Friday, June 24, 2016

Notes For June 24th, 2016

This Day In Literary History

On June 24th, 1842, the legendary American writer and journalist Ambrose Bierce was born in Meigs County, Ohio. He was the tenth of thirteen children, all bearing first names that began with the letter A.

He grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana, where his poor but intellectual parents instilled in him a deep love for reading.
When he was fifteen, Bierce left home to become a printer's devil (apprentice) at a small Ohio newspaper.

In 1861, when the Civil War broke out, Bierce enlisted in the Union Army's 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. The following year, he was made a First Lieutenant and served on the staff of General William Babcock Hazen as a topographical engineer, mapping areas that would likely become battlefields.

He fought in the Battle of Shiloh, which at the time was the bloodiest battle in U.S. history. Bierce used the terrifying experience as the source for several short stories and a memoir,
What I Saw of Shiloh.

He continued fighting in the war and received recognition for his daring rescue of a seriously wounded comrade under fire in the Battle of Rich Mountain, West Virginia. In June of 1864, Bierce himself was seriously wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

He spent the summer on furlough and returned to active duty in September. He was discharged in January 1865, but resumed his military career in the summer of 1866, when he rejoined General Hazen on an expedition to inspect military outposts in the Great Plains.

In San Francisco, after receiving the rank of Brevet Major, Bierce resigned from the Army. He remained in San Francisco, where he became famous as both a contributor and editor for many local newspapers and periodicals. On Christmas Day, 1871, he married his girlfriend, Mary Ellen "Mollie" Day.

She bore him two sons and a daughter, but the couple would separate in 1888 when Bierce discovered letters from a lover that constituted proof of Mollie's infidelity. They finally divorced in 1904.

Mollie died a year later. Bierce's sons died before him; his son Day was shot in a dispute over a woman, and his other son Leigh died of pneumonia - a complication of his alcoholism.

Ambrose Bierce lived in England from 1872-75, where he wrote and contributed to magazines. He returned to San Francisco, then left again to manage a mining company in the Dakota Territory.

After the company folded, he went back to San Francisco and resumed his career as a journalist. In 1887, he published a column called
Prattle, becoming one of the first columnists and editorial writers for William Randolph Hearst's newspaper, The San Francisco Examiner.

In January of 1896, Hearst sent Bierce to Washington, D.C. to foil the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies' plan to have a Congressional ally sneak in a bill that excused the companies from having to repay massive government loans to build the First Transcontinental Railroad.

Bierce's coverage of the story - and his scathing satirical diatribes - resulted in such public outrage that the bill was defeated.
His sardonic view of human nature and scathing satire earned him the nickname "Bitter Bierce." Despite his reputation, he was known to encourage young writers to pursue and perfect their craft.

As a writer himself, Ambrose Bierce was known for both his horror stories, which were on a par with the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and his satircal works. His best known horror story was An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.

Published in 1891. It told the tale of a Confederate saboteur, Peyton Farquhar, who is caught and sentenced to be hung from Owl Creek Bridge. At the hanging, the rope breaks and Farquhar falls into the water.

He escapes and makes it to dry land. From there, as he tries to get home to his family, Farquhar finds that his senses have been heightened to superhuman proportions. He also experiences visual and auditory hallucinations.

When he finally arrives home, he runs to his wife. Just as he reaches out to her, Farquhar feels a searing pain in his neck and all goes black. It is revealed that he never escaped at all. He dreamed the whole thing just as he was hung, before the rope broke his neck.

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge was adapted numerous times, the most famous adaptation being a French short film made in 1963 called La Rivière du Hibou, directed by Robert Enrico.

It won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject and was later aired on American television as an episode of the brilliant and acclaimed 1959-64 TV series,
The Twilight Zone.

Ambrose Bierce was most famous for his satirical masterpiece, The Devil's Dictionary. Published in 1911, The Devil's Dictionary was a scathing, book-length parody of Webster's Dictionary, filled with humorous definitions of various words, such as:

LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.

