This Day In Literary History
On June 15th, 1763, the legendary Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa was born. He was born Nobuyuki Yataro in Kashiwabara, Japan.
When Issa was three years old, his mother died, and he was cared for by his doting grandmother. He began studying haiku with Shinpo, a local poet.
Five years later, Issa's father remarried. His stepmother turned out to be a hard and cruel woman, and after she gave birth to a son of her own, she mistreated Issa terribly. He complained to his father that she beat him a hundred times a day.
When he was fourteen, Issa's beloved grandmother died. Lonely, moody, withdrawn, and estranged from his family, Issa preferred to stay away from them, wandering the fields and forests and communing with nature, which further infuriated his cruel stepmother.
Sensing Issa's unhappiness, his father sent him to Edo, (now known as Tokyo) where he lived in poverty, did odd jobs, and continued his haiku studies, this time at the Kastushika Haiku School with poets Mizoguchi Sogan and Norokuan Chikua.
After Chikua's death, Issa was elected to succeed him as a teacher at the school. He later resigned and took to wandering again, until his father's death in 1801.
In his father's will, Issa was named as sole beneficiary, but his stepmother and half-brother conspired to steal his inheritance from him. After thirteen years of legal wrangling, Issa finally received his rightful inheritance.
In the meantime, he had traveled around Japan, visiting and living in many places, including Kyoto, Osaka, Nagasaki, Matsuyama, and other cities. He worked hard to support himself and made a name for himself as a haiku poet.
Taking the pseudonym Kobayashi Issa, he wrote prolifically, both poetry and prose. At the age of 51, after finally receiving his inheritance, Issa returned to his hometown, Kashiwabari, and married a young village woman named Kiku.
Sadly, the four children Issa's wife bore him died in infancy, and his wife died in childbirth. Later, his house burned down. A devout Buddhist for many years, Issa's spirit could not be crushed by tragedy.
He married again, and his second wife bore him his only surviving child, a baby girl. She was born in 1827 - shortly after Issa's death at the age of 65.
Throughout his prolific literary career, Issa wrote over 20,000 haiku poems and over 250 prose works, including memoirs, his most famous being The Year Of My Life, published in 1820.
As a haiku poet, Issa wrote the simple, unadorned poetry of the common man, using local dialects and the words of daily conversation.
And yet, in their simplicity, Issa's poems were extremely profound. Sometimes they were humorous, sometimes sarcastic, and sometimes quiet and thoughtful.
Issa's haiku are best known for their remarkably poignant and compassionate insight. And of course, they are steeped deep in Buddhism - but without the slightest hint of religious dogmatism.
After the death of one of his children, Issa wrote the following poem. It's a perfect example of his simplicity, his profoundness, and his compassion:
This world of dew
is a world of dew -
and yet, and yet...
Here are some other memorable Issa haiku:
Flitting butterfly -
thus is Buddha's law
in this world
A light snow
over fields, over woods...
The beggar child prays
with trembling voice...
for a doll
dewdrops are tumbling
Issa's haiku inspired me to become a poet when I was eight years old. I came across Issa: Haiku Poet - a short biography and a selection of his poems - in my school reading textbook.
Moved and impressed by how much he packed into his little three-line, seventeen-syllable poems, I immediately started writing my own haiku. Issa is rightfully considered one of Japan's greatest haiku masters.
Quote Of The Day
"Where there are humans, you'll find flies and Buddhas." - Kobayashi Issa
Today's video features a 90-minute lecture on haiku. Enjoy!
Friday, June 15, 2018
Thursday, June 14, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On June 14th, 1811, the legendary American writer and activist Harriet Beecher Stowe was born. She was born Harriet Elisabeth Beecher in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her mother died when she was five years old.
Harriet and her nine siblings were left to be raised by their father, Hyman Beecher, a Presbyterian minister known for his evangelical fervor. He co-founded the American Temperance Society and preached about the evils of drink.
Beecher was an abolitionist - and a hypocrite. He preached against slavery from the pulpit, but he was also a racist. He was opposed to the forced emancipation of slaves by the federal government, believing that the institution of slavery would eventually die out.
When that time came, he believed that blacks should be repatriated to their African homeland rather than be allowed to live freely in America and integrate with whites. As president of the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, he refused to admit black students. Fifty white students left the seminary in protest.
