a friend with connections, he was granted a Civil List pension, allowing him to leave his job and focus on his writing. It afforded him the opportunity to  produce children's poetry, chilling ghost stories and one of his most memorable works, Memoirs of a Midget (1921), which some critics have called a tour de force. It is a fully realized fictional memoir of a diminutive woman whose story is supposedly being published after her death. It is left in the care of a friend, a standard-sized man who visited her throughout her life, and offers an introduction by way of explaining its publication. It begins with the narrator, Miss M, noting that newspaper stories about her were works of fiction in which the reporter, apparently to amuse his readers, made jokes about her physical features, suggesting, among other things, that she was an expert painter of miniatures and a changeling who could speak the fairy tongue. The book goes on to reveal a human being, regardless of size, with a mind and heart and thoughts, feelings and aspirations. The book won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Literature, one of Britain's most prestigious awards.The poetry of de la Mare has been compared with William Blake and Thomas Hardy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Robert Penn Warren, won three Pulitzers

Robert Penn Warren
It is the birthday of poet, novelist and literary critic Robert Penn Warren (1905), whose novel All the Kings Men (1946) won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 and 1979, and served as Poet Laureate of the United States. No other writer has won Pulitzers for both poetry and fiction. He also was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom. All the Kings Men was inspired by the rise of legendary Louisiana politician Huey Long, who served as governor and U.S. senator. Warren had been grappling with the themes of political power and moral corruptions since his days as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. When he taught at LSU, Warren watched the rise of Long and his writing developed into All the King's Men. The book is considered one of the best in American literature. Warren helped start the literary organization Fellowship of Southern Writers and founded the literary journal The Southern Review. As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, Warren became a member of the poet group known as the Fugitives. With some of them, he later formed a writers group known as the Southern Agrarians along with Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, John Gould Fletcher, Andrew Nelson Lytle, and John Crowe Ransom. The Southern Agrarians were largely responsible for the revival of Southern literature in the 1920s and 1930s.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy birthday to the Bard


William Shakespeare
 It is the birthday of English playwright William Shakespeare (1564), the greatest writer in the English language. He wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two narrative poems and lots of other poems as well. For the Bard's 448th birthday, let us consider a bit of foolishness that premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. No doubt it will eventually show up elsewhere. The film Anonymous, written by John Orloff and directed by Roland Emmerich, presents Shakespeare as a merely frontman who passes off the work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as his own. Lord Oxford is depicted as one of many lovers of Queen Elizabeth I, and he is caught up in the political intrigue of the Elizabethan court. He sires a son with Elizabeth and supports the Essex rebellion against her. When it fails, Elizabeth agrees to spare their son's life but declares that Lord Oxford will never receive credit for his plays. Critics praise the film for its lavish production values and its attention to detail of the period but wisely upbraid this nonsense for what it is. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune lauds the beautiful copper-and-honey-toned palette and Vanessa Redgrave's performance as Elizabeth but notes that "history is simultaneously being made up and rewritten." Roger Ebert is intrigued by the dialogue, acting, scenery and lust but insists the premise is "profoundly mistaken." David Denby, in The New Yorker, calls the film "preposterous fantasia" and says "the Oxford theory is ridiculous." In The New York Times, A.O. Scott is a bit stronger in his condemnation. He calls the film "a vulgar prank on the English literary tradition, a travesty of British history and a brutal insult to the human imagination." Like Amadeus and The Da Vinci Code, this film does not let the facts stand in the way of a good story. It ought to be taken for the entertainment that it is. The true student of Shakespeare might be best served by reading the works themselves and the many volumes of history about the era.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy birthday, Sergei Prokofiev


It is the birthday of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891), who may be best known for the opera The Love for Three Oranges (1919), based on a fairy tale; the ballet Romeo and Juliet (1935), based on Shakespeare's play; and Peter and the Wolf (1936), a children's story with orchestra music and a narrator. Here is the Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet. The music was used in a French commercial for Chanel's Egoiste fragrance in the 1990s.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Josh Billings, 19th century humorist

