Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Notes For August 27th, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On August 27th, 1871, the famous American writer and journalist 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, Dreiser 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.

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 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 non-fiction 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 reading of Theodore Dreiser's classic essay, The Factory. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Notes For August 26th, 2014

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!

Monday, August 25, 2014

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Barbara Johnson

A review of my novel, Accused? Guilty on Political Truth Serum.  (Monday, August 18, 2014)

Jeannette de Beauvoir

St. Martin's will be publishing my novel, Asylum, in early 2015. I'm over the moon about the cover.

Theresa A. Cancro

My poem, “Glower Scrapings,” published on Napalm and Novocain, Sunday, August 17th.

Two poems – “Berceuse In Terra,” and “Spring Burgeons,” up at Jellyfish Whispers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Notes For August 22nd, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On August 22nd, 1893, the legendary American writer Dorothy Parker was born. She was born Dorothy Rothschild in Long Branch, New Jersey.

Her mother, Eliza Marston, was Scottish; her German Jewish father, Jacob Henry Rothschild, was not related to the wealthy Rothschild banking family.

Dorothy would famously quip, "My God, no, dear! We'd never even heard of those Rothschilds." Born two months premature, she would quip that her birth was the first time she was early for anything.

A month before Dorothy's fifth birthday, her mother died. She hated her father because he was physically abusive, and when he later married a woman named Eleanor Lewis, Dorothy referred to her as "the housekeeper."

As a little girl, Dorothy attended the Convent of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic elementary school along with her sister Helen - despite the fact that both girls were the daughters of a Jewish father and Protestant mother.

Dorothy would be expelled from the school for referring to the Immaculate Conception as "spontaneous combustion." She later attended a finishing school for young ladies in Morristown, New Jersey.

In 1913, when Dorothy was twenty years old, her father died. She supported herself by playing piano at a dancing school and took up writing poetry in her spare time.

Best known as a poet, Dorothy began her career as a magazine writer in 1914 when Vogue hired her as an editorial assistant after one of her poems appeared in its sister magazine, Vanity Fair.

In 1917, Dorothy married her first husband, Edwin Pond Parker, and she would use her first married name, Dorothy Parker, as her professional name. She divorced Edwin in 1928.

After working at Vogue for two years, Dorothy was transferred to Vanity Fair to work as a staff writer. By 1918, she had become the magazine's guest drama critic, filling in for the vacationing P.G. Wodehouse.

It was in this capacity that Dorothy Parker began developing the rapacious wit that would make her famous. Her reviews were often brutal. She offered this advice to potential audiences of one particular musical comedy: "If you don't knit, bring a book."

She reviewed a production of Leo Tolstoy's Redemption by saying, "I went into the Plymouth Theater a comparatively young woman, and I staggered out of it three hours later, twenty years older."

Infuriated by Dorothy's scathing reviews of their plays, the wealthy, powerful producers flexed their considerable muscle to get her fired. Her friends and fellow Vanity Fair writers, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood, resigned in protest.

Together, they formed the Algonquin Round Table, a famous group of New York City writers, actors, critics, and wits. Another founding member of the group was Harold Ross, who would found the New Yorker magazine in 1925.

Ross named Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley as members of the magazine's board of editors, which made his investors happy. Over the next fifteen years, Dorothy would reach her peak of productivity and success.

Her first poetry collection, Enough Rope, was published in 1926. It sold nearly 50,000 copies and received great reviews. The Nation newsmagazine described her poetry as "caked with a salty humor, rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity."

Within the next four years, she would publish over 300 poems in the New Yorker and many other national magazines. In addition to her poetry, she also wrote humorous pieces, essays, columns, and book reviews for the New Yorker. She also served as the magazine's drama critic for over five years.

Then she tired of drama - and of the drama her reviews created - and resigned as drama critic. She continued writing book reviews - under the byline Constant Reader - until 1933.

Dorothy Parker's writing talent and sparkling wit was noticed by Hollywood, and she became a screenwriter. Her husband at the time, Alan Campbell, was an actor and aspiring screenwriter.

In 1937, she co-wrote the hit film, A Star Is Born and earned an Academy Award nomination. Her political activism would eventually derail her Hollywood career.

She served as a correspondent for the communist magazine New Masses, reporting on the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, before her success with A Star Is Born, she founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League.

During the McCarthy era of the 1950s, Dorothy protested the government's relentless and mostly illegal persecution of suspected communists and communist sympathizers.