Reverend Beecher's virulent intolerance was not limited to blacks. In 1834, he delivered a fiery anti-Catholic sermon in Boston that was believed to have inspired the burning of a nearby convent.
He also authored a notoriously racist Nativist tract, A Plea for the West, where he urged the federal government to strictly limit immigration or restrict it entirely to protect white Christian (Protestant) Americans from racial and religious undesirables. Sound familiar?
Harriet Beecher determined to become a writer at the age of seven, when she won a school essay contest. After completing her primary education, she enrolled in a progressive school for girls run by her older sister Catharine.
As an educator, Catharine was known for her feminist educational philosophy and her early advocacy for adopting the German kindergarten class for little children into the American public education system.
When she was 21, Harriet moved to Cincinnati to attend her father's seminary. There, she became a member of a writer's group called the Semi-Colon Club, whose membership also included her two sisters.
Another member was one of the seminary's professors, Calvin Stowe, with whom she fell in love. They were married, and she bore him seven children, including twin daughters. Unlike Harriet's father, Calvin was a ferocious abolitionist who called for immediate emancipation - freedom for all slaves.
She shared her husband's convictions, and their home soon became part of the Underground Railroad - the famous secret network of safe houses for fugitive slaves. The escaped slaves would move from house to house as they traveled en route to free states, where slavery was illegal.
In 1850, Congress, bowing to pressure from the South, tried to tighten the screws on the Underground Railroad by passing the Fugitive Slave Act, which made it illegal for people - even those living in free states - to assist fugitive slaves.
The law also compelled local law enforcement to arrest fugitive slaves and provide assistance to the vicious bounty hunters privately hired to track runaway slaves. The free states reacted with outrage to the Fugitive Slave Act, which resulted in gross abuses.
Many free states openly defied it. Several of them passed laws granting personal liberties, including the right to a fair trial, to fugitive slaves. Wisconsin's state Supreme Court declared the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional.
The law failed to disrupt the Underground Railroad; by the time it was passed, the network had become far more efficient. After the Act was passed, the Underground Railroad grew as the unjust law inspired scores of moderate abolitionists to become passionate activists.
The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to do more than just dedicate her home to the Underground Railroad. She wrote to Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the abolitionist magazine The National Era, to tell him that she planned to write a story that would expose average white Americans to the true horrors of slavery.
A year later, the first installment of her novel was published in a serialized format in The National Era. Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851) told the unforgettable story of a kind and noble slave whose faith cannot be broken by the evils of slavery.
The novel opens on a Kentucky farm owned by Arthur and Emily Shelby, who like to think that they're kind to their slaves. But, when he needs money, Arthur has no problem selling two of his slaves without regard to where they might end up.
The slaves in question are Uncle Tom, a wise and compassionate middle-aged man, and Harry, the son of Emily's maid, Eliza. The Shelbys' son George, who looked upon Uncle Tom as a friend and mentor, hates to see him go.
Uncle Tom and Harry are sold to a slave trader and shipped by riverboat down the Mississippi. While on the boat, Uncle Tom strikes up a friendship with Eva, a little white girl. When she falls into the river, he saves her life.
Eva's grateful father, Augustine St. Clare, buys Uncle Tom from the slave trader and takes him to his home in New Orleans. There, the friendship between Uncle Tom and Eva deepens. Sadly, Eva becomes severely ill and dies - but not before sharing her vision of heaven.
Moved by how much Uncle Tom meant to Eva, her father vows to help him become a free man. His racist cousin Ophelia is moved to reject her prejudice against blacks. Unfortunately, Augustine is killed at a tavern, and his wife reneges on his promise to help Uncle Tom. She sells him at auction to Simon Legree, who owns a plantation in Louisiana.
Simon Legree is an evil, perverse, sadistic racist who tortures his male slaves and sexually abuses the women. When Uncle Tom refuses to follow Legree's order to whip another slave, Legree beats him savagely.
The beating fails to break Uncle Tom's spirit or his faith in God. The sight of Uncle Tom reading his bible and comforting other slaves makes Legree's blood boil. Legree determines to break Uncle Tom and nearly succeeds, as the daily horrors of life on the plantation erode the slave's faith and hope.
