This Day In Writing History
On January 28th, 1873, the legendary French writer and actress Colette was born. She was born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in Yonne, France. In 1893, at the age of twenty, Colette married writer and music critic Henri "Willy" Gauthier-Villars.
Willy, fifteen years her senior, was known for having a staff of ghostwriters that he would direct in producing his works and for his notorious sexual exploits, which didn't end with his marriage.
A few years after they were married, Colette decided to try her own hand at writing. In 1900, her first novel, Claudine a L'ecole (Claudine At School) was published - under her husband's name.
It would be the first in a series of semi-autobiographical novels featuring Claudine, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. The novel takes the form of Claudine's journal as she records her home and school life. She lives in Montigny with her father, who ignores her.
At school, Claudine falls in love with Miss Lanthenay, the assistant headmistress, and they have an affair. Miss Sergent, the headmistress, finds out about the affair and gets Miss Lanthenay to break it off. She eventually takes Miss Lanthenay as her own lover.
Heartbroken and feeling betrayed, Claudine turns to her friends - tough, cynical Anais and sweet-natured Marie - to help her cause trouble for the headmistresses. In addition to chronicling her love affairs with both female and male paramours, Claudine records other events in her journal.
Chronicling her school year, she records evens both mundane and important, such as the opening of a new school, a ball given in the honor of a visiting politician, and preparations for final exams.
Claudine a L'ecole caused an outrage with its frank and honest depiction of female bisexuality and a sensation with the quality of its prose. Colette's husband Willy, who served as her editor, later tried to claim that he was the real author of the Claudine books.
This, along with his constant philandering, put an end to their marriage. When she first discovered that he was cheating, she had an affair of her own with another woman, then learned that the girl was one of her husband's mistresses! When she revealed this to Willy, he suggested that they make it a menage a trois.
Colette agreed, but the relationship didn't last. She left Willy in 1906 and moved in with her friend, American writer Natalie Barney. The two women had a brief affair, but remained lifelong friends. Colette took up acting and became a music hall actress in Paris.
Her mentor in acting was Mathilde "Missy" de Morny, the Marquise de Belbeuf. They became lovers, and in 1907, while doing a pantomime called Reve d'Egypte at the Moulin Rouge, the performance included an onstage kiss between the two women that caused a riot.
The ensuing scandal resulted in the banning of future performances of Reve d'Egypte. Though Colette and Missy were no longer able to live openly together, their relationship lasted for five years. After it ended, Colette had relationships with male lovers.
Her male paramours included Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio and French car magnate Auguste Herriot. In 1912, Colette married her second husband, Henri de Jouvenel, editor of the newspaper Le Matin. She bore him a daughter, Colette de Jouvenel, who was called Bel-Gazou.
In 1914, after the outbreak of World War I, Colette was approached by the Opera de Paris and asked to write a ballet. She accepted the offer and chose legendary composer Maurice Ravel to write the music. He turned it into an opera, and by 1918, Colette gave him her finished libretto.
L'Enfant et les Sortileges, aka The Child and the Spells: a Lyric Fantasy in Two Parts, premiered seven years later. During the war, Colette had converted her husband's estate in St. Malo into a hospital for the wounded. For this, she was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1920.
That same year, she resurrected her literary career, publishing her classic novel Cheri. Cheri is a young man of 25 involved in a passionate, albeit casual relationship with Lea, a retired courtesan nearly twice his age.
When Cheri enters an arranged marriage to a young woman from a wealthy family, he and Lea realize that they are in love with each other. After nine months of misery in a loveless marriage, Cheri returns to Lea, who rescues him from the depths of depression.
She gives him the courage to return to his wife, realizing that she has to let him go for his own good. Colette would follow Cheri with a sequel, La Fin de Cheri, published in 1926.
Colette, now regarded as France's finest female writer, struck up a friendship with legendary writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau and became part of his literary circle. She divorced her husband after engaging in a scandalous affair with her stepson, Bertrand.
