Thursday, May 28, 2009

This Week in Reading May 24 - 30

Authors born this week:

Nobel Prize in Literature: Novelist Mikhail Sholokov (1965), novelist Patrick White (1973), poet Joseph Brodsky (1987),

Novelists and story writers
Edward Bulwer Lytton, Louis Ferdinand Celine, John Cheever, Herman Wouk, Walker Percy, William Trevor, Rosario Castellanos, John Barth, John Gregory Dunne, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, W.P. Kinsella, Raymond Carver, Jamaica Kincaid, Alan Hollinghurst, Michael Chabon, Poppy Z. Brite

Poets and Playwrights
Poets: Thomas Moore, Countee Cullen, Theodore Roethke Playwrights: Arthur Wing Pinero, Arnold Wesker, Eve Ensler

Thinkers, Believers, Scientists, Historians, Biographers
Oswald Spengler Believers: William F. Albright Scientists: Paul Ehrlich, David Viscott Historians: Jacob Burckhardt

Humorists, Essayists, Editors, Journalists, Officials, Media and Others
Humorists: Cornelia Otis Skinner, Bob Hope Essayists: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Randolph Bourne, Rachel Carson, George Lakoff, Ian C. Bradley Editors: Bennett Cerf Officials: John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Rudy Giuliani

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Writers
: G. K. Chesterton Crime: Dashiell Hammett, Tony Hillerman Suspense: Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum

Fantasy / Science Fiction Writers
Fantasy: Al Sorrontonio, Harlan Ellison, Edward Lee, Catherine R. Kiernan, Kelley Armstrong Science Fiction: Hal Clement, Phyllis Gotlieb

Historical Fiction / Romance / Western Writers
Historical Fiction:
T. H. White Westerns: Max Brand

Visual Artists
Cartoonists: Lynn Johnston

Young People’s Writers
Children’s: Mo Willems

Events to read about: The start of this week marks the date when the island of Manhattan was bought by Europeans from unsuspecting native Americans. Or was it? Some scholars suggest the then residents thought they were only selling the right of passage through that part of the earth. Nevertheless, nearly three hundred years later on that day the New York Public Library opened its doors and mysteries of history began to be demythified. The week also offers many pairs of fascinating events and people to read about, such as Queen Victoria and Wild Bill HIckcock; Bennie Goodman and Miles Davis; John Scopes and Amelia Bloomer; Patrick Henry and (Glendale High grad) John Wayne; the Continental Congress and Tianeman Square; and more.

This Week’s Questions:
What a week of exemplars. Some of the best of a genre is here this week, a couple of superb short story writers, a top speculative fiction writer, great writers of mystery and suspense, the editor of many of America's most famous authors, and, finally, the ultimate essay writer whom everybody quotes, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson, however, didn't care for quotes himself.

Stay at home in your mind. Don't recite other people's opinions. I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

Still, he wrote too many good lines not to quote him. With his words in mind, then, which one of the following quotes are not by Emerson?

Tis the good reader that makes the good book.

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

Never read a book that is not a year old.

A great deal of contemporary criticism reads to me like a man saying "Of course, I do not like green cheese; I am very fond of brown sherry."

Answer to Last Week’s Questions:
Sir, I admit your general rule
That every poet is a fool;
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet

This famous epigram is most often, and most likely, attributed to the witty Alexander Pope, especially since he wrote many epigrams and also wrote The Dunciad, a long verse skewering, among others, the foolish and unpoetic actor - playwright Colley Cibber who butchered poetry in his adaptations of the bard. However, several sources attribute this epigram instead to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We have two complete works of Pope in the library. The one from Oxford includes this epigram. The one from Cambridge does not. Go figure. Not even a library solves everything.

And what is an epigram? It is simply a short, pithy statement that is easily remembered. From the ancient Greeks to nineteenth century epitaphs they were often attached, in limited word space, to the burial site of someone whom others felt needed to be remembered, but came to be used whenever a short, often poetic, and frequently satiric dig was needed. The best ad copywriters are often epigrammists, and there is little doubt that some of the best users of new media like Twitter will turn out to be memorable epigrammists as well.

What ever can be said today,
About having little or nothing much to say,
And yet you have no more than a slim
Dozen dozen spaces to say it all in?

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