Everyone has a favorite super spy—a character whose cunning nature, quick thinking, or pure mental and physical strength keep us rooting for them long after their books, TV series, or films have reached "the end." Before common names like Jack Bauer, Ethan Hunt, and Jason Bourne dotted the super spy landscape, another famous spy arrested our imagination: James Bond. The dashing and debonair 007 was the creation of Ian Fleming, who has earned a reputation as a legendary author. Yesterday marked the anniversary of Ian Fleming's death. In his honor, we take a look back at his life and his inspiration for writing the iconic James Bond series.
Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are sisters of great literary skill. All three are still published authors over 100 years after their deaths. The novels they produced explore the intricacy of human nature and the effect one person can have on others. Their lives provide examples of the difficult life faced by citizens in Industrial Age England. Before being published, the sisters were forced to be teachers and governesses. Once they started seeking publication, they were forced to use male pseudonyms in order to be published. All three died from causes treatable with modern medicine. Through their writing and, by extent, their lives, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë give readers a glimpse into the life of well-educated, intelligent women in the Victorian Era.
On January 12, 1876, author Jack London was born John Griffith Chaney. The son of astrologer William Chaney and music teacher/spiritualist Flora Wellman, London grew up in poverty. After working as a sailor, going to Alaska for the Klondike Gold Rush, and even doing a stint as a hobo, London came to see writing as his means of escaping the work "trap." He began his career, fortuitously, at a time when new printing technology made it more cost effective to publish magazines cheaply, and he was soon making an excellent living thanks to the burgeoning demand for short fiction. London became one of the most beloved American authors, capturing our imagination with his tales of adventure.
Summer is officially here in the northern hemisphere! What better way to spend your extra daylight than by grabbing a favorite book to read or exploring a used or rare book store in search of a collectible? We love a good summer read, whether you plan to enjoy it on the beach, in your backyard, at a lake house, or in the comfort of your air conditioned home. Check back tomorrow for some of our favorite books to read in the summer months. For now, we got thinking about some of our favorite "long" books. After all, today marks the longest day of the year. It’s also the publication anniversary of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which happens to be the longest book in the beloved series.
"A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life." So spoke Saul Bellow, one of the greatest American authors of the twentieth century. Rare book collectors have consistently been interested in Bellow's works, and that interest will only grow as his books get more scarce over time.
The Enlightenment was a period marked with so many innovations in art, science, and philosophy—not to mention all the political power-plays which took place the world over—that it can be difficult to fully unpack all that was accomplished. Book collectors interested in this period are often on the lookout for Daniel Defoe first editions such as the 1719 version of Robinson Crusoe, or the original works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, published in 1791, is another classic of the time. We mustn’t forget, however, that the 18th century gave rise to the field of natural history, and naturalists compiled some of the most interesting and astounding works of the period. One such work is a magnificent bit of art and science, exemplary of 18th century thought and achievement, and worthy of our admiration and study: Johann Jakob Scheuchzer’s magnum opus, Physica Sacra.
In Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 story "The Library of Babel", he describes an infinite library containing volumes that feature every possible combination of symbols. At one point, some of the inhabitants of this library go on a rampage, wantonly destroying many of the unique, unread books. While many of their fellow denizens are outraged that works with no copies have been expunged forever, they eventually reason that if the books really are infinite, then any particular destroyed volume will have an accompanying volume that is almost completely identical, and that, really, no harm can be done. I’m not sure whether that should make us feel better or worse when we think about all of the lost and destroyed works of art throughout the literary millennia, but in honor of World Poetry Day, let’s take a look at some works of poetry that we’ll never be able to read.
Self-publishing has its detractors, and not without reason. For every success story like Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) (now a major motion picture starring Matt Damon) or Sergio De La Pava’s PEN Debut Fiction-winning debut, A Naked Singularity (2008) (a sprawling postmodern masterpiece that was picked up by The University of Chicago Press four years after De La Pava’s wife convinced him to self-publish), there are thousands of self-published authors who will languish forever in obscurity. On the other hand, most of the works being published today by major presses will eventually go on to languish forever in their own slightly more prestigious obscurity. Both great and terrible works of literature can (and do) come from anywhere, and there’s no way to know what’s still going to be read a hundred years from now. For proof, here are four famous self-published debuts from literary history.