Just when it appears that Uncle Tom will succumb to hopelessness, he has two visions - one of little Eva and one of Jesus himself. Moved by these visions, Uncle Tom vows to remain a faithful Christian until the day he dies.
He encourages two fellow slaves, Cassy and Emmeline, to run away. Later, when Simon Legree demands that Uncle Tom reveal their whereabouts, he refuses. A furious Legree orders his overseers to beat Uncle Tom to death.
As he lay dying, Uncle Tom forgives the overseers, which inspires them to repent. George Shelby arrives with money to buy Uncle Tom's freedom. Sadly, he is too late. Uncle Tom dies before he can become a free man.
George returns to his parents' farm in Kentucky and frees their slaves, telling them to always remember Uncle Tom's sacrifice and unshakable faith.
That's actually just a bare outline of this classic epic novel. The publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin caused a national uproar. In the North, it was regarded as the bible of abolitionism.
The novel inspired many closet abolitionists to come out and join in the fight against slavery. In the South, the book was regarded as an outrage. It was called utterly false and slanderous - a criminal defamation of the South.
Many Southern writers who supported slavery took to writing literature dedicated to debunking Harriet Beecher Stowe's expose of the horrors of slavery. Their writings were called "Anti-Tom" literature.
This pro-Southern propaganda depicted white Southerners as benevolent supervisors of blacks, who were a helpless, child-like people unable to live without the direct supervision of their white masters.
To defend herself against the South's accusations of slander and defamation, Stowe wrote and published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853), a nonfiction book documenting the horrors of slavery that she both witnessed herself and researched.
The book included surprisingly graphic descriptions of the sexual abuse of female slaves, who, in addition to being molested or raped by their white masters and overseers, were also prostituted and forced to "mate" with male slaves to produce offspring that would fetch a good price on the auction block.
When Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared in book form in 1852, it was published in an initial press run of 5,000 copies. That year, it sold 300,000 copies. Its London edition sold 200,000 copies throughout the United Kingdom. It became a hit throughout Europe as well.
Ironically, by the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, the book was out of print in the United States, as Stowe's original publisher had gone out of business. She found another publisher, and when the book was republished in 1862, the demand for copies became huge.
That same year, Harriet Beecher Stowe was invited to Washington D.C. to meet with President Abraham Lincoln, who supposedly said to her, "so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
The novel would be adapted many times for the stage, screen, radio, and television.
In the 20th century, Uncle Tom's Cabin courted a new controversy that continues to this day. African-American activists have accused the abolitionist novel of being racist itself, with its racial stereotypes and epithets.
This, like the accusations of racism leveled against Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) comes from a failure to place the novel in its proper historical perspective and consider its overall message.
Although Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote many books, both fiction and nonfiction, none of her other works came close to eclipsing the power and fame of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
During the last 23 years of her life, she lived in Hartford, Connecticut - next door to her friend and fellow writer, Mark Twain. She died in 1896 at the age of 85.
There are two historical landmarks dedicated to her; the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick, Maine, where she wrote her classic novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Quote Of The Day
"The power of fictitious writing, for good as well as for evil, is a thing which ought most seriously to be reflected upon." - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Today's video features a 2-part lecture on the history and legacy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Professor Cyrus Patell of New York University. Enjoy!
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On June 13th, 1865, the legendary Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats was born. He was born in Dublin, but spent most of his early childhood living in County Sligo.
Yeats' father, John, was a famous painter. His brother Jack would become an acclaimed artist as well. Young William, however, was interested in poetry, Irish folklore, and the occult.
The Yeats family belonged to the Protestant aristocracy, which was pro-British. While William was growing up, a nationalist revival in Ireland caused the Protestants to fall out of power.
The Catholic Church was able to take power in Ireland because most nationalists were middle class Catholics. Protestants were seen as traitors to Ireland. Many nationalists who hadn't been Catholic before were now converting.
Although the Protestant William Butler Yeats would become one of Ireland's greatest nationalist heroes, he never converted to Catholicism. Yeats loathed the Catholic Church, which he believed was more interested in grabbing power for itself than in Irish nationalism.
At the age of twelve, Yeats began his formal education after being educated at home by his father. He was a below average student. An early report card noted that he was "Only fair. Perhaps better in Latin than in any other subject. Very poor in spelling."
