This Day In Literary History
On July 14th, 1902, the famous Polish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in Leoncin, Poland. His older brother, Israel Joshua Singer, and his older sister, Esther Kreitman, also became writers. Their father was a Hasidic rabbi, and their mother's father and brothers were also rabbis.
When Isaac Bashevis Singer was ten years old, his brother Israel gave him a copy of Dostoevsky's classic novel, Crime and Punishment, despite the fact that their strict, orthodox father forbade them from reading non-religious books.
Isaac loved the novel. Later, as a teenager in Bilgoraj, he would study Yiddish translations of works by Leo Tolstoy, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, and other authors. He read all sorts of novels, plays, and poetry collections.
Singer later entered a rabbinical seminary, but came to hate the school and the prospect of becoming a rabbi. He returned to his parents for a time, then went back to Bilgoraj and tried to earn some money as a Hebrew tutor.
In 1923, his brother Israel arranged for him to move to Warsaw and become a proofreader for the Literarische Bleter, for whom he would later become an editor. In his twenties, taking a cue from his brother who had done the same, Isaac Bashevis Singer rejected his religion and broke ties with his parents.
He became part of Warsaw's Bohemian scene, spending time with many of his fellow non-religious writers and artists. Singer's first published short story won a literary contest and established him as an up-and-coming talent.
Singer's primary language was Yiddish. He wrote in Yiddish, and Yiddish folktales were a major influence on his writing. His first novel, Satan In Goray, was published in a serialized format in Globus, a literary magazine co-founded in 1935 by Singer and his lifelong friend, Yiddish poet Aaron Zeitlin.
Singer's historical novel was set in 17th century Poland, in the village of Goraj. It was based on the true story of how one third of Poland's Jews were exterminated in a Cossack uprising. It also told of the effect of Shabbatai Zvi, a rabbi turned false prophet and cult leader, on the Jewish population.
A prominent vegetarian, Singer's dietary philosophy would be reflected in his writings. His short story The Slaughterer dealt with the anguish of a man trying to reconcile his compassion for animals with his job as a slaughterer.
Singer often said that he became a vegetarian for reasons of health - the health of animals. "In relation to [animals]," he wrote in The Letter Writer, "all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka."
Although he had rejected his religion as a young man, Isaac Bashevis Singer's writing is often steeped deep in Judaism. His novels and short stories often depicted Jewish characters struggling with their religion. Their struggles sometimes become quite violent, resulting in death or insanity.
Singer's most popular novel, Yentl The Yeshiva Boy, was adapted in 1975 as an equally popular movie (which Singer absolutely hated) starring Barbra Streisand in the lead role. Yentl is a young girl constantly at odds with her rabbi father over the traditions of their religion, always debating theology with him - something females aren't supposed to do.
After her father dies, Yentl cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy named Anshel so she can enter a yeshiva and study the Talmud. Her true identity is discovered by her study partner, Avigdor. In his novel, Singer modeled the character of Yentl after his older sister, Esther.
Though she was an intellectually gifted child, due to the misogynistic beliefs and traditions of her father's orthodox religion, as a young girl, Esther was confined to a life of drudgery, doing menial household chores while her brothers received an education.
Esther had dreamed of becoming a writer, but her status as a woman in a strict Hasidic Jewish family crushed that dream. She was even forced into an arranged marriage, a fate she accepted grudgingly. The marriage ended in divorce. Later in life, she finally did educate herself and make her dream come true, publishing one novel and a collection of short stories.
Her brother, Isaac Bashevis Singer, wrote over 18 novels and numerous short story collections. In 1978, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in 1991 at the age of 88, after suffering a series of strokes.
Quote Of The Day
"We must believe in free will - we have no choice." - Isaac Bashevis Singer
Today's video features the complete 1987 PBS TV documentary, Isaac In America: A Journey With Isaac Bashevis Singer. Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Monday, July 13, 2020
So happy to learn last night that my story, In The Quink of an Eye, is a semi-finalist in MacQueen's Quinterly Quink Contest. What happens now is that in three weeks a winner and three finalists will be chosen from the semi-finalists, and then the winner, three finalists, and semi-finalist stories will all be published in the next issue (the August issue, due in three weeks).
