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What’s in a Name: Alternate Names for Three Famous Literary Characters

By Nick Ostdick. Jun 30, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Book History

It’s perhaps one of the most famous moments of dialogue from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in which Romeo tries to convince Juliet how little it matters what her last name is or which house she comes from: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Not to quibble with one of most revered technicians of the written word the world has ever seen, but I disagree. There’s something crucial to the sound or vibe of the right name for the right character.  


Top 10 Quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince

By Andrea Koczela. Jun 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Literature

To know The Little Prince is to love The Little Prince. For those of us already familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's great novella, these quotes will be a charming walk down a familiar path. For those as yet unfamiliar with this children's classic, we hope the following quotes will whet your appetite for more. Read. Enjoy. Then let us know which of your favorites we missed!


Jean Jacques Rousseau: How Hypocrisy Led to Discovery

By Matt Reimann. Jun 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Learn About Books

Considered by some to be the most significant 18th century writer in French letters, Swiss philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau changed the realm of political thought and moral psychology. As an original thinker, Rousseau inevitably made enemies and aroused suspicions in his day. His writings forced him into exile and earned him numerous rivals, including Voltaire. Rousseau became so paranoid that he could no longer distinguish the real from the imagined. A man of reason can give way to the most irrational of fears: This is one of the many contradictions that punctuates Rousseau's remarkable life.


Beyond Tolkien: A Survey of Modern Fantasy

By Katie Behrens. Jun 26, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, Science Fiction

J.R.R. Tolkien is widely credited with laying the foundation for the modern fantasy genre for adults in the 1950s with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Adult readers had found a new taste for imagination, and it's only grown stronger. Both publishers and Hollywood executives can’t seem to get enough of magic, dragons, wizards, and the like. The following authors and books have certainly helped us on our way there.


Libraries & Special Collections: The Vatican Apostolic Library

By Katie Behrens. Jun 25, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections

One of the oldest and most extensive library collections in the world recently began the process of digitizing its treasures for the world to see. This library is not specifically attached to a university or college, and it's nearly 2,000 years old: the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome. And it's not just documents of the Catholic Church you'll find there.


George Orwell's Prophetic Political Vision

By Matt Reimann. Jun 24, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Science Fiction

George Orwell is still one of today’s most coveted political thinkers. Although he died 65 years ago, it’s remarkable how politicians from all ends of the spectrum work to claim his posthumous blessing. Liberal or conservative, everyone believes herself to be part of the great fight for humankind’s dignity, to which Orwell was likewise dedicated. Through the political unfurling of the last several decades — the Cold War, Vietnam, international security, etc. — many have asked: What would Orwell say? What can Orwell teach us about being a citizen today?


Strange Sandboxes: Unusual Writing Habits of Five Famous Authors

By Nick Ostdick. Jun 23, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

Imagine telling your boss the only way you can be productive at work is after imbibing two or three glasses of sherry. Or by lying flat on your back with your knees tucked tightly toward your chest. Or perhaps in a bathtub brimming with soap bubbles. You'd probably be fired.

But habits or routines similar to these were staples in the creative process for some of America’s most famous authors. These renowned literary figures spared no effort to create a space for the unconscious mind to play. Truly, these strange sandboxes for creativity and inspiration were crucial to the creation of some American classics. Let's explore a few authors and their peculiar, but effective, habits.


Arundhati Roy Accuses Gandhi of Prejudice

By Audrey Golden. Jun 22, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Is Mahatma Gandhi the ultimate figure from the Indian subcontinent to represent nonviolence in the quest for justice and equality? Although popular history generally upholds Gandhi to be a figure of veneration, particularly when we think about the long and arduous path to decolonization and independence, the Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy recently accused Gandhi of class prejudice. Let’s take a closer look at the events that led to Roy’s accusation.


Five Famous Literary Fathers

By Leah Dobrinska. Jun 21, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Charles Dickens

Happy Father’s Day! To honor the occasion, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite literary dads. Some of these guys we love; some we’re intrigued by; others we just have to shake our heads at; but all of them are remarkable. This list is by no means exhaustive. We hope that you enjoy our selection, and then perhaps share your own favorites with us in the comments below.


Man of Macabre: Five Interesting Facts About Ian McEwan

By Brian Hoey. Jun 20, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

For a contemporary novelist, becoming a household name is not easy.A Man Booker Prize (of which Ian McEwan has been a recipient) may not do it. Nor, indeed, may a prominent spot on TIME’s list of the 50 best British authors since 1945.Surely, then, we must attribute Ian McEwan’s name recognition at least partially to luck, and more than a little bit to a well-respected film adaptation of his critically acclaimed novel Atonement (2001).But a reputation like McEwan’s can’t be built on luck alone.Rather, it must be built on a strong foundation of literary acumen, pieced together, in McEwan’s case, from a well-trained ear for language and an uncommon sense of urgency.It is lucky not just for Ian McEwan but for the community of readers that such well wrought fictions reach a wide audience.  Here are five interesting facts about the acclaimed author.


