David O. Dowling— In mid-1960s suburban Cape Cod, Kurt Vonnegut—whose ink sketches and signed monographs now command up to $5,000 each—was unknown and his books were out of print. “I was rescued by Paul Engle’s Writers’ Workshop in the mid 1960s,” Vonnegut recalled, “and he didn’t know me, and I
John Sutherland’s A Little History of Literature tackles a very big subject: the glorious span of literature from Greek myth to graphic novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. In this excerpt from the book, Sutherland addresses a fundamental question: what exactly is literature? Most of us encounter
Follow @LittleHistoryOf Ivan Lett— What is the action a book nerd uses to signal his kin? Once it might have been a casual nod over horned-rim glasses; or, perhaps a deliberate and pretentious turn of the jacket, even the kindness to let a curious stranger read harmlessly over your shoulder.
History has a funny way of romanticizing the past, blurring the lines between hard facts and fluffy representations. Painters, poets, actors — the public romanticizes their lives, creating narratives of inspiration and untouchability. This principle is even more drastic in studying and discussing Romantic poets, whose lives we associate with
Some authors create from scratch, imagining situations and characters to fill their pages; others live and write their realities. In John Sutherland’s playfully encyclopedic Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives, he works to catalog the methods and experiences of 294 notable writers. In this passage,
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita has become a literary classic, read over and over by those who cannot pull themselves away from Humbert Humbert’s troubling yet tragically beautiful prose. In John Sutherland’s Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives, he traces beloved authors like Nabokov back through when