So no matter what the next results might be, my story is a semi-finalist and will be published. Do keep your fingers crossed that my story will do even better. I love this system of good news now and maybe even better news later.
Thanks to Paul Fein, Michael Burris, Aaron Troye-White, Rick Bylina, Diane Diekman, and Brent Salish for your helpful critiques.
A poem up of mine is up at Young Ravens Literary Review. I freeze at themed submissions but with the virus and self-isolation decided to try-it took a while and constant revisions and I was thrilled when it was accepted.
First, my thanks to Pamelyn for suggesting i contact the Boyd Chronicles. Then what an absolute thrill to find Wayne Scheer on the same podcast. I kid Wayne that we are cousins cuz his last name is my grandmother's maiden name.
Friday, July 10, 2020
This Day In Literary History
On July 10th, 1871, the legendary French novelist, essayist, and critic Marcel Proust was born. He was born Valentin Louis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust in Auteuil, France - a borough of Paris.
Proust's family was affluent, as his father, Achille Adrien Proust, was a prominent pathologist and epidemiologist whose work was dedicated to containing the epidemic of cholera in Europe and Asia. He wrote many books and articles on medicine and hygiene.
Marcel's mother, Jeanne, was the daughter of a wealthy, intellectual Jewish family. He was very close to her. As a boy, Marcel Proust was a sickly child. He suffered his first serious asthma attack at the age of nine.
At the age of eleven, he enrolled as a student at the Lycee Condorcet. Despite the fact that his education was often interrupted by his health problems, he excelled at his studies and won an award in his final year.
Proust began writing at an early age. In 1890, when he was nineteen and still in school, in addition to being published in literary magazines, for a year, Proust published a regular society column in the journal La Mensuel.
In 1892, he helped found a literary magazine called La Banquet, where his short pieces would often be published. He was also published in the famous Le Revue Blanche.
As a young man, the dandy Proust was a dilettante and social climber, lacking the discipline required to fulfill his aspiration to be a great novelist. He garnered a reputation as an amateur and a snob, then finally got serious, buckled down, and began writing what would become his magnum opus.
À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu, or In Search Of Lost Time, was a 3,000+ page epic semi autobiographical novel. It would be published in English as Remembrance Of Things Past.
After numerous rejections, Remembrance Of Things Past would be published in a series of seven volumes over a period of 14 years, with the last two published posthumously. The first volume, Swann's Way, was published in 1913.
Proust's dazzling novel is rightfully considered one of the greatest ever written, and continues to influence writers and scholars to this day. It was shaped by people and events in Proust's life, including his own experiences.
He employed a lyrical narrative rich in detail, symbolism, and philosophy. It's often melancholic and fascinated with the nature of memories, especially involuntary memories, which are triggered by seeing a certain object, hearing a certain sound, or smelling a certain aroma.
The most famous memory evoked in Swann's Way is the narrator's memory of eating that classic French tea cake, the madeleine:
Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savors, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?
The memories in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, recalled in incredibly rich detail, were in complete contrast with the plot-driven novels of its time. This may have contributed to its initial rejection.
Some believe it had more to do with the fact that Proust, who was gay, wrote openly and honestly about homosexuality at a time when it was not only despised by society but also illegal - a crime punishable by imprisonment.
His narrator in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu is not gay, but other characters are (most notably the Baron de Charlus in the fourth volume, Sodom and Gomorrah) and homosexuality is a recurring theme in Proust's writings.
Unfazed by the rejection of Swann's Way by publishers, Proust raised the money to publish the novel himself. It made him famous. Scholars have proclaimed A la Recherche du Temps Perdu to be one of the greatest modern novels ever written.
The legendary Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov named it as one of the greatest prose works of the 20th century, along with James Joyce's Ulysses and Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. W. Somerset Maugham called it "the greatest fiction to date."
