Friday, August 28, 2015

Notes For August 28th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On August 28th, 1749, the legendary German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born. He was born in Frankfurt, where he lived with his family in a large house.

Goethe's siblings, except for his younger sister Cornelia, died at early ages. As a boy, Goethe received his education from tutors, as his father determined to give his children all the educational advantages he never had.

The young Goethe quickly developed an interest in literature, with Homer and the German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock among his earliest favorite authors. He was also devoted to the theater and particularly fond of the puppet shows staged in his home.

When he was sixteen, Goethe began studying law in Leipzig, but came to detest it. He fell in love with a girl named Käthchen Schönkopf and wrote her love poems, but failed to win her heart.

Three years later, in 1768, Goethe returned to Frankfurt, as his studies were going nowhere. In 1770, he published his first book anonymously. It was a poetry collection called

Goethe wrote prolifically, but soon fell seriously ill. His relationship with his father strained, he was nursed back to health by his mother and sister. Bored during his convalescence, he wrote in bed. After he recovered, his father sent him to Strasbourg to finish his studies.

In Strasbourg, Goethe met poet and philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, and they became close friends. Herder got him interested in Shakespeare's plays and in volkspoesie - folk poetry.

After he finished his law studies, Goethe's thesis, based on his own ideas, was published. He was offered a job in the French government but rejected it and returned to Frankfurt, where he was certified to practice law.

Working for the local government, Goethe tried to make the law more humane and progressive. As a result, he was reprimanded and terminated from his position.

Disgusted with law, Goethe decided to pursue a literary career. This time, his father was supportive of his decision and even helped him out. Goethe became an editor for a literary magazine, but he couldn't support himself on his small salary.

So, in 1772, he went to Wetzlar to practice law again. Two years later, in 1774, he published his first novel,
The Sorrows of Young Werther. The tragic tale was an important novel of the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) era of German literature.

Goethe's novel, which mostly takes the form of a collection of letters, tells the story of Werther, a young, sensitive aspiring artist.

While staying in the fictional village of Wahlheim, Werther meets a beautiful girl named Lotte, who has been caring for her siblings since their mother died. Werther falls in love with Lotte, even though she's already engaged to marry Albert, a man eleven years her senior.

Werther becomes close friends with both Lotte and Albert, but his love for Lotte causes him too much pain, so he goes to Wiemar, where he suffers more embarrassment. Returning to Wahlheim, Werther finds that Lotte and Albert have married.

Lotte, feeling both sorrow for her friend and respect for her husband, decides that Werther shouldn't visit them so often. He makes one final visit, where he delivers a memorable recitation of a portion of Ossian.

Werther ultimately realizes that this painful love triangle can only be dissolved by the death of himself, Albert, or Lotte, but he is unable to harm Albert or Lotte.

Seeing no other choice, Werther has Lotte send him two pistols. He commits suicide, dying twelve hours after shooting himself. Neither Lotte nor Albert nor a clergyman attends his funeral.

The Sorrows of Young Werther was considered controversial and accused of romanticizing suicide, which was considered sinful by Christian doctrine. Suicides were denied Christian burial.

From a young age, Goethe loathed the Church, whose history he described as "a hotchpotch of mistakes and violence." He had no use for its doctrines.

The Sorrows of Young Werther became a huge success for Goethe and made him world famous, but it didn't make him rich. Copyright law was virtually nonexistent at the time and pirated editions of literary works were common.

Goethe thwarted the pirates by periodically authorizing "new" and "revised" editions of his works. His new found fame won him an invitation to the court of Carl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. So, he went to Weimar, where he lived the rest of his life and held several offices, eventually becoming the Duke's chief adviser.

As a writer, Goethe remained prolific and authored a large body of works, mostly poetry and plays, along with the occasional novel.

Some of his classic poems include
Prometheus (1773), Hermann and Dorothea (1798), and Roman Elegies (1790). Roman Elegies, aka Erotica Romana, was a collection of poems written during Goethe's two year visit to Italy.

During his lifetime (and afterward) some of these poems were suppressed due to their sexual imagery. Goethe's poetry has inspired the works of legendary composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert.

