This Day In Writing History
On May 17th, 1873, the legendary English writer Dorothy Richardson was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. When she was seventeen, her father's financial problems threatened to plunge the family into poverty, so she left school to work.
A few years later, Dorothy's father went bankrupt, and her mother fell into a deep depression. Dorothy quit her job as a governess to take care of her mother, but the distraught woman committed suicide later that year.
After her mother's death, Dorothy moved to Bloomsbury, London, and took a job as receptionist, secretary, and assistant to a dental surgeon. When she wasn't working, she earned extra money writing essays and reviews and hung out with the Bloomsbury Set.
The Bloomsbury Set was a famous circle of libertine writers, artists, critics, and intellectuals who lived and / or worked in Bloomsbury. The group included such legendary writers as Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, and H.G. Wells.
Dorothy struck up a close friendship with H.G. Wells, which culminated in a brief and torrid affair with the married writer. She became pregnant with his baby. He offered to help her raise the child.
Dorothy, a determined feminist, broke ties with Wells and decided to raise the baby herself - a daring, controversial act for an unmarried woman in Edwardian England. Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage.
After losing her baby, Dorothy moved to Sussex, where she continued with her writing career, earning her living as a freelance writer and journalist. She began work on a novel - a huge epic autobiographical novel that would be published in a series of thirteen volumes.
She also found a new love, marrying Alan Odle, a surrealist painter fifteen years her junior. He was best known for his illustrations for Voltaire's classic novel Candide and Mark Twain's notorious, raunchy comic tale, 1601.
The first volume of Dorothy Richardson's classic novel Pilgrimage, titled Pointed Roofs, was published in 1915. It was a breakthrough novel that bent the established rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence length to the breaking point.
In a review of Painted Roofs published in 1918, the English writer and critic May Sinclair coined a new term to describe Dorothy Richardson's innovative writing style: stream of consciousness.
Dorothy didn't care for that term. The term she used to describe her writing style was interior monologue. Although her Pilgrimage wouldn't make her famous during her lifetime, it has since been recognized as one of the all time great works of early 20th century English literature.
Pilgrimage would not only inspire her contemporaries such as James Joyce and Marcel Proust, but future generations of writers as well. Her pioneering stream of consciousness writing style is still employed today.
Dorothy Richardson continued working as a freelance writer, as her novel wasn't a huge commercial success. She also wrote short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Her marriage would be a happy one; she remained with Alan Odle until he died in 1947. She died in 1957 at the age of 84.
She may have been the least famous writer in the Bloomsbury Set, but her contribution to modern literature was legendary.
If you would like to download the free public domain e-book of Pointed Roofs, the first volume of Dorothy Richardson's classic novel Pilgrimage, you can find it here at Munsey's archive.
You can download the free, unabridged public domain audiobook of Pointed Roofs or listen to the streaming feed here at the LibriVox archive.
Quote Of The Day
"Men want recognition of their work, to help them to believe in themselves." - Dorothy Richardson
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any video on Dorothy Richardson. So instead, here's a brief lesson in stream of consciousness writing from eHow. Enjoy!
Friday, May 17, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
This Day In Writing History
On May 16th, 1939, The Day of the Locust, the classic last novel by the famous American writer Nathanael West was published. Although he never achieved significant commercial success as a novelist during his short life, today he is rightfully considered one of the greatest American novelists of the 1930s.
West, born Nathan Weinstein in New York City, like many fiction writers of the 1930s, worked as a Hollywood screenwriter. He had made a name for himself as a novelist with his dark, surreal tales of Depression-era America, such as Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and A Cool Million (1934).
In 1939, the year that The Day of the Locust was published, the stifling Production Code was in effect in Hollywood, and movies were considered clean, wholesome entertainment. In West's classic novel, he explores the dark side of the Dream Factory.
The characters include Tod Hackett, a talented young artist who has come to Hollywood to work as a set painter. He does this to support himself until he becomes a famous artist. Faye Greener is a beautiful young aspiring actress.
