This Day In Writing History
On September 30th, 1868, Little Women, the classic novel by the famous American writer Louisa May Alcott, was published. The novel was published in two parts.
The second part, Good Wives, was published in 1869. In 1880, both parts would be combined and republished as a single volume, which is how the novel appears to this day.
Little Women, which tells the story of the four March sisters, (Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy) growing up in Concord, Massachusetts, was based on Alcott's experiences growing up with her own three sisters in Concord and Boston. Louisa modeled the character of Jo after herself.
Fifteen-year-old Jo March is the second oldest of the sisters. Intelligent, outspoken, and tomboyish, Jo longs to be a writer. An early feminist, Jo finds herself at odds with the restrictions placed on women in late 19th century America.
At that time, most women were unable to pursue a higher education. They were pressured to marry young and have lots of children. Employment opportunities for respectable young women were few. Worst of all, women were denied the right to vote to change the status quo.
Through the course of the novel, the March sisters become friends with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, the handsome, charming, affluent boy next door. An orphan, Laurie lives with his grandfather. He becomes especially close to Jo.
As Laurie joins in the March sisters' adventures, they get into various scrapes. The sisters also struggle to overcome their particular character flaws (Jo has a temper, Meg is vain, Beth is shy, and Amy selfish) in order to live up to their parents' expectations and become, well, little women.
The first part of Little Women became a huge hit with both critics and readers, and an overnight success, selling over 2,000 copies in 1868. Louisa May Alcott received many letters from fans (and visits from them at her home) clamoring for a sequel.
So, in 1869, Alcott published the second part, Good Wives. Although her fans were begging for Jo to get married - especially to Laurie - she resisted the idea at first, believing that Jo should remain a "literary spinster."
Alcott changed her mind, and in Good Wives, married off not only Jo, but Meg and Amy as well. However, in a surprising twist, Jo marries Friedrich "Fritz" Bhaer, the poor German immigrant and professor who encouraged her to be a serious writer, while Amy marries Laurie.
Alcott would later write :
Jo should have remained a literary spinster, but so many enthusiastic young ladies wrote to me clamorously demanding that she should marry Laurie, or somebody, that I didn't dare refuse and out of perversity went and made a funny match for her.
In reviews that proved to be prescient, the critics of the day proclaimed Little Women to be a classic. And to this day, it remains one of the most popular works of 19th century American literature. It would be followed by two sequels: Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886).
Little Women would later be adapted many times for the radio, stage, screen, and television.
Quote Of The Day
"Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable." - Louisa May Alcott
Today's video features a reading from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, Little Women. Enjoy!
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Monday, September 29, 2014
Internet Writing Workshop members continue to find publishing success in all venues. Congratulations to this week's crew!
Judith QuaemptsBarry Basden, editor of Camroc Press Review, has accepted two poems for publication - but will be a while before they show up-CPR is a busy place. I really want to put in a plug for Barry, who made CPR a labor of love. His acceptance of several poems of mine early on was a huge encouragement and I am forever grateful.
Lynne HinkeyMy review of Graveyard Shift is up at Underground Book Reviews, and my interview with the author, Angela Roquet, is also up here.
Guilie CastilloThe full collection of the 2014 A Year In Stories, all twelve volumes, are now available at the Sayville, Long Island library. I've never had any of my work available at a library--I'm over the moon!
Pamelyn CastoPamelyn Casto's co-written article on turning anecdotes into flash fiction (which was originally published in Writer's Digest and then re-published in Guide to Writing Fiction Today), is now published anew and is available online.
Link to the article
Link to Fiction Southeast
Patricia JohnsonEclectica online magazine accepted three of my poems for the October/November issue. Eclectica is a solid, lovely lit mag that has been around quite a while and has a wonderful group of editors.
Friday, September 26, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On September 26th, 1957, West Side Story, an acclaimed musical adaptation of William Shakespeare's classic play Romeo and Juliet, opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre.
Eight years earlier in 1949, the legendary Broadway producer Jerome Robbins met with legendary composer Leonard Bernstein and playwright Arthur Laurents to discuss his idea for a new musical that they would collaborate on.
The musical Robbins had in mind was an adaptation and modernization of William Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Set in New York City, the musical would address the disturbing postwar rise of anti-Semitism in America.