As a playwright, Goethe was best known for his masterpiece, Faust. It was written in two parts. The first, Faust Part One, was published in 1808, and the second, Faust Part Two, which Goethe completed shortly before his death in 1832, was published posthumously.

In the play, God bets Mephisto (the Devil) that he can't tempt His favorite scholar, Dr. Faust. So, Mephisto offers Faust a bargain - he'll do Faust's bidding on Earth if Faust will do his bidding in Hell when he dies.

Unsatisfied by his scientific studies, Faust has a clause added to the contract: Mephisto must provide him something that will satisfy him - a moment that Faust would want to last forever. Mephisto agrees, so Faust signs the contract in blood.

God allows Faust to be led astray so He can lead him to the right path, teaching the scholar that "man must still err while he doth strive." Faust's attempts to satisfy his desires have disastrous consequences for those he cares about.

Faust became Goethe's best known work, one that still influences popular culture today. Goethe's play has been adapted for the opera and for the screen.

The most famous movie adaptation was the 1926 German silent feature film classic directed by F.W. Murnau, starring Emil Jannings as Mephisto.

In addition to his writing and practice of law, Goethe was also involved in scientific work. He had a keen interest in natural science and wrote scientific books on subjects such as insect morphology, homology, and color theory.

But he was best known for his fiction, poetry, and plays, with which he established himself as one of Germany's greatest writers. He died in 1832 at the age of 82.

Quote Of The Day

"None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Goethe's classic play, Faust! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Notes For August 27th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On August 27th, 1871, the famous American writer Theodore Dreiser was born. He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, the twelfth of thirteen children. The popular songwriter Paul Dresser was Dreiser's older brother.

In 1889, Dreiser entered Indiana University, but he flunked out a year later. Several years after flunking out of university, Theodore Dreiser became a journalist, writing first for the Chicago Globe, then for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

He wrote articles about famous writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Burroughs and interviewed public figures such as Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison. On December 28th, 1898, he married his girlfriend, Sara White. The couple separated in 1909, but never divorced.

In 1900, Theodore Dreiser's acclaimed first novel, Sister Carrie, was published. The controversial novel told the story of 18-year-old Caroline "Carrie" Meeber, a young girl living an unhappy life in rural Wisconsin.

So, Carrie takes a train to Chicago, where she has made arrangements to move in with her older sister Minnie and her brother-in-law, Sven. On the train, Carrie meets a traveling salesman named Charles Drouet. He is attracted to her and they exchange information.

Carrie finds life at her sister's apartment not much happier than it was in Wisconsin. To earn her keep, Carrie takes a job at a shoe factory. She finds her co-workers (both male and female) vulgar and the working conditions squalid. The job takes a toll on her health.

After getting sick, Carrie loses her job. She is reunited with Charles Drouet, who is still attracted to her. He takes her to dinner, where he asks her to move in with him, lavishing her with money. Tired of living with her sister and brother-in-law, Carrie agrees to be Drouet's kept woman.

Later, Drouet introduces Carrie to George Hurstwood, the manager of his favorite bar. Hurstwood, an unhappily married man, falls in love with Carrie, and they have an affair. But she returns to Drouet because Hurstwood can't provide for her financially.

So, Hurstwood embezzles a large sum of money from the bar and persuades Carrie to run away with him to Canada. In Montreal, Hurstwood is trapped by both his guilty conscience and a private detective and returns most of the stolen money.

He agrees to marry Carrie and the couple move to New York City, where they live under the assumed names George and Carrie Wheeler. Carrie believes she may have finally found happiness, but then she and George grow apart.

After George loses his source of income and gambles away the couple's savings, Carrie, who has been trying to build a career in the theater, leaves him. She becomes a rich and famous actress, but finds that wealth and fame don't bring her happiness and that nothing will.

When it was first published, Si
ster Carrie sold poorly. Due to its controversial nature, even though Dreiser had cut some material himself and other parts had been altered by editors, the publisher initially reneged on his agreement to publish the novel. Fortunately, a new agreement was reached and the novel was published.

