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Jack London and Living the American Dream

By Dawn Morgan. Jan 12, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” ~Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Writer and social justice activist Jack London turned every life adventure into a published story. A master of fiction, his writings ran the gamut from novels and short stories, to poems, and plays, and he also wrote nonfiction essays and worked as a journalist. Born on January 12, 1876 in San Francisco, to an unwed mother, London never knew his father. He grew up poor, which was among the conditions he attributed to his success as a writer. London would become one of the most widely read and financially successful writers of his time.

     
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Mark Twain and the First Great American Novel

By Kristin Wood. Nov 30, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature, Mark Twain

It's hard to overstate the influence of Mark Twain. Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn," and many critics now cite this work as the first "Great American Novel."

While the majority of those in the English-speaking world have heard of Mark Twain, and his two most famous novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they may not know as much about this classic American author as they may think. To start with, Mark Twain is not even his real name.

     
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Veterans Day Spotlight: The Life & Works of Tim O'Brien

"I carry the memories of the ghosts of a place called Vietnamthe people of Vietnam, my fellow soldiers. More importantly, I carry the weight of responsibility and a sense of abiding guilt." Tim O'Brien, in an interview with NPR.

Tim O’Brien, most notably acclaimed for his stories on the War in Vietnam, was born on October 1, 1947. Today, as the United States celebrates Veterans Day, we thought we'd take a closer look at O'Brien's life and work.

     
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The Controversial, Visionary Authorship of Susan Sontag

By Kristin Masters. Sep 27, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature

Born Susan Rosenblatt on January 16, 1933 in New York City, Susan Sontag would grow up to be not only an author, but also a critic, scholar, and activist. She began and ended her writing career with fiction; in between she traveled to war zones and contemplated the changing face of art.

     
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Seven Books We All Read in School

It's the day after Labor Day, and that means for many, it's time to go back to school. Books and school go hand-in-hand. Whether they were on summer reading lists, sprinkled throughout the general curriculum, or assigned for a book report, the following books represent some of the most common novels we all read in school. Check out some of these classic novels and relive your school days.

     
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Norman Mailer: Novelist, Activist, and New Journalist

By Kristin Masters. Jul 26, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

On January 31, 1923, Norman Kingsley Mailer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. He'd grow to become one of the preeminent American authors of the 20th century, writing about 40 books and countless essays and stories. Mailer's work earned him two Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Award, while his politics garnered some less positive criticism.

     
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McSweeney's Publishing Company: Notable Titles

By Brian Hoey. Jul 16, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, American Literature, First Editions

The brainchild of acclaimed author and philanthropist Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s has been publishing vibrant, frequently off-kilter writing in various forms for more than 20 years. While for many the name McSweeney’s primarily conjures up images of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, (i.e. the good people who brought us “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherf*ckers”), the publisher also puts out a quarterly literary magazine as well as standalone books. Though these various concerns may seem disparate, there is certainly a unity to the various Eggers-run projects, and readers can expect anything with the McSweeney’s stamp to showcase an often wry (though sometimes quite serious), literary sense of adventure.

     
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How Harriet Beecher Stowe (and Lincoln) Freed the Slaves

By Andrea Koczela. Jun 14, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature

In the mid-eighteen hundreds, women had no voice in American politics. Yet one woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, played a central role in triggering the Civil War and bringing about the abolition of slavery. Prior to Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, abolitionists were considered an extremist group—even in the North. Yet the publication of Uncle Tom changed everything. In honor of her birthday, let's take a look at Harriet Beecher Stowe's influence.

     
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Tom Wolfe: Fiction, Journalism, and Legacy

By Brian Hoey. May 16, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature

Tom Wolfe, acclaimed journalist and writer, has died at the age of 88. In his honor, we revisit his life and work today. The prospect of writing a blog post on Tom Wolfe and his influence is daunting. The man who has been such a presence in the world of American letters these past forty years, having authored The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), looms large, not just over a new generation of writers and journalists, but over the blogosphere in particular. He did, after all, call out blogs for being "a universe of rumors," citing Wikipedia in particular as being an institution that only "a primitive could believe a word of." How a primitive could successfully navigate all the way to Wikipedia may be a good inquiry for another time, but the pressing question still remains: how do you blog about the man who hated blogs?

     
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Hawthorne Heights: How John Updike Rewrote "The Scarlet Letter"

By Brian Hoey. Mar 16, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Remember the film Easy A (2010), in which Emma Stone stars as a high-school student ostracized for her (invented) promiscuity? In the film, Stone’s character eventually takes to wearing a read letter “A” on her person in reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s seminal novel of adultery and Puritanism, The Scarlet Letter (1850), on which the film’s screenplay is partially based. In one sense, it’s amazing that Hawthorne’s novel, which was one of America’s first important literary works, continues to assert its cultural relevance in the 21st century. In another sense, though, we really oughtn’t be surprised. After all, there have been numerous instances of artists updating The Scarlet Letter for contemporary audiences. In one particular such instance, “contemporary” meant 1988, and the artist was the revered John Updike. 

     
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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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