One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

CLERGYMAN, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering his temporal ones.

The end of Ambrose Bierce's life turned out to be so strange that, had he lived, he might have written a short story about it. In October of 1913, at the age of 71, Bierce embarked on a tour of his old Civil War battlefields.

In December, after visiting locations in Louisiana and Texas, Bierce crossed the border into Mexico, where he became involved with the Mexican Revolution. He joined Pancho Villa's army as an observer, and later witnessed the Battle of Tierra Blanca.

Bierce followed Villa's army as far as Chihuahua. He wrote a letter to his close friend Blanche Partington, which was dated December 26, 1913. Then he mysteriously disappeared, vanishing without a trace - one of the most famous disappearances in literary history.

Some writers have speculated that Bierce headed North to the Grand Canyon, where he committed suicide in a remote location. No evidence exists to prove this theory or the countless other theories about what happened to Bierce. All investigations into his fate have thus far proved fruitless.

Quote Of The Day

"The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations." - Ambrose Bierce

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Ambrose Bierce's classic horror story, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Notes For June 23rd, 2016

This Day In Literary History

On June 23rd, 1398 (c), the legendary German inventor Johannes Gutenberg was born in Mainz, Germany. As a young boy, he learned to read. This was a rare skill in the 15th century, as books were a luxury for the rich.

At that time, books had to be written by hand, (usually by monks, scholars, or scribes) a slow and expensive process. Fortunately for Gutenberg, he was born into a patrician (aristocratic) merchant family.

After he learned to read, he became an avid reader and spent hours in the library. The few libraries that existed then did not loan out their books. The books had to be read in the library and were chained to the wall to prevent theft.

Whenever Gutenberg's father ordered a book, it would take from several months to a year for the handwritten manuscript to be completed. Gutenberg hated to wait and dreamed of a more efficient means of producing books than writing them out by hand.

In 1411, there was an uprising against the patricians in Mainz, so the Gutenberg family moved to Eltville am Rhein, where Johannes took up the goldsmithing trade, as his father was a goldsmith who worked with the ecclesiastic mint.

Gutenberg became a skilled metalworker, and his skills would help him create his greatest invention - the mechanical printing press. By 1440, he began experimenting with the elements that would form his mechanical printing process.

Using his skills as a metalworker, Gutenberg designed a movable typeface, with separate metal type for each letter to be printed. He also developed oil-based inks of various colors that would hold up better on the page than the traditional water-based inks.

Last, but certainly not least, he built printing presses based on the designs of the olive, wine, and cheese presses of the time. By 1450, Gutenberg's print shop was in business. One of the first items to be printed there was a German poem.

The successful operation of the press and the quality of the printed material attracted attention, and Gutenberg was able to convince Johann Fust, a wealthy and powerful moneylender, to give him an 800-guilder loan to expand and maintain the business.

He took on Fust's son-in-law, Peter Schoffer, as an apprentice. In 1452, Gutenberg borrowed another 800 guilders from Fust. His print shop was a success and he printed thousands of indulgences for the Church.

Indulgences were certificates absolving the bearers of their sins and guaranteeing them a way out of Hell after their deaths. Indulgences were sold to rich parishioners - the only ones who could afford them.

This made the Church a tremendous amount of money. The printing of indulgences earned Gutenberg a tidy profit as well, which he put back into the business and used to repay his loans. He then embarked on his greatest printing project.

Gutenberg determined to print the most important book of the time - the Bible. He designed and tested beautiful layouts that combined color and black inks. Expenses for the Bible project started piling up, and he borrowed more money from Johann Fust.

Soon he was in debt for over 2,000 guilders. The Bible project took about three years to complete, and around 200 copies of the Bible were printed. During this time, a dispute arose between Gutenberg and Fust.

Fust accused Gutenberg of misusing the money he lent him and demanded all of it back. He filed suit at the archbishop's court. The court ruled in Fust's favor, giving him ownership of Gutenberg's print shop and half the bibles that had been printed.