Josh Billings
It is the birthday of writer Josh Billings (1818), who may be the greatest 19th century humorist nobody's ever heard of — at least in modern times. Why? Billings might have been eclipsed by Mark Twain, a contemporary. Like Twain, Billings is a pseudonym. The writer's real name was Henry Wheeler Shaw, not exactly the household name that even Samuel Langhorne Clemens is. Shaw was born in Massachusetts. His father (Henry Sr.), his uncle and his grandfather were all congressmen. Not Henry Jr., though. He didn't pursue politics. He got himself tossed out of college for pulling a sophomoric prank, held a series of jobs, coal miner, farmer, explorer and auctioneer, and finally settled down to make a living as a journalist. Writing as Josh Billings, he created works of witty, down-home wisdom in vernacular language and phonetic spelling. He wrote several books, including Josh Billings' Sayings, Choice Bits of American Wit and Josh Billings' Trump Kards, none of which are widely remembered today. Among the doggerel credited to Billings is this verse called The Kicker: I hate to be a kicker,/I always long for peace,/But the wheel that does the squeaking,/Is the one that gets the grease. John Steinbeck paid homage to Billings in his novel Cannery Row, set in Monterey, California. That's where Billings died (1885). According to Steinbeck's account, the town's only doctor (also an amateur mortician), prepared Billings body for burial by removing the entrails and packing it with sawdust. As usual, the good doctor tossed the entrails into a gulch behind his house. They were discovered by a young boy and his dog, who planned to used them for fishing bait but were stopped by locals who prevented the desecration (and the subsequent disgrace to the community) and forced the good doctor to perform a proper burial. Steinbeck noted, perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek that Monterey was a city proud of its literary heritage and couldn't let such a horrible thing happen.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rare Book Moment: What's it worth?


Mike has a little game for you. What's it worth? How do you tell the value of a book? He has three books, two of them antiquarian volumes and the other a modern book. Can you guess which one has the most value? | Music by Jack Payne: Back to Those Happy Days | Music by Kevin MacLeod: Accralate

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sarah Kemble Knight wrote early journal

Sarah Kemble Knight
It is the birthday of New England businesswoman Sarah Kemble Knight (1666), whose literary claim to fame may be her journal, in which she paints a vivid picture of life in the colonies in the early 18th century. It recounts an arduous journey she took on horseback in 1704 from her home in Boston to New Haven, Connecticut, and then to New York to settle the estate of a cousin who had died. Sarah's husband was a ship's master and widower. Scholars think he was considerably older than Sarah and spent much time away from home, probably in England, where he apparently represented an American company. Sarah became an astute businesswoman, innkeeper and real estate dealer at a time when those were unusual occupations for women. Her journal offers wonderfully detailed insight into colonial customs and conditions as well as class distinctions and social manners and morals. it is full of sly wit and broad humor, astute observations, and not a little prejudice, especially toward Native Americans. It offers contrasting portraits of the backwoods nature of New England and the sophistication of New York. Sarah's journey ended in March 1705, when she returned safely home to Boston. The Journal of Madam Knight was first published in 1825.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Remember this book sale?


This video is from our annual Sidewalk Sale last year. For the uninitiated, it'll give you an idea of what this book lovers' feeding frenzy is all about. For our friends who have been to the sale, this is just a reminder. It's when? Saturday, April 28. Slightly earlier. Usually we do it in May. Anyway, enjoy the video. And more importantly, come out for this remarkable opportunity to take home tons of books for pocket change! Now THAT'S a sale!

Richard Harding Davis, war correspondent

Richard Harding Davis
It is the birthday of writer Richard Harding Davis (1864), the famed war correspondent, whose coverage of the Spanish-American War, the Second Boer War (from both sides) and World War I, made his reputation. He was the best known reporter of his era. He wrote for the New York Evening Sun, the New York Herald and The New York Times. He served as managing editor of Harper's Weekly and wrote for Scribner's Magazine. His short story, Gallagher, about a streetwise newspaper copyboy who ferrets out the culprit in a notorious murder case, drew the admiration of Theodore Roosevelt, and they became fast friends when Davis covered the Spanish-American War embedded with the Rough Riders in Cuba. The dashing and dapper Davis was the model for the Gibson Man, illustrator Charles Dana Gibson's handsome masculine counterpart of his famed Gibson Girl, the late 19th century epitome of feminine beauty. Gibson was a friend and also illustrated some of Davis' books. Davis wrote more than 35 novels, short story collections and travel books based on his experiences.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Isak Dinesen wrote Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen
It is the birthday of Danish writer Isak Dinesen (1885), who wrote the novel Out of Africa (1937), a short story Babette's Feast and Seven Gothic Tales (1934), a collection of short stories. Her real name was Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (and her maiden name was Karen Christenze Dinesen). Out of Africa was based on her experiences in Kenya, where she and her husband started a coffee plantation in 1914. Her husband was unfaithful and the couple divorced in 1925. She remained at the plantation, where she developed a long-term love affair with an English big game hunter who lived with her when he wasn't leading safaris. He died when his biplane crashed in 1931. Dinesen's plantation failed and she moved back to Denmark, where she devoted herself to writing. Her first book, Seven Gothic Tales (1934) was well received in the United States, Britain and Denmark. Out of Africa was adapted as a 1985 movie starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Babette's Feast became a 1987 Danish film. Both won Academy Awards.
Another short story, The Immortal Story, was adapted as a 1968 French film directed by Orson Welles and starring Jeanne Moreau. Dinesen toured the United States in 1959, where she met Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, E.E. Cummings, Pearl Buck, Truman Capote, Babe Paley, Gloria Vanderbilt, and photographer Richard Avedon, who took her portrait.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy birthday, Anatole France