In 2002, Penguin Books published a new English translation of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Edited by Christopher Prendergast, it's a collaboration of seven different translators.
Ten years later, Naxos Audiobooks began releasing its acclaimed series of unabridged English language audiobooks of all the volumes of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, narrated by Neville Jason, famous for the abridged audiobook version of the series he'd recorded many years earlier.
I have already listened to the first six volumes of this new unabridged series, and the narration is magnificent. As always, unabridged audiobooks are the only way to go, especially when listening to the classics.
Writing Remembrance Of Things Past would take a toll on Marcel Proust's chronically poor health. During the last three years of his life, he was mostly confined to his bedroom.
He slept during the day and wrote at night, struggling to complete his novel. In 1922, after he had finished the book, Proust contracted pneumonia and later died of a pulmonary abscess at the age of 51.
Quote Of The Day
"Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself." - Marcel Proust
Today's video features a BBC documentary on Marcel Proust. Enjoy!
Thursday, July 9, 2020
This Day In Literary History
On July 9th, 1775, the famous English novelist and playwright Matthew Lewis was born in London. Born to an affluent family, he received his education at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford.
Lewis spent most of his vacations abroad, studying modern languages. His ambition was to become a diplomat, and at the age of nineteen, he served as an attache to the British Embassy at the Hague in the Netherlands.
As a teenager, Lewis took up writing as a hobby and developed a passion for it. During a period of ten weeks, while he worked at the British Embassy, he wrote a novel which would cause a furor and become famous as one of the all time geeat works of Gothic literature.
First published in 1796 under the name M.G. Lewis, The Monk was both a masterpiece of Gothic horror and a scathing satirical attack on the brutality, corruption, and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church in the 18th century.
Set in Madrid during the Spanish Inquisition, the title character is Ambrosio, a pious and respected Capuchin priest and teacher at a monastery who is beloved by everyone in Madrid.
He becomes obsessed with one of his students - a beautiful young man named Rosario who reveals himself to be a woman in disguise named Matilda. That's when we learn that Ambrosio's piety is false.
Pride and vanity were his main motivations for establishing himself as a respected priest. That and his lust makes him a prime target for seduction, an easy task for Matilda, who is really a demon in human form.
She seduces Ambrosio into a downward spiral of perversion and degradation. Even a painting of the Virgin Mary arouses the priest's uncontrollable lust. Later, another object of purity arouses Ambrosio and leads to his horrific downfall.
The novel then switches gears and tells the story of the romance between Lorenzo and his beloved, a virginal young girl named Antonia. A subplot reveals the injustices suffered by Lorenzo's sister when she is tortured by nuns. There's also a narrative about a character called the Bleeding Nun.
Later, Ambrosio, overcome with lust for the innocent Antonia, kills her mother and uses Matilda's black magic to help him seduce her. He ends up raping Antonia and then killing her in a fit of rage. His sins finally catch up with him and he is delivered into the hands of the Inquisition.
Horribly tortured and sentenced to death, Ambrosio sells his soul to Satan in exchange for saving his life, after which, the Devil prevents the priest's last, pathetic attempt at repentance.
Sealing Ambrosio's fate, Satan reveals that Antonia - the girl Ambrosio raped and killed - was actually his long lost sister. Then he subjects the priest to an agonizing death. Needless to say, The Monk caused a furor when it was published.
Lurid, lewd, and shockingly graphic, it was the first novel to feature a Catholic priest as the villain. A sensation with readers and critics alike, the novel made its author a celebrity. He was given the nickname Monk.
Ultimately, a magistrate issued an injunction restricting the sale of The Monk on the grounds of obscenity. Lewis removed some elements that he thought were the reason for the magistrate's ruling and published a second edition. The novel still retained most of its horror.
The furor didn't die down, though. When Matthew Lewis became an elected Member of Parliament, he was exposed as the M.G. Lewis who wrote The Monk, and a scandal erupted. The novel would continue to earn praise, provoke outrage, and become one of the greatest Gothic novels of all time.
