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Rethinking Form: Musician Lou Reed's Short Stories

By Audrey Golden. Mar 31, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

It has now been more than three years since Lou Reed’s death, yet fans across the globe continue to listen to his music, and musicians cover his songs in homage. We’re willing to bet that you’re at least somewhat acquainted with the Velvet Underground, the band fronted and formed by Reed in the 1960s that was once managed by Andy Warhol, and you might even be a fan of Reed’s later solo work. But what do you know about the connections between his music and the world of literature? There are more links between famous fiction and Reed’s songwriting process than you might guess.

     
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How the Founding Fathers Help Us Understand Ourselves

By Matt Reimann. Jul 4, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Biographies

The term “Founding Fathers” was coined by a speechwriter named Judson Welliver. He wrote under the administration of Warren G. Harding, who said the phrase nearly a century after the last of that group perishedthe fourth president James Madison, who died in the year 1836. Yet even before they had a collective name, the legacies of the founders were constantly being reinterpreted.

     
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The Rhythm of a Writer: The Unlikely Journey of Bill Martin Junior

By Abigail Wheetley. Mar 20, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Biographies

Most of us who have children, or have been children, can find ourselves murmuring, “A told B and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree” the way others absentmindedly hum a song from the radio. The knowledge that he once wanted his work to be compared to jazz music is no great surprise, as Bill Martin Jr. penned many books like Chicka Chicka Boom Booma story about an alphabet made up of naughty lowercase letters who climb up a coconut tree and are sent crashing down only to be rescued by their uppercase parentsall geared towards the inquisitive, rhythm-hungry minds of children.

     
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How Evelyn Waugh Tried to Save P.G. Wodehouse's Reputation

By Brian Hoey. Feb 26, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Writers are often the best champions of other writers. In the early days of the last century, it was Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw who helped cement Henrik Ibsen’s reputation in the English-speaking world. Years later, Pulitzer Prize winner Walker Percy would play a crucial role in arranging the posthumous publication of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) after a manuscript thereof was sent to him by Toole’s mother. That Bernard Shaw and Walker Percy were, by then, quite prominent in their own rights was of course a huge help to their causes, as seems so often to be the case.That’s why it’s rather lucky for P.G. Wodehouse that his mantle was taken up by none other than Evelyn Waugh. 

     
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The Story Behind Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography

By Stephen Pappas. Jan 17, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Benjamin Franklin is undoubtedly one of the largest looming figures in American history. His shadow rests on everything from politics to spirituality. And his biography is just as important to American literature as he was to American politics. However, the road to publication was not easy. Fittingly of such an unconventional figure, the story behind Franklin’s autobiography is filled with many twists and turns.

     
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Walking the Tightrope: Five Must-Read Biographies

By Nick Ostdick. Nov 14, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies

Memoir? Science fiction? Fantasy? Sure, these genres of writing present their own unique challenges. But ask any number of writers about the most troublesome and potentially problematic genre and you’ll hear the same response time and time again: biography.

Setting about the task of capturing the life and essence of an individual in a few hundred pages is daunting, especially the more complicated, convoluted, and complex the subject. Biographers are often faced with a number of difficult decisions in terms of what events and moments are crucial to the biography, and those that can be discarded in service of painting a compelling and accurate portrait.

     
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Five Interesting Facts About Elizabeth Gaskell

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

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Elizabeth Gaskell was a woman ahead of her time. Her writing won the admiration of people like Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Eliot Norton, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others. Like modern professionals, Gaskell and her husband often lived separate lives in order to accommodate their own vocations. However, both were supportive and involved in the other's career. At the time of her death in 1865, the literary magazine The Athenaeum described her as, "if not the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists." Here are five interesting facts about this Victorian career woman.

     
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Fay Weldon: An Unfiltered and Unapologetic Voice for Women

By Katie Behrens. Sep 22, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies

The goal of an author is to find his or her own unique voice, distinct from all writers before. Some struggle for years to find the right style or tone, and others seem to happen upon their voice by accident. Fay Weldon is decidedly in the latter camp. An extremely prolific British writer now in her 80s, Weldon tells her stories with stark honesty and effortless wit, and she doesn’t care one jot what the critics say.

     
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Where Samuel Johnson and David Foster Wallace Meet

By Nick Ostdick. Sep 18, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies

In his infamous 1791 biography of British writer, essayist, and thinker Samuel Johnson, James Boswell wrote: “If nothing but the bright side of characters should be shown, we should sit down in despondency, and think it utterly impossible to imitate them in any thing.”

As it would happen, those words would prove prophetic in the response to Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, a book often credited with charting the course for what we consider the modern day biography.

     
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P.D. James: An Unlikely Writer

By Neely Simpson. Aug 3, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, I immediately wondered:
Did he fall — or was he pushed?
- P. D. James

It's hard to imagine a high school drop-out becoming one of the world's great novelists. In that regard, P.D. James seems an unlikely writer. However, the great P.D. James was a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the page. At the age of 16 she left school to help raise her two younger siblings, and she took a job to support her struggling family. She worked for the Red Cross during World War II and was also a National Health Service administrator. But, she spent the majority of her career with the Home Office of the British Civil Service in the Police and Criminal Law Department. She was the sole breadwinner for her two daughters and a husband who had to be institutionalized after World War II. Additionally, she was appointed as a life "peer" and named Baroness James of Holland Park. She served in the House of Lords as a Conservative and was a governor of the BBC. It boggles the mind that P.D. James found the time to write at all, let alone author 19 novels and 1 autobiography.

     
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