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Great Authors Who Were Also Great Teachers

By Matt Reimann. Sep 20, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote,” said Samuel Johnson, “except for money.” Even this humorous thought ignores the central reality of literary economics: that writing for money is very hard. At least, that is, if you want to live comfortably. This bare reality is in part why authors have for thousands of years supplemented their income and professional life with the profession of teaching.

     
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The Raucous, Old-Fashioned Friendship of Ian Fleming and Noël Coward

By Matt Reimann. Sep 19, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, James Bond

For being men of letters, is was not literature that brought together the friendship of Noël Coward and Ian Fleming as much as class and location. Both men were embroiled in the life of leisure and excess characteristic of their upper class when the pair met in Jamaica in the 1940s. There, they could bask in the tropical sun, drink, smoke, swim, dine, pursue lovers, and above all, talk. A taste for fun, debauchery, ego-boosting, and wit mattered most; any overlap of vocation was considered but a welcome accident.

     
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The War that Inspired A Separate Peace

By Adrienne Rivera. Sep 16, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, American Literature

Author John Knowles was born in West Virginia in 1926 to a well-off family. His family's comfortable living allowed him to go the private preparatory school, Phillips Exeter Academy. Upon graduation, he served for two years in the United States Army Air Force during World War II. He attended Yale University after his service ended and while there, wrote humor stories for The Yale Record. He also worked on the Yale Daily News. He continued his journalism after school with a job at the Hartford Courant and eventually as assistant editor at Holiday. It wasn't until prompted by friend and Pulitzer Prize winning author and playwright Thornton Wilder that he turned his attention seriously toward novels.

     
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Seven Interesting Facts About Agatha Christie

By Brian Hoey. Sep 15, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Mystery, Suspense & Crime

Agatha Christie, going by sheer number of copies in print, ranks behind only Shakespeare and God (or, at any rate, The Bible). That in itself should be enough to suggest the tremendous literary stature of the woman who created Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, but it bears mentioning that she was also a recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, and had her book The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) voted the best crime novel ever by the Crime Writers' Association, all in addition to her success as a playwright (The Mousetrap’s West End theatrical run began in 1952 and continues to the present day). Here are some interesting facts about her.

     
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The Incendiary Politics of Michel Houellebecq

By Audrey Golden. Sep 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

Like many other readers, we’re not quite sure what to make of Michel Houellebecq. And if we enjoy reading one of his works of fiction, or if we find his work inspiring, do those sentiments reflect somehow upon our own politics? These are complicated questions, of course, and if you’re not familiar with Houellebecq, you might be wondering why we’re even asking them in the first place. To give you a quick primer: a recent headline in The Guardian* read: “Michel Houellebecq: ‘Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes.’” The writer has been described as “the ageing enfant terrible of French literature,” and The Guardian tells us that he “has been under 24-hour police protection since the Charlie Hebdo attack.” At the same time, Iggy Pop has found musical inspiration in Houellebecq’s work and, well, we think Iggy Pop is cool. Want to decide for yourself? We’ll tell you a little bit more about Houellebecq first.

     
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An Introduction to Sherwood Anderson, Creator of Winesburg, Ohio

By Adrienne Rivera. Sep 13, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Midwest writer Sherwood Anderson was born in 1876 and raised in Ohio. Like the characters in his most enduring work, Winesburg, Ohio, he lived most of his life in small towns. Much of his writing was inspired by the places he lived and the people he met during a somewhat transient childhood. Anderson was one of seven children born to his mother and father. His father, Irwin McLain Anderson, was a former Union soldier with considerable debts and a habit for drinking, forcing the family to move frequently. To compensate for his father's difficulties keeping a steady job, Anderson worked a variety of part-time jobs. The family eventually settled in Clyde, Ohio, where Anderson worked at different times as a newsboy, stable hand, printer's devil, and occasionally as his father's assistant when he found work as a sign painter. Anderson ended up leaving school in the ninth grade in order to support his family.

     
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When Books Go to Broadway

By Matt Reimann. Sep 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Drama

Broadway has always welcomed the country’s best playwrights. Everyone from Arthur Miller to Tennessee Williams to Lillian Hellman to August Wilson to Eugene O’Neill has been supported and sustained by the theatrical capital of America. Yet what is also interesting is Broadway’s tendency to adapt and stage something that started on the page. There have been failures (like the recent American Psycho musical) and smash successes (Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton). It has also provided many prose writers the chance to work in the dramatic form.

     
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Past and Future in Han Kang's Fiction

By Audrey Golden. Sep 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, History

You might have heard of Han Kang, and maybe you’ve read the English translation of her novel The Vegetarian (the book was published in the original Korean in 2007 with the English translation by Deborah Smith following eight years later in 2015). We’re guessing you might have at least heard of The Vegetarian since it won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. The novel feels, in some ways, like a work of dystopian fiction in that it follows a woman who becomes a vegetarian after experiencing violent, bloody impulses all through a narration by her husband. Threads of futuristic writing may run through Han Kang’s fiction, but her work is also deeply permeated by the past. Her most recent novel, Human Acts, reflects upon the Gwanju massacre and its meaning for Korea in the present.

     
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A Brief Introduction to Frédéric Mistral

By Andrea Diamond. Sep 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

In 1830, in the small town of Maillane, France, Frédéric Mistral was born to François Mistral and Adelaide Poulinet. His parents were wealthy, which afforded Frédéric the opportunity to receive a great education (though he was known for playing hooky as a child). After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Mistral went on to study law until 1851. While Mistral was passionate about this field, his true gift was more literary. Greatly inspired by one of his teachers, Joseph Roumanille, Mistral became a masterful poet. 

     
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Vain Tenderness: A (Mostly Futile) Sully Prudhomme Reading Guide

By Brian Hoey. Sep 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners

Literary-historical karma, as ever, sides with Leo Tolstoy. When the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, the great Russian novelist was considered the frontrunner for the literary prize. When he failed to win, there was public outrage, leading a number of Swedish artists and critics to sign an apologetic letter to Tolstoy, for fear that the Nobel Committee’s decision to snub Tolstoy would reflect badly on the country’s literary tastes and worse, offend one of history’s greatest writers. Regardless of whether Tolstoy himself had any desire to win the award (he didn’t), history has largely sided with the outraged parties, continuing to venerate Tolstoy while letting cobwebs spread over the legacy of Sully Prudhomme, the first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  

     
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