Anatole France
It is the birthday of French novelist Anatole France (1844), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921. France's first popular novel was The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1881), a comic story of a skeptical old literary man obsessed with finding and acquiring a manuscript by his personal hero. It is populated with a succession of bizarre characters, such as the wealthy couple who collect matchboxes. Among his most notable works are Monsieur Bergeret in Paris (1901), which deals with the famous Dreyfus Affair, an episode in French history in which a Jewish army captain was falsely accused of espionage. In France's Penguin Island (1908), penguins are transformed into humans after they have been baptized in error by a nearsighted abbot. It is a satire on the Catholic Church, which, along with other works, earned him the enmity of church leaders. It's small wonder that France grew up with an interest in literature. His father was a bookseller, so he spent much of his life surrounded by books, working in his father's store.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Toynbee wrote history of civilizations

Arnold Toynbee
It is the birthday of British historian Arnold Toynbee (1889), whose 12-volume A Study of History (first published in 1934; completed in 1961) was a comparative bestseller in history circles and drew as much criticism as it did praise. Toynbee was so popular in the United States that he appeared on the cover of Time magazine in the March 17, 1947 issue. Toynbee advanced the idea that moral failure was contributing to the decline of the West and that only a return to Christianity could stop it. The religious message was contained in the first six volumes of his work but dropped in the last six, contributing to his loss of favor with the public. If anything, Toynbee was flexible. He was for Greece and against Turkey before he was for Turkey and against Greece, accusing the Greek regime of atrocities in occupied Turkish territories. He was for Zionism and an independent Jewish state before he was against an independent Jewish state and for an independent Palestinian state. Toynbee disagreed with German historian/philosopher Oswald Spengler, whose The Decline of the West proposed that civilizations have a lifespan of 1,000 years and that decline and decay was inevitable. Toynbee suggested that decline was not necessarily inevitable depending upon the civilization's response to its challenges. "Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder," he wrote, suggesting that civilizations die from inside by not creatively responding to crises. When the creative minority is ignored, he believed, society begins to break down.

Friday, April 13, 2012

M. Henry wrote Misty of Chincoteague

M. Henry and Misty
It is the birthday of writer Marguerite Henry (1902), whose book Misty of Chincoteague (1947) captured the imagination of children throughout the world. It was based on a real pony and set on the island of Chincoteague off the coast of Virginia.  A special breed of small feral horses live in the wild on nearby Asseatague Island. Theories on how they got there differ. One idea is that they are descended from Spanish horses that survived shipwrecks off the coast. A less glamorous theory is that mainland farmers in the 17th century put them out there to avoid paying taxes on them. Regardless of their origins, they create a mystique that led to Henry's book and four sequels. Misty and her foal, Stormy, died decades ago but they have been preserved through taxidermy and are on display at a ranch and museum in Chincoteague. Marguerite Henry wrote 59 books, mostly about animals, for children and young adults. Misty of Chincoteague won a Newbery Medal and was adapted as a 1961 movie.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Beverly Cleary, children's author

Beverly Cleary
It is the birthday of children's author Beverly Cleary (1916), whose birthday is known as National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day to promote sustained silent reading. Its origin is attributed to Ramona Quimby, one of her most popular fictional characters. Cleary's first book was Henry Huggins (1950), about a boy and and the dog he finds on a trip to the drug store and his friends who live on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon, near where Cleary grew up. Henry has been called the modern Tom Sawyer. She has written more than 30 books for children and young adults. Cleary's writing for children grew from a frustration as a child in finding books with characters to whom she could relate — ones that didn't become "better girls and boys." Ramona Quimby is a mischievous little girl who interrupts her older sister's life in many ways, including inviting her whole preschool class over to her house without telling her family. The first Ramona book, Beezus and Ramona, appeared in 1955. Cleary's books have won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal, the Newbery Honor, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the National Medal of Arts and the Library of Congress Living Legends award. Her autobiographies are A Girl from Yamhill (1988) and My Own Two Feet (1995).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Glenway Wescott: writer, Paris expatriate