In 1935, she married again, to Maurice Goudeket. During World War II, at the time of the Nazi occupation of France, Colette hid her husband and their Jewish friends in her attic, where they remained throughout the war.
In 1945, after the war ended, Colette published her most famous novel, Gigi. Set in turn of the century Paris, it told the story of Gigi, a young girl who is well-educated at a girls' school and taught etiquette, dress, and style by her female relatives.
They're grooming Gigi to follow in their footsteps and become a courtesan - a mistress of wealthy, cultured married men - and support them. But Gigi doesn't want to be a courtesan - she wants true love.
That true love takes the form of family friend Gaston Lachaille, a wealthy thirtysomething year old man who is bored with high society and his current mistress. He falls in love with Gigi - and ultimately marries her.
Gigi would be adapted as a Broadway play by Anita Loos in 1951. In 1958, the book would be adapted as an acclaimed albeit sanitized movie musical starring Leslie Caron in the lead role and co-starring Louis Jordan and Maurice Chevalier.
Featuring a soundtrack of songs by Lerner and Loewe, including the endearing Thank Heaven For Little Girls, Gigi is rightfully considered a classic film. It won the Oscar for Best Picture.
Colette died in 1954 at the age of 81. She had written around 50 novels and become a feminist icon - a brilliant writer, intellectual, and free spirit who flaunted her bisexuality, determined to live her life on her own terms with apologies to no one.
Quote Of The Day
"On this narrow planet, we have only the choice between two unknown worlds. One of them tempts us - ah, what a dream, to live in that! The other stifles us at the first breath." - Colette
Today's video features a 1951 short film documentary on Colette, in French with English subtitles. Enjoy!
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
This Day In Writing History
On January 27th, 1832, the legendary English writer Lewis Carroll was born. He was born Charles Dodgson IV in Daresbury, Cheshire, England.
His father was a fiercely conservative clergyman in the Anglican Church. Young Charles, however, did not share his father's conservatism or his extreme devotion to the Anglican Church.
A precocious, intellectually gifted child and voracious reader, Charles Dodgson received his early education at home. He was sickly; a fever left him deaf in one ear, and he suffered from a stammer which would result in the extreme shyness that plagued him all his life.
As a teenager, he would contract a severe case of whooping cough that left him with a weak respiratory system. He also suffered from a condition that matched the description of temporal lobe epilepsy.
In 1844, at the age of twelve, Charles Dodgson began his formal schooling at a small private school in Richmond, North Yorkshire. He loved that school, but when he moved on to Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire two years later, he came to hate the place.
R.B. Mayor, his mathematics master, recognized Dodgson's genius for arithmetic. Though he disliked Rugby School, he maintained his academic prowess and was an excellent student as always.
Dodgson enrolled in his father's alma mater, Christ Church, Oxford, in January of 1851. He was at university for only two days when he was summoned to return home. His mother had died at the age of 47 from "inflammation of the brain," a common euphemism for conditions such as meningitis and stroke.
He later returned to university, where his talent as a mathematician won him a Mathematical Lectureship at Christ Church, and he would teach there for the next 26 years. Teaching bored him, but the pay was good.
Charles Dodgson had begun writing poetry and short stories as a young boy. He would publish them in Mischmasch, a magazine created by the Dodgson family for their own amusement. Later, between 1854 and 1856, his works would appear in both national magazines and smaller publications in the UK.
Most of these works were humorous and satirical in nature. Too shy to use his own name, Dodgson wrote under his soon-to-be-famous pseudonym, Lewis Carroll, which was a clever play on his own name; Carroll is an Irish surname similar to the Latin word Carolus, from which the name Charles comes.
In 1856, Dodgson published the first work to make him famous, a romantic poem titled Solitude. That same year, a new Dean arrived at Christ Church with his family. His name was Henry Liddell. He and his wife had four children: Harry, Lorina, Edith, and Alice.