During his high school years, Yeats discovered his passion for poetry. Percy Bysshe Shelley became one of his literary idols. By this time, his family had moved back to Dublin and William hung out with the city's writers and artists.
In 1885, at the age of twenty, Yeats had his first poems and an essay published in the Dublin University Review. His early work would be heavily influenced by Shelley, Edmund Spenser, and the pre-Raphaelite style.
Soon, however, Yeats would develop his trademark style of poetry, which was steeped deep in symbolism and influenced by Irish folklore, mythology, and the writings of William Blake.
Although other modernist poets were experimenting with free verse, Yeats preferred writing in traditional formats with rhyme and meter. One of his first major works was Mosada (1886), a play in verse.
While pursuing his interest in the occult, Yeats became a member of the famous Golden Dawn magical order and struck up a close friendship with fellow member and legendary occultist Aleister Crowley.
Around this time, Yeats struck up a friendship with Maude Gonne, an heiress, art student, and fellow Irish nationalist. He fell in love with her, but it was a mostly unrequited love.
Like Maude, Yeats had belonged to a then fledgling nationalist group called the Irish Republican Army (IRA). As the IRA became more militant, Yeats distanced himself from its violent wing.
He wanted no part of violence, believing that he and other writers could use their words to further the cause of Irish nationalism, which would be more effective than violence.
Yeats was devastated when Maude married another man, fellow nationalist Major John MacBride. However, the marriage soon came to an end - but not officially. Unable to divorce in Ireland, they went to Paris, only to be denied by the court there.
Maude remained in Paris with her son while John returned to Ireland. Maude and Yeats rekindled their friendship. They finally became lovers, but ultimately drifted apart.
By 1890, the Yeats family had moved to London, where William co-founded the Rhymers' Club, a group of poets that met regularly in a Fleet Street pub to read their works.
In 1899, Yeats and his friends Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and George Moore founded the Irish Literary Theatre, which was devoted to Irish and Celtic plays. Its first production was a double bill featuring Yeats' play The Countess Cathleen and Lady Gregory's Spreading the News.
Yeats would remain a lifelong Irish nationalist, but kept his political beliefs mostly to himself as violence escalated between the Irish nationalists and British police and soldiers. He continued to write nationalist poetry.
In 1916, Yeats proposed marriage to his old love Maude Gonne, whose estranged husband had been executed by the British. He really wanted to just take care of the poor woman, whose life had been ruined by her devotion to violent political activism and her addiction to drugs.
Yeats and Maude didn't marry. At 51 years of age, what he wanted most of all was to have a child. He ultimately married Georgie Hyde-Lees, a young woman of 25. Despite the age difference, their marriage was happy. They had two children.
Georgie shared Yeats' interest in the occult, especially spiritualism and automatic writing. They conducted seances in their home and experiments with trance states. This resulted in Yeats' non-fiction study of the paranormal, A Vision (1925).
By 1922, the Irish nationalists had won a surprising victory in the Irish War of Independence. Although the war actually ended in a truce, Southern Ireland was recognized as a free state republic within the United Kingdom.
Yeats became a senator in the new republic; when the issue of legalizing divorce came up for debate, he fought hard against the Catholic Church's attempt to legislate its doctrine against divorce, comparing the effort to a modern inquisition.
In December of 1923, Yeats won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It was a huge symbolic victory for an Irishman to win the award so soon after Southern Ireland won its independence.
For Yeats, winning the Nobel Prize also resulted in financial success. His publisher took advantage of the publicity, and his book sales took off. Though his later poetry would still be steeped deep in mysticism, it would also become devoted to more contemporary issues.
William Butler Yeats died in 1939 at the age of 73. He remains one of Ireland's greatest poets.
Quote Of The Day
“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” - William Butler Yeats
Today's video features a reading of William Butler Yeats' classic poem, The Stolen Child. Enjoy!
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On June 12th, 1929, the legendary German writer Anne Frank was born. She was born Anneliese Marie Frank in Frankfurt, Germany. Her father, Otto Frank, was a Jewish businessman and decorated veteran of World War I, where he served as an officer in the German Army.
In March of 1933, municipal council elections were held in Frankfurt, and Adolf Hitler won dictatorial control, becoming Chancellor of Germany. Anti-Semitic demonstrations began, and the Frank family feared for their safety.