Lord Byron paid tribute to Lewis in his poem English Bards And Scotch Reviewers. The legendary French writer and philosopher Marquis de Sade praised Lewis' writing skills in his classic essay, Reflections On The Novel.
Over the years, The Monk would become a major literary influence. Jane Austen satirized it in her classic novel Northanger Abbey (1818), and it would inspire the writing of the infamous book The Awful Disclosures Of Maria Monk, or The Hidden Secrets Of A Nun's Life In A Convent Exposed.
First published in 1836, the book was supposedly a memoir written by an actual nun, Maria Monk, who lived at a convent in Montreal. In her book, Maria Monk describes the victimization of herself and her fellow nuns by priests from the seminary next door.
According to the book, the priests, driven mad with sexual frustration from the vows of chastity imposed on them, would sneak into the convent at night through a secret tunnel and force the nuns to submit to them sexually - with the help of the Mother Superior.
In a Gothic style similar to that of Matthew Lewis, Maria Monk provides a graphic and sensational account of perversion and corruption. Nuns who refuse to submit to the priests end up mysteriously disappearing.
Should a nun become pregnant as the result of her rape, after giving birth, the priests would baptize her baby, then strangle it and throw it into a lime pit. These were just some of the atrocities chronicled in the book.
Although it was published as a memoir - a true account - historians agree that The Awful Disclosures Of Maria Monk was really a work of fiction. Some believe that Maria suffered from schizophrenia as the result of a childhood head injury and had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.
Others believe that she was a disgruntled nun manipulated by fundamentalist Protestants into wildly exaggerating her claims of abuse. The book is still used today by fundamentalist Protestant evangelists as an anti-Catholic tract to lure converts away from the Church.
Despite the controversy over The Monk, Matthew Lewis continued to write, and in addition to his short story collections, he wrote a play, The Castle Spectre (1796) - a Gothic romance that would become extremely popular on the British stage.
After his father died, Lewis inherited his large fortune. In 1815, Lewis traveled to the West Indies to visit his father's plantations in Jamaica. In the summer of 1816, he went to Switzerland and visited his friends, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, and told them five ghost stories which were later recorded in his journal.
In 1817, Lewis, an abolitionist, returned to Jamaica to try and improve the living conditions of the slave population. He recorded his experiences in his journal. Unfortunately, the following year, he contracted yellow fever and died at the age of 42.
His journal of this period would be published posthumously as Journal Of A West Indian Proprietor (1833), and a volume of his personal correspondence would be published as The Life And Correspondence Of M.G. Lewis in 1839.
Quote Of The Day
"An author, whether good or bad, or between both, is an animal whom everybody is privileged to attack; for though all are not able to write books, all conceive themselves able to judge them." - Matthew Lewis
Today's video features a complete reading of Matthew Lewis' classic novel, The Monk. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
This Day In Literary History
On July 8th, 1952, the famous American writer Anna Quindlen was born in New York City. When she was nineteen years old, her mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 40. Quindlen's relationship with her mother would influence her writing, which often deals with mother-daughter conflicts.
Anna Quindlen graduated from Barnard College in 1974. For her thesis, she wrote a collection of short stories, and one of them was published in Seventeen magazine. After graduating, she took up journalism and became a reporter for the New York Post.
Three years later, in 1977, she left to work for the New York Times, and over the years, she held different positions with the venerable newspaper, including that of a columnist, and her column Life In The 30s became hugely popular.
She later became a columnist for Newsweek, and her column Public And Private won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. She married attorney Gerald Krovatin and bore him three children.
Quindlen wrote in her spare time, and her first book, a nonfiction work called Living Out Loud, was published in 1988. In 1991, she published her first novel, Object Lessons.
It told the story of Maggie Scanlan, a 13-year-old girl coming of age in the 1960s as the only daughter in a family ruled by a domineering, ignorant, bigoted, sexist Irish-Catholic father. Maggie's mother also struggles to find a place for herself.
