Friday, August 14, 2020

Notes For August 14th, 2020


This Day In Literary History

On August 14th, 1834, the famous American writer Richard Henry Dana Jr. set sail from Boston, Massachusetts on an ocean journey during which he wrote his most famous book. His ship, the brig Pilgrim, was bound for California, which was still Mexican territory at the time.

Dana was a boy of nineteen when, like so many other young men, he heard the romantic call of the sea. He decided to keep a diary of his experiences as a sailor, which he would later turn into a book.

Two Years Before the Mast (1840) would prove to be one of the most popular and best selling nonfiction books of the 19th century, a classic work of American literature. It would inspire the legendary American writer Herman Melville to write his classic novel, Moby Dick (1851).

Before he signed on to the Pilgrim, Richard Henry Dana Jr. had envisioned life as a sailor to be a grand romantic adventure. The journey he chronicled in his diary was an adventure, but one fraught with hardship, ruthless oppression, and terror.

He quickly realized that "There is not so helpless and pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning a sailor's life." Common sailors were quartered "before the mast" - on the upper deck at the front of the ship.

While the captain and his main crew lived in comfortable quarters, common sailors were packed in like sardines and forced to brave the elements to do their work, which included standing outside on deck in the middle of storms to monitor the weather.

The captain was a cold blooded sadist and looked upon common sailors as expendable lower class scum. He beat them for pleasure, screaming at them, "If you want to know what I flog you for, I'll tell you... it's because I like to do it! Because I like to do it! It suits me! That's what I do it for!"

Although the captain had declared the Pilgrim a "temperance ship," he and his cronies kept a stock of rum for themselves. They also kept a stock of coffee, but denied the common sailors hot coffee to warm themselves in the freezing weather.

The journey took the Pilgrim and her crew around Cape Horn, where Richard Dana was awestruck by the "thundering sound" and "true sublimity" of the mammoth icebergs that seemed to surround his ship.

The Pilgrim was ill prepared for frozen waters and icebergs. One day, Dana, suffering from a badly infected tooth that swelled his mouth so much that he couldn't eat, went below deck for treatment. While recovering, he contemplated his situation.

"It was not easy to sleep," Dana wrote, "lying, as I did, with my head directly against the bows, which might be dashed in by an island of ice, brought down by the very next sea that struck her..."

When the Pilgrim landed on the coast of California, Dana explored the territory and got to know its people. In his book, he wrote the following about the people of 1830s Mexican California:

The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can make nothing for themselves. The country abounds in grapes, yet they buy bad wines made in Boston and brought round by us, at an immense price, and retail it among themselves at a real (12 1/2 cents) by the small wine-glass. Their hides, too, which they value at two dollars in money, they give for something which costs seventy-five cents in Boston; and buy shoes (like as not, made of their own hides, and which have been carried twice around Cape Horn) at three or four dollars...

After his two year tour of duty was over, Dana returned to Boston, where he would study law at Harvard and become a respected attorney specializing in maritime law. He defended many common sailors in court.

Dana's experiences on the Pilgrim instilled in him a deep compassion for the poor and oppressed. He was also a prominent and ferocious abolitionist. In 1840, the year he passed the bar, his classic book Two Years Before the Mast was published.

Richard Henry Dana Jr. would publish other nonfiction books and articles. In 1841, he published The Seaman's Friend, a handbook on seamanship and the legal rights and responsibilities of sailors. It became the standard textbook for all seamen.

Dana died of influenza in 1882 at the age of 66. His most famous book, Two Years Before the Mast, would be adapted as a feature film in 1946, co-starring Brian Donlevy as the author.


Quote Of The Day

“Better to be driven out from among men than to be disliked by children.” - Richard Henry Dana Jr.


Vanguard Video

Today's video features complete reading of Richard Henry Dana Jr's classic book, Two Years Before the Mast. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Notes For August 13th, 2020


This Day In Literary History

On August 13th, 1961, the famous American writer Tom Perrotta was born in Garwood, New Jersey. His father was a postman, his mother a secretary.From an early age, Perrotta was a voracious reader. He devoured the works of authors such as O. Henry, J.R.R. Tolkein, and John Irving, and dreamed of becoming a writer himself.