She never joined the Communist Party, but she did declare herself a sympathizer. The FBI deemed her a subversive and compiled a dossier on her that would reach 1,000 pages in length.

Dorothy Parker was never charged with a crime, but her former Hollywood studio bosses blacklisted her for years. In 1957, she moved back to New York City and served as a book reviewer for Esquire magazine for the next five years.

Dorothy died of a heart attack in June of 1967 at the age of 73. She left her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. After his assassination, it was passed on to the NAACP.

In 1988, the NAACP interred Dorothy's ashes in a memorial garden outside its Baltimore headquarters. The plaque in the garden reads as follows:

Here lies the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, 'Excuse my dust'. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988

Four years later, to celebrate Dorothy's 99th birthday, the United States Postal Service honored her with a commemorative postage stamp.

Quote Of The Day

"Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat." - Dorothy Parker

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Dorothy Parker reading her classic poem, Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Notes For August 21st, 2014

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!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Notes For August 20th, 2014

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:

Any 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 reading of H.P. Lovecraft's classic short story, Dagon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Notes For August 19th, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On August 19th, 1902, the famous American poet Ogden Nash was born in Rye, New York. His father owned an import-export company; due to the nature of the business, the Nash family moved frequently when Ogden was a boy.

After he graduated St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island, Ogden Nash entered Harvard University. He dropped out a year later and returned to St. George's School to teach.

A year after that, he quit teaching and worked a series of menial jobs, including writing advertisement cards for streetcars at an agency that once employed writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Eventually, Nash landed a job as an editor for the Doubleday publishing house and began to write poetry. He would say in a 1958 interview that he always had a fondness for rhyme: "I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old."

In 1931, Ogden Nash published his first book of poetry, Hard Lines. It became a huge success and earned Nash national recognition, establishing his talent for humorous verse with playful rhyming and anti-establishment themes.

That same year, he married his wife, Frances Leonard. Three years later, in 1934, the couple moved to Frances' hometown, Baltimore, Maryland, where Ogden Nash would live for the rest of his life.

When Nash wasn't writing poems, he made guest appearances on radio shows and toured the U.S. and England, where he gave lectures at colleges and universities.

He was respected by the literary establishment and his poems were published frequently in anthologies, even serious ones such as Selden Rodman's A New Anthology of Modern Poetry (1946).

As a poet, Nash was known for his pun-like rhymes and for deliberately misspelling words for comic effect, as in this riff on Dorothy Parker's famous lines "Men seldom make passes / At girls who wear glasses:"

A girl who is bespectacled
She may not get her nectacled

But safety pins and bassinets

Await the girl who fassinets.

In one of Nash's most famous rhymes, he parodied Joyce Kilmer's famous lines "I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree:"

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.

My favorite Nash lines are these classics from his poem Reflections On Ice-Breaking:

is dandy
but liquor
is quicker.

Nash also wrote a series of poems dedicated to his favorite football team, the Baltimore Colts, now known as the Indianapolis Colts.

In 1943, Ogden Nash collaborated on writing the Broadway musical One Touch Of Venus. Nash wrote all the song lyrics himself and co-wrote the libretto with S.J. Perelman.

The music was composed by the great Kurt Weill. The musical is a loose spoof of the Pygmalion myth that satirizes modern (1940s) suburban America and its values, artistic fads, and social and sexual mores.

The original Broadway production opened on October 7th, 1943, at the Imperial Theatre and closed on February 10th, 1945, after 567 performances. Directed by Elia Kazan, it starred Mary Martin, Kenny Baker, and Paula Laurence.

Marlene Dietrich was originally cast in the title role of Venus, but backed out during rehearsals, calling the musical "too sexy and profane." Mary Martin took over the role and used it to establish herself as a Broadway star.

In addition to his poetry collections, Odgen Nash also wrote children's books. His daughter Isabel was married to the celebrated photographer Fred Eberstadt.

Nash's granddaughter, Fernanda Eberstadt, became an acclaimed writer - a child prodigy who wrote her first novel at the age of eleven.

Ogden Nash died of Crohn's Disease in 1971 at the age of 68. On August 19th, 2002, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Ogden Nash and six of his poems to commemorate the centennial of his birthday.

It was the first stamp in the history of the Postal Service to contain the word sex.

Quote Of The Day

"People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it, and I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy castle on the Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas to haunt it." - Ogden Nash

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Ogden Nash reading his poem Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man. Enjoy!

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