Faye's father, Harry Greener, is an aging, failed actor and former vaudeville comic who earns a meager living as a door to door salesman. Despite all the doors slammed in his face, Harry, the ultimate huckster, pushes on, oblivious to the effects of his job on his frail health.
Homer Simpson (yes, that's really his name) is a good natured oaf who's not very bright. Also a neurotic depressive, he has come to California for reasons of health. The poor, pathetic Simpson will become the most tragic character in this dark and grotesque story.
Other memorable characters include Abe Kusich, a conceited midget actor with a huge chip on his little shoulder, and Adore Loomis, an obnoxious eight-year-old aspiring child star with a talent for blues singing.
Adore's mother - the ultimate stage mother - is so ruthlessly ambitious (and demented) that she passes him off as a girl, hoping that he'll become the next Shirley Temple.
The price of stardom - the depths one would sink to in Hollywood in order to reach the height of success - is one of the main themes of the novel. Another theme is the garishness of excess.
One film producer keeps a lifelike, life sized dead horse made of rubber on the bottom of his swimming pool. Mrs. Jenning, a retired silent film star, runs a brothel, where she also screens pornographic films for her guests.
Faye Greener is the catalyst for the tragic undercurrent of the story that drives it to a shocking and brutal conclusion. She's a thoroughly amoral young woman, a manipulative sociopath willing to do anything and use anyone to get what she wants.
Of course, Tod ends up falling in love with her, but grudgingly settles for friendship, recognizing her amoral nature. He fantasizes about raping Faye or physically harming her in other ways as both a subconscious attack on her immorality and an attempt to suppress his secret desire to be just like her.
Homer Simpson also falls in love with Faye, but unlike the more realistic Tod, the poor, deluded Homer actually dreams of marrying Faye, settling down, and starting a family with her.
When he accidentally discovers Faye having casual sex with a would-be actor called Miguel the Mexican, his delusion is suddenly shattered. Homer decides to return to his Iowa hometown, but never does.
In the novel's violent, surreal ending, Homer wanders the streets in a state of shock and happens upon a crowd gathering outside a theater for a major movie premiere. While he stares blankly at the crowd, Adore Loomis appears and teases him yet again.
Homer's mind finally snaps, and in the novel's most shocking scene, he literally stomps the child to death. When the crowd sees Homer attacking Adore, they riot and descend on him like a plague of locusts, killing him.Tod tries to save Homer, but gets lost in the milling throng.
The Day of the Locust received mixed reviews when it was published. It is now recognized as Nathanael West's greatest novel. Sadly, it would be his last. The year after it was published, West and his wife Eileen were killed in a car accident. He was 37 years old.
The Day of the Locust was adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1975. Directed by John Schlesinger with a screenplay by Waldo Salt, the film starred William Atherton as Tod Hackett, Donald Sutherland as Homer Simpson, and Karen Black as Faye Greener.
Burgess Meredith co-starred as Harry Greener, Billy Barty as Abe Kusich, and in a memorable supporting performance, Jackie Earle Haley as Adore Loomis.
Quote Of The Day
"Man spends a great deal of time making order out of chaos, yet insists that the emotions be disordered. I order my emotions: I am insane." - Nathanael West
Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the acclaimed feature film adaptation of Nathanael West's classic novel, The Day of the Locust. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
This Day In Writing History
On May 15th, 1890, the famous American writer Katherine Anne Porter was born. She was born Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas. The fourth of five children, she was a descendant of legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone. The legendary writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) was her father's second cousin.
When Callie was two years old, her mother died of complications following the birth of her last child. Callie's father sent his children to live with his mother, and the children, especially Callie, adored their grandmother.
Seven years later, Callie's grandmother died suddenly. She and her siblings lived with various relatives or in rented rooms paid for by their father. At the age of 16, Callie ran off to marry her boyfriend John Henry Koontz, the son of a wealthy rancher.