Dodgson became a close friend of the Liddell family. He would take the children on rowing trips to Nuneham Courtenay and Godstow. Of the four Liddell children, Dodgson was closest to Alice and would spend a lot of time with her.
On July 4th, 1862, during a rowing trip with Alice, Dodgson told her a story he was thinking about turning into a children's book. It was about a little girl (named after Alice) who falls through a rabbit hole and finds herself in a strange and magical world. Alice loved the story and begged him to write the book. So he did.
A year later, he took his unfinished manuscript for Alice's Adventures Under Ground to a publisher named Macmillan for appraisal. He liked it immediately. In 1864, Dodgson presented Alice Liddell with his completed manuscript.
When the book was being prepared for publication, several other titles were considered, including Alice Among The Fairies and Alice's Golden Hour. The book was published in 1865 as Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, later shortened to Alice In Wonderland.
It was a huge critical and commercial success, beloved by both children and adults. It made the name Lewis Carroll world famous. It also made the author a lot of money, but he still kept the teaching job he disliked.
Dodgson published a sequel, Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There in 1871, though the title page erroneously states that the book was published in 1872. Through The Looking Glass was a darker tale than the original, which no doubt reflected (no pun intended) the author's struggle with depression following the death of his father in 1868.
Dodgson would publish several other children's books, including Sylvie And Bruno and The Hunting Of The Snark, a dazzling, epic "nonsense poem." He also wrote over a dozen mathematics textbooks.
When he wasn't writing or teaching, Dodgson explored his interest in photography and became a renowned photographer. Ironically, it was his photography, not his writing, that gained him entrance into high society.
He would photograph many notable people, including legendary poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. When he retired as a photographer in 1880, Dodgson had taken over 3,000 photographs, but less than 1,000 of these images have survived.
In late 1897, Charles Dodgson contracted a bad case of the flu that turned into pneumonia. His weak respiratory system never recovered, and he died at his sister's home on January 14th, 1898 - two weeks before his 66th birthday.
Years later, several different biographers would speculate that Dodgson was a pedophile. He never married, he preferred the company of children to adults - especially little girls - and as a photographer, he had taken many nude photographs of young girls, including Alice Liddell.
A group of scholars, including French academic Hugues Lebailly and biographer Karoline Leach, sought to debunk what they called the "Carroll Myth." Leach wrote a biography called In the Shadow of the Dreamchild, where she explained how the Carroll Myth came to be.
In her book, Leach argues that the myth of Dodgson's pedophilia arose from a misunderstanding of Victorian morality and aesthetics. Images of nude children were common in Victorian England, considered artistic representations of beauty and innocence and devoid of eroticism. They even appeared on Christmas cards.
Leach goes on to say that Dodgson's diaries showed that he was interested in adult women and had relationships with them that were considered scandalous by Victorian standards.
Some biographers had claimed that Dodgson's falling out with the Liddell family happened because he wanted to marry the then 11-year-old Alice; Leach claimed that the falling out happened because Henry Liddell discovered that Dodgson was having an affair with either oldest daughter Lorina or the family's nanny, both of whom were grown women.
Of the 13 diaries that Dodgson kept throughout his life, four are missing. Leach believes that they were destroyed by Dodgson's family to protect his name because they chronicled his sexual relationships with unmarried women - not little girls.
Charles Dodgson's love for children came from the extreme shyness brought on by his speech impediment. He was more comfortable around children because they weren't bothered by the stammer he was so self-conscious of.
Karoline Leach's biography of Dodgson is, like the writer's sexuality, still hotly debated. Some say that In the Shadow of the Dreamchild is a long overdue repudiation of the besmirching of Dodgson's name, while others accuse Leach and the academics who support her of historical revisionism.
Dodgson's classic novel, Alice In Wonderland, still beloved by readers of all ages and popular with literary scholars, has been adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television.
The latest feature film adaptation was released in March of 2010. Directed by Tim Burton, the movie featured Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, and Christopher Lee as the Jabberwock.