Quindlen's second novel, One True Thing (1994) was an even bigger bestseller. It incorporates more elements from her personal life. Ellen Gulden, a writer for a New York newspaper, has always idolized and been close to her father George, a celebrated novelist and college professor.
When her estranged mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ellen's father orders her to come home and take care of her, even though he could afford to hire professional help. Angered that her father would ask her to jeopardize her job, Ellen refuses, but her father guilt-trips her into becoming her mother's caregiver.
When George asks Ellen to write the introduction to an anthology of his writings, she's delighted. But soon, she begins to see a different side of him. As she takes care of her mother, he acts like she isn't sick at all, and he soon manipulates Ellen into doing his wife's chores, such as washing and mending his clothes.
Ellen starts to question her image of her father, and comes to reconcile with her mother. She realizes that although he's a brilliant writer, her father is also a deeply flawed man who has made many mistakes, including infidelity - a memory Ellen had tried to suppress for years. Yet, he loves his wife dearly and can't bear to watch her slip away into death.
In 1995, following the success of One True Thing, Anna Quindlen realized that her schedule had become too hectic, so she resigned as a journalist and became a full-time writer. Her third novel, a suspense thriller called Black And Blue (1998), was selected by Oprah Winfrey's Book Club.
It told the story of Fran Benedetto, a battered woman who gathers up the courage to escape from her savagely abusive husband, fleeing with her ten-year-old son. Fran builds a new life for herself and her son and tries to put the past behind her. Unfortunately, her ex-husband, a violent psychopath, is also a police officer, and knows how to find people...
Anna Quindlen continues to write bestselling novels, as well as nonfiction works and children's books. She has established herself as one of the top authors of women's fiction. Her most recent novel, Alternate Side, was published in 2018.
Quote Of The Day
"I sometimes joke that my greatest shortcoming as a writer is that I had an extremely happy childhood." - Anna Quindlen
Today's video features Anna Quindlen discussing her most recent novel, Alternate Side, on First Person. Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
This Day In Literary History
On July 7th, 1907, the legendary American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri. He grew up in Kansas City, and growing up in the "Bible belt" (a phrase Heinlein coined) would have a strong effect on his writings and personal philosophy.
In 1929, Heinlein entered the Naval Academy and later served as an officer in the U.S. Navy - another experience that would have a strong effect on him. Three years later, he married his second wife, Leslyn MacDonald, (his first marriage lasted only a year) who was a radical leftist.
He told his friend and fellow writer Isaac Asimov that he was "a flaming liberal" like his wife, but that would change dramatically by the end of World War II. In the 1930s, Heinlein was active in writer Upton Sinclair's "End Poverty in California" socialist movement.
When Sinclair became the Democratic candidate for Governor of California in 1934, Heinlein worked for his campaign. Sinclair lost the election by 200,000 votes, thanks in part to slanderous propaganda shorts produced by Hollywood studios.
The studios were determined to destroy Sinclair because part of his plan for economic recovery called for increased taxes on Hollywood studios and the creation of independent public studios where struggling filmmakers could make movies free of Hollywood's influence.
Heinlein was discharged from the Navy that same year due to tuberculosis. During his recovery, he came up with the concept of a water bed, and later included his designs in three of his books.
When water beds became common in the 1960s, Heinlein was able to block a company's attempt at securing a patent because their designs infringed on the ones he had published decades before.
Heinlein first took up writing as a means of paying his bills, as all he had to live on at the time was a small pension from the Navy. His first novel, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs (1939) wasn't published during his lifetime, but the manuscript was discovered and published in 2003.
Heinlein began selling short stories and then serialized science fiction novels to magazines. His first novel published in book form, Rocket Ship Galileo (1947) was initially rejected because its concept - the first manned space flight to the moon - was considered too far out.
He began writing juvenile science fiction, and found a publisher, Scribner's, who agreed to publish one of his juvenile novels per year, for the Christmas season. These novels, now referred to as "the Heinlein Juveniles" dealt with adolescent and adult themes.
