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Charles Dickens' Show-Stealing Entrance to Serial Fiction

By Kristin Masters. Mar 31, 2014. 10:31 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Charles Dickens

On March 31, 1836, Chapman and Hall published the first installment of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers. The story bore little resemblance to what the publishers thought they were going to print--to the advantage of the young Dickens, who was quickly vaunted to literary fame. The Pickwick Papers was certainly not the first serial novel, but it did make an indelible mark on the publishing world. 


The Short-Lived Friendship of Dickens and Irving

By Andrea Koczela. Mar 30, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Charles Dickens

The friendship between writers Washington Irving and Charles Dickens began in 1840, after the publication of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop. Irving wrote a letter to Dickens complimenting him on the novel, and Dickens replied enthusiastically. The two continued to correspond until Dickens arrived in America in January 1842.

The two writers finally met in person when Dickens traveled to New York. At a party celebrating his visit, Dickens gave a speech in honor of his friend, Irving:


Mario Vargas Llosa, King of Controversies

By Lauren Corba. Mar 26, 2014. 4:29 PM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

The exceptionally talented novelist and essay writer Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010 due to his ability to impact people all over the world with his writing, and he is considered to be one of the greatest writers of his generation. Much like a literary character, Llosa has experienced a great amount of controversy in his lifetime. While he remains very active in politics, his opinions continually get him into trouble.


A.E. Housman: A Life of Grief and Passion

By Kristin Wood. Mar 25, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Both a poet and a scholar, A.E. Housman won over his readers with his lyrical writing, nostalgic themes, and powerful messages. Although he published only two volumes of poetry during his lifetime, these works have stood the test of time – especially his collection titled A Shropshire Lad, which explored human mortality and urged its readers to live their lives passionately and in the moment.


Sidney Reilly, the Real-Life James Bond?

By Kristin Masters. Mar 23, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond, History

By the time Ian Fleming sat down at his typewriter to begin work on Casino Royale in 1952, he'd already had an illustrious career as a commander of Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. Responsible for the famous "trout" memo (so named for its fly fishing metaphor), Fleming distinguished himself as a cunning and thoughtful intelligence officer. 

Though Fleming certainly drew from his own experiences to create James Bond, he also had another inspiration: Sidney Reilly. The Russian-born spy proved an indomitable agent whose charismatic personality, fearless execution, and hedonistic lifestyle are reflected in Fleming's 007. 


Jester Personified: A Brief Biography of Dario Fo

By Lauren Corba. Mar 22, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

Dario Fo was born on March 24, 1926 in San Giano, Italy. His family consisted of his mother, Pina Rota Fo—writer of her own autobiography; father, Felice Fo—socialist, small theatre enthusiast, and station master for the Italian railway; and a younger brother and sister. Fo spent many childhood vacations at his grandfather’s home in Lomellina. He would eventually become a titan of the Italian theatre and, despite his controversial politics, go on to win the Nobel Prize. 


James Patterson Author or Architect? Does It Really Matter?

By Anne Cullison. Mar 20, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Modern First Editions

James Patterson was born on March 22nd, 1947 is an incredibly prolific author who mostly specializes in thrillers but also dabbles in the non-fiction, young adult, and romance genres. However, before he became a best-selling author with more than 95 titles under his belt, he worked in advertising.


Five Legendary Authors Who Published Flops

By Kristin Masters. Mar 18, 2014. 7:47 PM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

On March 19, 1842, Honoré de Balzac's play Les Ressources de Quilona opened to an empty theatre. The fault was Balzac's own; in an attempt to create buzz around the play, he'd started a rumor that the play was sold out. The plan obviously failed to incite the clamor for tickets that Balzac had hoped for. By this time, Balzac was already a well known writer, but his plays had never been received well. They were, in a word, flops. Luckily for Balzac, his novels both made and saved his literary reputation, mitigating the negative impact of his plays. And he's not alone; a number of other famous authors have published works that critics found disappointing. 

Emily Brontë

When Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights, critics were less than enthusiastic about the book. On December 18, 1847, The Spectator printed a rather harsh review, which echoed the opinions of contemporary critics:

"The success is not equal to the abilities of the writer; chiefly because the incidents are too coarse and disagreeable to be attractive, the very best being improbable with a moral taint about them, and the villainy not leading to results sufficient to justify the elaborate pains taken in depicting it." 