Quote Of The Day
"Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle." - Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)
Today's video features a complete reading of Lewis Carroll's epic "nonsense poem," The Hunting of the Snark. Enjoy!
Monday, January 26, 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
This Day In Writing History
On January 23rd, 1930, the famous Caribbean writer Derek Wolcott was born in Castries, Saint Lucia. His mother was a teacher who often recited poetry around the house. His father was an artist and poet who died before Derek and his twin brother Roderick were born.
Derek Wolcott first intended to become an artist like his father, training with painter Harold Simmons. But he soon fell in love with literature and writing became his main passion. He was twelve years old when his first published poem appeared in a newspaper.
The poem, inspired by both his Methodist faith and the works of John Milton, prompted a Catholic priest to write an angry letter to the editor accusing Wolcott of blasphemy. The letter was published in the newspaper, but that failed to discourage the young poet.
By 1949, Wolcott, then nineteen years old, had self-published his first two poetry collections, 25 Poems (1948) and Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos (1949). He had borrowed the money from his mother, and, as he predicted, all the copies sold out.
These early poetry collections caught the eye of noted Barbadian poet Frank Collymore, who gave them rave reviews and helped promote them. Wolcott then won a scholarship to the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.
After graduating, Wolcott moved to the Island of Trinidad, where he became a teacher, a literary critic, and a journalist. He also founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, where he remains on the Board of Directors.
In 1962, his classic poetry collection In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 brought him international fame. In it, he explored the colonial and post-colonial history of the Caribbean - perfect metaphors for the turbulent social and political changes taking place around the world.
Wolcott also earned international recognition for his classic play Dream on Monkey Mountain (1970), which was produced by NBC-TV the year it was written. The following year, the play was produced off-Broadway by the Negro Ensemble Company and won an Obie Award.
It told the story of Felix Hobain, a drunken hermit taken to jail to sober up after causing a ruckus at the market. Suffering from the DTs and hallucinating, he has a prophetic dream. Believing himself to be a healer, he wakes up sober and determined to heal the sick and lead his people.
In 1972, Wolcott won the OBE (Order of the British Empire) Award and was hired to teach at Boston University. Nine years later, he founded the Boston Playwrights' Theatre and received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
Wolcott would teach at Boston University for over twenty years. When he wasn't in the classroom, he wrote and published new plays and poetry collections. His classic Homeric epic poem Omeros, published in 1990, is considered his masterpiece.
Most of the poem takes place in the author's native Saint Lucia. The non-linear narrative includes an imagined voyage aboard a slave ship from Africa to the Americas. In Book Five, the author relates his own experiences traveling to world cities such as London, Dublin, Rome, Lisbon, and Toronto.
In writing Omeros, Wolcott employed a three-line format similar to the terza rima used by Dante in The Divine Comedy, but Omeros is largely Homeric, written mostly in hexameter, which Homer used in The Iliad, and containing character names such as Achille, Helen, and Hector.
Two years after the publication of Omeros, Derek Wolcott won the Nobel Prize in Literature, which made him the first Caribbean writer to win a Nobel Prize. Most recently, he has served as scholar-in-residence at the University of Alberta and professor of poetry at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom.
Wolcott has written over twenty poetry collections and two dozen plays. His most recent poetry collection, White Egrets, was published in 2010; his latest play, O Starry Starry Night, came out last year.
Quote Of The Day
"The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own images from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life." - Derek Wolcott
Today's video features Derek Wolcott being interviewed before a live audience at a theater in Toronto. Enjoy!
Thursday, January 22, 2015
This Day In Writing History
On January 22nd, 1953, The Crucible, the classic play by the legendary American playwright Arthur Miller, opened on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre, now known as the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
The play, set in the 17th century during the time of the witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts, is actually a scathing allegorical satire of the modern witch hunt being conducted by the United States government against alleged communists and communist sympathizers at the time the play was written.
The anticommunist witch hunts were conducted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) under the direction of Joseph McCarthy, the notorious Republican Senator from Wisconsin who would later be censured for his outrageous and illegal conduct.
