Monday, November 12, 2007

This Week in Reading November 11 - 17

Among the authors born this week are more who became literary institutions, but the reputation of each this week was founded upon seeing the world differently then the mainstream around them. Or, perhaps some might say, this group saw more clearly within the multiplicity of worlds that exist around the mainstream and more accurately portrayed reality through seeming unreality.

Kurt Vonnegut's other worlds sharply delineated this one populated by fools and often run by bigger fools. The novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky and poet Aleksandr Blok were both symbolists of sorts going deep into psychological realities. Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, while called theatre of the absurd, shows how person after person in a society can be swept into the fascist thundering herd. Mexico's Carlos Fuentes experimented with unusual prose styles and characters. Portugal's Jose Saramago won a Nobel prize for his works of sociopolitical fantasy. In a sense though every writer is an outsider, this group wrote differently about what was around them and because of that the literary world changed around them. It is worth noting, however, that other writers born this week also pushed boundaries and others worked extremely well within them. It's a strong week all around.

This Week's Question:
Also born this week was another kind of institution,
Robert Lewis Stevenson of Scotland, who traveled the world and created some of the western world's most loved adventure books. Among them Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson's own life would make a fine movie as his travels and romances led him from Paris to northern California, back to the United Kingdom, and then to the Adirondacks in New York State. He and his wife later returned to England where he wrote some of his best known work, but where did Robert Louis Stevenson end up in the last few years of his life?

Answer to Last Week's Question: Eugene V. Debs was the Socialist party candidate for president several times and like comedians Pat Paulsen, Stephen Colbert, and Stephanie Miller after him, Will Rogers ran for president in 1928 as the nominee of the Anti-Bunk Party arranged by Life magazine. His quotes on politics are still as fresh as when he said them "There is one rule that works in every calamity. Be it pestilence, war, or famine, the rich get richer and poor get poorer. The poor even help arrange it. "

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