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Brian Hoey
Writer and all around book nerd, Brian puts his English degree to good use turning words into magic. A great lover of beer, baseball, and books, he can write on Baltic Porter and Katherine Anne Porter with equal ease.

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John McCain’s Literary Farewell

By Brian Hoey. Oct 13, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History

In the introduction to his last work, The Travails of Persiles and Sigismunda (1617), Cervantes writes what’s often considered to be one of literature’s most beautiful farewell messages. In it, the creator of Don Quixote (1605) discusses his ailing health, and recalls encountering a young admirer on the road to a nearby inn. The two ride together and chat for a while and ultimately part ways, giving Cervantes occasion to reflect poignantly on his life and works. The anecdote, though relatively full of good cheer and fellow feeling on its face, is tinged with a lingering melancholy that makes the whole encounter seem weightier in retrospect. For a modern reader separated from Cervantes by multiple centuries, it’s a moment of rare intimacy with the past.

     
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Movie Adaptations Aren’t All Bad: Tom Hanks Proves It

By Brian Hoey. Jul 29, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins

As emotionally fraught as it can be for readers to see their beloved classics adapted for the big screen—even when those adaptations are faithful and well-produced—movies improve upon their bookish source material just as often as they botch it. Surely this seems like sacrilege coming from an antiquarian books blog, but let’s do a little thought experiment: Let’s say that there’s a roughly even distribution of (1) good movies based on good books, (2) bad movies based on good books, (3) good movies based on bad (or just okay) books, and (4) bad movies based on bad books.

     
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The Books That Inspired George Lucas

By Brian Hoey. May 14, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins, Science Fiction

The adventure begins in the ordinary world, where our hero gets the call to action; with the help of companions and mentors, he crosses the threshold into a supernatural world, where the old rules don’t apply. He faces a series of trials, culminating in an ultimate ordeal in which the hero is victorious. He earns a boon, which he carries back into the ordinary world.

     
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Lost Mary Shelley Manuscript Unearthed

By Brian Hoey. Apr 1, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Horror, Rare Books

For years, Mary Shelley was sadly overlooked as a writer. Though she created one of the most iconic monsters in literature in her novel Frankenstein (1818), for more than century after her death she was often thought of as a one hit wonder. Or she was thought of as Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter, or philosopher William Godwin’s daughter, or Percy Shelley’s wife and literary executor. That is, when she was thought of at all.

     
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Mickey Spillane: Hardboiled Detectives and Salted Peanuts

By Brian Hoey. Mar 9, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Mystery, Suspense & Crime

"Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.” Mickey Spillane

For a writer, one of the most depressing literary pantheons is the “books written in a matter of weeks” category. This includes such classics and arguable classics as Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1930, written in six weeks while the author worked as a security guard), Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957, written in three weeks on a 120 foot long roll of paper), and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1989, written in a 28 day “crash” during which time he didn't see anyone, answer any mail, answer the phone, etc.). While not a classic by anyone definition, Dostoevsky’s The Gambler (1866) was written in about a month in order to pay off a gambling debt. Also on that list is hardboiled mystery writer Mickey Spillane’s 1947 first novel, I, the Jury—which marked the debut of the iconic private eye Mike Hammer.

     
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Carl Bernstein: Mystery Writer

By Brian Hoey. Feb 14, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

The Big Sleep (1939). The Maltese Falcon (1929). All the President’s Men (1974). These three books represent some of the best mystery writing produced in the last century. And yet, one of these things is not like the others: where Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett honed and perfected a particular kind of detective novel, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s account of corruption and fraud within the Nixon administration leverages the conventions of those novels to present us with something all too true. Though All the President’s Men isn't a novel in the strict sense, it often reads like one—a good one, at that. As a reader, you’re fascinated by the investigative process, you feel real stakes and tension, you want to keep turning pages to figure out whodunnit, and that’s precisely what made the book so powerful.

     
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7 Interesting Facts About Jack Nicklaus

By Brian Hoey. Jan 21, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: First Editions

Jack Nicklaus is such a wildly accomplished golfer that listing out his achievements almost seems tedious. Though, perhaps it would reflect the slow, systematic nature of golf itself to cite each of his 18 major championship victories, his 73 PGA tour victories, and his double and triple career grand slams. After the spirit of his own writings (more on those later), however, we’ll keep the introduction brief: Jack Nicklaus is probably the greatest golfer of all time, and throughout his long and varied life and career he's done and accomplished a number of odd, surprising, and delightful things. Here are 7 of the most interesting.

     
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The Lost World: 5 Books Steven Spielberg Almost Adapted

By Brian Hoey. Dec 18, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins

Steven Spielberg (who turns 73 today!) is more than just one of the most successful and well-respected directors in Hollywood—he’s also a prolific adapter of books and other literary works for the silver screen. Some of his best known works, from Jaws (1974) to the Color Purple (1982) to Jurassic Park (1990), were originally based on books of various levels of literary acclaim. Because one of the great all-time literary and filmic pastimes is comparing novels to their screen adaptations, the book lovers of the world owe Spielberg a huge debt of gratitude (the fact that many of these films are truly great on their own doesn’t hurt either). 

     
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Eloise, C’est Moi: The Real Life of Kay Thompson

By Brian Hoey. Nov 9, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

There’s been plenty of speculation about what Eloise would be like as a grown up. Sarah Ferrell at the New York Times wrote that, “today, she’d probably be on Ritalin.” Carolyn Parkhurst at the New Yorker put together a short piece in 2014 imaging Eloise as a 46-year-old (still) living at the Plaza Hotel, which includes the line, “Some mornings, I wake up with a rawther awful hangover.” Surely somewhere there is a more optimistic take on the life trajectory of the maximally whimsical and mischievous among us—but the consensus seems a little bit dark.

     
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Michael Crichton: The Arthur Conan Doyle of the 20th Century?

By Brian Hoey. Oct 23, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Mystery, Suspense & Crime

If you’re good with dates, dear reader, you no doubt have a number of objections ready based simply on the title of this blog post. The Hound of the Baskervilles, which represents Sherlock Holmes’ first appearance after he was unceremoniously killed off by his author, actually appears in 1901, with a slow trickle of additional Holmes stories and other writings throughout the aughts, teens, and twenties. So, in point of fact, Arthur Conan Doyle is the Arthur Conan Doyle of the 20th century. We could call Michael Crichton the Conan Doyle of the Cold War, but Jurassic Park (1990) was published after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Let’s say instead that Crichton, who was born 12 years after Doyle’s death, could be Arthur Conan Doyle reincarnated.

     
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