In order to marry Koontz, Callie, a Methodist, had to convert to Catholicism, which she did. Unfortunately, her devout Catholic husband turned out to be an abusive drunk who once threw her down the stairs, breaking her ankle.
After suffering for nine years in a rotten marriage, Callie divorced her husband - a shocking thing for a woman to do in 1915. As part of her divorce decree, Callie had the court legally change her name to Katherine Anne Porter, which was the name of her beloved grandmother.
From there, Katherine fled Texas for Chicago, where she tried her hand at acting and singing, but that was cut short when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She spent two years in a TB sanitarium before it was discovered that she'd been misdiagnosed; she really had bronchitis.
During her stay at the sanitarium, Katherine decided to become a writer. She began her writing career as a newspaper drama critic and gossip columnist. Then, during the 1918 flu pandemic, she contracted the virus and nearly died from it.
She was left in a frail state, and her hair had turned white. It would remain white for the rest of her life. After regaining her health, Katherine moved to New York City's Greenwich Village, where she made her living as a ghostwriter and movie company publicist. She also wrote children's stories.
By 1920, she met some Mexican revolutionary leaders, including legendary painter Diego Rivera, and traveled to Mexico to cover the leftist revolution. She would split her time between Mexico and New York City, where she continued to write short stories and would become a master of the format.
Katherine married her second husband, Ernest Stock, in 1926. The marriage would only last a year, after the unfaithful Stock gave her venereal disease. During both her marriages, she had tried to conceive children, only to suffer miscarriages and at least one stillbirth.
After divorcing Stock, she had a hysterectomy. During the 1930s, Katherine spent several years in Europe, continued writing short stories, and endured two more disastrous marriages. She continued to receive acclaim for her short story collections.
In the 1940s and 50s, she taught at several universities, including Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas. Her very unconventional method of teaching endeared her to her students.
As a short story writer, Katherine Anne Porter loved to delve into the dark side of human nature. Though she was best known for her short stories, she also wrote four novellas (she hated the term novella) and one full length novel, which would become a classic.
Ship of Fools, published on April 1st, 1962, (April Fool's Day) took Porter over twenty years to write. She was never really satisfied with it, calling it "unwieldy" and "enormous."
The novel received mixed reviews at the time of its publication, but has since been recognized for its brilliance and prescient insight into the human condition. It was an existentialist character study rather than a standard plot driven story.
It's the summer of 1931, and a cruise ship has left Mexico, bound for Germany. The ship contains a wide variety of passengers. Many are German expatriates, but there is also a drunken lawyer, an American divorcee, a Spanish noblewoman, two Mexican Catholic priests, and others.
In following these characters, Porter explores the nature of nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and human frailty in general as she examines the attitudes that would enable Hitler to come to power, maintain dictatorial control, and plunge Europe into a devastating war. The story is full of passion, duplicity, and treachery.
Ship of Fools became the best selling novel of 1962 and a Book of the Month Club selection. The movie rights were snapped up immediately for $500,000 - the equivalent of nearly four million dollars in today's money. It provided Katherine with financial security for the rest of her life.
The feature film adaptation of Ship of Fools premiered in July of 1965. Directed by Stanley Kramer - best known for classic films such as The Defiant Ones (1958), On The Beach (1959), and Judgement At Nuremberg (1961).
Featuring a screenplay by Abby Mann, Ship of Fools starred Vivien Leigh in her last film role. The film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and was nominated for several other Academy Awards. It is rightfully considered one of the most acclaimed films of the 1960s.
In 1965, The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter was published. It would win the author a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Twelve years later, in 1977, Porter, then 87 years old, published her last book, The Never-Ending Wrong.
The Never-Ending Wrong was a work of non-fiction - an account of the infamous trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, which Porter had protested against when it took place fifty years earlier.