Perrotta became involved with his high school's literary magazine, Pariah, in which he published several short stories. He earned a Bachelor's degree in English at Yale in 1983, and a Master's in English and Creative Writing at Syracuse University.

While at Syracuse, Perrotta was a student of writer Tobias Wolff, best known for his 1989 memoir This Boy's Life, which was made into a feature film. Perrotta praised Wolff for his "comic writing and moral seriousness."

During the time he taught creative writing at Yale, Tom Perrotta wrote three novels, all of which he had trouble getting published. In 1994, Perrotta finally published his first book, a short story collection titled Bad Haircut: Stories Of The Seventies.

It received good reviews; a Washington Post critic said that it was "more powerful than any other coming-of-age novel." That year, Perrotta left Yale and began teaching expository writing at Harvard.

In 1996, one of Perrotta's unpublished novels, a dark comedy called Election, was optioned for a film by director Alexander Payne. This attracted the attention of publishers, and the novel was released in March of 1998.

A year later, the film was released to theaters and critical acclaim. In Election, Tracy Flick, a popular, pretty, intelligent, and thoroughly amoral high school girl, is running for student body president. She will do anything to win.

Tracy projects the perfect image, but she has a dark side. She had an affair with a teacher, and after she told her mother, the teacher's career and marriage were ruined. Her current teacher, Jim McCallister - whose best friend was the teacher she ruined - decides that she doesn't deserve to win the election.

A caring teacher who believes in ethics, McAllister doesn't let his lofty ideals stand in the way of his determination to sabotage Tracy's campaign at all costs. He convinces Paul, a popular but dumb star athlete, to run against Tracy.

In an interesting twist, Paul's disgruntled younger sister Tammy also runs for president - in order to prove that the election is a farce and won't change anything at school. In a rousing speech, Tammy encourages the other students not to vote.

Perotta followed Election with another novel, Joe College (2000), but his next book, Little Children (2004) established him as one of America's best modern novelists. Little Children follows the lives of various people living in a middle class suburban neighborhood.

College-educated Sarah wonders how she became one of the vacuous, judgmental housewives who bring their children to the neighborhood park to play. She remembers a lesbian affair she had during college and wonders if she married her husband Jack just to escape a dead-end job and life.

After accepting a silly dare from one of her friends, Sarah is drawn into a passionate affair with Todd, a handsome married father whom the women have nicknamed Prom King. Sarah's predicament is nothing compared to that of Larry.

Larry is a 33-year-old ex-cop who left the force after shooting and killing a black kid who was holding a toy gun. Overcome with guilt, Larry sees his chance at atonement when paroled child molester Ronald moves into the neighborhood to live with his mother.

Furious that Ronald was allowed to live near children, Larry begins a one-man campaign of harassment and intimidation in order to drive the sex offender out of the neighborhood. Despite his good intentions, his actions once again result in tragedy for innocent people. Sarah must face the consequences of her actions as well.

Little Children received rave reviews. The New York Times critic declared Tom Perrotta to be "an American Chekhov whose characters even at their most ridiculous seem blessed and ennobled by a luminous human aura."

The novel appeared on numerous "best books of 2004" lists. It was adapted as an acclaimed 2006 feature film starring Kate Winslet as Sarah, Noah Emmerich as Larry, and in a bravura performance, Jackie Earle Haley as Ronald. Tom Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay with director Todd Field.

Also in 2006, Perotta sold an original screenplay to New Line Cinema that he had co-written with Frasier producer Rob Greenberg. The screenplay, titled Barry and Stan Gone Wild, has been described as "a shameless comedy [about] a 40-something dermatologist who goes on spring break."


Perrotta's next novel, The Abstinence Teacher, was published in October of 2007. Set in suburban New Jersey, it told the story of Ruth Ramsey, a feisty high school sex education teacher who finds herself drawn into a culture war against the local conservatives and evangelical Christians.

Warner Independent bought the film rights and Perrotta wrote the screenplay. The film, still in development, will tentatively be directed by Lisa Cholodenko, who directed the acclaimed 2010 film, The Kids Are All Right. She is replacing Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who were originally slated to co-direct The Abstinence Teacher.