Unfortunately for Dreiser, the publisher refused to promote it and gave it a bland, red cover, with only the names of the novel and the author on it. When the publisher's wife complained that the novel was too sordid, he withdrew it from circulation.

Later, it was republished when Frank Norris, a reader for Doubleday & McClure, sent a few copies to reviewers. All the subsequent editions of the novel came from the first publisher's edited version of the manuscript.

Theodore Dreiser earned only $68.40 from the ill-fated first publication of Sister Carrie. The ordeal drove the writer to a nervous breakdown and turned him off writing for ten years. Ironically, it also ended up saving his life.

In 1912, Dreiser had originally planned to book passage home from England on the Titanic. Unable to afford tickets for the ill-fated luxury ocean liner, he sailed home earlier on a less expensive passenger ship.

In 1981, Dreiser's original, unexpurgated manuscript of Sister Carrie was finally published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Still, even in its edited version, Sister Carrie was regarded as a classic American novel. In his 1930 Nobel Prize Lecture, Sinclair Lewis said of it:

Dreiser's great first novel, Sister Carrie, which he dared to publish thirty long years ago and which I read twenty-five years ago, came to housebound and airless America like a great free Western wind, and to our stuffy domesticity gave us the first fresh air since Mark Twain and Whitman.

Theodore Dreiser wrote more classic novels, including his Trilogy of Desire series, The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and The Stoic (1947). But his 1925 epic novel, An American Tragedy, became his first commercial success. It's also considered a classic novel.

Inspired by a real life criminal case and set in Kansas City, it tells the story of Clyde Griffiths, the son of poor, devoutly religious parents who force him to join in their street missionary work. Dreaming of better things, he takes a job as bellboy at a local hotel

There, the other boys introduce him to alcohol and prostitutes. He falls in love with a girl, Hortense Briggs, and does everything he can to impress her.
While driving a stolen car, Clyde accidentally kills a child. He flees Kansas City.

After staying briefly in Chicago, Clyde reinvents himself as a foreman at a collar factory in Lycurgus, New York, owned by his long-lost uncle. Clyde promised himself that he wouldn't let his passions cause his downfall again, but then he falls for Roberta Alden.

Roberta is a poor farm girl who works under him at the factory. He enjoys their secret relationship (which is forbidden by company rules) and manipulates Roberta into having sex with him.

Clyde is not about to marry a poor farm girl; later, he He falls for Sondra Finchley, an elegant rich girl whose father is a friend of his uncle's.
Just as his relationship with Sondra shows promise, Clyde learns that Roberta is pregnant.

His attempt at arranging an illegal abortion proves unsuccessful, and Roberta threatens to reveal their relationship unless Clyde marries her. He decides to murder her instead. He takes her for a canoe ride and ends up hitting her with his camera.

The boat capsizes, and Roberta, who can't swim, drowns while Clyde swims back to shore, unwilling to save her.
The narrative is deliberately unclear as to whether Clyde really attempted to kill Roberta, or just struck her out of anger.

But the circumstantial evidence suggests murder, and the authorities are so determined to convict Clyde that they resort to manufacturing evidence to secure a conviction.

Despite a strong defense by lawyers hired by his uncle, Clyde is convicted and sentenced to death. The novel's greatest scenes of pathos take place in prison, where Clyde corresponds with his mother until the day of his execution.

In addition to his novels, Theodore Dreiser also wrote short story collections and nonfiction books about political issues. A devout socialist, Dreiser wrote of his 1927 trip to the Soviet Union in Dreiser Looks at Russia

He criticized American capitalism in
Tragic America (1931) and America is Worth Saving (1941). But he was best known for his fiction and is rightfully considered to be one of the all-time greatest American novelists.

Theodore Dreiser died 1945 at the age of 74.

Quote Of The Day

"Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail." - Theodore Dreiser

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Theodore Dreiser's classic epic novel, An American Tragedy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Notes For August 26th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On August 26th, 1904, the famous English writer Christopher Isherwood was born in High Lane, Cheshire, England. His father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army, and moved the family often to wherever he was stationed.