Arthur Miller was inspired to write The Crucible by what happened to his close friend, the legendary film director Elia Kazan, who faced losing his career to the Hollywood Blacklist after he was accused of being a communist.
Brought before the HUAC to testify, Kazan, wishing to avoid being blacklisted, informed on several of his friends, including legendary playwright Lillian Hellman and actor John Garfield.
Kazan avoided the Hollywood Blacklist, but his reputation would take a huge hit. He was, and is to this day, rightfully considered of the biggest rats of the Blacklist era, a man willing to ruin the lives of others for the sake of his own self interest. Miller didn't speak to him for ten years.
The Crucible opens with Reverend Samuel Parris, the hated minister of Salem's church, praying over his daughter Betty, who had fainted after being caught in the forest allegedly practicing witchcraft along with Parris' niece, 17-year-old Abigail Williams, and some other girls.
John Proctor, an honorable married farmer, enters the room and is left alone with Abigail, who tries unsuccessfully to seduce him. He had an affair with Abigail when she worked as his maid, but he regretted it and ended it.
Reverend John Hale, a respected minister and self-proclaimed expert on the occult, is summoned to look into the incident of alleged witchcraft. Abigail accuses her uncle's slave, Tituba, of being a witch.
Afraid of being hanged and threatened with a beating, Tituba accuses two other women of being witches. Betty awakens, and she and Abigail accuse a list of people of practicing witchcraft.
In the second act, John Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, urges him to expose Abigail as a liar. Proctor tells her that he can't prove that Abigail is lying because they were alone together when she admitted it.
The fact that they were alone together again upsets Elizabeth. Proctor sees her reaction as an accusation that he has resumed his affair with Abigail and they have an argument. Later, the Proctors' new maid, Mary, arrives and tells them that she will be absent while she performs her duties as a newly appointed court official.
Thirty-nine people have now been arrested and charged with witchcraft. John Proctor is furious that the kangaroo court is condemning people to death with no solid evidence of their guilt. Elizabeth makes a prophetic prediction that Abigail will falsely accuse her of witchcraft so she can marry John.
When Elizabeth is later arrested and charged with witchcraft, John tells Mary that she must testify against Abigail, because she can prove that Abigail is a liar. Mary is afraid of testifying for fear that Abigail and her friends will accuse her of being a witch.
Proctor meets Abigail in the woods. She tries to seduce him again, but he pushes her away and demands that she take back her accusation against his wife. She refuses.
In the third act, during the trial, which is presided over by a coldblooded, sadistic, and ignorant judge, Mary is brought in to testify against Abigail, who, along with her friends, puts on an act, pretending to be in the throes of a spell.
Finally, Proctor can stand no more. He admits his affair with Abigail and accuses her of being a whore. Elizabeth denies that her husband had an affair in a misguided attempt to save his good name.
Abigail and her friends continue their act, pretending to see a bird that Mary conjured to attack them. Mary, fearful of being accused of witchcraft, then accuses John Proctor of the crime. He's arrested, and Reverend Hale quits the court in protest.
The fourth act begins with Proctor in jail and Reverend Parris revealing to the judge and the deputy governor that his niece Abigail and her friend Mercy are not only liars, but thieves as well.
The authorities are unsympathetic and send Elizabeth to get John to confess to witchcraft to save his life. Elizabeth forgives him for the affair and he agrees to confess, but then he learns that his confession will be nailed to the church for all to see.
This will ruin the names of many innocent people, so John tears up the document and refuses to confess. The play ends with Proctor being taken to the gallows to hang for a crime he didn't commit.
Ironically, a few years after The Crucible debuted on Broadway. Arthur Miller found himself a victim of the very witch hunts he had satirized in his play when in 1956, he applied to have his passport renewed.
Since it was illegal to issue passports to communists, suspected communists, and communist sympathizers, the HUAC took advantage of Miller's passport application to subpoena him and make him testify about his political activities.