Laurents, eager to write his first musical, penned a first draft of the proposed play. Set in New York's East Side, it was called East Side Story and dealt specifically with Irish Catholic prejudice against Jews.
It told the story of two feuding families, one Irish-Catholic, the other Jewish. The daughter of the Jewish family, a Holocaust survivor, falls in love with the son of the Irish Catholic family - a forbidden romance that provokes mutual hate and results in tragedy.
When the group met to discuss Laurents' first draft, they ultimately decided not to do a story about Irish Catholic anti-Semitism, as it had been done before on the Broadway stage and done well in plays like Anne Nichols' Abie's Irish Rose.
Laurents then dropped out to work on other projects and the musical was shelved for nearly five years. In 1955, at the opening of a new Ugo Betti play, Laurents ran into Stephen Sondheim, a young composer and lyricist whom he had worked with on another shelved musical, Seranade.
Sondheim told Laurents that the East Side Story project was back on. Leonard Bernstein had asked Sondheim to write the lyrics, as he wanted to concentrate exclusively on writing the music.
The new musical had been retitled West Side Story and would focus on a different form of racism - white prejudice against New York City's burgeoning Puerto Rican population.
The musical also dealt with juvenile delinquency, then a recent phenomenon that was reaching epic proportions and making headlines nationwide. Instead of feuding families, the conflict is between feuding teenage street gangs, one white, the other Puerto Rican.
Arthur Laurents wrote a new script and served as a creative consultant for Leonard Bernstein's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, offering suggestions during the development of the score.
In writing the new script, Laurents was faced with the problem of the language used by the two gangs. While strong profanity could be heard in more daring off-Broadway plays, at that time, it was unheard of on the Broadway stage.
Laurents didn't want to use clean current slang, either, for fear of dating the play. So, he invented a new slang dialect for the gang members that sounded profane but wasn't. The new slang would also avoid dating with play with obsolete slang.
Producer Jerome Robbins wanted to maintain an atmosphere of gritty realism, so the harrowing fight scenes were not choreographed like the musical numbers. Stage blood was used effectively to enhance the realism of the fight scenes and the tragedy of the story.
The play opens with the Jets, a white street gang, involved in a turf war with the Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang. Riff, the leader of the Jets, plans to challenge Sharks leader Bernardo to a rumble (gang fight) to settle their differences once and for all.
At the neighborhood dance, Tony, the ex-leader of the Jets, shows up. Tony has gone straight and wants nothing more to do with gang life, but is still loyal to his old friend Riff, who now leads the Jets. The gang questions that loyalty.
Meanwhile, Bernardo's sister Maria also goes to the dance. Ignoring the brewing tensions between the Jets and Sharks members in attendance, Maria ends up dancing with Tony, and it's love at first sight for both of them.
When both gangs meet on neutral ground to discuss a rumble, Tony convinces both Riff and Bernardo to engage in a "fair fight" - to use only their fists during the rumble. Overruling the protests of their respective gang members, the two leaders agree.
The next day, Tony meets Maria and they dream about their wedding - despite the fact that Maria's family has decided that she will marry her brother's best friend, Chino. Maria begs Tony to stop the rumble, fearful for Bernardo's safety.
Tony tries to stop the rumble, but fails. During the fight, he tries to stop Riff from stabbing Bernardo, but Riff shakes him off and gets back in the fight. When Bernardo accidentally kills Riff, Tony, blaming himself for Riff's death, kills Bernardo in a rage.
A shocked Tony returns to Maria and confesses to killing her brother. She attacks him at first, but recognizing his remorse and realizing that she still loves him, she decides to run away with him.
Later, Bernardo's girlfriend Anita, after being nearly raped by the Jets, tells them that a jealous Chino has killed Maria. It's a lie, but it gets back to Tony, who vows to kill Chino. When Tony and Chino finally meet, Chino pulls out a gun and shoots Tony. He dies in Maria's arms.
The Jets and Sharks members gather around Tony's body, and a distraught Maria grabs Chino's gun and points it at them, blaming their hatred for Tony and Bernardo's deaths. She says she's now filled with hate and can kill, but instead, she breaks down and cries.
Moved by Maria's grief for Tony, the Jets and Sharks end their feud and form a funeral procession. They carry Tony's body away, with Maria in tow.