The protagonists were often very intelligent teenagers trying to deal with an adult world that made little sense to them. His novel Red Planet (1949), for example, is set at a boarding school in a colony on Mars where the students join in a revolution against the colonial authorities.
During World War II, Heinlein worked as an aeronautical engineer for the Navy and recruited his friends Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp to work at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. After the war ended, Heinlein began to reevaluate his life and work.
He and his second wife divorced in 1947, and a year later, he married his third wife, Virginia "Ginny" Gerstenfeld, whom he remained with for forty years, until his death. His political beliefs took a dramatic shift to the far right.
During the Cold War, he defended the anti-Communist witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and when anti-nuclear proliferation activists prostest the development and testing of nuclear weapons, Heinlein decried their aims as "Communist-line goals concealed in idealistic sounding nonsense."
He and his wife Ginny formed a conservative group called The Patrick Henry League and later worked for the Barry Goldwater campaign. His friend Isaac Asimov believed that Heinlein's abrupt and dramatic political shift was his wife's fault.
Ginny was both a ferocious arch conservative and a determined, intelligent feminist whom Heinlein modeled some of his female characters after. Despite his drastic political change, Heinlein wasn't your typical arch conservative.
Although a staunch advocate of militarism and rabidly anti-communist, he was also opposed to racism and an advocate of personal and sexual liberation. He was a nudist and a believer in what the 1960s American counterculture would call "free love."
Heinlein also opposed the encroachment of religion on the government and culture of America. He blasted Christianity in his 1984 novel Job: A Comedy Of Justice, the savagely funny tale of Alex, a pious Christian political activist.
Alex is seduced and corrupted by a pagan cruise ship hostess - and loves every minute of it. His lover Margrethe is a Danish woman who worships Odin, the Norse father god. Alex maintains his Christian faith. Their life together is a series of misfortunes.
Alex compares himself to Job from the Bible. He and Margrethe are eventually separated by the Rapture; while Alex goes to Heaven as a reward for his faith, he finds it worthless without her - a boring place ruled by snooty angels.
Meanwhile, Margrethe goes to Hell for being a pagan. She finds that eternity in Hell is wonderful at best and productive at worst. Alex decides to leave Heaven and search for his lost love.
During the early years of the Cold War, Robert Heinlein broke out of juvenile fiction and became a major novelist. His novel The Puppet Masters (1951) was an allegory of the anti-communist hysteria of the time, on a par with Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, though Heinlein's novel is set over 50 years in the future.
Despite the technological advances of the time, Earth finds itself in a horrendous battle with slug-like alien parasites that invade the bodies of humans and control their minds.
The novel was plagiarized as a 1958 science fiction film called The Brain Eaters. Heinlein sued the producers and won a settlement. In 1994, an official adaptation of The Puppet Masters was released.
Heinlein's 1959 novel, Starship Troopers, was both controversial and a classic. Chronicling the exploits of Juan "Johnnie" Rico, a young soldier in a futuristic military unit called the Mobile Infantry, Starship Troopers was supposed to be published as a juvenile science fiction novel, but it was rejected as too militaristic - if not pro-fascist.
In the distant future, Earth and its allies are engaged in an interstellar war against spider-like aliens called "the Bugs." Despite the objections of his wealthy father, after graduating high school, Johnnie Rico joins the military instead of going to Harvard.
As he serves in the Mobile Infantry, we see Johnnie progress from recruit to officer. Some have called the novel pro-fascist because in the futuristic Earth setting, war is depicted as a glorious adventure and only veterans have the right to vote.
Only veterans are allowed to teach history in the schools, and have full citizenship. Civilians are denied full citizenship and can't vote or teach history. Another criticism of the book is that it proclaims the morality of capital punishment.
Defenders of Starship Troopers point out that while democracy is limited, there is still freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and personal liberty. The political system and military are both comprised of people of various races and religions, and men and women are considered equal. Male and female soldiers even bathe together. There is no draft.
