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Posts Tagged ‘literature

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”*…


From Julian Peters, the 24-page comic version of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (with larger, zoomable images).


* T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”


As we hear mermaids singing, we might send elegant birthday greetings to Marianne Moore; she was born on this date in 1887.   An American Modernist poet, critic, translator, and editor, she is known for formal innovation, precise diction, irony, and wit in her literary work… and for being probably the only highly-regarded poet ever to to be involved in automotive marketing.

She argues, in her best known poem, “Poetry,” that it is not formal attributes like meter that define poetry, but delight in language and precise, heartfelt expression…

… nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and
school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present
for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.



“So may the outward shows be least themselves”*…


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Further our our recent look at movie posters that move, Henning Lederer: “How would these great book covers from the past look like when set in motion? Here we go…”


* Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice


As we celebrate cerebration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1851 that Harper & Brothers published Herman Melville‘s novel, Moby Dick; it had appeared in the U.K. about a month earlier as The Whale. Based on Melville’s experience aboard a whaler and dedicated to Melville’s friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, the book received mixed reviews and sold poorly. It is now, of course, considered a classic– the peak of the American Renaissance.

The (altogether-unanimated) title page of first American edition




Written by LW

November 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I define nothing”*…


As evidenced in recent quotes from the worlds of politics, sports, and journalism, the word “wheelhouse” has become an increasingly prevalent metaphor for a person’s comfort zone or area of expertise:

“This is my wheelhouse. That’s what I do well. The economy is what I do well.”
~ Presidential candidate Donald Trump, on his economic program (9/28/15)

“He put it right in my wheelhouse. I just had to shoot.”
~ Hockey player Nikita Kucherov, on his game-winning goal (5/02/2015)

“…His values are very much in my wheelhouse.”
~ Broadcaster Tom Brokaw, on Lester Holt becoming an NBC anchor (6/22/2015)

Yet despite its increased usage, this metaphor is not well understood. Tracing its origins yields a story rooted in a technology-driven revolution that took place within the nation’s transportation infrastructure…

Explore etymology at “Wheelhouse: How Technology Changes the Meaning of Words.”

* Bob Dylan


As we change with the times, we might spare a thought for Geoffrey Chaucer; he died on this date in 1400. Best known in his lifetime as a philosopher, alchemist and astronomer,  he was the author of Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales (among other works)– for which he is now widely considered the “Father of English Literature” and the greatest poet of the English Middle Ages.

Chaucer, who coined–  was the first to use– around 2,000 words (in existing manuscripts), was the first person to be buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

A 17th century portrait of Chaucer



Written by LW

October 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary”*…


… In the meantime, let us remember that, as history repeats itself, so does the call on us all to do what we can to help.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East, which put these posters in circulation in the last years of World War I, began in 1915 as the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief and was formed as a humanitarian response to the Armenian genocide and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. As World War I developed, the group began to offer food and shelter to displaced people in Syria, Persia (now Iran), and Greece.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East’s posters often used the image of a child, or a young woman, to appeal to passers-by. Throughout the war, Americans also donated to relief campaigns for Belgian and French children, and the image of hungry young people and frightened mothers came to symbolize the plight of civilians caught up in the war.

In Syria, after the war, shelters run by Near East Relief (which was renamed and granted a Congressional charter after the end of the war) housed 45,000 orphans. The organization operated these facilities until 1930, when the last war orphans aged out of the need for care…

More at “The Heartbreaking Posters That Convinced Americans to Help Displaced Syrians During WWI.”

* Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah


As we reach deep, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 1659 that Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” was shipwrecked and marooned on the desert island that was his home for the next 28 years.  Defoe called his novel, based in part on the true story of shipwrecked sailor Alexander SelkirkThe Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

Title page of the first edition


Written by LW

September 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world”*…



Before dinner the Reverend Newman said grace: “Heavenly Father. What kind of a heel do you think I am? How dare you talk to me like that! Don’t give me any of your back talk, smart-ass. It’s been an  of a week. I sinned and brought shame down on us. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no big deal. You don’t know dick about this—you haven’t a clue! I suppose you believe that rubbish about vampires. The allegations were false, do you understand me? Baseless allegations. I believe in ghosts. Too bad, but that’s the way it is. Why don’t you leave me alone? Go on, get lost! I’ll get mine, you get yours, we’ll all get wealthy. Amen to that!”

More stories composed entirely of example sentences for the New Oxford American Dictionary at Dictionary Stories.

* Philip Pullman


As we channel our inner Tristan Tzara, we might recall that  it was on this date in 1937 that George Allen & Unwin published J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.  Widely critically-acclaimed in its time (nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction), it was a success with readers, and spawned a sequel… which became the trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

Cover of the first edition, featuring a drawing by Tolkien



Written by LW

September 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are”*…


Riverside Shakespeare Company production of The Mandrake Root, at the Casa Italia, New York, 1979, with a young Tom Hanks (center). Photograph by W. Stuart McDowell – Source

Most familiar today as the godfather of Realpolitik and as the eponym for all things cunning and devious, the Renaissance thinker Niccolò Machiavelli also had a lighter side, writing as he did a number of comedies. Christopher S. Celenza looks at perhaps the best known of these plays, Mandragola [The Mandrake Root], and explores what it can teach us about the man and his world…

More at “Machiavelli, Comedian.”

* Niccolò Machiavelli


As we ponder power, we might recall that it was on this date in 1515 that Thomas Wolsey was invested as a Cardinal.  Henry VIII became King of England in 1509; Wolsey became the King’s almoner.  Wolsey’s affairs prospered, and by 1514 he had becomeLord Chancellor, the King’s chief adviser– the controlling figure in virtually all matters of state, and extremely powerful within the Church. (His elevation to Cardinal gave him precedence even over the Archbishop of Canterbury.)

He fell from the King’s graces after failing to negotiate an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and was stripped of his government titles.  He retreated to York to fulfill his ecclesiastical duties as Archbishop of York, a position he had nominally held but had neglected during his years in government.  He was recalled to London to answer to charges of treason—a common charge used by Henry against ministers who fell out of favor—but died en route of natural causes.



Written by LW

September 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Curiouser and curiouser!”*…


On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandPublic Domain Review and Medium have jointly undertaken to create an online annotated edition featuring twelve Lewis Carroll scholars taking one chapter each, plus new artwork and remixes from classic 1865 and 1905 illustrations.

Dive in here.

* Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


As we believe “as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” we might send fantastic birthday greetings to Maximilian Goldmann– better known by his stage name, Max Reinhardt; he was born on this date in 1873.  An actor, director, and impresario, he is perhaps best known for his stage and subsequent film production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, a hit in the U.S., but banned in Germany by virtue of Reinhardt’s Jewish ancestry and that of Felix Mendelssohn, whose music was used throughout.

Reinhardt established the Salzburg Festival with Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.  He was the inspiration for the “Uncle Max/Max Detweiler” character in The Sound of Music— which was filmed in the Salzburg schloss that had been his home before he fled the Nazi Anschluss (now the home of the Salzburg Global Seminar).




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