Perrotta's 2011 novel, The Leftovers, a work of dystopic science fiction, is a compelling, satirical take on the biblical Rapture and the dreadful but popular Left Behind series of suspense novels by evangelical Christian writers Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

It opens several years after a Rapture-like event occurred, resulting in the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world's population. The town of Mapleton NY, like other places around the world, is still struggling to move on.

Not everyone who vanished in the Rapture-like event called the Sudden Departure were devoutly religious - some were far from righteous - while many good Christians were left behind.

The confused survivors still struggle to come to terms with the Sudden Departure - the loss of their loved ones and the fate of mankind. Thus, a new religious cult called the Guilty Remnant rises to power. Meanwhile, others openly rebel against religion.

In 2014, HBO adapted The Leftovers as a TV series starring Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, Christopher Eccleston, and Ann Dowd. It ran for three seasons, from June 2014 through April of 2017, for a total of 28 episodes.

Tom Perrotta's most recent novel, Mrs. Fletcher, was published in 2017. In this zingy comedy, Eve Fletcher, a 46-year-old divorcee, is struggling to deal with empty nest syndrome after her only child leaves for college.

Then she receives a text from an anonymous number that says “U R my MILF!" Obsessed with the message, Eve soon discovers a porn website that specializes in the erotic adventures of ordinary middle-aged women like her - and her boring life changes forever.


Quote Of The Day

"I don't want to become one of those writers that develop a bottomless fascination with their own myth... nor do I see myself writing one great masterpiece. What I'd really love is to be like Graham Greene, and get to 75 and see a whole shelf full of consistently good books, all remarkably similar in length." - Tom Perrotta


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a 2017 interview with Tom Perrotta. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Notes For August 12th, 2020


This Day In Literary History

On August 12th, 1774, the famous English writer Robert Southey was born in Bristol, England. Southey was educated first at Westminster School, where he was expelled for publishing a magazine article where he condemned the practice of flogging students.

He later attended Balliol College, Oxford. Later, Southey would poke fun at the lax standards of the college, quipping that "All I learnt was a little swimming... and a little boating."

Southey became friends with writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge and they began a writing partnership. Their best known collaborative effort was a three-act play called The Fall Of Robespierre. In 1794, Southey published his first solo work, a collection of poems.

He remained friends with Coleridge, and they and a few others discussed going to America and setting up a utopic commune. They later decided to set up the commune in Wales. Southey became the first member of the group to reject the whole idea as unworkable.

In November 1795, Southey married his girlfriend Edith Fricker - the sister of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's wife, Sara. She and her children would later move in with Southey after Coleridge abandoned them.

Southey continued to write. In 1808, writing under the pseudonym Don Manuel Alvarez Espirella, Southey published Letters From England, a non-fiction account of a tour of the country.

In other words, England as seen through the eyes of (allegedly) a foreigner. It has been said that the book features the most accurate descriptions of early 19th century English life ever written.

Beginning in 1809, Southey became a regular contributor to the Quarterly Review literary magazine. By 1813, he had become so well known as a poet that he was appointed Poet Laureate of England after Sir Walter Scott declined the honor.

Although Southey had been a political radical most of his life, (he was an ardent supporter of the French Revolution) by the time he had become Poet Laureate, his political views had changed to that of a staunch conservative. The Tory establishment embraced him and gave him a small stipend.

Southey used his position as Poet Laureate to voice support of the repressive Liverpool government and argue against Parliamentary reform. He even sided with the government following the notorious Peterloo Massacre of August 16th, 1819.

What happened was this: approximately 60,000 people gathered at St. Peter's Field, Manchester, for a demonstration to demand Parliamentary reform. The demonstration featured a speech by radical orator Henry Hunt.

The local magistrates called in the military to arrest Hunt and disperse the crowd. The military's idea of crowd dispersal was to have the cavalry charge into the crowd with sabers drawn.

As a result, 15 people were killed and another 400 to 700 injured. The event was nicknamed the Peterloo Massacre in reference to the Battle of Waterloo.

Robert Southey's political views resulted in him falling out of favor with his fellow writers. He had gone from political radical to establishment tool who demanded the prosecution of his former fellow travelers.

He was seen as a sellout. In 1817, he was brought to task for hypocrisy when, after arguing against the publication of radical literature, Wat Tyler, a radical play Southey had written himself when he was young, was brought out to embarrass him.