Sacco and Vanzetti were two Italian immigrant anarchists who had been tried, convicted, and executed for robbery and murder in Massachusetts. Their politically charged trial was tainted by racism and malicious prosecution, including coerced false testimony. It remains controversial to this day.
Katherine Anne Porter died in 1980 at the age of 90.
Quote Of The Day
“A story is like something you wind out of yourself. Like a spider, it is a web you weave, and you love your story like a child.” - Katherine Anne Porter
Today's video features Katherine Anne Porter being interviewed by James Day on the 1970s PBS TV show, Day at Night. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
This Day In Writing History
On May 14th, 1962, A Clockwork Orange, the classic novel by the famous English writer Anthony Burgess, was published in London, England. The title comes from the British slang expression, "queer as a clockwork orange."
A Clockwork Orange is an antifascist parable set in a dystopic England of the future. The novel is narrated by its main character, Alex, who refers to himself as "Alexander the Large."
A highly intelligent but psychopathic teenager, he leads the Droogs, a violent street gang comprised of his friends Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Alex introduces everyone and sets the scene in this unforgettable opening paragraph:
There was me, that is Alex, and my three Droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos are like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much, neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthmesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog and All His Holy Angels And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I'm starting off the story with.
The dazzling poetic prose is written in Nadsat, a language invented by Anthony Burgess for this novel. It's a dialect that combines proper English with British and Russian slang words and phrases. Alex speaks this lyrical language as he tells his horrific story.
The novel opens with Alex and his gang at a milk bar, where they drink drugged milk to get themselves high and ready for committing random acts of violence. First, they gleefully beat an old, homeless drunkard. One night, while joyriding in a stolen car, the gang breaks into an isolated cottage.
There they terrorize the occupants, beating the husband and raping his wife. When he's not out with his gang, Alex passes the time in his dreary home, escaping his poor excuse for parents by blasting the works of his favorite composer, "Ludwig Van," (Beethoven) and masturbating to violent sexual fantasies.
When Georgie challenges Alex for leadership of the gang, he puts down the rebellion by beating Georgie in a fight and slashing open Dim's hand. Then he takes them out for drinks at the milk bar. Georgie and Dim have had enough, but Alex demands that the gang follow through with Georgie's plan for a "man-sized" job and rob a rich old woman who lives alone.
The robbery is botched when the old woman calls the police - but not before she is assaulted and knocked unconscious. The gang then turns on Alex, attacking him and leaving him to take the fall when the police arrive. The old woman later dies of her injuries and Alex is accused of murder.
After spending a couple of years in prison, Alex becomes an involuntary participant in an experimental rehabilitation procedure called the Ludovico Technique, which, in two weeks, is supposed to remove all violent and criminal impulses from the human psyche.
The prison chaplain is opposed to the Ludovico Technique, arguing that conscious, willing moral choice is a necessary component of humanity. Nevertheless, Alex undergoes the procedure. For two weeks, his eyes are wired open and he is forced to watch violent images on a screen while being given a drug that induces extreme nausea.
It's basically a horrific form of aversion therapy. When Alex recognizes the soundtrack to the violent film presentation as Beethoven's fifth symphony, he begs the doctors to turn off the sound, telling them that's a sin to take away his love of music, and Beethoven never did anything wrong. They refuse.
After the procedure is completed, Alex is brought before an audience of prison and government officials and declared successfully rehabilitated. To demonstrate this, they show how Alex is unable to react with violence even in self defense, and becomes crippled by nausea whenever he is sexually aroused.
The outraged prison chaplain again protests the Ludovico Technique, accusing the state of taking away Alex's God-given ability to choose good over evil. "Padre," a government official replies, "There are subtleties. The point is that it works."
Alex is released from prison, but his life plunges into a downward spiral. He finds that the Ludovico Technique has rendered him physically unable to listen to his Beethoven and unable to defend himself from attack. He is promptly beaten up by a former victim.
