Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Great American Poet

By Lauren Corba. Feb 28, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, American Literature

Great American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807 in Portland, Maine. He was the second child of Stephen and Zilpah Longfellow, and not long after his birth, six children followed. He was always a creative young boy, enthusiastic about learning, and was enrolled into a private school, Portland Academy at age five. Just like other children his age, his studies primarily focused on literature and language; however, he enjoyed this so much that he engaged in intricate writing projects with his friends outside of school as well.


Did John Steinbeck Deserve a Nobel Prize for Grapes of Wrath?

John Steinbeck has become a central figure in the American literary canon. A winner of the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, and Nobel Prize, Steinbeck certainly has the accolades to justify that position. But Steinbeck's detractors--including members of the Swedish Academy--doubted the legendary author's merits, and Steinbeck himself didn't believe he was worthy of the Nobel. 


Children of Neverland

By Andrea Koczela. Feb 27, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Literature

It is a world of sheer magic where fairies caper, pirates menace, and mermaids beguile. For visiting children, the danger of adulthood is cast away and replaced with adventures and marvels. Since its invention over a century ago, Neverland, created by Sir James Matthew Barrie in Peter Pan, has captured the imagination of children and adults alike. Although Neverland and its occupants seem entirely fanciful, Barrie was inspired by a number of true people and events.


The World According to John Irving

By Andrea Koczela. Feb 26, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Today we celebrate bestselling novelist John Winslow Irving. Irving is author of fourteen books and winner of the 1999 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He is best known for writing The World According to Garp (1978), The Cider House Rules (1985), and A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989).


Why All the Controversy, Huckleberry Finn?

By Andrea Koczela. Feb 25, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature, Mark Twain

It is a curious incongruity that Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  - widely considered one of the great American novels -  was first published in Great Britain. Released stateside in February 1885, the book has remained in constant state of controversy ever since. The subject of that controversy, however, has vacillated considerably according to the mores of the time.

Twain initially intended the book as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Its first working title was Huckleberry Finn’s Autobiography;


Wilhelm Grimm, One Father of the Fairy Tale

By Anne Cullison. Feb 22, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

Wilhelm Grimm, the younger of the famous Grimm Brothers, was born on February 24, 1786 in Hanau, Germany. From his earliest days until his death he and his elder brother Jacob Grimm would remain the dearest of friends. They were in fact only two of the nine children that Phillip and Dorthea Grimm had between the years of 1783 and 1795, but they grew up sharing a bed and shared all their belongings throughout their lives.


Edward Gorey, Gothic Genius

By Andrea Koczela. Feb 21, 2014. 12:00 PM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators

This week we celebrate Edward St. John Gorey, born February 22, 1925. “He was a cartoonist in the widest definition and a major illustrator in the smallest,” said friend Alexander Theroux. “Edward was one of the few people I ever knew who did exactly what he wanted.” Gorey published over 100 books and illustrated dozens for other writers, including Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot, Edward Lear, Muriel Spark, John Updike, and H. G. Wells. He was a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, and illustrated every anniversary cover between 1978 and 1998. Editor Barbara Epstein described his drawings as “beautiful, ravishing.”


Amy Tan, Rebel and Writer

By Andrea Koczela. Feb 21, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

This week we celebrate the birthday of Amy Tan, author of the acclaimed novel, The Joy Luck Club.  Tan was born on February 19, 1952 to Chinese immigrants in Oakland, California. America was a place of refuge for her family; her mother fled to America to escape her abusive first husband and Tan’s father immigrated to avoid the Chinese Civil War.

As a girl, Tan rejected her Chinese heritage. She disliked her Asian appearance and even slept with a clothespin on her nose to narrow its shape. “I felt ashamed of being different and ashamed of feeling that way,” she later commented. Instead, she embraced everything American.


Jeff Shaara, Accidental Novelist

By Anne Cullison. Feb 19, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Modern First Editions

Jeff Shaara, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on February 21st, 1952. He is a novelist in his own right and the son of the famed Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Shaara. Both he and his father specialized in books on war.


From Angels to Ogres: Paul O Zelinsky

By Anne Cullison. Feb 15, 2014. 4:46 PM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books

The simple act of reading a story with your child is a powerful one. But simple words on texts are not enough on their own; the most enduring children's stories pair wonderful stories with compelling illustrations. Thus, children's illustrators are just as important as children's authors. 