West Side Story opened in September of 1957 to excellent reviews. Featuring classic songs such as Jet Song, Maria, America, and Tonight, the musical became a huge hit. It ran at the Winter Garden Theatre for nearly 1,000 performances.
Most critics praised the musical for its grittiness and stark violence, which enhanced the tragic story. Some accused writer Arthur Laurents of glamorizing gang violence and juvenile delinquency.
In 1961, West Side Story was adapted as a classic musical feature film directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. Though the film took liberties with the play and Leonard Bernstein hated its orchestration, it would become a hit and win big at the Academy Awards.
Legendary rock singer Elvis Presley was the original choice to play Tony, but his manager Col. Tom Parker made him decline the role. He didn't want Elvis to be associated with gang warfare and juvenile delinquency.
Richard Beymer was cast as Tony, Natalie Wood as Maria. During production, it was discovered that neither Wood nor Beymer could sing well enough for the film, so their vocals were dubbed by singers Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant.
The film's only weakness is the toned-down violence, required by the stifling Production Code that was still in effect at the time. To tone down the violence, the gang warfare is depicted via dance numbers, which the stage play deliberately avoided.
Nevertheless, the musical film adaptation of West Side Story is rightfully considered an all-time classic.
Quote Of The Day
"Psychoanalysts and elephants, they never forget." - Arthur Laurents
Today's video features a documentary on the making of West Side Story. Enjoy!
Thursday, September 25, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On September 25th, 1897, the legendary American writer William Faulkner was born. He was born William Cuthbert Falkner in New Albany, Mississippi, named after his great-grandfather, a colonel in the Confederate Army and an important figure in Northern Mississippi.
A town in nearby Tippah County had also been named after him. When Faulkner was four years old, the family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he would live on and off for the rest of his life.
Oxford became the model for the town of Jefferson in Faulkner's writings. It was located in Lafayette County, which served as the model for Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County.
As a teenager, Faulkner planned to marry his girlfriend Estelle Oldham, but another suitor, Cornell Franklin, proposed first, and Estelle's parents demanded that she marry him because he came from a respectable family.
Ten years later, her marriage fell apart and she divorced Cornell in April of 1929. Two months after Estelle's divorce was finalized, William Faulkner married her.
During the last year of World War I, Faulkner tried to enlist in the Army but was deemed unfit for service due to his height, or rather, his lack of it: he only stood about 5'5" tall.
Undaunted, Faulkner joined first the Canadian then the British Royal Air Force, but saw no action. When he joined the Royal Air Force, he changed the spelling of his last name from Falkner to Faulkner.
Legend has it that the change had been made by a careless typesetter during the printing of his first novel. When asked about the misspelling of his name, Faulkner allegedly replied, "Either way suits me."
Although he would always be associated with Mississippi, Faulkner wrote his first novel, Soldiers' Pay (1925), while living in New Orleans. He had been encouraged to write by his friend, writer Sherwood Anderson.
The small house in New Orleans where Faulkner lived and wrote, located at 645 Pirate's Alley, just around the corner from St. Louis Cathedral, now serves as the premises of Faulkner House Books and the headquarters of the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society.
Soldiers' Pay told the story of a World War I pilot who returns to his home town in Georgia after suffering a severe head injury in combat, from which he is dying.
Throughout the late 1920s, Faulkner honed his craft and published more novels. His fourth novel, The Sound And The Fury, (1929) while not a commercial success at the time of its publication, has since been regarded as his first masterpiece.
Making bold and brilliant use of experimental techniques in narration and non-linear plotting, the novel told the story of the once great Compson family, formerly respected Old Southern aristocrats. Now the family teeters on dissolution and its reputation is tarnished.
The novel is divided into four sections. The first three sections feature first person narration, each section narrated by one of the grown Compson sons. The fourth section is told in third-person narration.
This section follows Dilsey Gibson, the matriarch of the servant family that works for the Compsons, as she observes the slow destruction of the Compson family.
The four sections are not in chronological order. The first section is narrated by 33-year-old Benjy Compson, the youngest son, who is an embarrassment to the family because he is retarded.
The only ones who care for him are his beloved older sister, Candace "Caddy" Compson and the matriarchal servant woman, Dilsey Gibson. In Benjy's narration, Faulkner makes use of dazzling impressionistic language to convey his retardation.
As the novel progresses, the reader is drawn into the self-destructive web that has ensnared the Compsons, which includes nihilism, racism, sexual frustration, sexual promiscuity, suicide, mental illness, and financial crisis.