Glenway Wescott
It is the birthday of novelist Glenway Wescott (1901), who was among the American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s. Ernest Hemingway's character Robert Prentiss in The Sun Also Rises was based on Wescott. Wescott's best novel, The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story (1940) was well received, and continues to stay in print. It concerns an afternoon lunch at an estate outside Paris, with a failed American writer and a wealthy English-Irish couple. It has been compared favorably with William Faulkner's The Bear as a fine American short novel. Wescott's last novel, Apartment in Athens (1945), concerns a Greek couple forced to share their apartment with a German officer in Nazi-occupied Athens. Wescott never wrote another novel, leading writer Michael Cunningham to suggest that he "seems to slide into the golden handcuffs of expatriate decadence: supported by the heiress his brother married, surrounded by literate friends, given to social drinking and letter-writing." Wescott was lifelong companion of publisher and book designer Monroe Wheeler, a co-founder of the publishing house of Harrison of Paris in the 1930s with Wescott's future sister-in-law, Barbara Harrison (she married his brother, Lloyd). With Wheeler, Wescott participated in the design and production of high-quality, limited edition books of the work of the literary and artistic elite in Paris at the time. Later, in Manhattan, Westcott and Wheeler shared apartments with well known photographer George Platt Lynes. Still later, they all lived in a farmhouse in New Jersey on the farm of Lloyd and Barbara Harrison Wescott.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Joseph Pulitzer established journalism prize

Joseph Pulitzer
It is the birthday of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer (1847), who gave $2 million for the establishment of a journalism school at Columbia University and the Pulitzer prizes in journalism, letters and the arts. The first prizes were awarded in 1917, after Pulitzer's death. Pulitzer emigrated from Budapest to Boston in 1864, joined the Lincoln Cavalry and fought in the Civil War under Sheridan. After he war, he ended up in St. Louis, where he worked a series of odd jobs. He and other young men were taken by a con artist who charged them five dollars to find them work in Louisiana. They took a steamboat down the Mississippi River and were left stranded along the way. Back in St. Louis, Pulitzer wrote an article about the experience and, to his surprise, it was published in a local paper. It was probably his first published article. Later, Pulitzer became the paper's managing editor, sold his interest and bought the St. Louis Post, then the St. Louis Dispatch, merged the papers and became a wealthy man. His St. Louis Post-Dispatch thrived on scandal and exposés and became the champion of the common man. In 1883, he bought the failing New York World and transformed it into the largest circulation newspaper in the country, emphasizing crusading journalism and entertainment. During the Spanish-American War, the World battled William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Charles A. Dana's New York Sun for readership.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wibberley wrote The Mouse that Roared

Leonard Wibberley
It is the birthday of Irish-born author Leonard Wibberley (1915), whose satirical novels about the fictional country of Grand Fenwick poked fun at America during the Cold War. The first of the series was The Mouse That Roared (1955). It first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in late 1954 and early 1955 under the title The Day New York Was Invaded and then was published as a book. It was adapted as a film in 1959, starring Peter Sellers and Jean Seberg. It was subsequently adapted as a play in 1963 and a television pilot in 1964, but was never produced as a TV series. The four sequels to the original novel were Beware of the Mouse (1958), The Mouse on the Moon (1962), The Mouse on Wall Street (1969), and The Mouse that Saved the West (1981). The European Duchy of Grand Fenwick is an Alpine country between France and Switzerland. Its only export is Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. When an American winery makes a knockoff, Pinot Grand Enwick, it puts the country nearly into bankruptcy. So Grand Fenwick declares war on the United States, expecting a quick defeat and a generous rebuilding plan (a la the Marshall Plan in Germany). Grand Fenwick invades New York City and defeats the United States (accidentally) and madcap bedlam ensues. Wibberley also wrote other novels, short stories, poetry, and history and biography as well as more than 50 juvenile books. Under the pseudonym Leonard Holton, he wrote the 11-book Father Joseph Bredder mystery series (1959-1977). He also wrote as Christopher Webb and Patrick O'Connor.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wordsworth, Great Britain's Poet Laureate