The police arrive, and they turn out to be Alex's former gang member Dim and former rival gang leader Billyboy. They beat him savagely and leave him for dead. Later, Alex is befriended by a political activist who turns out to be the man whose wife Alex had raped during the home invasion.
When the activist finally recognizes Alex as the gang leader, he tortures him with the classical music he once loved. His life destroyed by the so-called therapy that was supposed to make him a model citizen, a desperate Alex attempts suicide and survives.
A huge scandal erupts and the embarrassed government officials agree to reverse the Ludovico Technique in order to quell the bad publicity. Afterward, they offer Alex a cushy job at a high salary, but he looks forward to returning to his life of ultra-violence.
He forms a new gang, but after watching them beat a stranger, Alex finds that he has tired of violence. He contemplates giving up gang life, becoming a productive citizen, and doing what he secretly always wanted to do - start a family of his own. He wonders if his children would inherit the violent tendencies he once had.
In the first U.S. edition of the novel, the last chapter was cut. The publisher wanted the story to end on a dark note, with Alex looking forward to resuming his violent ways. He believed that the original UK edition ending, with Alex deciding on his own to reform, was unrealistic.
Anthony Burgess resisted the idea at first, but gave in because he needed the money. He would always regret allowing the final chapter of A Clockwork Orange to be cut from the U.S. edition. In America, the novel would not be published in its original version until 1986.
When legendary British filmmaker Stanley Kubrick adapted it as an acclaimed feature film in 1971, he based his screenplay on the first U.S. edition of the novel, ending the film on a dark note, with Alex smirking wickedly and saying, "They cured me, all right!"
I've read both versions and I prefer the first U.S. edition because its grim ending really brings home the main theme of the novel - that fascism is an evil far worse than the societal ills it seeks to cure. The cut final chapter does make for interesting reading, though.
Today, both editions of A Clockwork Orange are available in the U.S., and the novel remains a classic work of literature.
Quote Of The Day
"It seems priggish or pollyannaish to deny that my intention in writing the work was to titillate the nastier propensities of my readers. My own healthy inheritance of original sin comes out in the book and I enjoyed raping and ripping by proxy. It is the novelist’s innate cowardice that makes him depute to imaginary personalities the sins that he is too cautious to commit for himself." - Anthony Burgess on A Clockwork Orange
Today's video features the trailer for the recent Blu-Ray release of the classic 1971 film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick. Enjoy!
Monday, May 13, 2013
“Is Writing a Journey, or Just a Pit-Stop Along The Way?”
Thanks to all the Lovestory “critters” whose comments and suggestions helped shape both of these stories.
Friday, May 10, 2013
This Day In Writing History
On May 10th, 1749, the final part of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, the classic novel by the famous English novelist and playwright Henry Fielding, was published.
Like other novels of the time, it first appeared in a serialized format, published by a literary magazine. It would later be published in book form, its title shortened to Tom Jones.
The novel, a bawdy romantic comedy / adventure, told the story of its title character, Tom Jones. It opens with Squire Allworthy, a wealthy landowner, returning to his country estate in Somerset after an extended business engagement in London.
Allworthy is shocked to find an abandoned baby boy sleeping in his bed. A young woman named Jenny Jones - servant girl to the local schoolmaster and his wife - later confesses to being the baby's mother, but refuses to name the father.
The kindhearted Squire Allworthy decides to take in the baby, called Tom Jones, as his ward. Sophia Western, the neighbor's daughter, becomes Tom's childhood sweetheart.
Sophia's father and Squire Allworthy have no intention of allowing them to marry when they grow up. That's because Tom is illegitimate, and thus beneath a girl of Sophia's class.
Tom Jones grows up to have both a healthy appetite for women and a good heart like Squire Allworthy. The novel's liberal attitudes toward sexual promiscuity and prostitution made it quite controversial in its day.
Moralists decried its depiction of a hero who proves himself to be both noble and promiscuous. In reality, Tom's sexual exploits are mostly played for laughs.