The Sound And The Fury is rightfully considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. Today, it still appears frequently on required reading lists for high school and college English classes.
Faulkner's next novel, As I Lay Dying, (1930) is also considered a classic and expands on the techniques Faulkner used in The Sound And The Fury.
The narration is still in the stream-of-consciouness style, but this time, the story is narrated by 15 different people - including the late family matriarch who provides narration while she lies dead in her coffin.
Her name is Addie Bundren, and the novel deals with her family's quest to honor her last wish, which is to be buried in Jefferson Mississippi. As the story unfolds, we learn all about the Bundren family, including how one of Addie's children is illegitimate, conceived as the result of her affair with a preacher.
In 1931, William Faulkner would publish the novel that first made him famous - or some would say, infamous. Sanctuary not only proved to be a shocker for 1930s readers, it also made Faulkner's name as a writer and awakened interest in his brilliant earlier works.
Ironically, Sanctuary, a Southern Gothic potboiler, was deliberately written to be shocking; Faulkner was in serious financial straits and needed to write something that would make him some fast money. There were no artistic intentions behind it.
Set in 1929 Mississippi, Sanctuary told the story of Temple Drake, an attractive young woman from a wealthy, respected Southern family - her father is a well-known and powerful judge.
Although a college student at the University of Mississippi, Temple Drake is shallow and vapid. A wild, promiscuous party girl, she loves to go drinking and carousing with boys, and they love to drink and carouse with her.
During one night of partying, Temple gets involved in a drunk driving accident. She and her bootlegger boyfriend Gowan Stevens are hidden from the police by his bootlegging crew members, Tommy and Popeye.
Tommy is good-natured, but Popeye is an impotent, degenerate psychopathic criminal. After Popeye catches Temple and Tommy making love, he kills Tommy and rapes Temple with a corncob. He eventually kidnaps her and forces her to live and work at a brothel he owns.
The story climaxes with a sensational murder trial where Temple, who enjoyed her degradation at Popeye's hands, falsely accuses Lee Godwin, another bootlegger, of raping her and killing Tommy - crimes for which Godwin is wrongly convicted and lynched.
Believe it or not, Sanctuary was adapted as a feature film in 1933. The novel was heavily sanitized for the screen, with no references to corncobs. The character of Popeye was renamed Trigger to avoid confusion with the popular comic strip character.
Retitled The Story Of Temple Drake, the resulting film still caused a furor and helped bring about the Production Code crackdown the following year, which would institute ferociously strict censorship of American films for over thirty years.
Twenty years after the publication of Sanctuary, Faulkner would publish a sequel called Requiem For A Nun, which follows Temple Drake, now a wife and mother, as she struggles to deal with her violent, turbulent past.
The sequel is no simple potboiler - it's written in Faulkner's experimental literary style. In fact, the book is part novel and part play. The entire book would be adapted as a stage play by the legendary French novelist and playwright Albert Camus in 1956.
William Faulkner would continue to write more great novels, including Light In August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Hamlet (1940), and Intruder In The Dust (1948).
He was also a prolific short story writer; A Rose For Emily, Red Leaves, That Evening Sun, and Dry September were among his most acclaimed and popular stories, and often published in anthologies.
In 1949, Faulkner received a Nobel Prize for Literature. He donated a portion of his prize money "to establish a fund to support and encourage new fiction writers."
This donation resulted in the establishment of the PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction. He donated another portion of his prize money to set up a scholarship fund for black students at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
In the early 1940s, legendary film director Howard Hawks invited Faulkner to come to Hollywood and work on screenplays for his movies. Faulkner gladly accepted the offer, as he needed the money and the pay was good.
He would contribute to the scripts of Hawks' classic films such as his adaptations of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and Ernest Hemingway's To Have And Have Not. Faulkner's work as a screenwriter led him to become friends with Hawks, actors Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and other Hollywood illuminati.
Faulkner suffered from a lifelong drinking problem, though he would often tell friends, family, and the press that he drank while he wrote because he believed that alcohol helped fuel the creative process.
Many believe that he drank to escape the pressures of his life, including his frequent financial problems. In 1959, Faulkner was seriously injured in a horse-riding accident. His injuries and the ravages of alcoholism led to the deterioration of his health.