The openly leftist Miller told the committee he would testify to his own political activities if they didn't ask him to denounce other people. The chairman agreed, and Miller appeared before the HUAC.
He kept his part of the deal, providing the HUAC with a detailed account of his own political activities. The committee then reneged on the chairman's promise and demanded that he give them the names of friends and colleagues who shared his convictions and participated in similar activities.
He refused to comply. As a result, in May of 1957, a judge found Arthur Miller guilty of contempt of Congress. He was fined $500, sentenced to 30 days in jail, blacklisted, and denied a renewal of his passport.
Fortunately, Miller's conviction was overturned on appeal. The appeals court ruled that he had been deliberately misled by the HUAC chairman and tricked into incriminating himself, a violation of his fifth amendment rights.
That wasn't the only dirty trick employed by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC. Guilt by association was another tactic. If the accused's relatives and / or friends were communists, he was guilty as well, or he would have had nothing to do with them.
Worst of all, when McCarthy could find no evidence to prove his mostly false and slanderous accusations of communism, he simply manufactured it, creating doctored photographs, films, and recordings.
In December of 1954, by a vote of 67-22, McCarthy was censured by the Senate for his unethical and illegal conduct. Though he would continue to perform his general duties as a Senator for the next two and a half years, his political career was ruined.
McCarthy was shunned by almost all his fellow Senators. Whenever he gave a speech on the Senate floor, the other Senators would immediately leave the floor rather than listen to him speak. Stripped of power, humiliated, and haunted by his fate, McCarthy drank himself to death, dying in May of 1957 at the age of 48.
The House Unamerican Activities Committee was renamed the House Committee on Internal Security in 1969. It would finally be abolished in 1975.
Quote Of The Day
"A play is made by sensing how the forces in life simulate ignorance - you set free the concealed irony, the deadly joke." - Arthur Miller
Today's video features Arthur Miller talking about his battle with the House Unamerican Activities Committee on Canadian TV in 1971. Enjoy!
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
This Day In Writing History
On January 21st, 1985, the famous American writer Don DeLillo won the National Book Award for his classic 1984 novel, White Noise. Although DeLillo had been publishing novels since 1971, their avant-garde nature resulted in little commercial success.
White Noise was DeLillo's breakthrough novel; it established him as a major talent and made him famous. The novel is narrated by its main character, Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler Studies - a field he originated.
He is considered a master of his field, though he speaks no German. His fellow professor and star of the department, Murray J. Siskind, wants to start a field of his own - Elvis Studies.
Jack lives with his fourth wife, Babette, and their oddball children from previous marriages. 14-year-old Heinrich is a moody and introspective teen whose hairline is already receding. He plays chess by mail with an imprisoned mass murderer.
Eleven-year-old Denise is a "hard-nosed kid," and she leads "a more or less daily protest against parental habits she considers wasteful or dangerous." Her little sister Steffie, however, is an unusually sensitive little girl.
Steffie "becomes upset when something shameful or humiliating seems about to happen to someone on the [TV] screen," so she leaves the room and stands outside while Denise tells her what's going on.
Three-year-old Wilder, who may be autistic, rarely speaks, but his mere presence is a comfort to his parents. The first part of the novel, Waves and Radiation, establishes these characters as it paints an absurdist portrait of modern (1980s) family life and satirizes the world of academia.
Most of the plot takes place in the second and third parts of the novel. In the second part, The Airborne Toxic Event, a toxic chemical is spilled from a railroad car and released into the air over Jack Gladney's hometown, resulting in an evacuation.
Jack discovers that SIMUVAC, an organization that recruits schoolchildren as volunteer victims in simulated evacuations is using the real-life airborne toxic event to rehearse its simulated evacuations.
In the third part of the book, Dylarama, Jack and Babette both confront their severe thanatophobia - fear of death. Babette copes with her phobia in an unusual way. Jack discovers that she has become addicted to Dylar, an experimental drug used to treat thanatophobia.