Discovering a Long-Lost Mark Twain Manuscript

By Kristin Wood. Feb 10, 2014. 4:36 PM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature, Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has long been considered an invaluable work of literature – some even declaring it THE great American novel. Students pore over it in the classroom; lovers of classic literature read it, and reread it, and reread it again; and book collectors dream of adding rare editions to their libraries.

Although Twain’s story manages to capture a long-passed time period while also exploring themes relevant to today’s society, books of a certain age rarely make the headlines of our newspapers.  They are seen as time capsules, set in stone just as they are. But the final word on Huckleberry Finn has yet to be spoken.


Alice Walker, Luminary of American Literature

By Dawn Morgan. Feb 9, 2014. 8:50 PM.

Topics: Poetry, American Literature

Alice Walker is a critically acclaimed and best selling author, poet, and a political activist, champion of progressive ideals. She gave a strong voice to women, particularly women of color, and reignited interest in author Zora Neale Hurston. 

Born on February 9, 1944 in Putnam County, Georgia, Walker is one of eight children. Her mother worked as a maid and her father was a sharecropper. Despite Jim Crow laws and the era's conventional wisdom that blacks need not be educated, Walker's mother enrolled young Alice in school and worked to ensure her daughter received a college education.


Russian Legend, Boris Pasternak

By Lauren Corba. Feb 8, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

Russian poet, novelist, and translator, Boris Pasternak was born in Moscow, Russia on February 10, 1890. His father, Leonid Pasternak was a post-impressionist painter and professor at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture; his mother, Rosa Kaufman was a concert pianist. Growing up in a household rich with artistic influence, it is only natural that he would follow in his parent’s footsteps. In 1904, Pasternak took up musical composition. However, he abandoned these studies to attend the University of Marburg, Germany and focus on a career in philosophy.


Protests and Prizes with JM Coetzee

By Kristin Wood. Feb 7, 2014. 6:15 PM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

When it comes to award-winning writing, it may seem that a vast majority of the recipients of the most distinguished prizes are American or English authors. While the scale may dip heavily in this direction, there are international writers who have received the praise and recognition they deserve. JM Coetzee, a South African author, is one of these. Along with winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003, he has also won two Booker Prizes, three CNA prizes, and many others. Richard Poplak described him as “inarguably the most celebrated and decorated living English-language author."


Sinclair Lewis - Nobel Laureate Declining the Pulitzer Prize

By Anne Cullison. Feb 5, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

Sinclair Lewis captivated the Amercan public with his wry criticism of capitalism and materialism as threats to American civilization. He was born on February 7,1885, in the village of Sauk Centre, Minnesota. The youngest of three boys, Lewis was sensitive and unathletic, turning not to sports and girls as his older brothers did, but to books and diaries.


Of John Steinbeck and the "Novel Play"

By Kristin Masters. Feb 4, 2014. 10:32 PM.

On February 6,1937, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was published. The novella met with immediate acclaim, but later sparked countless controversies. Now the book has found its way to the required reading lists in English-speaking classrooms around the world. 


Ayn Rand: A Controversial Success Story

By Kristin Wood. Feb 3, 2014. 4:00 PM.

Topics: American Literature

Love her or hate her, Ayn Rand undoubtedly made her mark on the literary, political, and philosophical landscape of 20th century America. Nothing can stir up controversy quite like a discussion of The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. Rand was a woman who held her opinions strongly in the face of dissent. Along with the two novels that earned her a place in history, she also wrote plays, published her own magazine, and composed many essays promoting her philosophies. These views have made her an idol for many fiscal conservatives and libertarians, while eliciting ridicule from progressives and religious leaders.


Langston Hughes: A Powerful Voice in the Harlem Renaissance

By Kristin Wood. Feb 3, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature

The magic nestled in a good poem is the ability to use only a handful of words to capture a seemingly indescribable emotion, situation, or culture. James Mercer Langston Hughes, who wrote under just "Langston Hughes," understood this magic well and used it to rise to the top of the American poets of his day. He was one of the prominent writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Although he was fiercely proud of his heritage and identity as a black man, his words crossed stubborn racial boundaries during a hostile and segregated time period, earning him a well-deserved spot in the history of literature.


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