He died of a heart attack in 1962 at the age of 64. Before he died, Faulkner completed his last novel, The Reivers, which was supposedly the book he intended to end his writing career with.
The brilliant coming-of-age story, set in early 20th century Memphis, won Faulkner the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which was awarded to him posthumously in 1963. The novel would be adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1969, directed by Mark Rydell and starring Steve McQueen, Mitch Vogel, and Burgess Meredith.
Quote Of The Day
"Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him." - William Faulkner
Today's video features a rare recording of William Faulkner giving his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Faulkner claimed that he was so drunk, he didn't remember giving the speech. Is that a humorous exaggeration or the truth? Listen and decide for yourself! Enjoy!
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On September 24th, 1896, the legendary American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald was born. He was born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald in St. Paul, Minnesota, named after his famous distant relative, poet Francis Scott Key, who had written the poem that would become the national anthem.
Scott, as he was called by family and friends, spent most of his childhood in upstate New York, but returned to Minnesota in 1908 after his father was fired from his job at Procter & Gamble. His first short story, a detective story, was published in a school newspaper when he was twelve.
After returning to Minnesota, Fitzgerald spent three years at St. Paul Academy, but was expelled at the age of 16 for neglecting his studies. However, not long afterward, when he attended Newman School in Hackensack, he buckled down and excelled at academics.
In 1913, at the age of 17, Fitzgerald entered Princeton University, where he met and became friends with future writers and literary critics Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop. He became involved with and wrote for the Princeton Triangle Club.
The Triangle Club is a student theater troupe that puts on an original, student-written musical comedy every year, then takes the show on tour over the winter holiday season. Fitzgerald's experience writing for the Club inspired him to write his first novel.
His first novel was called The Great Egoist. He submitted it for publication to Charles Scribner's Sons. The editor praised Fitzgerald's writing talent, but rejected his novel. It would not discourage him from writing.
During World War I, Fitzgerald left Princeton to join the Navy, but the war ended shortly after he enlisted. He was stationed at Camp Sheridan, where he met a girl named Zelda Sayre, the daughter of an Alabama State Supreme Court judge.
They fell in love and became engaged. In 1919, Fitzgerald moved into an apartment in New York City, where he took a job at an advertising firm and wrote short stories on the side. He was unable to convince Zelda that he could support her, so the engagement was called off.
Fitzgerald moved back in with his parents in St. Paul and began revising his previously rejected novel. Practically re-written and retitled This Side Of Paradise, the novel was accepted by Scribner's for publication and published on March 26th, 1920.
It became one of the most popular novels of the year. A classic of the flapper generation, the novel told the story of Amory Blaine, a handsome young Princeton University student and aspiring writer who learns a bitter lesson about status seeking and greed via two doomed romances with wealthy debutantes.
The success of Fitzgerald's novel, which also helped raise the prices of his short stories, enabled him to make a decent living, so he and Zelda got back together and were married at St. Patrick's Cathedral. They would have only one child, a daughter, Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald.
The 1920s proved to be an influential decade in F. Scott Fitzgerald's development as a writer. His second novel, The Beautiful And Damned (1922) was the semi-autobiographical story of a wealthy heir, Anthony Patch, his relationship with his wife, Gloria, and his struggle with alcoholism.
The Beautiful And Damned was a brilliantly written character study, but Fitzgerald's third novel would prove to be his masterpiece. The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, was an unforgettable chronicle of the Jazz Age - a term Fitzgerald coined.
Taking place from 1919 to 1929, the Jazz Age was the post World War I era of unbridled prosperity, Prohibition, organized crime, uncontrolled drinking, sexual experimentation, jazz music, flappers, and other rowdy, disaffected youth.
Set during the summer of 1922, the novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young Midwesterner and World War I veteran who moves to New York City to seek his fortune. At a lavish party, he meets the host - a mysterious wealthy man named Jay Gatsby, who claims to know Nick from his Army days during the Great War.
Nick and Gatsby strike up an odd, yet close friendship. Nick is bemused when Gatsby introduces him to Meyer Wolfsheim, a Jewish underworld figure. Gatsby is also a former suitor of Nick's cousin, Daisy Buchanan, now the selfish, spoiled wife of millionaire Tom Buchanan.