One of Southey's most scathing critics, William Hazlitt, wrote that Southey "wooed Liberty as a youthful lover, but it was perhaps more as a mistress than a bride; and he has since wedded with an elderly and not very reputable lady, called Legitimacy."

Southey's fellow poets mocked him and denounced his works as sycophantic odes to the King.
Lord Byron's classic epic poem Don Juan opens with a scathingly funny, deliberately long-winded dedication to Robert Southey, whom Byron loathed.

Byron suspected him of spreading rumors about the relationship between himself, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley's wife Mary, and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont, accusing them all of being involved in a "League of Incest" while they lived together on Lake Geneva in 1816. Southey denied spreading the rumors.


In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Robert Southey's conservative politics alienated him from his contemporaries. Today, most of his work remains obscure for the same reason, but he did make some important contributions to literature.

In addition to his poetry, he wrote biographies of John Wesley, Oliver Cromwell, Horatio Nelson, and other figures. He introduced new words to the English language, including the term
autobiography.

A prolific writer, Southey's works also included children's stories and poems. He wrote The Story of the Three Bears - the classic fairy tale about Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

It first appeared in his 1834 novel,
The Doctor. He also wrote the nursery rhyme What Are Little Boys Made Of? and to this day, British schoolchildren still read his poems in class.

Robert Southey served as Poet Laureate for thirty years until his death in 1843 at the age of 68. He was buried in the churchyard of Crosthwaite Church, Keswick, to which he belonged for forty years. Inside the church is a memorial to Southey written by his friend William Worsdworth, who succeeded him as Poet Laureate.


Quote Of The Day

"Write poetry for its own sake; not in the spirit of emulation, and not with a view to celebrity; the less you aim at that the more likely you will be to deserve and finally obtain it." - Robert Southey


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of Robert Southey's poem The Battle Of Blenheim. Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Notes For August 11th, 2020


This Day In Literary History

On August 11th, 1921, the legendary African-American writer Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York. The oldest of four children, his father was a professor of agriculture at Cornell University - a position he had to overcome formidable obstacles of racism to obtain.

When he was fifteen, Alex Haley enrolled at Alcorn State University, a college for black students in Mississippi. Two years later, he dropped out and returned home. Concerned by his lack of discipline and progress in life, his father encouraged him to join the military.

So, in 1939, a few months before his 18th birthday, Alex joined the Coast Guard. It would prove to be a 20-year enlistment. After the Pearl Harbor attack in December of 1941 brought the U.S. into World War II, Alex Haley saw action in the Pacific.

Actually, for sailors during the war, life consisted of sporadic bursts of action amidst long periods of downtime. Haley once quipped that the greatest enemy he and his shipmates ever battled was boredom, not the Japanese.

To alleviate his boredom, Haley taught himself to write short fiction. His writing skills caught the attention of his fellow sailors, who often paid him to write love letters to their girlfriends back home.

After the war ended, Haley petitioned the Coast Guard to transfer him to its journalism division. By the time he retired from active duty in 1959, he had become both a Chief Petty Officer and the first Chief Journalist in the Coast Guard - a position created exclusively for him.

After returning to civilian life, Alex Haley began his writing career, first as a journalist. In that capacity, he conducted the very first interview for Playboy magazine, which appeared in the September 1962 issue.

His subject was jazz legend Miles Davis. Throughout the 1960s, Haley conducted some of Playboy's most memorable interviews; among his subjects were Martin Luther King, Jr., Melvin Belli, (Jack Ruby's defense attorney) Jim Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Carson, and Muhammad Ali.

Haley's two most famous interviews were of controversial, radical figures on both sides of the civil rights issue: black militant civil rights activist Malcolm X and George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party.

When Rockwell spoke to Haley on the phone, he refused the interview until Haley assured him that he wasn't Jewish. When the two men met in person, Rockwell was shocked to find that Haley was black.

Nevertheless, he agreed to do the interview. While Haley remained calm and professional during the interview, a nervous Rockwell kept a gun on the table within reach.

In February of 1965, six months after he'd been interviewed by Alex Haley, Malcolm X was assassinated. The two men had first met in 1960, when Haley had written an article on the Nation of Islam for Reader's Digest.