Paul Muldoon: Poetry, Rock Music, and Fine Press

By Matt Reimann. Jun 19, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Fine Press

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon has been hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as “the most significant English-language poet born since the Second World War.” In addition to earning a bundle of superlatives, he is also a professor at Princeton University and the poetry editor at the New Yorker. He is musically inclined, and plays guitar in the rock band, The Wayside Shrines. He released a volume of lyrics called The Word on the Street in 2013. And, before his day jobs were entirely belletristic, he worked as a TV and radio producer for the BBC.


Instant Classic: Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses

By Brian Hoey. Jun 18, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature

“A classic (is) something everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read.”
-Mark Twain, 1900

It is, perhaps, a little ironic that a remark Mark Twain made in reference to Paradise Lost (1667), a text that was by then some 200 years old, can be deployed to describe a book that is barely pushing forty. At the same time, it seems fitting that two works that so poetically, and controversially, dramatize events from the religious past should be neighbors in one paragraph. Indeed, one could argue that Salman Rushdie’s famously controversial novel, The Satanic Verses (1988) has more in common with John Milton’s epic poem than most. The fact remains, however, that many if not most are more familiar with Iran’s condemnation of the book as heretical than with the book itself.


Browsing and Buying Antiquarian Books in Buenos Aires

By Audrey Golden. Jun 17, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature, Modern First Editions

Shopping for antiquarian books in Buenos Aires is like something out of a dream. Every corner of the city, it seems, has an antiquarian bookshop on it, filled with glorious paper wonders. And given that this city is, like New York, one that never sleeps, some of these stores stay open well into the later hours of the evening, particularly on Avenida Corrientes. If you love looking through old books and ephemera (and if you can read even a small bit of Spanish), you must — you absolutely must — plan a visit to Argentina. It just might be a book collector’s dream come true.


An Insider's Guide to Bloomsday

By Brian Hoey. Jun 16, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

In his 1964 novel The Dalkey Archive, Irish satirist Brian O'Nolan (known better by his noms de plume Flann O’Brien and Myles na Gopaleen) envisions a world where whiskey can be aged to perfection in a matter of days and a mad scientist named de Selby poses a serious existential threat to humanity.Almost entirely separate from these imaginings comes a scene in which the late literary behemoth James Joyce is alive and well and working as a bartender near Dalkey.Bewildered by the author’s sudden appearance, O’Nolan’s protagonist, Mick, asks him about Ulysses (1922). Joyce responds, “I don’t want to talk about that exploit.I took the idea to be a sort of practical joke.”


John Hersey and the Journalism Event of the Century

By Matt Reimann. Jun 15, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Pulitzer Prize, American Literature

When the New Yorker published John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” on August 31, 1946, nearly everyone was stunned. The issue sold out within a few hours. Albert Einstein himself ordered one thousand copies. Newspapers and periodicals everywhere requested permission to publish it, as did the American Broadcast Company. Even a theatre company wanted to adapt it for the stage. It had been a year since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and so little was known in the West about the aftermath of the fearsome new weapon. Then came Hersey’s extensive article, and people's eyes were opened.


A James Bond Novel Ian Fleming Didn't Want You to Read

By Brian Hoey. Jun 14, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, James Bond

One hears a lot, in certain circles, about experimental literature.From James Joyce to Tom McCarthy, authors have always seen themselves as engaging in experiments, be they with prose, structure, or content.While the notion of books-as-experiments can be appealing, one almost never hears whether these experiments succeed or fail.An exception, however, comes, in this regard as in so many others, from beloved James Bond creator Ian Fleming.


Saltwater Fly Fishing: Fresh Takes on an Ancient Sport

By David Eddy. Jun 13, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Fishing

Fly fishing is an ancient sport. One of its first mentions was made by Claudius Aelainus in the second century as he described fishermen on the Astraeous River: "They fasten red wool..round a hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock's wattles...the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it.." In Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Lefty Kreh takes a detailed and engaging look at how this ancient sport can be adapted to the challenges of the ocean. The book is self-described as the saltwater fly fisherman's bible and his treatment of the subject does not disappoint. 


Real Events Behind Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

By Leah Dobrinska. Jun 12, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Legendary Authors, History

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is cultural dynamite. Within three months of its publication in 1852, 300,000 copies of the novel were sold in the United States. Many believe the events in Stowe’s book helped propel the United States into the Civil War. Even now, Uncle Tom’s Cabin remains one of the most widely read and acknowledged abolitionist works of all time. Today, we explore Harriet Beecher Stowe’s inspiration for her characters and storyline. 


Pasternak Archives at Stanford Special Collections

Where can you find the largest archive of Boris Pasternak material in the world? The Special Collections and University Archives at Stanford University holds this vast collection, where researchers have the opportunity to peruse documents contained in 156 manuscript boxes and 23 oversize boxes, not to mention videotapes and phonotapes. While access to specific items will require permission from the archivist and a trip to Palo Alto, digital use copies of some of the materials are available. The collection spans from 1878 to 2013.