Nick arranges a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy. The two begin an affair which angers Tom, even though he has a mistress on the side. Nick stands by his friend Gatsby and soon finds himself caught in a web of adultery, decadence, and ultimately, murder.
Within a year of its initial publication, The Great Gatsby was adapted as a Broadway play and a feature film, but the novel was not popular and sold less than 25,000 copies during Fitzgerald's lifetime. However, when it was republished in 1945 and 1953, the novel would become a classic.
It quickly gained a huge readership and a deserved reputation as one of the greatest American novels of all time. It would be adapted again as a feature film, the most acclaimed version released in 1974 and starring Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby.
During the 1920s, F. Scott Fitzgerald made several visits to Europe, most notably Paris, where he became friends with many of the American expatriate writers living there, including Ernest Hemingway, who became his closest friend.
They would spend lots of time drinking, talking, and exchanging manuscripts. Fitzgerald helped boost Hemingway's career. Unfortunately, Hemingway and Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, couldn't stand each other.
Hemingway accused Zelda of being insane (which she was) and encouraging Fitzgerald to drink heavily in order to distract him from writing novels. That way, he could devote his attention to cranking out short stories strictly for money to keep Zelda in the life of luxury to which she was accustomed.
Zelda accused Hemingway of using Fitzgerald to further his own career. She also accused him of having a homosexual affair with her husband. There is no evidence to support this accusation, obviously the product of Zelda's paranoia.
To punish his wife for questioning his masculinity, Fitzgerald slept with a female prostitute and flaunted it. The conflict between Hemingway and Zelda resulted in the ending of Fitzgerald's friendship with him and a lifelong animosity between the two men.
At first, the Fitzgeralds' marriage had been productive. Zelda's diaries and large collection of correspondence would inspire Scott's writings; sometimes he even quoted passages from her writings. But their alcoholism and Zelda's worsening schizophrenia began to take its toll.
In 1934, Fitzgerald finally published his long awaited fourth novel, Tender Is The Night. He had started writing the novel in 1932, while Zelda was hospitalized. It received glowing reviews and briefly made the bestseller list.
However, its reception was nowhere near as big as that of The Great Gatsby. In serious financial trouble, Fitzgerald spent the remainder of his life writing commercial short stories for money and working for Hollywood movie studio MGM.
He became a screenwriter for hire, which he found degrading. He worked on many scripts and even wrote some unfilmed scenes for Gone With The Wind. There was no artistic intent behind his work as a screenwriter - he did it for the money.
Fitzgerald would mock himself in a series of 17 short stories known as the Pat Hobby Stories, which would later be republished as a collection.
Pat Hobby, a once great screenwriter of the silent film era, is now a broken down, drunken hack. He haunts studio lots looking to write for a few dollars, or better yet, an on-screen credit. His schemes usually backfire and result in more humiliation.
By the late 1930s, many years of heavy drinking had taken a toll on F. Scott Fitzgerald's health. In late 1940, he suffered two heart attacks. On December 21st, 1940, the day after he suffered his second heart attack, he suffered a third, massive heart attack and died at the age of 44.
Among the mourners at his wake was writer Dorothy Parker, who reportedly wept and murmured, "the poor son of a bitch" - a line from Jay Gatsby's funeral in The Great Gatsby.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's last novel, The Last Tycoon, was published posthumously in 1942.
Quote Of The Day
"An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmaster of ever afterwards." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Today's video features a complete reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, The Great Gatsby. Enjoy!
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
It's Banned Books Week!
This week is Banned Books Week. The annual event, which takes place during the last week of September, was first established in 1982 by the American Library Association. (ALA) It was the brainchild of the late, great librarian and activist Judith Krug.
Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read by encouraging people to read books that have been banned or challenged - targeted for banning. The event also promotes the freedom of libraries, schools, and bookstores to provide such materials.
To celebrate Banned Books Week, the ALA offers kits, posters, buttons, bookmarks, and guidelines for schools and public libraries who participate in the event by erecting special displays of banned or challenged books to raise awareness of these issues.
Booksellers also create displays. Some go even further and invite authors of banned or challenged books to speak at their stores. They also sponsor annual essay contests dealing with freedom of expression.
Every year, the ALA compiles a list of the top 100 (or so) books that have been banned or challenged in the United States. What sort of publications make the list? Most of them are children's books that have been challenged or banned outright from schools and libraries across the country.