Over a period of nearly two years, Haley had conducted some 50 interviews with Malcolm X. Some of the material was published as a memoir in the July 1965 issue of Playboy. Later that year, Haley reworked all of the material and published it in book form as The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Alex Haley continued his career as a journalist and became a senior editor for Reader's Digest. Later, he began work on his first novel - a 700+ page historical epic based on the lives of his own ancestors.

Published in 1976, Roots: The Saga of an American Family became a classic work of literature. The novel opens in 1767, with a young African man named Kunta Kinte being kidnapped from his home in Gambia by slave traders.

Kinte is brought to America and sold to a plantation owner, Master Lord Calvert, who renames him Toby. The novel provides a heartbreaking and gut wrenching expose of the horrors of slavery and shows how it shaped the lives of generations of African-Americans - and continues to do so.

Roots won Alex Haley a Pulitzer Prize. It would be adapted as a highly acclaimed TV miniseries in 1977 that would prove controversial, as it was the first network TV program to show uncensored nudity and graphic violence.

The network censors allowed these elements because they were included in the name of historical accuracy - not for exploitation or titillation. The novel would cause controversy as well.

In 1978, novelist and folklorist Harold Courlander sued Alex Haley for plagiarism. He claimed that a 100-word segment that appeared three times in Roots had been lifted verbatim from his novel, The African (1967).

As the case went to trial, Haley denied plagiarizing Courlander's novel, but he soon settled out-of-court with Courlander for $650,000 and issued an apology, stating that the plagiarism was not intentional.

He claimed that someone had given him the text without crediting it as an excerpt from Courlander's novel. The plagiarism case would be used as ammunition by conservative critics who had claimed that the novel was historically inaccurate.

Undeterred by controversy, Haley later began work on his second novel, Queen: The Story of an American Family. Queen was based on the life of Haley's grandmother - the illegitimate daughter of a plantation owner and one of his slaves.

The novel chronicled the plight of such children, who, rejected by their fathers who refused to recognize them, were doomed to lives of slavery and suffering. Before he could finish his novel, Alex Haley died of a heart attack in 1992 at the age of 70.

His novel was completed by writer David Stevens, based on Haley's 700-page outline and boxes of research notes. It was published in 1993. That same year, the novel would be adapted as a TV minseries called Alex Haley's Queen, featuring Halle Berry in the title role.


Quote Of The Day

"I look at my books the way parents look at their children. The fact that one becomes more successful than the others doesn't make me love the less successful ones any less." - Alex Haley


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a rare recording of Alex Haley speaking at UCLA in 1968. Enjoy!


Monday, August 10, 2020

IWW Members' Publishing Successes



Wayne Scheer

My Short Story, "Stepping Out," critiqued in Fiction a while ago, has been accepted for publication by The Sunlight Press.

They like stories that offer hope amidst darkness,and pay $25. The editors are good and personable. The only drawback is it's not for impatient writers. They take about two months to get back to you and there's a publication backlog of more than six months.

Two more short stories of mine, "The Affair" and "Road Trip," has been accepted at The Literary Hatchet at $10 each.

I knew this writing gig would pay off eventually.

Dave Gregory

Two of my best stories, both of which were critiqued and vastly improved by the Fiction group, have recently enjoyed further publication credits.

"Joran's Song," which was a winner last year at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival, Read at the Fringe event, has been published in Pulp Literature.

There is a fee for digital or print copies but the journal is worth looking into as they pay quite well ($100 Canadian, making this my most lucrative short story).

"Hoar Frost" has been reprinted by Bandit Fiction. The story won an honorable mention in a Canadian contest last year and was published alongside the other winners in a print-only anthology.

Although Bandit Fiction does not pay, I'm relieved that the story is available to an online reading audience for the first time.

Eric Petersen

My review of The Book Of Extraordinary Impossible Crimes and Puzzling Deaths, a short story collection edited by Maxim Jakubowski, has been published by the Internet Review of Books.


Friday, August 7, 2020

Notes For August 7th, 2020


This Day In Literary History

On August 7th, 1934, the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Ulysses, the classic novel by the legendary Irish writer James Joyce, was not legally obscene.