Lt. Col. Isherwood was killed in action during World War I. Afterward, Christopher Isherwood and his mother lived in London and Wyberslegh. Isherwood attended St. Edmund's prep school in Surrey.

There, he met W.H. Auden, a soon to be famous writer who would become Isherwood's protege and close friend. After St. Edmund's, Isherwood attended Repton School, where he met writer Edward Upward, who would become a lifelong friend.

Isherwood and Upward collaborated on a short story collection, The Mortmere Stories. Although famous in literary circles, only one of the stories would be published during Isherwood's lifetime. The whole collection of stories was published posthumously in 1994.

Christopher Isherwood entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, but deliberately failed his exams and left the college without a degree in 1925. He took a job as secretary for violinist André Mangeot and his string quartet, living with Mangeot and his family for the next three years.

In his spare time, Isherwood studied medicine and wrote a book of nonsensical poetry called
People One Ought To Know, which was illustrated by Mangeot's 11-year-old son, Sylvain.

Later in 1925, Isherwood was reunited with W.H. Auden. He became Auden's literary mentor and occasional lover. Auden introduced him to writer Sir Stephen Spender, whom he would later spend time with in Berlin.

Isherwood's first novel,
All The Conspirators, was published in 1928. It was about a young man, Philip, who longs to escape the office where he works, but is torn between pleasing his oppressive, domineering mother and living out his dream of becoming an artist. Philip's only ally is his sister, Joan.

Around the time his first novel was published, Isherwood studied medicine at King's College, London, but dropped out in six months to join W.H. Auden in Berlin. He had rejected his upper class roots and was openly gay though homosexuality was still a crime in England.

Isherwood came to love Berlin, which, before the rise of Hitler and Nazism, was known as one of Europe's most cultured and liberal cities. He took advantage of the sexual freedom in Berlin and indulged in his passion for handsome young men. He met one, Heinz, who became his first great love.

Isherwood's second novel, The Memorial, was published in 1932. It was another tale of conflict between mother and son, based on Isherwood's family history. While writing his third novel, Mr. Norris Changes Trains (1935), Isherwood worked as a tutor.

When Hitler came to power in Germany, Isherwood left Berlin and traveled around Europe, living in cities such as Sintra, Portugal, and Copenhagen, Denmark. Around this time, he collaborated on three plays with W.H. Auden:
The Dog Beneath The Skin (1935), The Ascent Of F6 (1936), and On The Frontier (1939).

In 1939, Isherwood published one of his masterpieces, a collection of short stories and novellas called The Berlin Stories. They were inspired by Isherwood's time living in Berlin and his experiences with its sexual underground.

The book's stories would be adapted as a play called
I Am A Camera and a popular, Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Cabaret, which would be adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1972 starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey.

The city of Berlin would erect a plaque in Isherwood's memory on the house in Schoneberg, Berlin, where he had lived.
In 1939, after visiting New York City on their way back to England, Isherwood and Auden decided to emigrate to the United States.

This decision, made just months before England declared war on Germany, officially beginning World War II, was seen as a kind of betrayal by the patriotic crowd in England. Isherwood stayed in New York with Auden for a few months, then moved to Hollywood, California.

In Hollywood, he met mystic and historian Gerald Heard, who introduced him to Swami Prabhavananda and his Vedantic brand of Hindu spirituality and philosophy. Isherwood joined a group of mystic explorers that included writer Aldous Huxley and philosopher Bertrand Russell.

He embraced Vedanta and, working with the Swami, translated Hindu scriptures, wrote Vedanta essays, and the biography
Ramakrishna and His Disciples. He also wrote Vedanta themed novels and plays.

In 1946, Isherwood became a naturalized American citizen. This made him eligible for the draft, however, he had already established himself as a conscientious objector. Throughout the late 40s and early 50s, Isherwood spent most of his time with his Vedanta writings.

On Valentine's Day, 1953, while spending time on the beach with friends, the 48-year-old Isherwood was introduced to an 18-year-old aspiring artist named Don Bachardy. Despite a 30-year age difference and being interrupted by affairs and separations, Bachardy and Isherwood would remain partners until Isherwood's death.