The challenges and bans are largely the work of disgruntled parents or conservative and / or religious activist groups complaining about allegedly inappropriate content in the literary works.
A good example of this can be found the case of And Tango Makes Three, (2005) a charming picture book for young readers, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.
This book has earned the distinction of being the #1 most banned or challenged book in recent years. The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two captive male penguins living at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.
Zookeepers noticed that for six years, Roy and Silo lived together as mates - as though one of them were female - and engaged in mating rituals. When the penguins were observed trying to hatch an egg-shaped rock, the zookeepers gave them a real penguin egg to see if they could hatch it.
Roy and Silo cared for the egg and successfully hatched it. The healthy female chick, named Tango by the zookeepers, was then adopted by Roy and Silo, who raised her as their own. All three penguins lived together as a family.
And Tango Makes Three caused a furor with conservative and religious groups. Across the country, efforts were made to remove the book from schools and public libraries. Some of these challenges reached the courts, where they all failed.
In one case, a Federal Court rejected as unconstitutional a local resolution passed in Wichita Falls, Texas, that ordered the public library to remove And Tango Makes Three, along with another similarly themed controversial book (Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman) from the children's section and place them in the restricted adult section of the library.
Here's my own list of the top five books, both modern classics and those from the past, which have been banned or challenged over the years, and still face attempts at censorship:
1. Bridge To Terabithia (1977) by Katherine Paterson. This beloved and acclaimed children's novel, a favorite of both young and old readers alike, (and one of my all time favorites) is still popular over thirty years since it was first published. It still appears on teachers' assigned reading lists.
The most banned or challenged children's book of all time, Bridge To Terabithia is set in rural Virginia. It tells the heart wrenching tale of Jess Aarons, a poor, introverted, artistically gifted young farm boy who finds a soul mate in Leslie Burke, the intelligent, imaginative, tomboyish city girl who moves in next door.
Neglected by his ignorant, emotionally distant father, yelled at by his mother, mistreated by his older sisters, saddled with a nasty teacher and picked on by bullies at school, Jess desperately needs a friend. He finds it in Leslie Burke, who is also in desperate need of a friend.
Together, Jess and Leslie create Terabithia - a magical, imaginary world of their own where they rule as king and queen. When tragedy suddenly strikes and separates them forever, Jess must use all the strength and courage Leslie gave him as he tries to cope with his loss.
This beautiful novel has been attacked for various reasons, including its themes of death and grief, its bleakness and stark realism, the author's dialectic use of mild profanity, and the alleged ridiculing of authority figures and negative depictions of Christians and Christianity.
2. The Catcher In The Rye (1951) by J.D. Salinger. Salinger's brilliant, celebrated coming-of-age novel about rebellious, angst-ridden troubled teen Holden Caulfield and his journey of self-discovery has been attacked since it was first published.
A staple of study for high school English classes, this novel has been attacked for its frank language, sexual content, alleged promotion of smoking, drinking, lying, and sexual promiscuity, and for other reasons.
When teachers assign their students to read The Catcher In The Rye, they are often challenged by disgruntled parents and conservative groups who try to get the novel removed from school libraries.
3. The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain. This classic novel, a sequel to Twain's classic The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, features Tom's friend Huckleberry Finn on an adventure of his own.
Originally attacked for its condemnation of slavery and negative depiction of white Southerners, this book has been attacked since the 1950s by African-American activists for its frequent use of the racial epithet nigger and for its allegedly racist stereotyping of blacks.
Twain scholars point out that when Huckleberry Finn meets runaway slave Jim, Huck is initially opposed to the idea of Jim becoming a free man, but changes his mind after befriending the slave and traveling with him.
Huck sees Jim as a good man who deserves to be free and helps him escape, even though doing so is illegal - it's considered a form of theft. Twain himself despised slavery and used his book to assail it, along with the Southern view that blacks were sub-human. Twain also assailed the Southern practice of lynching.
In using the word nigger, Twain criticizes his fellow Southerners' racism by letting them speak their own ugly language. Modern critics of Huckleberry Finn simply fail to place the novel in its proper historical context.
4. The Harry Potter Series (1997-2007) by J.K. Rowling. Scottish author J.K. Rowling created a pop culture phenomenon with her series of seven fantasy novels about a young English orphan boy named Harry Potter who learns that he is a wizard.
