Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This Week in Reading September 14 - 20

Bestselling authors show up again this week and next. In fact, according to the New York Times, the grand dame of mystery writers, Agatha Christie, born on Monday, has "been outsold in volume only by Shakespeare and the Bible." Her birthday is celebrated there by a week of festivals and events around Britain. This year Christie fans are thrilled at the announcement Monday that thirteen hours of tape recordings have been discovered in which she speaks about her characters and her writing. They show Christie, daughter of an American man and English mother, to be quintessentially English. The recordings will be made available online eventually.

Other authors of note this week are London's great wit and dictionary maker, Samuel Johnson, and Nobelist William Golding. (You probably haven't heard of the other Nobel prizewinner this week.) For Americans there is James Fenimore Cooper, one of this country's first popular novelists, Upton Sinclair, whose anti-robber baron novel, Oil, was turned into last year's great movie There Will Be Blood, and the novelist / Merry Prankster Ken Kesey. We also get two outstanding poets, William Carlos Williams and Donald Hall, along with a gentle humorist of both pen and screen, Robert Benchley. Science fiction fans will celebrate venerables Norman Spinrad and Damon Knight. As always, there are many more than these on the list.

Also occuring this week, according to the New York Times, a major new playwriting prize to be presented every two years will be given Wednesday for the first time. It is the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, nicknamed "the Mimi" after the female of the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, and carries a stipend of $200,000. The first winner of the Mimi is Tony Kushner, the playwright of Angels in America, Homebody / Kabul and other plays, adaptations, and screenplays.

This Week's Question: Which highly quotable writer born this week said this? "The surest way to make a monkey out of a man is to quote him."

Answer to Last Week's Question: The minor planet "3836 Lem" was named in honor of Stanislaw Lem. Lem was known popularly as a science fiction author, however his writing transcended the pure entertainment aspects of the genre as he was concerned with philosophical and social problems as humankind dealt with new technology and the prospect of greater levels of intelligence.

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