Anne Frank, her older sister Margot, and their mother Edith went to stay with Anne's grandmother in Aachen. Later, after receiving an offer to start a company in Amsterdam, Otto moved the family to the Netherlands.
In February 1934, Edith and the girls arrived in Amsterdam. Anne Frank was enrolled in a Montessori school, where she showed advanced aptitude in reading and writing. Her friend, Hanneli Goslar, later recalled that Anne started writing in early childhood, but kept her writings a closely guarded secret and would not discuss them.
In 1938, Otto Frank started a second company, Pentacon - a wholesaler of herbs, spices, and pickling salts used to make sausages. His spice adviser was Hermann Van Pels, a Jewish butcher who had also fled Germany with his family.
Edith Frank's mother came to Amsterdam to live with the family in 1939. The Franks' quiet life would change forever when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940.
After defeating the Dutch army, the Nazis set up an occupation government and enacted discriminatory laws requiring Jews to register themselves and be segregated from the non-Jewish population.
In April of 1941, Otto Frank took steps to keep Pentacon from being confiscated as a Jewish-owned business, enabling him to earn a small income with which to support his family. Otto had the company liquidated and the assets transferred to his employee, Jan Gies. Jan and his wife Miep were close friends of the Frank family.
On June 12th, 1942, Anne Frank received a diary from her father as a gift for her thirteenth birthday. She had seen the handsome book, bound in red and green plaid cloth and with a small lock on the front, in a shop window. It was actually an autograph book, but Anne used it as a diary.
The following month, Margot Frank received a letter from the Central Office for Jewish Emigration ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. So, on July 6th, the family fled their apartment after Otto planted a fake note to trick the Nazis into thinking they went to Switzerland.
The Franks moved into a hiding place - a three-story space located above the offices of Otto Frank's previous company, the Opekta Works. Anne called it the Secret Annex. A week later, they were joined by Hermann Van Pels, his wife Auguste, and their 16-year-old son, Peter. In November, Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and Frank family friend, moved into the Secret Annex.
In her diary, (which she called Kitty, after the main character in her favorite series of children's novels) Anne wrote about the Van Pelses and Pfeffer, and their daily lives in the hiding place.
She described Hermann Van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer as self-centered and Auguste Van Pels as foolish. She became friends with Peter Van Pels, developed a crush on him, and experienced her first kiss. Anne's affection for Peter waned as she questioned her true feelings, wondering if she really did love him or if it was because there was no one else.
While in hiding, the Franks' only connections to the outside world were Jan and Miep Gies, and Otto's former employees Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, and Bep Voskuijl, and Bep's father, Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl.
These contacts provided the Franks and their roommates with information, food, and supplies, all of them knowing that if they were caught, they would be executed for helping to hide Jews. The food and supplies had to be purchased on the black market.
Anne continued to write in her diary, expressing her feelings about her family and their roommates. She came to hate Fritz Pfeffer, with whom she had to share a room. She wrote of her strained relationships with her mother and sister, (her relationship with her mother was especially strained) and she wrote about what it was like to be confined, hidden, and always in fear of discovery.
In August of 1944, two years after they went into hiding, someone - it's not clear who - betrayed the Franks. On August 4th, the Secret Annex was raided by the German Security Police, and everyone was arrested.
When Miep Gies came for a visit, she found the Secret Annex vacant. She discovered Anne's diary and other writings (in notebooks and on looseleaf paper) and saved them, hoping that Anne would survive to reclaim them.
Anne, her sister Margot, and their mother Edith were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, her father Otto to Auschwitz. At Bergen-Belsen, Anne developed a severe case of scabies. Her mother died from starvation after giving her food rations to her daughters.
When typhus swept the camp, Margot contracted the disease and Anne cared for her until she died. Anne then contracted typhus herself. Believing that her father had also died, Anne lost her will to live. She died of typhus in March of 1945, just three months before her sixteenth birthday - and just one month before Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the Allies.
In 1945, having survived the horrors of Auschwitz, Otto Frank returned home to the Netherlands. After the Red Cross confirmed the deaths of Anne and Margot Frank, Miep Gies gave Anne's diary and other writings to her father.