When a new edition was published in 1850, it included a "Biographical Notice" penned by Charlotte Brontë. In addition to justifying all three sisters' decision to publish their works pseudonymously, she clearly intended to defend her sister against her critics. But most modern critics think that Charlotte overstated the case, making the critics seem more harsh than they'd actually been. At any rate, Wuthering Heights has endured as a paragon of Romantic literature. 


Exploring Americana: The English Quaker and the French Privateers

By Kristin Masters. Mar 18, 2014. 6:15 PM.

Topics: American History, Rare Books

The category of "Americana" is both broad and somewhat difficult to define. It may include, after all, works written outside America, by Americans who have traveled abroad, or the opposite, works by non-Americans who have experienced the country somehow. One delightful piece of Americana falls into the latter category. Some Account of the Life and Gospel Labours of William Reckitt falls squarely into the collecting category of Americana, even though its author is an English Quaker who gets captured by the French (not once but twice, no less)! 


John Updike: From Rabbits to Religion

By Kristin Wood. Mar 16, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Pulitzer Prize, American Literature

John Updike is proof that quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed for quantity. This highly accomplished author averaged at least one book a year during his career, while also composing poetry, short stories, and essays. He is one of three fiction authors to win more than one Pulitzer Prize.  Both novels to receive the prize were a part of his famous Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series.


Sully Prudhomme, Leo Tolstoy, and the First Nobel Prize

By Kristin Masters. Mar 14, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, History

When the inaugural Nobel Prize in literature was awarded in 1901, it went to the now relatively unknown Sully Prudhomme. Born on March 16, 1839, Prudhomme was a French poet and essayist who eschewed the Romantic movement. Loosely connected to the Parnassus school, Prudhomme desired to create a scientific poetry for his era. According to the Nobel committee, the prize was given"in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect."


Literary Hotspots of the Tampa Bay Area

By Kristin Masters. Mar 12, 2014. 2:31 PM.

Topics: Book News

This weekend the Books Tell You Why crew will be at the 33rd Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair--and we hope to see you there! The event will be March 14-16 at St. Petersburg's historic Coliseum. You'll find dealers with a wide variety of specializations, from antiquarian books, to autographs and ephemera. The fair is a wonderful opportunity to browse materials from some of the most respected dealers in the Southeast, and to get to know dealers who specialize in what you collect. 


Ten Facts You Should Know about Albert Einstein

By Andrea Koczela. Mar 12, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

This week we honor Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein. Celebrate his birthday by testing your knowledge against these ten facts.


How to Identify First Editions from Doubleday

By Kristin Masters. Mar 10, 2014. 5:53 PM.

Topics: Modern First Editions

Since its inception in 1897, Doubleday has been a powerful presence in the American publishing landscape. Collectors often encounter books from the publishing house, so it's useful to know a bit about Doubleday's history and how to identify its first editions. 


Jack Kerouac, Beloved Author of the Beat Generation

By Lauren Corba. Mar 9, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation paved the way for a new era of literature and greatly influenced our later contemporary works. His writing was revolutionary, experimenting with style, words, and sound. Although he is hailed as one of the greatest American writers, Kerouac was relentlessly criticized by his contemporaries.


Mickey Spillane... Peanuts over Caviar

By Anne Cullison. Mar 7, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Modern First Editions

Best-selling crime novelist Mickey Spillane was born on March 9, 1918. Born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn, New York, he was the only child of his Irish bartender father, John Joseph Spillane and Scottish mother Catherine Anne. Spillane was brought up in the tough neighborhood of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Under the tutelage of his mother, he grew up “less tough,” reading Melville and Dumas before he was even eleven years old.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Woman with Heart — and Brains!

By Kristin Wood. Mar 5, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry

When it comes to poetry of the heart, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s work has been read, enjoyed, and quoted among lovers and students since the 19th century.  Today she is most famous for the poems she composed for her husband, fellow poet Robert Browning. While these poems certainly deserve their praise, Browning’s success actually began long before meeting her husband, and her collective work spans much farther than just her love poems.


What's in a (James Bond) Name?

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

Topics: James Bond, Movie Tie-Ins

Imagine skimming through a new novel at the bookstore, when suddenly your name jumps unexpectedly off the page. With a little more digging, you realize that the character carrying your identity is not saving the day or getting the girl. He’s not even a plucky sidekick – he’s the villain.


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