During the early months of their relationship, (which would be chronicled in the acclaimed 2008 documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story) Isherwood finally completed The World In The Evening (1954), a novel he'd been working on for a few years. Bachardy typed up the manuscript.

When he wasn't writing, Isherwood taught creative writing at California State University, Los Angeles.
In 1962, Isherwood's novel Down There On A Visit was published. A semi-sequel to The Berlin Stories, the novel is narrated by a hedonistic writer who proves himself to be a man of extremes.

He relentlessly pursues physical pleasures, but interrupts his binges of debauchery to engage in meditation and take up disciplines such as learning a foreign language. He meets a famous male prostitute and the two men decide to take up a spiritual life dedicated to self-denial and meditation.

Two years later, in 1964, Isherwood published his other masterpiece, A Single Man. Told in a stream of consciousness narrative, the novel takes place during one day in the life of George Falconer, a middle-aged gay Englishman and professor living in Los Angeles, as he struggles to cope with the sudden death of his partner Jim in a car accident.

The novel's frank and honest treatment of homosexuality and gay relationships proved to be a shocker in 1964, but it was Isherwood's dazzling prose that made the novel a masterpiece.

Isherwood's fellow English writer Anthony Burgess declared it "a testimony to Isherwood's undiminished brilliance as a novelist." An acclaimed feature film adaptation of A Single Man was released in December of 2009, starring Colin Firth as George Falconer.

For the rest of his life, Christopher Isherwood lived with his partner Don Bachardy in Santa Monica, California. He died of prostate cancer in 1986 at the age of 81, after which, Bachardy's portraits (he had become a successful draughtsman and painter) of his dying partner became famous.

Quote Of The Day

"The Nazis hated culture itself, because it is essentially international and therefore subversive of nationalism. What they called Nazi culture was a local, perverted, nationalistic cult, by which a few major artists and many minor ones were honored for their Germanness, not their talent." - Christopher Isherwood

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a 1969 BBC TV documentary on Christopher Isherwood. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Notes For August 25th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On August 25th, 1949, the famous English writer Martin Amis was born. He was born in Oxford, England, the son of famous writer Sir Kingsley Amis.

As a boy, Martin Amis attended 14 different schools, as his father gave lectures at colleges and universities all over the United Kingdom and the United States, taking the family with him.

Martin Amis was twelve years old when his parents divorced. He only read comic books until his stepmother, novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, introduced him to the novels of Jane Austen, whom he credited as his earliest influence.

As a teenager, Martin became a hippie and hung out at bars with the mod crowd. He later graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, with a Congratulatory First in English, which he described as "the sort where you are called in for a viva and the examiners tell you how much they enjoyed reading your papers."

In 1973, Martin Amis' first novel, The Rachel Papers, was published. The semi-autobiographical comic novel told the story of Charles Highway, a bright, bookish, 19-year-old wannabe intellectual making the transition from adolescence to manhood.

Nasty yet moral, calculating yet able to love, Charles falls for the lovely Rachel, executes a carefully planned seduction of her, then abandons her even though she may be pregnant with his child. The absurdly conceited Charles doesn't realize how much he has in common with his father, whom he detests.

The Rachel Papers, which was adapted as a feature film in 1989, won Martin Amis the Somerset Maugham Award - the same award his father had won for his 1954 novel, Lucky Jim. Unfortunately, Sir Kingsley Amis showed no interest in his son's work and often derided it.

Martin's next novel, Dead Babies (1975), a black comedy, has been described as a cross between the works of P.G. Wodehouse and the Marquis de Sade. It's set in a bleak future where excess has become the norm, as the characters engage in orgies of sex and drugs. Dead Babies was adapted as a feature film in 2000, released in the United States under the title Mood Swingers.

Some of Martin Amis' best known and most respected novels were written in the 1980s and 90s, including Money (1984), London Fields (1989), Time's Arrow (1991), and The Information (1995).