Unfortunately, Fust also gained control of the Gutenberg name. Though effectively bankrupt, Gutenberg did run a small print shop in Bamberg and participated in another Bible printing project in 1459.

None of the materials he printed bore the Gutenberg name because Fust owned it. So it's uncertain exactly what Gutenberg printed in his little Bamberg shop. It's been speculated that he may have printed 300 copies of the 744-page Catholicon Dictionary there.

Johannes Gutenberg died in 1468 at approximately 70 years of age. By 1500, there were more than a thousand print shops in Europe. Gutenberg's dream of distributing information to the masses had come true.

In 1971, Project Gutenberg was launched by University of Illinois student Michael Hart, taking the inventor's dream into the digital age. The idea of Project Gutenberg was to digitize public domain texts into searchable ASCII files.

The files could then be stored on the university's Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer - one of fifteen nodes on a network that would serve as the precursor to the Internet. The first text to be digitized was the Declaration of Independence.

Project Gutenberg has since digitized over 30,000 public domain texts (novels, poetry, plays, non-fiction, etc.) in various languages. With the advent of telecommunication, Project Gutenberg e-texts have been distributed on bulletin boards and the Internet.

E-books continued to evolve, and electronic reading devices such as Amazon's Kindle and the Sony Reader have made them more popular than ever, but it was Johannes Gutenberg who gave the world its first means of mass-producing books.

Quote Of The Day

"The most important human being whoever lived, if you want to leave out religious figures, would be Johannes Gutenberg... that's when the liberation of human thought happened, because people could read the thoughts of people across the world, and have thoughts of their own, and publish them and spread information around." - Tom Clancy

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a documentary on Johannes Gutenberg, hosted and narrated by Stephen Fry. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Notes For June 22nd, 2016

This Day In Literary History

On June 22nd, 1964, the famous American writer Dan Brown was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. Brown's father was a teacher, and he grew up on the campus of Philips Exeter Academy, where his father taught.

Brown was an avid reader, but didn't care for most modern fiction, preferring to read the classics or nonfiction. After graduating college, Brown went to Los Angeles, where he hoped to make it as a singer and songwriter.

In Los Angeles, Brown joined the National Academy of Songwriters and met Blythe Newlon, the Academy's Director of Artist Development. They fell in love. Later, when they moved back to New Hampshire, they married.

Brown worked as a teacher while he pursued his singing career. He released his first album,
Dan Brown, in 1993. It was followed by Angels & Demons in 1994. He would later use that title as the title for his second novel.

His musical career floundering, Dan decided to try his hand at becoming a novelist after reading Sidney Sheldon's suspense thriller The Doomsday Conspiracy while on vacation in Tahiti.

He began work on his first novel and co-wrote a humor book with his wife -
187 Men To Avoid: A Guide For The Romantically Frustrated Woman - under the pseudonym Danielle Brown.

Dan Brown's first novel, a techno thriller called
Digital Fortress, was published in 1998. With Digital Fortress, Brown first began exploring his fascination with cryptography.

In the novel, NSA (National Security Agency) cryptographer Susan Fletcher is called upon to stop Digital Fortress - encryption code software that the NSA's code-breaking supercomputer TRANSLTR is incapable of cracking.

If Digital Fortress spreads through the Internet, it could cripple the NSA. The novel addresses civil rights issues in the Internet age, such as government agencies hacking into citizens' private data (i.e. messages in e-mail accounts) and reading it.

In Dan Brown's second novel, Angels & Demons (2000), Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon is called upon to help in the investigation of a bizarre murder.

A respected nuclear physicist has been found murdered, with one eye removed and an ambigram of the word
Illuminati branded on his chest. Langdon is an expert on the Illuminati - a secret brotherhood of scientists founded during the Renaissance dedicated to advancing science and challenging the authority of the Church.

At the time of the murder, the Pope has died and a papal enclave has convened at the Vatican to elect the new pontiff. The Preferiti - the cardinals who are candidates to become the new Pope - turn up missing. They are being murdered, one by one, in the same way as the nuclear physicist.