Impressed with Anne's writing talent, the depth of her thoughts and feelings, and the way she chronicled the family's life in hiding - and remembering how she longed to be a writer - Otto considered having the diary published.
Anne herself had wanted to publish her diary; she'd heard a radio broadcast in March of 1944 by Gerrit Bolkestein, a member of the Dutch government-in-exile who planned (after the war ended) to create a public record of the Dutch people's oppression under Nazi occupation.
Anne prepared her diary for future publication by editing, rewriting, and using pseudonyms for her family and their roommates. The Van Pels family became the Van Daans, and Fritz Pfeffer's name was changed to Albert Dussell - Dussell being the German word for idiot.
After Anne's death, Otto Frank edited her diary himself, restoring the Frank family's names, but retaining the other pseudonyms. He cut some sections, including Anne's harsh criticisms of her mother and biting comments about her parents' strained marriage. He also removed sections dealing with Anne's growing sexual awareness and her experiences with puberty.
Otto gave the edited manuscript to historian Annie Romein-Verschoor, and she tried, unsuccessfully, to get it published. When her husband Jan wrote an article about the diary titled Kinderstern (A Child's Voice), which was published in the Het Parool newspaper in April 1946, it attracted the attention of publishers.
Anne Frank's diary was published in the Netherlands as Het Achterhuis (The Diary) in 1947, then again in 1950. It was published in Germany and France in 1950, and then in the UK in 1952, though in the UK, it was unsuccessful and went out of print the following year.
Surprisingly, the diary's first edition was most successful in Japan, where it sold over 100,000 copies. The first American edition was published in 1952 as Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl. In the U.S., the book was just as successful and critically acclaimed as it was in Germany and France.
In October of 1955, The Diary Of Anne Frank, a stage play adaptation by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, premiered on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
A feature film adaptation of the play, starring Millie Perkins as Anne Frank and Shelley Winters as Mrs. Van Daan, was released in 1959. More adaptations followed, including a TV miniseries.
Over the years, the book's popularity has grown exponentially, selling over 25,000,000 copies worldwide. It often appears on middle school English and social studies teachers' assigned reading lists. I first read this amazing book in middle school, at the age of thirteen.
In 1999, Cornelius Suijk, a former director of the Anne Frank Foundation and president of the U.S. Center for Holocaust Education Foundation, announced that he possessed the sections of Anne Frank's diary that had been deleted by her father, Otto, prior to the book's initial publication.
Suijk claimed that Otto Frank had given them to him and claimed the right to publish the missing pages. He planned to use the proceeds to help fund his U.S. foundation.
After a court battle, Suijk agreed to turn over the pages to the Dutch Ministry of Education in exchange for a $300,000 donation to his foundation. He did so in 2001, and the diary has since been republished in an uncut special edition.
A companion volume was also published - Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex - a collection of short stories and an unfinished novel called Cady's Life, all written by Anne during her two years in hiding. It's a fascinating book that showcases her writing talent, which was considerable.
But her diary was her legacy, and it continues to inspire nearly 75 years after her death. It's a profoundly moving testament to the courage of an ordinary teenage girl trapped in extraordinary circumstances and a testament to the evils of racism and fascism - one of the most important documents of the Holocaust.
The Secret Annex in Amsterdam where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis and wrote her famous diary was turned into a museum called the Anne Frank House by the Dutch government. First opened to the public in 1960, it was rededicated by the Netherlands' Queen Beatrix after its second renovation in 1999.
In 2007 alone, over a million people visited the Anne Frank House. If you go there, you can still see the pictures of movie stars that Anne tacked up on her bedroom wall.
Quote Of The Day
"For someone like me, it is a very strange habit to write in a diary. Not only that I have never written before, but it strikes me that later neither I, nor anyone else, will care for the outpouring of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl." - Anne Frank
Today's video features a complete reading of the 70th Anniversary Definitive Edition of The Diary of Anne Frank, performed by Helena Bonham Carter. Enjoy!
Monday, June 11, 2018
My review of A Child Went Forth, a novel by Boston Teran, has been published by the Internet Review of Books.
I had poems accepted at Soft Cartel and Young Ravens Literary Review. The reason The reason I'm sending out a yahoo now rather than after they're published is because both sites are still open for submissions. Young Ravens is themed.