In Time's Arrow, which was nominated for a Booker Prize, the novel is the autobiography of its main character, an ex-Nazi doctor accused of torturing Jews during the Holocaust. Amis employs an unusual narrative technique: time runs backward during the entire novel, to the point that the characters even speak backward.

In addition to his novels, Martin Amis also wrote short story collections and nonfiction. Some of his most memorable nonfiction books include The Moronic Inferno And Other Visits To America (1986) - a collection of satirical essays about all things American, from fashion to the religious right.

Koba The Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million (2002) is about the horrors of Stalinism. His most recent nonfiction book, The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom (2008) offers scathing attacks on both Islamic fundamentalism and the Bush administration's response to it.

Martin Amis' latest novel, The Zone Of Interest, was published in August of 2014. Set in the Auschwitz concentration camp, circa 1942, it tells the story of Angelus Thomsen, a Nazi officer who falls in love with Hannah Doll, the wife of the commandant, Paul Doll.

The affair awakens the humanity of Thomsen, who becomes appalled by the inhumanity of Auschwitz. His love for Hannah helps her find sanity in an insane existence as the wife of the deluded, psychopathic commandant.

When her husband discovers the affair, Hannah's hate for Paul escalates, and she uses the affair to taunt him in private and embarrass him in public. So he plots to have her killed by blackmailing Szmul Zacharias, a Jewish Sonderkommando.

The novel features alternating first-person narration by Thomsen, Paul Doll, and Szmul Zacharias. Critics called it the best novel Amis has written since London Fields (1989).

Quote Of The Day

"When success happens to an English writer, he acquires a new typewriter. When success happens to an American writer, he acquires a new life." - Martin Amis

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Martin Amis discussing his latest novel at the Chicago Humanities Festival. Enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2015

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Joanna M. Weston

My poem, “The Long Heat,” is up at the Plum Tree Tavern. Stop by and have a drink!

Judith Kelly Quaempts

Two works at Camroc Press Review: “Sisterhood,” and “St. Remy.”

Lynne Hinkey

My review of our own Guilie Castillo-Oriard's, Miracle of Small Things, is up at the Internet Review of Books. Please take a look, and congratulations, Guilie!

Guilie Castillo Oriard

The Miracle of Small Things has its first review, care of author extraordinaire (and long-time IWW member) Lynne Hinkey, and the awesome folks at the Internet Review of Books who rushed the review to the head of the queue. Lynne - Gary - Bob - I have no words.
There is no better place on the internet - or elsewhere - for writers than IWW. Never a tighter, more supportive community. From IWW I've learned - well, everything. Including the fact that a writer's success owes very little to the writer him/herself. Whatever success The Miracle of Small Things finds, it belongs to the IWW.

K. W. McCabe

I'm really excited to say that a cover artist named Mihaela Voicu has chosen The Dragon's Call series for her pro bono cover art and design project! The new cover is featured on my site, and the other covers are being created as we speak. For those of you who are self- publishers, you know how difficult it is to create or buy a cover for your book. So, this is a major blessing for me!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Notes For August 21st, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On August 21st, 1920, Christopher Robin Milne was born. His father was the famous English writer A.A. Milne, who began his career as a playwright, writing over 25 plays. When his son was a year old, he received a teddy bear as a present.

Christopher Robin would name his teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh, after two real-life animals he encountered: Winnie, a Canadian black bear he saw at the London Zoo, and Pooh, a swan he saw while on vacation.

Christopher Robin's growing collection of stuffed animals, which included a piglet, a tiger, a donkey, and a kangaroo, inspired his father to try his hand at writing children's stories.

His son's teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, would be the main character, and the animals' human friend, a young boy, would be named after Christopher Robin.

In 1925, A.A. Milne bought a country estate, Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, East Sussex, which would serve as the inspiration for Pooh's home, the Hundred Acre Wood.

Winnie-the-Pooh would first appear in a series of short stories published in magazines and newspapers, including Vanity Fair and the London Times.

In 1926, A.A. Milne published a short story collection in book form, called Winnie-the-Pooh, portions of which were adapted from the earlier stories.