Langdon discovers that the fabled Illuminati still exists and is planning to blow up Vatican City with an antimatter bomb as retribution for the massacre of their predecessors, which was carried out by the Church centuries ago.

Angels & Demons
was a bestseller - a huge critical and commercial success for Dan Brown. He followed it with the sci-fi suspense thriller Deception Point (2001).

It told the story of Rachel Sexton, an NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) intelligence analyst and part of a team of experts whose mission is to authenticate findings made by NASA deep within the Arctic's Milne Ice Shelf.

The findings are fossils of insects contained within a meteor, which NASA claims may constitute proof of extraterrestrial life. What the team doesn't know is that their activities are being secretly monitored by a Delta Force unit.

Rachel suspects that the meteor may be a fraud. But who would want to discredit NASA? Could it be her own father, ruthless conservative Senator Sedgewick Sexton, a presidential candidate running on a platform of reducing government spending?

He wants to scrap NASA and turn space exploration over to the private sector. His opponent, the incumbent President, is a huge supporter of NASA. Is the Delta Force unit in on the hoax or have they been ordered to assassinate the team of experts to hide the truth?

In 2003, Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code - a prequel to Angels & Demons - that proved to be a runaway bestseller, selling over sixty million copies and causing a huge controversy.

The Da Vinci Code, Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon is called upon to assist in the investigation of another bizarre and brutal murder - one that took place in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Jacques Sauniere, the museum's curator, was found murdered, with a strange cipher near his body. Teaming up with Sauniere's granddaughter Sophie, Langdon follows a bizarre trail of anagrams, ciphers, number puzzles, and other brainteasers as he tries to solve the murder.

The trail eventually leads the pair to mysterious clues hidden within the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, a cryptex invented by Da Vinci, and the Holy Grail - proof that the foundation of Christianity was a fairy tale invented and propagated by the Church.

Jesus Christ actually escaped crucifixion and fled to France with his pregnant wife, Mary Magadelene, where she bore the child, whose descendants became royalty.

Mary Magdalene was the real rock upon which Jesus built his church, not Peter, which infuriated the fiercely misogynistic disciple. Years later, the Church tried to exterminate all of Jesus and Mary Magdalene's descendants to conceal the truth.

But, some of them survived, and a secret brotherhood (whose membership included Leonardo Da Vinci) pledged to protect them and the proof of the "con of Man."

Blending thrilling, intriguing suspense fiction with historical facts and theories, The Da Vinci Code proved to be hugely popular and hugely controversial.

The Vatican denounced the novel as anti-Catholic. The Christian Right called it blasphemous, and both factions published numerous non-fiction books dedicated to debunking the historical facts and theories Dan Brown based his novel on.

After a movie adaptation was released in 2006 (directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon) and became hugely successful itself, some disgruntled writers filed suit to get a piece of the pie.

First, Lewis Purdue sued Dan Brown, claiming that Brown plagiarized his novels
The Da Vinci Legacy (1983) and Daughter Of God (2000).

Then, writers Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh filed suit, claiming that Brown based
The Da Vinci Code on theories put forth in their famous 1982 non-fiction book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Dan Brown won both lawsuits, as the plagiarism claims were ruled to be baseless.

A feature film version of Angels & Demons was released in May of 2009. A few months later, The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's third novel in his Robert Langdon series, was released.

In it, Langdon agrees to give a lecture in Washington, DC, at the request of his mentor, Peter Solomon. When he arrives in Washington, Langdon finds Solomon's severed head mounted on a wooden base.

The victim's fingers are pointing up at a fresco on the ceiling, a painting that depicts George Washington dressed in celestial robes and ascending to heaven.

As he investigates his friend's murder, Langdon uncovers clues that lead him toward a fabled source of wisdom known as the Ancient Mysteries - and toward Mal'akh, a tattooed, musclebound madman who believes that the secrets of the Ancient Mysteries will enable him to rule the world...

Dan Brown is one of our finest modern suspense novelists. His most recent novel, Inferno, was published in 2013. The fourth book in the Robert Langdon series, it opens with Langdon waking up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with no memory of the past few days.