Acutally, Denise is the first to discover her mother's habit; In order to get her fixes, Babette has been sleeping with the shadowy manager of the Dylar research project, whom she refers to as "Mr. Gray." Babette doesn't see this as adultery. She explains to Jack that "it was a capitalist transaction" in exchange for drugs.
White Noise is a brilliant work of avant-garde postmodernist fiction that satirizes modern family dynamics, novelty academia, crass commercialism, media saturation, conspiracy theories, and the virtues of violence, all of which are part of the omnipresent soundtrack of American life - the white noise of the title.
The original title of the novel was Panasonic, which comes from the Greek word pan, which means all, and the Latin word sonus, which means sound.
Unfortunately, Panasonic is also a registered trademark of the Matsushita electronics corporation. The company was opposed to DeLillo's use of Panasonic as the title of his novel. So, fearing a lawsuit, his publisher made him change it.
In 2006, a feature film adaptation of White Noise reached the preproduction stage, but then the plans fell through and the novel was never filmed. Whether it will be filmed in the future is unknown.
Don DeLillo has written over a dozen novels. He still writes at the age of 78. His latest novel, Point Omega, was published in February of 2010. He's currently working on a new novel. He has also written plays and short stories.
In 2006, DeLillo wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed avant garde indie film Game 6. Set amidst the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox, the film starred Michael Keaton as Nicky Rogan, a playwright and obsessed Red Sox fan.
Nicky's last play was savaged by the critics. His new play is opening on the same night as Game 6 of the World Series. He is assured by those around him that his new play will be a hit, but he is plagued with doubt and fear.
Instead of going to his play's opening night, Nicky watches the ballgame at a bar. The Red Sox are on the verge of beating the Mets and winning the World Series. Nicky sees this as a sign that his play will be a success. Then the Sox blow the game and Nicky snaps...
Quote Of The Day
"There's a curious knot that binds novelists and terrorists. Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated." - Don DeLillo
Today's video features a BBC TV documentary on Don DeLillo. Enjoy!
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
This Day In Writing History
On January 20th, 1961, the legendary American poet Robert Frost read a poem at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.
Frost had written a poem called Dedication especially for this event. He had typed up a clean copy on his typewriter, but the ribbon was almost out of ink.
With the glare of sunlight on the January snow reflected in his eyes, the 87-year-old Frost had trouble reading his faded text and started to stumble over the words.
Frustrated, he gave up and recited another poem, one he remembered by heart. The poem was called The Gift Outright:
The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
Frost recited the poem perfectly in a commanding voice. The JFK Library later received Frost's original handwritten manuscript of Dedication, the poem he had planned to read at the inauguration. Here is the text of that poem:
Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry's old-fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing.
This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
Goes back to the beginning of the end
Of what had been for centuries the trend;
A turning point in modern history.
Colonial had been the thing to be
As long as the great issue was to see
What country'd be the one to dominate
By character, by tongue, by native trait,
The new world Christopher Columbus found.
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
Elizabeth the First and England won.
Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood,
I mean the great four, Washington,
John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
So much they saw as consecrated seers
They must have seen ahead what not appears,
They would bring empires down about our ears
And by the example of our Declaration
Make everybody want to be a nation.
And this is no aristocratic joke
At the expense of negligible folk.
We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
"New order of the ages" did they say?
If it looks none too orderly today,
'Tis a confusion it was ours to start
So in it have to take courageous part.
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
Everyone knows the glory of the twain
Who gave America the aeroplane
To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
Our venture in revolution and outlawry
Has justified itself in freedom's story
Right down to now in glory upon glory.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs.
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right devine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.
Robert Frost died of complications following prostate surgery on January 29th, 1963 - nearly two years to the day that he performed at the Kennedy inauguration.
Later that year, on November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Quote Of The Day
"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness." - Robert Frost
Today's video features footage of John F. Kennedy's Presidential inauguration day ceremonies. Enjoy!