It would be followed by a second story collection, The House At Pooh Corner (1928). Both books were illustrated by Ernest Shepard, who used the real Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals as models for the illustrations.

In 1966, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends made their film debut in an animated Disney featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.

The short proved to be so popular that Disney made two more featurettes, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! (1974).

Three years later, Disney cast Pooh in his first feature-length animated film, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), which would become an all-time classic.

More movies followed, and the Winnie-the-Pooh franchise would include a TV series, animated TV specials, numerous toys, and even video games.

The enduring, beloved character and his forest friends continue to win new generations of fans, both young and old alike.

And it all began over ninety years ago, with a little boy named Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals.

Quote Of The Day

"The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief — call it what you will — than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course." - A.A. Milne

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of chapter one of A.A. Milne's first Winnie the Pooh book. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Notes For August 20th, 2015

This Day In Writing History

On August 20th, 1890, the legendary American writer H.P. Lovecraft was born. He was born Howard Phillips Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island. He was the only child of a traveling salesman, Winfield Scott Lovecraft.

When H.P. was three, his father suffered a severe psychotic episode while on a business trip in Chicago. He had to be committed to an asylum, as his mental illness was diagnosed as a result of syphilis. He died five years later.

After his father's death, Lovecraft was raised by his mother, her two sisters, and their father, all of whom lived in the same house. Lovecraft was a child prodigy; at the age of three, he could read poetry and recite it verbatim. By the age of six, he was writing his own poems.

His grandfather encouraged his voracious passion for reading, supplying him with classics such as The Arabian Nights, Bullfinch's Age Of Fable, and children's versions of Homer's classic epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Lovecraft's grandfather encouraged his passion for the weird by telling him his own original Gothic horror stories. His mother worried that the stories would upset him, but he loved them and couldn't get enough.

He was a sickly child, though at least some of his illnesses were psychosomatic. He also suffered from night terrors, a rare sleep disorder. There was speculation that he'd inherited his father's syphilis, but that was ruled out.

Because of his poor health, lack of discipline, and argumentative nature, he rarely attended school until he was eight years old. Even then, he only lasted a year before he was pulled out of school.

A voracious reader, Lovecraft educated himself. He developed a particular interest in chemistry and astronomy. When he was nine years old, Lovecraft printed his own hectographed publications, the first of which was called The Scientific Gazette. Age the age of 13, Lovecraft returned to high school.

In 1908, just before his high school graduation, Lovecraft suffered what he called a nervous breakdown. Lovecraft biographer J.T. Joshi suggested that the breakdown was caused by Lovecraft's difficulty in learning advanced mathematics.

Without learning advanced mathematics, he would never be able to become a professional astronomer. Lovecraft's failure to complete his education was a lifelong source of disappointment and shame for him.

Though he had written some fiction before, most of H.P. Lovecraft's early work was poetry, which he wrote prolifically. In 1914, he wrote a letter complaining about the insipidness of a series of popular love stories that had been published in a pulp magazine called The Argosy.

The resulting debate in the magazine's Letters section caught the attention of Edward F. Daas, president of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA), who invited Lovecraft to join the organization, which encouraged him to submit more poems and essays for publication.

Three years later, Lovecraft, an avid letter writer, returned to writing fiction after being prodded to do so by some of his correspondents. His first new horror story, Dagon, was published in W. Paul Cook's The Vagrant in 1919, then reprinted in Weird Tales in 1923.

The story is told by a tormented, suicidal morphine addict who recalls a horrific experience he had while in the Merchant Marines during World War 1. After his cargo ship is captured by the Germans, he escapes in a lifeboat.

Drifting across the Pacific, he eventually lands on an island where he encounters a monster that was once worshiped as a sea god by an ancient race of fish-men. All that remains of them is the shrine that they built for their god.

In 1919, after suffering from mental illness for years, H.P. Lovecraft's mother was placed in the same institution as her husband. Lovecraft corresponded with her frequently, and remained close to her until her death in 1921 - the result of complications from gall bladder surgery. Lovecraft was devastated.