Sienna Brooks, a doctor caring for him, tells him that he stumbled into the emergency room after a bullet grazed his head. The female assassin who tried to kill him then invades the hospital to finish the job. Robert and Sienna are forced to flee.

When Robert finds a curious object - a medieval bone cylinder containing a hi-tech projector that displays a modified version of Botticelli's Map of Hell and the words "The truth can be glimpsed only through the eyes of death" - he plunges into yet another deadly mystery.

As he and Sienna are hunted by everyone from assassins to soldiers, Robert Langdon follows a trail of clues that lead him to a brilliant and demented billionaire and Dante fanatic who's come up with a solution to the world's overpopulation problem - sterilizing one-third of humanity with a virus...

Quote Of The Day

"Writing an informative yet compact thriller is a lot like making maple sugar candy. You have to tap hundreds of trees, boil vats and vats of raw sap, evaporate the water, and keep boiling until you've distilled a tiny nugget that encapsulates the essence. " - Dan Brown

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Dan Brown on Google+ Hangout discussing his most recent novel, Inferno. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Notes For June 21st, 2016

This Day In Literary History

On June 21st, 1956, the legendary American playwright Arthur Miller defied the United States Congress, refusing to inform on his friends and colleagues whom a Congressional committee had suspected of being communists.

At the time of his Congressional hearing, Miller, born in Harlem, New York, in 1915, had established himself as one of America's greatest playwrights. An outspoken liberal who openly supported leftist causes, he was long suspected of being a communist.

No evidence exists to prove that he belonged to the American Communist Party; some biographers have speculated that he may have joined under a pseudonym, but that's pure conjecture.

A Red Scare had swept through the American landscape of the 1950s - the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union - infesting the country with fear and paranoia.

The House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC), founded by Congress in 1938, was tasked with weeding out suspected communists and communist sympathizers. The committee became notorious for its dubious methods.

To extract confessions from suspected communists, the HUAC, under the direction of Joseph McCarthy, the notorious Republican senator from Wisconsin, would resort to coercion, deception, and false testimony by so-called witnesses.

Another tool in the committee's arsenal was guilt by association - if a defendant's relatives and / or friends were communists, then the defendant must be as well, or he wouldn't associate with them.

Worst of all, when no evidence existed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the HUAC's mostly false and slanderous accusations of communism, the committee simply manufactured it.

In those days, being convicted of communism meant not only jail time, but also the blacklisting of the defendant from his trade, the loss of his civil rights, and public ostracism.

During the infamous Hollywood Blacklist, actors, directors, writers, and producers convicted of being communists or communist sympathizers could not find work after their release from jail.

The Hollywood studios refused to hire convicted or even suspected communists or communist sympathizers, for fear of governmental interference in the movie business.

Blacklisted actors and directors would have to work in small independent productions or make movies in foreign countries. Blacklisted writers would have to use fronts - impostors pretending to be them - to sell their works in Hollywood.

Three years before he found himself brought before the HUAC, Arthur Miller had written a play inspired by what happened to his close friend, legendary filmmaker Elia Kazan.

Brought before the HUAC and accused of being a communist, Kazan, wishing to avoid the Hollywood Blacklist, informed on several of his friends, including legendary playwright Lillian Hellman and actor John Garfield.

Kazan avoided the Blacklist, but his reputation would take a huge hit. He was rightfully considered a rat willing to ruin the lives of others for the sake of his own self interest. Miller didn't speak to him for ten years.

In his classic play The Crucible (1953), Arthur Miller presented a scathing satirical indictment of the HUAC, likening its hearings to the infamous 17th century Salem witch hunts.

In those trials, innocent lives were also destroyed by false accusations, (of witchcraft) national hysteria, and pompous, self-righteous judges more interested in extracting confessions than in uncovering the truth and delivering justice.

The Crucible became a huge hit on Broadway and would go on to become Miller's most frequently produced play. It infuriated the HUAC to no end.