Last night I got the news that I won a Second Place for my poem, Some Dogs Won't Stop Howling. As a result I'm a whole $125 richer and my poem will be
included in the organization's annual anthology (I'll also get a free copy of the anthology.)
This is my most recently written poem and it's nice to know the contest judge liked it. (Maybe this will help break my streak of not writing much poetry lately.)
Twenty-two years after writing the first draft, my story "Fool on the Hill" was published in Literally Stories on June 8. It's about a simple-minded night cleaner on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Canada.
The narrative voice was loosely inspired by Faulkner's Benjy Compson in *The Sound and the Fury*. Paul McCartney helped with the title.
Friday, June 8, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On June 8th, 1880, the legendary Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky delivered his famous speech at the unveiling of the Pushkin Monument in Moscow. The monument was a tribute to the memory of Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837).
Pushkin, the great Russian poet, novelist, and playwright, is considered to be the founding father of modern Russian literature. Dostoevsky's speech would later serve as a memorial to himself, as he died six months after he gave it.
The Pushkin Monument ceremony was much more than a memorial tribute to the late writer. It served as a philosophical battleground between two bitterly opposed sides vying for control over the future of Russia herself and the character of her people.
Each side was represented by a legendary writer; on one side was Ivan Turgenev, on the other, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Leo Tolstoy, who shared in Dostoevsky's religious fundamentalism, was invited, but declined to attend.
Turgenev was a well educated, non-religious liberal who admired Western culture and promoted it in Russia, hoping to bring his country and people out of the dark ages. He had been living in Paris at the time, and his closest friend was the legendary French novelist Gustave Flaubert.
Dostoevsky, on the other hand, hoped that with his speech, he could promote his opposing philosophy - a blend of fierce, mystical nationalism and devout, fundamentalist Russian Orthodox Christianity, which he believed were the building blocks of the Russian character.
Although Turgenev and Dostoevsky had been friends in the past, their opposing philosophies strained their friendship to the breaking point. In a letter to his wife, written several days before the ceremony, Dostoevsky wrote:
... I am needed here, not just by the Friends of Russian Literature, but by our whole party and the whole idea for which we have been struggling for 30 years now. For the hostile party (Turgenev, Kovalevsky, and almost the entire university) is determined to play down the importance of Pushkin as the man who gave expression to the Russian national identity, by denying the very existence of that identity.... My voice will carry weight and our side will prevail....
While Pushkin unquestionably contributed to the Russian national identity, he was more like Turgenev than Dostoevsky.
Pushkin was an aristocrat turned socialist who defended radical writers and ran afoul of the Tzarist government, which first exiled him, then censored his works. He was a Freemason and a libertarian.
In creating modern Russian literature, Pushkin incorporated both the language of the Russian common man and foreign influences. He had traveled throughout Europe.
He supported the Greek Revolution and joined an organization dedicated to overthrowing Ottoman rule and establishing a free, independent Greece.
At the Pushkin ceremony, Turgenev spoke first, delivering a memorable speech that was warmly received. But Dostoevsky stole the show, delivering a speech that was both a hymn to the Russian spirit and a prophecy of Russian greatness. That night, he wrote to another letter to his wife, in which he described the reaction to his speech:
When I appeared on the stage, the auditorium thundered with applause.... I bowed and made signs begging them to let me read -- but to no avail.... At last I began reading. At every page, sometimes at every sentence, I was interrupted with bursts of applause. I read in a loud voice and with fire....
When at the end I proclaimed the universal oneness of mankind, the hall seemed to go into hysterics, and when I finished, there was -- I won't call it a roar -- it was a howl of elation. People in the audience who had never met before wept and threw their arms around one another, solemnly promising to become better, and not hate, but love one another....
Even Turgenev was moved by Dostoevsky's speech. It didn't cause him to change his philosophy, but it did move him to reconcile with his former friend.
Ironically, the works of Alexander Pushkin and the monument to his memory would both survive the Soviet era. His writings weren't banned by the Soviet state, nor was his statue torn down.
Today, his statue in Pushkin Square looks out on the McDonald's restaurant in Moscow, which is reportedly the most frequently patronized McDonald's restaurant in the world.
Quote Of The Day
"It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them - the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas." - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Today's video features a walking tour of Moscow, including Pushkin Square. Enjoy!