William Wordsworth
It is the birthday of English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770), Poet Laureate of Great Britain (1843-1850) and author of The Prelude, a 14-book, semi-autobiographical poem he worked on throughout his lifetime. It was written as a letter to his friend and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and deals with the development of the poet's mind over time. It was to be the first part of an even larger epic poem he intended to write with Coleridge that was envisioned as a work to surpass John Milton's Paradise Lost. That three-part poem Wordsworth and Coleridge planned to call The Recluse was never completed. A second part, called The Excursion, was finished, however. The Prelude is considered Wordsworth's best work. It never had a title while Wordsworth was working on it. His widow, Mary, gave it the title when she published it a few months after his death. In 1798, with advice from Wordsworth's sister Dorothy, he and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads together. It contains Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey and Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Four editions of the book were published, the last one in 1800.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy birthday, Merle Haggard


It is the birthday of country music song writer and singer Merle Haggard (1937), whose autobiography, Sing Me Back Home (1981), chronicles his early run-ins with the law and his time in San Quentin prison for attempted robbery. While in prison, the troubles of two death row inmates prompted Haggard to turn his life around. He had 38 No. 1 hit songs, beginning with I'm a Lonesome Fugitive (1966). Perhaps the best known song he wrote and recorded was Okie From Muskogee (1969), which became political statement, and for which he was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 1997.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy birthday, Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington
It is the birthday of educator and author Booker T. Washington (1856), who wrote 14 books, including an autobiography, Up From Slavery (1901). He was a leading member of the last generation of African Americans born into slavery. At 25, he became the first leader of the Tuskegee Institute, a black teachers' college in Alabama. He advocated education as a means for African Americans to rise from poverty to success, and it became his life's work. He rose to national prominence after a speech on race relations given at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta in which he advocated that Southern blacks work hard and submit to white political rule in exchange for guaranteed education and equal rights under the law. It is regarded as one of the most important and influential speeches in American history. Later civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois criticized Washington, calling the speech the Atlanta Compromise. In addition to his autobiography, Washington also wrote The Story of My Life and Work (1900), The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery [two volumes] (1909), My Larger Education (1911) and The Man Farthest Down (1912).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Robert Sherwood won four Pulitzers

Robert Sherwood
It is the birthday of playwright Robert Sherwood (1896), who won four Pulitzer Prizes, the first one for Idiot's Delight (1936), an anti-war piece about a group of international travelers trapped in an Alpine hotel as war breaks out. It starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Later Sherwood adapted it as a movie starring Clark Gable and Norma Shearer. Much of Sherwood's early work had anti-war themes, including his first play, The Road to Rome (1927), a comedy about Hannibal's disastrous invasion of Rome. Sherwood wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940). By 1940, Sherwood became decidedly patriotic. He supported the war against Germany, and he wrote a play, There Shall Be No Night (1940), about the Russian invasion of Finland, which won a Pulitzer in 1941. He became a speechwriter for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He wrote about that experience in his book Roosevelt and Hopkins (1949), which also won a Pulitzer. His play Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1939) also won the award. Sherwood was an original member of the Algonquin Round Table and was close friends with Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker as well as Edna Ferber. After World War II, Sherwood wrote the screenplay for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), about three servicemen returning to civilian life. He received an Oscar for best screenplay.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Happy birthday, Washington Irving

Washington Irving
It is the birthday of historian and author Washington Irving (1783), who is best known for his short stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, though he also wrote biographies of Muhammad, Oliver Goldsmith and George Washington as well as books on the Moors of Spain, the Alhambra and Christopher Columbus. Irving's work was popular in Europe and he may have been the first American best-selling author. he was a favorite of Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell and Sir Walter Scott. He offered encouragement to such American literary luminaries as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving's nephew, Theodore Irving, wrote Conquest of Florida, a history of Florida under Hernando de Soto.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Herbert von Karajan, greatest conductor


It is the birthday (April 5) of Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908), one of the greatest orchestra conductors of all time. Critics note that he was a member of the Nazi Party but defenders point out that he was neither willing nor active, and that there may have been shenanigans regarding the records of his membership. His prominence rose after World War II. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. He may have been the best-selling classical music artist of all time. Here is Tchaikovsky's entire Symphony No. 6. It is long but it is beautifully photographed and a stunning portrait of von Karajan as a conductor. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy birthday, Rachmaninoff


It is the birthday of Russian composer, pianist and conductor, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873), who was also a world renowned pianist. He emigrated to the United States after the Russian Revolution in 1917 and never returned to Russia. He never returned to Russia. The Piano Concerto No. 3 was composed for his first United States tour in 1909.

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Florida Antiquarian Book Fair

Michael Slicker was the founding president of the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association and has served as chairman of its annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair since its inception.

The 36th annual book fair is set for April 21-23, 2017 at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg.

The fair is the oldest and largest antiquarian book fair in the Southeast. Learn more about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association.

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