So, in 1956, when Miller applied for a renewal of his passport, the HUAC took advantage of the routine request to haul him in for questioning, as it was against the law to issue passports to known or suspected communists.

Having nothing to hide, Miller told the committee that he would gladly provide testimony about his own political beliefs and activities, so long as he was not asked to inform on others.

The chairman agreed and promised that he would not have to inform on others. Miller kept his end of the deal and gave the HUAC a detailed account of his own political activities.

The committee then reneged on the chairman's promise and ordered Miller to give them the names of all of his friends and colleagues who shared in his political beliefs and activities.

He refused to comply, so he was charged with contempt of Congress. His case later came to trial, and in May of 1957, a judge found him guilty.

Miller was fined $500, sentenced to thirty days in jail, blacklisted, and of course, denied a renewal of his passport. Fortunately, his conviction was overturned on appeal.

The Court of Appeals found that he had been deliberately deceived by the HUAC chairman and tricked into incriminating himself, which was a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

Arthur Miller's experience with the HUAC would haunt him for the rest of his life. This is why, in the 1970s, he took a personal interest in the famous Barbara Gibbons murder case.

The victim's son, Peter Reilly, was convicted of her murder based on what most people believed was a coerced confession. There was little, if any, actual evidence to prove his guilt.

Miller, believing that Reilly was innocent and had been railroaded by the Connecticut State Police and the state Attorney General who had prosecuted the case, used his celebrity to draw attention to Reilly's plight.

The case reminded Miller of his own railroading by the House Unamerican Activities Committee, which would become the House Committee on Internal Security in 1969 and finally be abolished in 1975.

In December of 1954, by a vote of 67-22, Senator Joseph McCarthy was censured by the Senate for his unethical and illegal conduct. Though he would continue to perform his general duties as a Senator for the next two and a half years, his political career was ruined.

McCarthy was shunned by almost all his fellow Senators. Whenever he gave a speech on the Senate floor, the other Senators would immediately leave the floor rather than listen to him.

Haunted by his fate, McCarthy became a pale shadow of his domineering former self. He drank himself to death, dying in May of 1957 at the age of 48.

Quote Of The Day

"I know that my works are a credit to this nation and I dare say they will endure longer than the McCarran Act." - Arthur Miller

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a three-part interview with Arthur Miller, where he discusses his classic play The Crucible and his ordeal at the hands of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2016

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Joanna M. Weston

One poem up at Poet's Corner and three up at Dead Snakes with thanks to the Poetry List for their help.

Four poems from my book, “A bedroom of searchlights,” up at 7 Beats here and now. Scroll down, but not too far!

My haiku for the solstice is up at the Plum Tree Tavern.

Elma Schemenauer

Slavomir Almajan is a friendly & inspiring poet my husband Bob & I met at a Kelowna [British Columbia] Christian writing event where I spoke. Here on his blog is his review of my novel CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS.

Thanks, IWWers who patiently critiqued this novel over a number of years. It was finally published by Borealis Press of Ottawa in 2014.

Sala Wyman

My first ever book review - and online publishing besides my own blog - is up at Book Club Babble. I reviewed "Jo Joe" by Sally Wiener Grotta and interviewed her afterwards. Exciting...I really enjoyed this experience.

Wayne Scheer

I won First Place and $25 in Mini Contest #30 at On the Premises. The idea of the contest was to open a story giving away a twist ending in less than 50 words.

I rewrote the start of a story of mine with a surprise twist. I think I like it better this way. With the reader knowing the truth from the start, it's a very different story. The original story was critiqued in Fiction a long time ago.

My short story, "Doing Penance," is up at A long Story Short. Thanks to the Fiction folk for critiquing this old one. 

Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam

I have a story up on The Flash Fiction Press Magazine. It's titled The Memory Question, and, I earned $5 for this story.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Notes For June 17th, 2016

This Day In Literary History

On June 17th, 1972, five men were caught burglarizing the Watergate building, a complex of offices, hotel rooms, and apartments in Washington, D.C.

