Tag literary history

How the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Saved Kurt Vonnegut’s Fledgling Career

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

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Our Texts are Palatial: Words from Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger

Follow @faniaoz Jews and Words is a book that celebrates the written word with a very particular voice that grew out of a lifetime of father-daughter conversations between co-authors Amos Oz, and Fania Oz-Salberger. As Martin Peretz of the Wall Street Journal noted, “You cannot get the taste of this

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What Is Literature?

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

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To London, with Love: A Little History of Literature

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.

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The “Real” John Keats

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

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John Sutherland on Kurt Vonnegut

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,

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John Sutherland on Vladimir Nabokov

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

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John Sutherland on Charles Dickens

Michael Slater, author of The Great Charles Dickens Scandal is not the only one preoccupied with the secret affairs of Charles Dickens. In his sweeping guide Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives, John Sutherland introduces and explores 294 of literature’s greatest artists, providing biographical details

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The Right to Read: Belinda Jack on the History of Women’s Literacy

From ancient Babylonian princesses and rebellious medieval nuns to Nineteenth-century New England mill girls and the women of modern day Afghanistan, women readers have sparked controversy in every era of human history. In her new book, The Woman Reader, Belinda Jack traces the stories of these women, which are marked

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John Sutherland on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Thanks to the BBC’s hit TV series Sherlock, “I Am Sher-Locked” is the latest “it”-phrase among admirers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant madcap detective, Sherlock Holmes. Yet Doyle himself was never quite so locked on Sherlock as his fan-base. In his celebration of novel history’s giants, Lives of the

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