Starship Troopers was adapted as a feature film in 1997. It received mixed reviews from critics and fans, as it differed greatly from the novel in terms of themes and plot, as director Paul Verhoven hated the book, which won its author a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960.
Verhoven, a Dutch filmmaker best known for his Hollywood cult classics such as Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995), turned his film adaptation of Starship Troopers into a scathing satire of militarism and fascism.
In 1961, Heinlein published what is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, Stranger In A Strange Land. It told the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the son of two astronauts who were part of an ill-fated expedition to Mars.
After the crew dies, Smith is orphaned and raised by Martians, becoming integrated with their advanced minds. Years later, he is discovered by another crew on a second Martian expedition and brought home to Earth.
On Earth, Smith is imprisoned in a hospital by the Federation of Free States (the successor to the United Nations) who want him to renounce any rights he may have to the ownership of Mars.
As Smith becomes a pawn in a feud between Federation factions, he adjusts to Earth's gravity and acquires supernatural powers and superhuman intelligence. Smith escapes the hospital with the help of a nurse, Gillian Boardman.
He becomes a celebrity and is approached by the leader of the Fosterites - a huge Christian fundamentalist order with its own TV network and businesses. They also have a Spirit-In-Action League comprised of teenagers and young adults.
League members are trained to physically attack members of other religions and anyone else who disagrees with their religious beliefs. Smith is introduced to Fosterite Bishop Digby, whom he ends up killing.
Moved by the fact that there's so much misery on Earth, Smith founds his own religion, a "Church Of All Worlds" based on Martian teachings. He teaches his followers how to rise above suffering such as "pain and sickness and hunger and fighting." He also teaches them the Martian language.
Soon, Smith's followers begin to acquire powers like his and become superhuman. Smith's core teaching that "Thou art God," and his church's practices of communal living and group sex outrage the Fosterites, who accuse him of blasphemy.
The novel ends with Smith allowing himself to be brutally assassinated. His last words, spoken to a grasshopper, are "I love you" and "Thou art God." Smith is resurrected and ascends to a higher plane of existence, similar to Heaven.
Stranger In A Strange Land won a Hugo Award and later became a classic of the 1960s American counterculture. Heinlein's original, completed manuscript clocked in at 220,000 words. His publisher, Putnam, made him cut 60,000 words and remove some elements that were considered too shocking for readers in 1961.
After his death in 1988, his wife Ginny arranged for an uncut version of the novel to be published, and it was released in 1991. Critics are still debating which version is the best.
When Robert A. Heinlein died in 1988 at the age of 80, he had published over 30 novels, almost 60 short stories, and 16 collections, establishing himself as one of the greatest, most prolific science fiction writers of all time.
Quote Of The Day
"Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil. Limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word psychology was ever invented. It works, too." - Robert A. Heinlein
Today's video features a complete reading of Robert A. Heinlein's classic novel, Stranger In A Strange Land. Enjoy!
Monday, July 6, 2020
Clever Magazine is one of the first ezines I published in after I retired and decided to write. It's now twenty years old and the editor is featuring some of my stories through the years, as well as a couple of new ones. The newest, "The Dance Palace," was written in Practice just a couple weeks ago.
The editor is planning on changing the format of her ezine, but she's still looking for flash fiction and longer stories, humor, essays, travel pieces and so forth. I've enjoyed working with her through the years. I hope you enjoy my "retrospective."
My short poem, "He Gets It," is up at New Verse News.
Snakeskin Poetry Webzine has published two of my short poems - 'The Tourist Guide' and 'With love,from a toddler to a writer mother' in their July 2020 Issue.
Another poem 'Meditations' has been published by Nymphs Magazine.
OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters has published my essay, A Close Reading of Bai Xiao-Yi's "Explosion in the Parlor."
Thanks to Paul Fein, Janaki Lenin, Catharine Moser, and Kristen Howe in the Non-Fiction group for help getting it into shape. Your suggestions helped a lot.