The burglars had been caught breaking into the part of the Watergate that housed the offices of the Democratic National Committee - the national headquarters of the Democratic Party.

Ben Bradlee, Editor-In-Chief of the prominent Washington Post newspaper, assigned two young investigative reporters to cover the seemingly innocuous story of the Watergate burglary. Their names were Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Woodward and Bernstein soon realized that there was nothing innocuous about the burglary at Watergate. In fact, the same offices had been burglarized before. Using their investigative skills, confidential sources, and a secret informant known only as Deep Throat, they broke the Watergate burglary story wide open.

The five burglars were really White House operatives whose mission was to spy on President Richard M. Nixon's opposition in the upcoming election. After breaking into the DNC offices, they stole information and bugged the telephones.

Nixon denied involvement and won re-election in November, but Woodward and Bernstein continued their investigations and were able to prove that Nixon not only knew about the Watergate burglary, but was also attempting to block the investigation.

In 1974, in order to avoid impeachment, Richard M. Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace. He would later be pardoned by acting President Gerald Ford, a highly controversial move that cost Ford the presidency in the next election.

Woodward and Bernstein's work in exposing the Watergate conspiracy earned the Washington Post a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. They later wrote a famous book about it called All The President's Men.

Published in 1974, the book became a bestseller. Woodward and Bernstein had been toying with idea of writing a book, but didn't commit to it until actor-filmmaker Robert Redford contacted them with an offer to buy the movie rights.

The acclaimed feature film adaptation of All The President's Men, which starred Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein, was released in 1976. That same year, Woodward and Bernstein published The Final Days.

A sequel to All The President's Men, it chronicled the last months of the Nixon presidency. In 1989, it was adapted as an acclaimed TV movie starring Lane Smith as Richard Nixon. It was nominated for five Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were real heroes, the kind of journalists that, sadly, no longer exist and are sorely needed.

In 2005, their famous and mysterious informant Deep Throat revealed his true identity. He was W. Mark Felt, a former associate director of the FBI and White House insider.

Quote Of The Day

"The reality is that the media are probably the most powerful of all our institutions today and they, or rather we [journalists], too often are squandering our power and ignoring our obligations. The consequence of our abdication of responsibility is the ugly spectacle of idiot culture." - Carl Bernstein

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on an episode of The Kalb Report marking the 40th anniversary of Watergate. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Notes For June 16th, 2016

This Day In Literary History

On June 16th, 1938, the famous American writer Joyce Carol Oates was born in Lockport, New York. She was very close to her paternal grandmother, Blanche Oates, who lived with the family and planted the seeds of her future writing career.

When Joyce was a little girl, her grandmother gave her a copy of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland, which she credited as "the great treasure of my childhood and the most profound literary influence in my life." When Joyce turned 14, her grandmother gave her a typewriter, and she began writing.

Joyce Carol Oates described her family as average, happy, and close-knit. Many years later, after her grandmother died, Joyce learned some surprising secrets about her life.

Blanche Oates' father had committed suicide, after which, Blanche decided to conceal the fact that she was Jewish. Joyce used these and other details of her grandmother's life as the basis for her 2007 novel, The Gravedigger's Daughter.

As a young teenager, Joyce Carol Oates became an avid reader, devouring the works of William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, and the Bronte sisters, whom she claimed were a strong influence on her writing.

After attending the same one-room school that her mother had gone to, Joyce transferred to bigger suburban schools. At Williamsville South High School, where she graduated in 1956, Joyce worked for the student newspaper. She was the first member of her family to graduate high school.

Joyce Carol Oates won a scholarship to Syracuse University, where she joined the Phi Mu sorority, a decision she came to regret. In college, Joyce read the works of D.H. Lawrence, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Mann, and Franz Kafka, all of which she claimed were still strong and pervasive influences in her own writing.

When she was nineteen years old, she won a college short story contest sponsored by Mademoiselle magazine. She graduated Syracuse as valedictorian in 1960 and received an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison a year later.

