Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy birthday, Mark Twain

Not only is it Small Business Saturday, but it is also the birthday of writer and humorist Mark Twain (1835), whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway considered him the father of American literature. His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) is hailed as the epitome of the Great American Novel. Twain was born when Halley's Comet was appearing. He predicted he'd go out with the comet as well. He did—the day after the comet's return.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy birthday, Madeleine L'Engle

It is the birthday of children's writer Madeleine L'Engle (1918), who is best remembered for her science fiction novel A Wrinkle in Time (1962), a Newbery Medal winner. The story dealt with a young teenaged girl and the disappearance of her scientist father. L'Engle wrote four sequels to it as well, including A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), Many Waters (1986), and An Acceptable Time (1986). The idea for A Wrinkle in Time came to L'Engle on a 10-week cross-country camping trip. The book was rejected by more than 30 publishers before it was accepted.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Thanksgiving, a tale of turkeys

As we gather among family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with the traditional feast whose centerpiece is most often the magnificent roasted or baked turkey, it is fitting to pause a moment to consider the man who some historians say gave us the turkey dinner.

His name is William Strickland, and he gained reputation and wealth as a navigator for the Venetian explorer Sebastian Cabot, who hired himself out to the Spanish and English crowns in the 16th century to explore faraway lands. It is said that on a voyage to America in 1526 – nearly a century before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock – William Strickland, shrewd trader that he apparently was, acquired six turkeys from Native Americans and took them back to England, where they were then unknown. 

Evidently the birds acquired quite a following. In a country where grouse, pheasant, partridge, ducks, geese and quail were the holiday game birds of choice, turkeys soon became quite popular. Strickland is said to have made a fortune in his trips to the New World, at least some of it through trading in turkeys.

So when the Pilgrims had what tradition (if not all scholars) consider the first Thanksgiving dinner in America nearly 100 years later, it is likely that they were already familiar with the gobbler with all that delicious white meat. It was an English tradition that had its origins in America.

That clever fellow Strickland, newly wealthy and able to buy a fine Yorkshire manor house in 1542 and get himself elected to Parliament, asked for and received permission from the Queen to include a turkey in his family crest. What's more, the little church near his Boynton Hall home sports numerous turkey decorations, somehow, we think, influenced by Strickland. And Boynton Hall is still in the hands of descendants. Incidentally, there is some reason to believe that Strickland may be our ancestor as well, but so far as we know we have no claim on the estate that turkeys built.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy birthday, writer James Agee

It is the birthday of writer James Agee (1909), whose autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1958. Agee was a journalist, film critic, screenwriter, and poet. He and photographer Walker Evans spent two months at the height of the Great Depression during the summer of 1936 among sharecroppers in Alabama to do an article for Fortune magazine but editors decided not to run it. Agee and Evans turned their work into the book, Let us now Praise Famous Men. It contained 31 of Evans photographs. Agee died in 1955 at age 45 from a heart attack in a taxi on the way to a doctor's appointment. His publisher released A Death in the Family as a way to help support his widow and children.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy birthday, artist George Segal

It is the birthday of artist George Segal (1924), who is remembered for his plaster cast sculptures that became part of the Pop Art movement in the 1960s. Segal made the casts from gauze strips saturated with plaster used for making orthopedic casts. His sculptures were stark white at first but later he painted them in monochrome colors or had them cast in bronze, as with Depression Bread Line (1999).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy birthday, composer Virgil Thomson

It is the birthday of composer Virgil Thomson (1896), who won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for music, the only such award ever presented. Thomson received the award for his film score for Louisiana Story, a 1948 documentary directed by Robert J. Flaherty, who produced the first commercially successful documentary, Nanook of the North (1922). Thomson borrowed themes from Cajun folk music for part of the Louisiana Story score. Here is a selection of Thomson's Acadian Songs and Dances.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy birthday, 1920s star Ruth Etting