Thursday, June 7, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On June 7th, 1977, Delta of Venus, the classic short story collection by the legendary French writer Anaïs Nin, was published. It was published posthumously, as Nin had died six months earlier at the age of 73.
Anaïs Nin was born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell in Neuilly, France, in 1903. Her father, Joaquin Nin, was a Spanish concert pianist and composer.
Her mother, Rosa Culmell, was a classically trained singer of French and Danish descent. As a young girl, Anaïs and her family lived in Spain and America before moving back to her mother's French homeland.
When the Nins moved back to France, they first lived in an apartment rented from an American friend who had gone away for the summer.
Anaïs, then in her teens, stumbled across the man's collection of erotic French paperbacks and read them all. By then, she had already determined to become a writer, and had begun keeping the diaries for which she would become most famous.
In the early 1930s, Anaïs Nin was living the bohemian life in Paris when she met the legendary American writer Henry Miller, then a down-and-out expatriate trying to start his own career as a novelist. She let him read her diaries, and they were a revelation to him.
Her writing had the poetry and passion that his lacked. With Anaïs serving as his muse, Miller wrote his classic debut novel, Tropic of Cancer (1934), which made his name as a writer. Meanwhile, Anaïs worked on her own fiction.
While they tried to get their writing careers going, Anaïs and Henry struggled to make ends meet, as France had also fallen victim to the Great Depression. They and some of their writer friends soon discovered that they could make $1 per page writing pornographic literature for an anonymous private collector.
That was the equivalent of $15 per page in today's money; though at first, they wrote erotica just for their own amusement, soon it became an important source of income during the dark days of the Depression when work was hard to come by.
Believe it or not, for Henry Miller, writing decent erotica in those days was a struggle. Anaïs Nin, however, was brilliant at it. Her erotic stories, told from a woman's perspective, were dazzling, poetic, sensual, and even philosophical at times, while also surprisingly graphic.
She explored all the known sexual taboos, including male and female homosexuality, sadomasochism, and incest. Though she retained her original manuscripts for these stories, she never intended to have them published.
During her amazing career, Anaïs Nin wrote many great novels, including House of Incest (1936), The Four-Chambered Heart (1950), and A Spy in the House of Love (1954), but she was most famous for her diaries.
The diaries were published in a series of eleven volumes over the years. They would also appear as collections of excerpts, the most famous of which was Henry and June: From a Journal of Love (1986).
Henry and June: From a Journal of Love contained excerpts from Anaïs' diaries chronicling her relationship with Henry Miller, which began as a close friendship and evolved into a passionate love affair.
The affair would become a ménage à trois of sorts when Miller's wife June arrived in Paris to live with him. Anaïs was fascinated by June and attracted to her, but usually preferred sex with men.
This memorable volume would be adapted by director Philip Kaufman as the highly acclaimed and controversial 1990 feature film Henry & June, starring Fred Ward as Henry Miller, Uma Thurman as June, and, in a bravura performance, Maria de Medeiros as Anaïs Nin.
Though it contained no hardcore sexual content, Henry & June became the first feature film to be rated NC-17, which had replaced the X rating. Most critics and filmgoers agreed that the rating was undeserved.
By 1976, Anaïs was losing her battle with cancer when a publisher approached her about releasing a volume of her famous erotic short stories, which everyone knew about but nobody had seen - except for the patron who had paid her to write them. She still didn't want to publish them.
Knowing that her ex-husbands Hugh Parker Guiler and Rupert Pole, both of whom she still loved, had fallen into poverty, she changed her mind and agreed to have the erotic stories published so they could have some money to live on. She died in January of 1977 at the age of 73. Six months later, Delta of Venus was published.
As the publisher had expected, the short story collection was a huge hit, though Anaïs Nin had considered the stories embarrassing because they were more caricature than serious writing and had been penned for a private patron's money rather than written for publication.
Nevertheless, they possessed a literary quality, providing a memorable exhibition of Nin's talent for erotic literature and adding to her legacy as a feminist icon. With the success of Delta of Venus, a second erotic short story collection, Little Birds, was published in 1979.
Quote Of The Day
"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it." - Anaïs Nin
Today's video features a reading of Anaïs Nin's classic short story collection Delta of Venus, performed by Ingrid Pitt. Enjoy!