A few weeks later, he attended an amateur journalist convention in Boston, where he met Sonia Greene, a Ukrainian-Jewish shopkeeper (she owned a hat store) whom he married in 1924. Lovecraft's aunts were not happy that he married a woman of the merchant class; the fact that she was Jewish probably didn't thrill them, either.

The Lovecrafts moved to the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. At first, Lovecraft was thrilled to be living in New York, but he quickly came to hate the city. The couple faced financial difficulties, including the loss of Sonia's hat shop.

H.P. was unable to find work, as the city teemed with a large immigrant population willing to work for low wages. Lovecraft's frustration fueled the racism that would later be reflected in his writings, which sometimes contained bestial black and scheming Jewish characters.

Lovecraft's racism was atypical; he tended to regard people more in terms of class than race. For example, in his story Cool Air, Lovecraft's narrator makes disparaging remarks about the poor Hispanics in his neighborhood while admiring and praising the wealthy, cultured Dr. Munoz, who is also Hispanic.

These and other contradictory aspects of Lovecraft's racism have led scholars to believe that in both his writings and in life, Lovecraft was questioning the veracity of his racial views. Sonia Greene, Lovecraft's wife, had to remind him that she was Jewish when he made anti-Semitic remarks.

It made an impact on him; near the end of his life, when he learned of Hitler's persecution of Jews in Germany, he was horrified. He denounced Nazi ideology as irrational. A few years after they were married, Lovecraft and Sonia separated. They later divorced amicably. Sonia moved to Cleveland and H.P. returned to Providence to live with his aunts.

Lovecraft continued to write and publish short stories and essays. He wrote over sixty short stories, most of them horror, establishing himself as a master of the form. His stories reflected his personal beliefs. He considered himself an agnostic in theory and an atheist in practical terms.

Many of his stories present gods not as loving creators, but as ancient, monstrous alien beings who have influenced the development of the human race over the ages. Often malicious, these gods inspire the formation of cults and demand sacrifice, as seen in Lovecraft's "Cthulu Mythos" of loosely connected stories.

In some of these stories, Lovecraft mentions a book called the Necronomicon - an ancient book of black magic whose rituals can summon evil deities, demons, and spirits. The book was supposedly written by the "Mad Arab," Abdul Alhazred, in 8th century Persia.

In the early 1970s, a book appeared that claimed to be the real Necronomicon, translated by someone known only as Simon. The book has no connection to Lovecraft and appears to be based on Sumerian mythology.

The book included a forward warning the reader not to attempt to perform the rituals contained in the book, which has since become a cult favorite. Still in print, it has sold over 800,000 copies.

Another theme in Lovecraft's writing is the dangers of modern science and technology, which inspire humans to investigate things that should be left alone, tampering with the order of the universe. Such was the subject of his classic 1919 short story, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep.

In this story, an intern at a hospital for the criminally insane uses one of the inmates - a homicidal maniac - as his guinea pig to test a device he invented to facilitate telepathic communication. The experiment goes awry as the intern and his test subject channel an alien being made of light.

Although Lovecraft published dozens of short stories in Weird Tales and many other pulp magazines - and was sometimes paid very large sums of money for them - his finances soon dwindled and he was forced to move to smaller quarters with his surviving aunt.

In 1936, H.P. Lovecraft was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He died a year later at the age of 46. His stories have been adapted as feature films and for TV series such as Showtime's Masters Of Horror.

Heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Mercyful Fate have based songs on Lovecraft's works. King Diamond paid tribute to Lovecraft with his classic song, The Lake, which appears as the B-side of the single Halloween:

On a Sunday morning
well just before dawn
a little girl is dancing
on the mansion lawn

She calls out a name:
"Dagon of the sea!
Appear from the darkest deep
and hear my need!"

Down by the lake
there's a shadow of grief
dancing hand in hand
with the devil...

H.P. Lovecraft continues to inspire generations of writers, including horror master Stephen King, who considers him a major influence, declaring him to be
"the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."

Quote Of The Day

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." - H.P. Lovecraft

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of H.P. Lovecraft's classic short story, Dagon. Enjoy!

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