It is the birthday of 1920s singer and actress Ruth Etting (1897), who was known as America's sweetheart of song. At 17, she left her small Nebraska hometown to study art in Chicago. She designed costumes at a nightclub there and then sang and danced in the chorus, and eventually became the featured vocalist. She married a gangster named Moe the Gimp, who managed her career and got her a recording contract at Columbia. Her Broadway debut was in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. She appeared in Hollywood movies in the 1930s. Doris Day, Jimmy Cagney and Cameron Mitchell made the 1955 film Love Me or Leave Me based on her life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy birthday, George Eliot

It is the birthday of Victorian writer Mary Anne Evans (1819), who used the pseudonym George Eliot so her work would be taken seriously, though she subsequently publicly revealed her use of a pen name. Some critics consider her novel Middlemarch (1871) the greatest in the English language. She wrote only seven novels, including Adam Bebe (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1863), Felix Holt, the Radical (1866), and Daniel Deronda (1876). She also wrote numerous poetry volumes, and essays on contemporary country life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy birthday, Isaac Bashevis Singer

It is the birthday of writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature and was a leading figure in Yiddish literature. He wrote the short story Yentl, which was adapted as a 1983 film starring Barbra Streisand. His first work to gain wide attention was the short story Gimpel the Fool, which Saul Bellow translated in to English in 1953. Singer wrote 18 novels, including Enemies, a Love Story (1972), which was adapted for film in 1989.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy birthday, Selma Lagerlof

It is the birthday of Swedish author Selma Lagerlof (1858), who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is remembered for her charming children's book The Wonderful World of Nils (1906) and for popular debut novel The Saga of Gosta Berling (1891). She also wrote the political novel The Miracles of Antichrist (1897) after a trip to Sicily and the epic Jerusalem (1901), about the American Colony that was established in Jerusalem in 1881 by a Christian utopian society and later joined by Swedish Christians.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Happy birthday, Billy Sunday

It is the birthday of baseball-star-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday (1862), who parlayed his celebrity as a major league base-stealer into a two-decade career as a fiery conservative preacher who could draw thousands to his revivals in the days before electronic sound systems. In his day, he was the most popular preacher in America, and friends with rich and famous people. He is credited with helping to set the national mood for passage of the Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition in 1919. Even after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Sunday continued to preach conservative philosophy, as he does in this video of a 1929 speech.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy birthday, Louis-Jacques Daguerre

An image of Louis-Jacques Daguerre using his photography method.
It is the birthday of French artist Louis-Jacques Daguerre (1781), who is credited with creating the first practical photography method. Daguerre's images were exposed on metal plates that required chemical processing. Daguerre didn't patent his process in France. Instead, he gave the process to the French government to be given to the public. In exchange, he received a pension for the rest of his life. Daguerre also was famous for creating theatrical dioramas in Paris, and for painting and printmaking.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy birthday, blues composer W.C. Handy

It is the birthday of influential blues composer W.C. Handy (1873), who is remembered as the Father of the Blues and transforming the regional style into a national music genre. He borrowed from folk music of black musicians along the Mississippi River from the Delta to Memphis and St. Louis, capturing the subtle nuances of the performers. Among his compositions are Memphis Blues (1914), St. Louis Blues (1914), Beale Street Blues (1916), Old Miss Rag (1918), and Yellow Dog Blues (1919). Here is a playlist of Handy's music.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy birthday, Gerhart Hauptmann

It is the birthday of German playwright, poet and novelist Gerhart Hauptmann (1862), who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1912. He is remembered for his vivid depiction of human suffering. His characters were victims of social forces beyond their control. He wrote After Dawn (1889), The Weavers (1892), and The Sunken Bell (1896). He is considered the top German dramatist of the early 20th century.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy birthday, Claude Monet

It is the birthday of French painter Claude Monet (1840), who is credited as the founder of the French impressionist painting movement. Here is an amazing multi-part BBC mini-series called The Impressionists. It begins with Monet. It is long but worth watching.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson

It is the birthday of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850), who taught us the ways of pirates seeking buried treasure on tropical islands in novels such as Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886). We learned that pirate stories required having peg-legged sailors with parrots on their shoulders, treasure maps with X marking the spot where the treasure was buried, and the guilty verdict among pirates marked with the dreaded Black Spot. Stevenson's works were adapted for movies many times. Here is a delicious rendition of Long John Silver (1954), a sequel to Treasure Island.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy birthday, Auguste Rodin

It is the birthday of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840), who is regarded as a modern-day Michelangelo, though he was both revered and reviled during his lifetime. His sensuous bronze and marble figures are considered some of the greatest in the history of sculpture, and he is one of the most widely known sculptors outside of art circles. Here is a remarkable documentary based on The Kiss, Rodin's still-controversial sculpture, that gives insight into the artist and his work.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank you, veterans!

