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Neely Simpson
Lifelong bookworm. Lover of ghost stories and folklore who writes spooky fiction in her spare time. Is sometimes found rambling around old graveyards.

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From Hester Prynne to Lily Potter: Five Famous Literary Mothers

By Neely Simpson. May 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Literature

J.D. Salinger said, "Mothers are all slightly insane." Alice Walker complemented her mother with these words, "Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me." Maya Angelou wrote of her mother, "To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power."

From the slightly insane to the flawed to the near saintly, mothers have been a force of nature in both human history and in literature. In honor of Mother's Day, here are five literary mothers on which to ruminate this May.

     
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Kaye Gibbons: Reconciling Wounds Through Writing

By Neely Simpson. May 4, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Biographies

Kaye Gibbons's debut novel Ellen Foster (1987), which she wrote at the age of 26, opens with the sentence, "When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy." In a letter to her readers Gibbons explains, "Since Ellen Foster is autobiographical, it shouldn't come as a shock that when I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. My mother...became too sad and died when I was almost ten..." Back to the book, the fictional character, 11-year-old Ellen Foster says a few lines later, "But I did not kill my daddy. He drank his own self to death a year after the County moved me out." This raw, honest tone penetrates Kaye Gibbons' works, making them poignant reads and lenses into the power of writing through and about pain.

     
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Annie Dillard and the Influence of Henry David Thoreau

By Neely Simpson. Apr 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, American Literature, Biographies

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -Henry David Thoreau

Contemporary writer Annie Dillard draws great inspiration from legendary author Henry David Thoreau. Her crowning work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is often compared to Thoreau's Walden, for good reason. Here, we briefly explore Dillard's life and work to learn more about how she's both similiar to and different from Thoreau.

     
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Scott Turow: Novelist, Lawyer, and Rockstar

By Neely Simpson. Apr 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

On his Twitter profile, Scott Turow relays that he's "Considered by many as the Father of the Modern Legal Thriller." Time magazine would concur. It featured him on its June 11, 1990 cover and called Turow the "Bard of the Litigious Age." The issue goes on to ask, "Is he a lawyer who writes novels or a novelist who is a lawyer?" Time answers its own question stating: "In practice, as he demonstrated in his best-selling Presumed Innocent, Turow is both; his fiction bridges the divide between the popular and the serious, and the subject that keeps his readers turning pages is deeper than satisfactory verdicts. The pertinent evidence involves the redemption of souls."

     
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Stars and Books: A List of Celebrity Book Collectors

By Neely Simpson. Apr 6, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting

Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King

Every book lover finds himself enchanted by the stories he reads. Through books, we are all irresistibly drawn into new and different worlds. Truly, the magic of the book doesn't differentiate, and even celebrities - with all of their glamour, wealth, and power - find themselves under the same spell as the rest of us. Here is a look at four celebrity book collectors and the books they love.

     
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Ian Fleming and the Thunderball Court Case

By Neely Simpson. Mar 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond, Movie Tie-Ins

Ian Fleming began writing the ninth James Bond novel, Thunderball, in January of 1961 from his Jamaican home, Goldeneye Estate. His health was failing due to heart disease, and he was feeling burned out on Bond. So, for inspiration, he turned to a James Bond screenplay he'd worked on in 1958 in collaboration with Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ivar Bryce. When Thunderball was published in March of 1961, Fleming failed to credit his collaborators for the part they'd played in the creation of the novel and found himself at the center of a SMERSH-sized lawsuit for plagiarism.

     
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Tennessee Williams and the Catastrophe of Success

By Neely Simpson. Mar 24, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Drama

The Glass Menagerie narrowly avoided complete disaster when it premiered in Chicago in 1944 with the inebriated Laurette Taylor in the crucial role of overbearing matriarch, Amanda Wingfield. Taylor was found drunk in the alley behind the theater an hour and a half before the opening curtain. Somehow, despite needing to vomit in a bucket backstage between scenes, she managed to pull off a performance still considered legendary. It was this performance on which hung the destiny of one of America's greatest playwrights: Tennessee Williams.

     
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Poetry: All in the Family for Stephen Vincent Benét

By Neely Simpson. Mar 11, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Pulitzer Prize

Poetry seems to have been woven into the DNA of Stephen Vincent Benét. Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1898, Benét was the youngest child of Colonel James Walker Benét and Frances Neill Rose Benét. Both of the elder Benéts were avid readers with a keen appreciation for poetry. Frances Benét herself wrote poetry, and Stephen said of his father, "[he] was interested in everything from Byzantine Emperors to the development of heavy ordnance and was the finest critic of poetry I have ever known."

     
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Poetry and Jazz: The Night Sylvia Plath Met Ted Hughes

By Neely Simpson. Feb 26, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry

It was a winter night filled with poetry and jazz - a fateful night in which Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes. They were both attending a University of Cambridge party held at the Women's Union in Falcon Yard. The party was a celebration of the release of the first issue of the student written and published literary journal, St. Botolph's Review.

In her journal, Plath described the party as "very bohemian, with boys in turtleneck sweaters and girls being blue-eye-lidded or elegant in black." Jazz played loudly in the background while party goers shouted poetry to one another over the din of noise. Even though she'd come to the party with a date, Plath's eyes immediately fell on Ted Hughes, and their attraction was instant.

     
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Birdsong: The Legacy of Zitkala-Ša

By Neely Simpson. Feb 20, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Literature

Zitkala-Ša means "Red Bird" in the native language of the Dakota Sioux. An accomplished musician, writer, and political activist, Zitkala-Ša lived her life passionately and, in a way, with as much song as her name implies.

     
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How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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