The most controversial (and funniest) part of the novel finds Tom witnessing a half-naked woman being beaten by a man. Tom rescues her and brings her to an inn. The woman, Mrs. Waters, is the wife of an army captain.
She thanks her handsome young hero by making love to him. Later, Squire Allworthy reveals to Tom the horrible truth about Mrs. Waters - her maiden name is Jones. Jenny Jones. Tom slept with his long-lost mother!
Meanwhile, Tom's childhood sweetheart and first great love, Sophia Western, whom he has tried to keep in touch with, goes through her own trials and tribulations, including the prospect of marriage to a man she detests.
Lord Fellamar, a vile young nobleman, lusts after Sophia. He hatches a plan to trick Sophia into thinking that Tom Jones has been killed so that she'll agree to marry him. Rather than wait until their wedding night, Fellamar attempts to rape Sophia. Thankfully, her father arrives on the scene before he can.
True love triumphs in the end, as Tom and Sophia are reunited and another shocking secret is revealed: Jenny Jones was not Tom's mother. His real mother was Squire Allworthy's sister, Bridget.
She had been seduced by a young man named Summer - the son of Allworthy's clergyman friend. Now that he's a respectable gentleman, Tom declares his love for Sophia and she agrees to marry him, with the blessings of her father and Squire Allworthy.
Tom Jones would be adapted several times for the screen, stage, and television. The most famous adaptation would be the acclaimed 1963 British feature film directed by Tony Richardson, written by the famous English playwright John Osborne, and starring Albert Finney in the title role.
Another memorable adaptation of the novel was the opera by French composer François-André Danican Philidor.
If you would like to download the free public domain e-book version of Tom Jones, you can find it here at Munsey's archive. If you would like to download the free, unabridged public domain audiobook version of the novel or listen to the streaming feed, you can find it here at the LibriVox archive.
Quote Of The Day
"Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea." - Henry Fielding
Today's video features the acclaimed 1963 British feature film adaptation of Henry Fielding's classic novel, Tom Jones. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 9, 2013
This Day In Writing History
On May 9th, 1920, the famous English fantasy novelist Richard Adams was born in Newbury, Berkshire, England. In 1940, less than a year after England entered World War 2, Adams was studying history at Worcester College, Oxford.
His education would be interrupted when he was drafted into the British Army. He served his tour of duty in the Middle East and India, but saw no action. After the war ended, Adams continued with his education and ultimately earned a Master's degree.
After earning his Bachelor's degree, he took a job as a civil servant - Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. When he wasn't working, Adams took up a new hobby - writing fiction. He loved making up stories to tell his daughters, Juliet and Rosamond.
The girls loved their father's stories, but one particular tale, a story about a group of rabbits searching for a new home, was their favorite. They insisted that Dad turn it into a book someday. So he did.
Watership Down, Richard Adams' first novel, was published in 1974. The modern fairy tale opened with Fiver, a young rabbit with the gift of prophecy, having a vision of his and his tribe's home being destroyed. Believing that the destruction is imminent, Fiver and his brother Hazel meet with the chief rabbit.
The chief scoffs at Fiver's prophecy, so he and Hazel flee the tribal burrow with a small band of rabbits who believe in the prophecy. They barely escape the Owsla - the chief's soldiers. Hazel becomes the leader of the group, and ex-Owsla soldiers Bigwig and Silver provide security.
Fiver has another vision, which leads them to Watership Down, the perfect location for their new home. Holly and Bluebell, two members of Fiver's old tribe, show up and tell him that his prophecy came true - their old tribal burrow was just destroyed by humans.
Realizing that their new tribe needs more females to grow, Hazel sends an emissary to a nearby burrow called Efrafa to ask if some of their females would like to live in Watership Down. Unfortunately, Efrafa turns out to be a brutal fascist dictatorship ruled by General Woundwort and his Nazi-like army.