Rescued from his nasty muggle (non-magical) relatives by the giant Hagrid, Harry is whisked away into the hidden world of wizards and witches and enrolled at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry will learn to master his magic (with the guidance of his mentor, Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore) and meet his ultimate destiny - to face and destroy Lord Voldemort, the evil dark wizard who murdered his parents - as the forces of good and evil in the magical world prepare for war.
Rowling's epic novels have inspired millions of children to put down their video game controllers and discover the joy of reading. She has also earned millions of adult fans as well - and the wrath of religious conservatives.
These people claim that the Harry Potter novels encourage children to dabble in witchcraft and Satanism - despite the fact that magic is depicted as a gift one is born with and not related to a religion.
Nevertheless, the books have been challenged frequently, especially in the conservative Southern states, where attempts have been made to remove the books from teachers' assigned reading lists and school libraries.
5. The His Dark Materials Trilogy (1995-2000) by Philip Pullman. English author Philip Pullman's brilliant epic fantasy trilogy is set in an alternate universe, on a world similar to Earth, in a country similar to England.
In this world, everyone has a daemon - an externalization of the soul that takes the form of a shape-shifting creature (and dear friend) that always remains by their side.
The heroine is a bright, brash, imaginative, and mischievous 12-year-old girl named Lyra Belacqua whose daemon is called Pantalaimon. Lyra is an orphan who lives with her uncle, Lord Asriel, at Oxford University.
When Lord Asriel makes an important discovery - the true nature of Dust, the fabric of the universe - that threatens to invalidate the cruel, repressive, Catholic-esque monotheistic religion whose clerical body (the Magisterium) rules the world, his life is endangered.
Lyra finds herself at the center of a prophecy. She is the chosen one who will not only bring down the Magisterium on her world, but bring about a revolution in Heaven as well.
The being worshiped as God is actually not a benevolent god but an evil, dictatorial angel called Metatron who seized power over Heaven and the universe from The Authority - the first angel to emerge from the Dust.
In The Subtle Knife, the second book in the trilogy, Lyra meets Will Parry, a boy her age from another universe and world (ours) who becomes her first love and partner in the prophecy, which is a reversal of John Milton's Paradise Lost, from which the trilogy got its name.
Lyra and Will become the new Adam and Eve, but instead of causing the fall of Man with their sin of fornication, they cause the fall of Metatron (God) and save Man. Where the Harry Potter novels invoked the wrath of religious conservatives over witchcraft, the His Dark Materials trilogy made them go ballistic.
They accused author Philip Pullman of blasphemy, anti-Catholicism, and promoting atheism to children. Others complained about the books' violence, gore, sexual content, and the promotion of a heroine who is disobedient by nature and an accomplished liar.
The most (allegedly) objectionable elements of the story occur near the end. Lyra and Will free the aged, dying Authority from confinement so he can die peacefully and become part of the Dust. Although an act of mercy, conservative critics see this as the symbolic killing of God.
In order to fulfill the prophecy, Will and Lyra make love. The sex scene is tastefully handled, as is the first awakening of sexual feelings within Lyra.
Though Pullman's American publisher, Scholastic, Inc., censored some passages in the U.S. version of the third book, The Amber Spyglass, the entire trilogy of novels still faces challenges and bans in the United States.
Thanks to the ALA's Banned Books Week, more and more people have become aware of these attempts at censoring books in the United States and around the world, and the threat they pose to the individual's freedom to read what he wants and the freedom of libraries and bookstores to provide him with the material.
The human rights organization Amnesty International joins the ALA in celebrating Banned Books Week by bringing attention to the plight of those around the world who are persecuted for what they write, publish, distribute, and read.
Exercise your freedom to read by celebrating Banned Books Week. For more information, visit the American Library Association's web site.
Quote Of The Day
"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings." - Heinrich Heine
Today's video features two great presentations about Banned Books Week. Enjoy!
Monday, September 22, 2014
The following Internet Writing Workshop members saw publishing success this week:
Barbara C. Johnson
Part 26 of a 41-part serial novel is up at the Political Truth Serum blog.
Four yahoos I’d like to share:
A poem is up at Linden Avenue Literary Journal.
Two translated poems in Mixitini Matrix, a journal of creative collaboration. See here and here.
A short story is also published at Big Pulp (Issue 2).
Congratulations to Barbara and Mira!