William Styron and Other Critics of Formal Education

By Matt Reimann. Jun 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Learn About Books

At first thought, it seems ludicrous that any author — any person who depends on lovers of books and knowledge, really — would condemn formal education. In an age when more and more authors are cultivated in an MFA program, you'd assume to find only champions of education. After all, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Flannery O’Connor all passed through an MFA program, and plenty more, like Zadie Smith and Joyce Carol Oates, have taught in one. Despite the firm bond between writers and academic institutions, there are some authors who can’t help but criticize formal education.


Maurice Sendak: A Wild Imagination

By Brian Hoey. Jun 9, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books

When beloved writer and illustrator of children’s books Maurice Sendak passed away in 2012, it was Stephen Colbert who best summed up the sentiment that accompanied Sendak’s passing. “We are all honored” he said, “to have been briefly invited into his world.”And indeed, Sendak’s most beloved works, like Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and Brundibar (2003), were invitations to worlds wholly separate from this one: worlds that were at once startling and beautiful, inviting and grotesque, smartly crafted and whimsical.It wasn’t just the worlds populated with wild things, however, to which Sendak invited his readers.


When Ernest Hemingway Fought Max Eastman

By Matt Reimann. Jun 8, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

“Hemingway Slaps Eastman in the Face,” read the New York Times headline on August 14, 1937. This famous spat happened one afternoon when Max Eastman—a prominent critic who wrote about politics, literature, and more—discovered that one of the subjects of his criticism, Ernest Hemingway, wanted to fight back. Hemingway, who was visiting New York at the time, walked into the Fifth Avenue location of publisher Charles Scribner & Son. There, in the office of editor Max Perkins, one of the most peculiar author exchanges of the century transpired.


Quiz: Who Is Your Literary Father Figure?

By Andrea Koczela. Jun 7, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Quizzes

Fathers play such an important role in literature. From the ideal, like Atticus Finch, to more questionable characters like King Lear, all are memorable in their own right. To honor fathers of all kinds, we've put together a fun, bookish quiz. Who is your literary father figure? Answer these seven questions to find out.


A Gwendolyn Brooks Primer

By Brian Hoey. Jun 6, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Pulitzer Prize, Awarded Books

"There is no self-pity here, not a striving for effects. She takes hold of reality as it is and renders it faithfully...She easily catches the pathos of petty destinies; the whimper of the wounded."
-Richard Wright on Gwendolyn Brooks


Thomas Mann: An Exploration of Philosophy and Practicality

By Matt Reimann. Jun 5, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, Modern First Editions

Thomas Mann was born into the Hanseatic ruling Mann family, a wealthy clan who held great influence over the city republic of Lübeck, in what was then the German Empire. Mann grew up under the aegis of privilege, raised by tales of his ancestors’ prosperity and the ethos of bourgeoisie practicality. The Manns, as ruling families are wont to do, were preoccupied with the maintenance of their influence, wealth, and respectability. Thus, when the 21 year-old Thomas Mann announced his plans to become a writer, his family took his artistic calling as a betrayal of his auspicious pedigree. Despite his family’s protests, Mann would not abandon his vocation, and he was effectively disowned. The irony of this event, of course, is that Mann would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and earn the reputation for being the most significant scribe in German letters since Nietzsche, becoming the most revered member of the very family that spurned his artistic pursuits.


Caldecott Medalist Peter Spier: An Illustrious Career

By Brian Hoey. Jun 4, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books, Awarded Books

Many elements combine to make for a deeply affecting children’s book.As in most any writing, story and characters are major factors in the success or failure of a children’s book. Likewise, an aesthetic is essential, one that is both captivating to children and palatable to the adults who often purchase and read the books aloud. While there’s no denying the importance of these elements, it seems likely that for many the most crucial element of a good children’s book is its artwork.Artwork, after all, is what imbues the plot, the characters, and the aesthetics with a sense of life, enriching them simultaneously with equal parts reality and imagination.This, in a nutshell, is how we can account for the success of Peter Spier.


Libraries & Special Collections: The Poetry Foundation Library

By Katie Behrens. Jun 3, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Libraries & Special Collections

Among the many small libraries in the United States attached to organizations, the Poetry Foundation Library in Chicago is a gem. The library itself only opened in 2011, but the collection began as a resource for Poetry magazine in 1912. Open to the public, the library is an extension of the Poetry Foundation’s mission “to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in American culture.”


Heinrich Bӧll: Nobel Prize Winner and D-Day Adversary

By David Eddy. Jun 2, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, History

As another anniversary of the 1944 allied landing at Normandy takes place this June, thousands of participants will trod the roads and fields once defended by Hitler’s Wehrmacht. One of the members of Wehrmacht was Heinrich Bӧll, a devout Catholic from Cologne and an eventual Nobel Prize in Literature winner in 1972.


Carol Shields: Our Literary Neighbor to the North

By Brian Hoey. Jun 1, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Literature

It may (or may not) shock some of you to know that Alice Munro, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, was the first Canadian writer to achieve Nobel laureate-status. Still others, while in the process of reading these sentences, may be equally shocked to realize that they can hardly name any Canadian authors. Munro, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje; for many the list stops there. Though Canada’s most populous cities are often mere hours of travel from the literary hubs of the lower 48, a deep awareness of our northern neighbor’s literary output rarely seems to make it through customs.


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