Veterans Day 2013. Here is a photo of Marines raising an American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. (There was a Navy corpsman helping, too.) If you're a veteran, in which branch did you serve?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rare Book Moment: How to sell your books

Here's the first in a series in which we offer advice on how to go about selling your books. Mike suggests in this segment that it's a good idea to find out what you have before deciding where to go with them. Please leave your questions or comments below. You can see more Rare Book Moment episodes in the column at left or on our YouTube channel.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Albert Camus won 1957 Nobel Prize

It is the birthday of French writer Albert Camus (1913), recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. His absurdist themed books include The Outsider (1942), The Plague (1947), The Fall (1956), A Happy Death (1971), and The First Man (1995). Here is a British radio discussion of his life and work.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy birthday, author James Jones

It is the birthday of writer James Jones (1921), who is remembered for his World War II trilogy From Here to Eternity (1951), The Thin Red Line (1962), and Whistle (1978), which was published after his death. He also wrote Some Came Running (1957), The Pistol (1959), Go to the Widow-Maker (1967), The Ice-Cream Headache and Other Stories (1968), The Merry Month of May (1971), A Touch of Danger (1973), Viet Journal (1974), and WWII (1975). Here is an amazing 1967 documentary about Jones by Canadian filmmaker Allan King and his editor Peter Moseley.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy birthday, Eugene V. Debs

It is the birthday of Socialist activist Eugene V. Debs (1855), who ran unsuccessfully for President five times as the leader of the Socialist Party. In 1905, he helped organize the Industrial Workers of the World, the labor union bent on abolishing capitalism and wage labor. The radical group known as the Wobblies attracted anarchists and socialists as well as women, African Americans, Asians and immigrants at a time when those groups were not embraced by other labor movements. Here is a reenactment of a 1918 antiwar speech given by Debs for which he was imprisoned.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy birthday, humorist Will Rogers

It is the birthday of humorist Will Rogers (1879), whose folksy commentary poked fun at government programs, politicians, and public figures of the 1920s and 1930s. He was beloved because he didn't offend but gently needled all sorts of institutions. "I am not member of an organized political party," he said. "I'm a Democrat." Rogers performed on stage in the Ziegfeld Follies, appeared in 71 movies and wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns. He was one of the most well-known celebrities of his era.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy birthday, Daniel Boone

It is the birthday of pioneer and folk hero Daniel Boone (1734), who may be better known for the myths and legends of his life than for the actual facts. Boone explored the territory that became Kentucky and established a village there called Boonesborough. He opened up the region to European migration, much to the consternation of the resident Shawnee tribe. His exploits are chronicled in numerous books. Two of the earliest are an autobiography, The Adventures of Daniel Boone (1784), published by John Filson, and The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone (1793).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy birthday, Stephen Crane

It is the birthday of writer Stephen Crane (1871), who is best remembered for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a detailed account of a young Union deserter, which Crane wrote having had no actual battle experience. Crane had a long-term relationship with Cora Taylor, a Jacksonville, Florida, brothel owner, who became a writer and war correspondent. Crane wrote The Open Boat, a short story describing his ordeal in a lifeboat after his Cuba-bound ship sank off the coast of Florida.

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Our specialties include Floridiana (Florida History, Florida Authors, Florida Related Ephemera), American History, Literature of the South, Military History (including, but not limited to, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korean War), Children’s Literature, Maps, Leather Bindings and Rare & Unusual items.

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Appraisal service

Michael F. Slicker, is one of about 450 qualified members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Inc., and its affiliate the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Condition of the book, demand for it and history of comparable sales are among the factors considered in evaluating the value of a book. Other factors may apply as well.

Please contact us for more information regarding our certified appraisal services. We encourage you to visit our website, Lighthouse Books, ABAA

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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