Hazel and Bigwig successfully execute a plan to liberate some rabbits from Efrafa, but the refugees' peaceful new life at Watership Down turns to horror when the burrow is suddenly and savagely attacked by General Woundwort's army. Woundwort will not stand for any threat to his power.
The rabbits of Watership Down ultimately defeat General Woundwort's army, thanks to Hazel's ingenuity and Bigwig's bravery. With its epic themes of exile, survival, and heroism, Watership Down has been compared to such classic works as Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.
The novel, which became an overnight sensation and runaway bestseller, received excellent reviews. The book critic for The Economist proclaimed that "If there is no place for Watership Down in children’s bookshops, then children’s literature is dead."
Peter Prescott, senior book reviewer for Newsweek, said "Adams handles his suspenseful narrative more dextrously than most authors who claim to write adventure novels, but his true achievement lies in the consistent, comprehensible and altogether enchanting civilisation that he has created."
In 1978, Watership Down was adapted as an acclaimed animated British feature film written and directed by Martin Rosen. The film courted controversy during its U.S. theatrical run.
The trailer and promotional artwork led parents and children unfamiliar with the novel to believe that it was a Disneyesque tale of cute little rabbits. Instead, it was a dark, violent, and scary work of modern mythology.
Parents complained about the surprisingly graphic carnage in the PG-rated animated film. It would later be re-rated PG-13. It wouldn't be the last time that an animated adaptation of a Richard Adams novel raised the ire of parents.
Richard Adams' fifth novel, second only to Watership Down in popularity, was borne of his deep belief in and work for animal rights. The Plague Dogs (1977) told the story of two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, who escape from a laboratory where they were subjected to horrific tortures in the name of science.
Rowf, now old and cynical, was born in a laboratory and destined to be a guinea pig. As far as he's concerned, all humans are monsters. Snitter had a loving human master once, but after the man got killed in an accident, he was sold to the laboratory.
Ironically, Snitter, who endured the most torture, remains hopeful of finding another loving human master. The lab doctors performed horrific brain experiments on him; as a result, he suffers from frightening hallucinations and nightmares, whether he's dreaming or awake.
So, both dogs escape from the Animal Research, Scientific and Experimental laboratory (ARSE, get it?) and find themselves hunted relentlessly. When the starving dogs kill some sheep for food, the lab doctors (one of whom is a Nazi war criminal hiding under an assumed name) gain volunteer hunters to pursue the animals.
A sensationalist newspaper reporter covers the story and ignites a media frenzy for his own selfish purposes. He ultimately blackmails the lab doctors into revealing that the experiments they conducted on the dogs are part of secret biological warfare research they're doing for the government.
Afraid that Rowf and Snitter may be infected with a deadly biological weapon, the reporter convinces the government to have the army exterminate the dogs. Will they survive?
Animator Martin Rosen, who previously adapted Watership Down, also adapted The Plague Dogs as an animated feature film, released in 1982. Once again, Rosen's film courted controversy during its U.S. premiere.
The PG rated film contained scenes of animal torture and other graphic violence. It would later be re-rated PG-13 and cut for its second videotape release. The full uncut version is much sought after by film lovers.
In 1982 - the year that the film adaptation of The Plague Dogs premiered - Richard Adams served as President of the RSPCA - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Adams would write more great fantasy novels and some non-fantasy novels. His most recent published work, Gentle Footprints, was a short story that appeared in 2010. It was written for charity - to raise money for the Born Free Foundation, a British conservation and animal rescue organization.
Now 93 years old, Richard Adams lives with his wife Elizabeth in Whitwurth, Hampshire, England.
Quote Of The Day
“He spoke very well about the decency and comradeship natural to animals. 'Animals don't behave like men,' he said. 'If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill, they kill. But they don't sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures' lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.'” - Richard Adams, from Watership Down
Today's video features the 1978 animated feature film adaptation of Richard Adams' classic novel, Watership Down. Enjoy!