To be specific, the Court of Appeal upheld a lower court's ruling declaring that Ulysses was not legally obscene. It was a major First Amendment victory, one that British Joycean scholar Stuart Gilbert called "epoch making."

Beginning in 1918, Ulysses was published in serialized form in the American literary magazine The Little Review. In 1920, the magazine published the novel's controversial thirteenth episode, NausicaƤ.

This outraged a moralist group called The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV) which objected to the content and determined to keep Ulysses from being published in America in any format.

The NYSSV was founded in 1873 by the notorious Anthony Comstock and his supporters in the Young Men's Christian Association. (Yes, that YMCA.) Comstock was a United States Postal Inspector.

The same year that he founded the NYSSV, Comstock persuaded Congress to pass the Comstock Act, which made it illegal to send obscene materials through the mail.

The passage of the Comstock Act resulted in the enacting of "Comstock Laws" at the state and federal level. The last of these laws wouldn't be struck down by the Supreme Court until 1965.

The Comstock Act was a nightmare. Comstock's definition of obscenity was so vague that he even used the law and his power as a Postal Inspector to block the shipment of certain medical textbooks to medical students.

When Comstock had copies of George Bernard Shaw's classic play Mrs. Warren's Profession blocked, calling Shaw "an Irish smut dealer,
" the furious playwright said:

Comstockery is the world's standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.


Although Comstock enjoyed a public reputation as a devout Christian guardian of morality, privately, he was corrupt - and notoriously so. As a moralist, he destroyed the lives of many innocent people.

Comstock proudly admitted to being responsible for 4,000 arrests and 15 suicides. In his later years, he suffered from poor health after having suffered a severe blow to the head from an unknown attacker.

Before he died in 1915, Comstock attracted the attention of an admirer - a young law student named J. Edgar Hoover who agreed with Comstock's political beliefs and was interested in his methods of investigation, prosecution, and conviction.


Comstock's NYSSV was successful in its prosecution of The Little Review for publishing the offending episode from Ulysses.

At the first trial in 1921, the literary magazine was ruled legally obscene, and as a result,
Ulysses was banned in the United States. The ruling was a product of its time. The NausicaƤ episode contained a scene which must have been shocking to 1920s sensibilities.

At the beach, Leopold Bloom (one of the main characters) meets Gerty MacDowell, who has come to watch a fireworks display. Gerty notices Bloom staring at her. Her passion stirred by both Bloom and the fireworks, Gerty deliberately exposes herself to him.

Bloom becomes aroused and starts to masturbate, which arouses her in return. They both reach orgasm as a Roman candle explodes overhead, gushing out "a stream of rain gold hair threads." Afterward, Gerty leaves and reveals herself to be lame, leaving Bloom to contemplate her lameness.

With Joyce's playful punning, the erotic scene becomes a parody of the Catholic Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament ceremony, with Bloom acting out his own version of an Adoration where Gerty's body serves as the body of Christ. The revelation of her lameness is Joyce's biting metaphor for the Catholic Church.

The trial that resulted in Ulysses being banned in the United States drew a huge amount of publicity. As a result, pirated editions of the novel were published and sold on the black market or under the counter in bookshops.

Joyce's novel became a runaway bestseller, but he didn't earn a penny from the sale of those pirated books. In 1933, after twelve years of frustration, Joyce's official U.S. publisher, Random House, decided to set up a test case.

The publisher imported a shipment of uncensored French editions of Ulysses and had Customs confiscate a copy after the ship was unloaded.

That year, the case of United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses came to trial. On December 6th, 1933, U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey ruled that Ulysses was not legally obscene.

The NYSSV was outraged and appealed the decision. The case reached the United States Second Court of Appeal, which affirmed the lower court's ruling on August 7th, 1934. Ulysses was finally published uncensored in the United States.

Since then, most U.S. editions of the novel - including the one that I have - feature the text of the Woolsey ruling as part of the forward. Woolsey ruled that Ulysses was not pornographic because it contained no "dirt for dirt's sake."

Also, the novel was so hard to understand that people would be unlikely to read it for the purpose of titillation. The ruling changed the standard for literary obscenity and made it impossible for an entire novel to be declared obscene because of a few offending lines or passages.