During her college years, Joyce taught herself to be a writer by
"writing novel after novel and always throwing them out when I completed them." In 1964, when she was 26 years old, she published her first novel, With Shuddering Fall.

Two years later, she published a short story,
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, loosely based on the life of serial killer Charles Schmid, the "Pied Piper of Tucson." The story was frequently republished in anthologies and was adapted in 1985 as a feature film called Smooth Talk.

Joyce Carol Oates would later use real life crimes and criminals as the basis of her novels, changing names, dates, places, and details, and adding fictionalized elements. Her 1995 novel Zombie, which won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel, was based on the life of cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

The novel presents the diary of Quentin P., a psychotic sex offender on parole who becomes a serial killer as he searches for the perfect "zombie" - a mindless, obedient, handsome young man to be his companion and lover.

The brilliant, cunning, and strangely child-like Quentin lures young men into his clutches and lobotomizes them with various weapons as he conducts experiments in creating a zombie. In addition to Quentin's diary entries, the book contains his bizarre sketches of objects such as weapons and staring eyes.

In her 2008 novel My Sister, My Love, Joyce Carol Oates presents a dark and scathing parody of the famous JonBenet Ramsey murder case. It's told in the form of a memoir written by 19-year-old Skyler Rampike. When he was ten, his beloved six-year-old sister Bliss - a child ice-skating star - was found raped and murdered.

In his memoir, Skyler paints a grotesque picture of his family before and after the tragedy. His father, Bix, is a ruthlessly ambitious, money-hungry philanderer; his pathetic, neurotic mother Betsey is determined to impress the snooty neighbors in their affluent community.

She's also obsessed with living out her childhood dream by turning her daughter into a figure-skating star, dressing her in provocative costumes and forcing her to practice and perform.

After Bliss's murder, the already dysfunctional Rampike family is plunged into tabloid hell, as suspicion falls on both Bix and Betsey - and even 10-year-old Skyler.
Joyce Carol Oates' powerful writing - and her fascination with violence and the dark side of the human condition - earned her the respect of male peers as Norman Mailer.

Her 1996 novel,
We Were The Mulvaneys, was selected by Oprah Winfrey's book club in 2001. The Mulvaneys are a happy, close-knit, affluent model family living in upstate New York.

Then, on Valentine's Day, 1976, after attending her high school prom, teenage daughter Marianne Mulvaney goes to a party, gets drunk, and is raped by a fellow student whose father is a respected businessman and close friend of Marianne's father.

Her refusal to press charges against her attacker leads to the slow and painful disintegration of the once perfect Mulvaney family. Years later, at a family reunion, the Mulvaneys finally come to terms with the past and receive the closure that had eluded them.

An extremely prolific writer, Oates has written over 40 novels, (plus 11 more under pseudonyms) with three more due out soon. She has also written over 35 short story collections.

Her other writings include seven books for young adults and children, ten books of poetry, eight plays, and numerous nonfiction works. She will no doubt be remembered as one of the most gifted writers of her generation.

Joyce Carol Oates' most recent novel, The Man Without a Shadow, was published in January. Set in 1965, it tells the story of Margot Sharpe, a neuroscientist who takes on a mysterious new test subject named Eli Hoopes.

An infection and high fever left Eli brain damaged - he can't remember the past and he can't store new memories for more than 70 seconds. Margot and her team begin a long series of tests and experiments on him.

As time passes, Eli becomes a confidant for all of Margot's secrets - she knows he'll forget anything she tells him. Guilt soon gnaws at her for playing tricks with Eli's mind and using him as a guinea pig.

While she tries to unlock the disturbing memories of his past and boost his short term memory, Margot falls in love with the charming, charismatic Eli and has an illicit affair with him. But is it really love when the other person keeps forgetting who you are?

Quote Of The Day

"If you are a writer, you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework, you can still be writing, because you have that space." - Joyce Carol Oates

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Joyce Carol Oates on University of California TV in February of 2015. Enjoy!

The Craft of Writing in the Blogosphere


News from the World of Writing