When the Second Court of Appeal affirmed Woolsey's decision, they called Ulysses a "sincere portrayal" and said it was "executed with real art." I couldn't agree more.


Quote Of The Day

"I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality." - James Joyce


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a lecture on the legacy of James Joyce's classic novel, Ulysses. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Notes For August 6th, 2020


This Day In Literary History

On August 6th, 1809, the legendary English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England. Although his father, George Tennyson, was a rector, (who married a vicar's daughter) the Tennyson family were descendants of King Edward II.

George Tennyson's skill at money management made him far more affluent than the typical country clergyman, and the family was thus able to spend summers vacationing at Mablethorpe and Skegness on the East coast of England.

Alfred Lord Tennyson was the fourth of twelve children. When he and his older brothers Charles and Frederick were teenagers, they began writing poetry. By the time he was 17, they had published locally a collection of their poems.

Charles Tennyson would later marry the younger sister of Alfred's wife. Another one of Alfred's brothers, Edward Tennyson, would end up institutionalized at a private asylum, where he died.

First educated at Louth Grammar School, Tennyson entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1827, where he would join an intellectual secret society called the Cambridge Apostles. While studying at Cambridge, he met poet Arthur Henry Hallam, who became his best friend.

The same year, his first commercially published book, Poems by Two Brothers, came out. It also contained works by his older brother, Charles. In 1829, Alfred Lord Tennyson was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal at Cambridge for his poem Timbuctoo.

A year later, his first solo poetry collection, Poems Chiefly Lyrical, was published. It contained two of Tennyson's most celebrated poems, Claribel and Mariana.

Although some critics derided it for being too sentimental, Tennyson's verse proved to be very popular with readers. It also caught the attention of fellow writers, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

When Tennyson's father died in the spring of 1831, he had to leave Cambridge before obtaining his degree. He lived at the rectory and took responsibility for his widowed mother and his siblings.

His friend Arthur Henry Hallam came to live with the Tennyson family, and later became engaged to Alfred's sister, Emilia. In 1833, Tennyson published his second book of poetry, simply called Poems.

This collection, which included his famous poem, The Lady of Shalott, met with such critical scorn that Tennyson wouldn't publish another for ten years, though he continued to write.

That same year, Arthur Henry Hallam died suddenly of a stroke while on vacation in Vienna. His death had a profound effect on Tennyson, who composed a poem in tribute to his friend called In Memoriam A.H.H.

Considered one of Tennyson's masterpieces, it included the famous lines "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Then never to have loved at all." The poem became a favorite of Queen Victoria, who found solace in it after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. In 1862, she requested a meeting with Tennyson.

In 1842, while living in London, Alfred Lord Tennyson published two more volumes of his Poems series of poetry collections. Unlike the first volume, they met with immediate success. They featured Tennyson classics such as Locksley Hall, Tithonus, and Ulysses.

His writing career back on track, he continued to write and publish poetry collections. By 1850, Tennyson reached the pinnacle of his career. That year, he finally published his masterpiece In Memoriam A.H.H..

On top of that, he was appointed Poet Laureate following the death of William Wordsworth. Also in 1850, at the age of 41, Alfred Lord Tennyson married his childhood sweetheart Emily Sellwood, who bore him two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

In 1855, Tennyson wrote another one of his classics, The Charge Of The Light Brigade. The poem is a tribute to the British cavalrymen who were involved in an ill-fated charge on October 25th, 1854, during the Crimean War.

In 1884, Queen Victoria - a huge fan of his work - bestowed on Tennyson the title Baron Tennyson of Aldworth, and he took a seat in Parliament's House of Lords.

Alfred Lord Tennyson continued to write into his 80s. Near the end of his life, he revealed that he had pretty much rejected religion and become an agnostic. It was a shocking revelation, even in the waning years of the Victorian era, but not a surprise.

He'd blasted Christianity in Maud, writing that "the churches have killed their Christ," and in Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, he wrote that "Christian love among the churches look'd the twin of heathen hate."

Tennyson died in October of 1892 at the age of 83. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. He is rightfully considered to be one of the greatest poets of the English language.


Quote Of The Day

"Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within." - Alfred Lord Tennyson


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of Alfred Lord Tennyson's classic poem, The Lady of Shallott. Enjoy!


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