Friday, January 21, 2022

Notes For January 21st, 2022


This Day In Literary History

On January 21st, 1985, the famous American writer Don DeLillo won the National Book Award for his classic 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 child.

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 calls "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.

That same year, 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. Assured by those around him that his new play will be a hit, he's 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 to win the World Series. To Nicky, this is a sign that his play will be a success. Then the Sox blow the game and Nicky snaps...

Don DeLillo has written seventeen novels so far. He has also written plays and short stories. His most recent novel, The Silence , was published in October of 2020.

His work has won him numerous awards, including the Norman Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement. In 2015, he won the National Book Awards Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.


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


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a BBC TV documentary on Don DeLillo. Enjoy!


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Notes For January 20th, 2022


This Day In Literary History

On January 20th, 1961, the legendary American poet Robert Frost read a poem at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy - the first American president to have a poet read at his inauguration.

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 his original handwritten manuscript of Dedication, the poem he'd 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


Vanguard Video

Today's video features NBC TV news coverage of John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Notes For January 19th, 2022


This Day In Literary History

On January 19th, 1809, the legendary American writer Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, Henry Leonard Poe and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe, were both actors.

At the time of his birth, they were in a production of Shakespeare's King Lear, and Edgar may have been named after the character in the play.

When Edgar was a year old, his father abandoned the family. A year later, his mother died of tuberculosis. He was adopted by Scottish merchant John Allan, who changed his name to Edgar Allan Poe and had him baptized in the Episcopal Church.

As a parent, John Allan proved to be a man of extremes; he was both an incredibly doting father and a ferociously strict and aggressive disciplinarian. In 1815, the Allans sailed to England.

At six, Poe briefly attended a grammar school in his adoptive father's hometown of Irvine, Scotland. By 1816, he rejoined his family in London, where he attended a boarding school in Chelsea until 1817.

By 1820, Poe and his family had moved back to the United States, settling in Richmond, Virginia. In 1824, Poe, then fifteen years old, served as a lieutenant in the Richmond youth honor guard during the celebrated visit of the Marquis de Lafayette.

Two years later, Poe enrolled at the University of Virginia, where he majored in languages. The university had been founded a year earlier by Thomas Jefferson.

The experimental college had strict rules against such things as tobacco, alcohol, and gambling, yet it also employed an honor system of student self-government.

Poe found the system chaotic and dysfunctional, adding to the stress he was already under; his engagement to his childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster was called off, and he became estranged from his father after his gambling debts cut into his college finances.

A year later, still struggling to pay for his education and unhappy with the honor system, he left university. After he learned that Sarah had married another man, Poe believed there was nothing left for him in Richmond.

So, in 1827, he moved to Boston, where he worked as a clerk and a newspaper writer. He began writing poetry and fiction under the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet.

In May of 1827, unable to support himself, Poe enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army, using the alias Edgar A. Perry. He claimed he was 22 years old, though he was really 18. He was stationed at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor and earned $5 a month.

That same year, his first book was published. It was a poetry collection titled Tamerlane and Other Poems. The byline read "by a Bostonian." Only 50 copies of the book were printed, and it went practically unnoticed.

Poe's regiment was posted to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina, where he won a promotion and his monthly pay was doubled. After serving for two years, he was promoted to Sergeant Major for Artillery.

Then he decided that he wanted to end his five-year enlistment early and enter the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He revealed his real name and age to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Howard.

Howard would only discharge him if he agreed to reconcile with his adoptive father, John Allan. He wrote to John repeatedly, but received no reply. When he visited him in February of 1829, Poe found that his father hadn't even bothered to tell him that his mother had died.

Despite this, Poe and his father did reconcile, and John Allan supported his decision to leave the Army. Before entering West Point, Poe moved to Baltimore to stay with his widowed aunt Maria, her daughter Virginia, his brother Henry, and his grandmother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe.

His second poetry collection, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems was published. In October of 1830, Poe's father remarried. Poe disapproved of both the marriage and the illegitimate children sired as the result of John Allan's philandering.

This led to bitter quarrels between the two men, and Poe's father disowned him. Poe left West Point by deliberately getting himself court martialed. In February of 1831, he moved to New York City.

There, he released his third poetry collection, Poems. The book was financed in part by Poe's fellow West Point cadets, who loved the satirical poems he wrote that made fun of their commanding officers.

In Poe's third book, his long poems Tamerlane and Al Aaraaf were included again. The book also featured early versions of To Helen, Israfel, and The City In The Sea.

A month after he arrived in New York, Poe returned to Baltimore to stay with his aunt, cousin, and brother. His older brother Henry died five months later from complications due to alcoholism. Afterward, Poe decided to try and make a living as a writer.

Unfortunately, copyright laws were practically nonexistent in the early 19th century, and pirated editions of literary works were common. Undaunted, Poe put his poetry on the back burner and turned to prose. He sold a few short stories and began work on his only play, Politian.

In 1833, Poe's short story MS. Found In A Bottle won him a prize from the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. It also brought him to the attention of John P. Kennedy, a novelist and prominent Baltimorian.

Kennedy helped him sell some more stories and land a job as assistant editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond in August of 1835. He was fired a few weeks later for being drunk on the job.

Poe returned to Baltimore, where he secretly married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia. After he promised to behave, Poe was reinstated at the Messenger. He and Virginia and her mother moved to Richmond. Poe and Virginia later had a second, public wedding ceremony.

By 1838, Poe's only complete novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, was published. It was widely reviewed and praised. In the summer of 1839, Poe became the assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine.

There, he published numerous short stories, reviews, and articles, building his reputation as both a writer and a critic. That same year, his classic short story collection, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, was published in two volumes.

Regarded today as one of the all time great works of American literature, the collection received mixed reviews and he made little money from it. In 1840, Poe became assistant editor of Graham's Magazine.

He made plans to start his own literary magazine, The Stylus, but his plans fell through. Two years later, his wife Virginia was stricken with tuberculosis. As her illness worsened, he began drinking heavily.

He left Graham's and returned to New York, where he worked for the Evening Mirror, which would publish his celebrated poem, The Raven, in January of 1845.

Poe was paid only $9 for it, but the poem became a huge hit and made him a household name. Children would follow him as he walked down the street, and he would caw "Nevermore!" at them. They would scream and pretend to run away, then laugh and follow him until he cawed "Nevermore!" at them again.

Poe later become editor and then owner of The Broadway Journal. Still drinking, Poe would alienate himself from his fellow writers when he publicly accused poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism. Longfellow never responded to the charge.

After The Broadway Journal failed, Poe moved into a cottage in The Bronx, which is known today as Poe Cottage. Not long after he moved in, his wife Virginia died of tuberculosis. Poe was devastated and plunged into a quagmire of alcoholism and mental illness.

Later, he dated poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement was called off as a result of Poe's drinking, his mental instability, and the interference of Sarah's mother, who did all she could to sabotage the relationship.

Poe returned to Richmond and resumed his relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. He returned to Baltimore, then mysteriously disappeared. On October 3rd, 1849, he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore by a man named Joseph W. Walker.

Severely ill, incoherent, and wearing someone else's clothes, Edgar Allan Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital, where he died four days later at the age of 40. His death certificate and medical records were lost, so the actual cause of his death remains a mystery.

Newspapers reported that he died of "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation," which were common euphemisms used when a person died of illicit causes such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or venereal disease.

Before his disappearance, Poe had given a manuscript to a friend of his. It was something he'd written a while back, a poem he described as "a little trifle that may be worth something to you." It was the manuscript for his last great poem, Annabel Lee, which would be published two days after he died.

Rufus Griswold, an enemy of Poe's, somehow became his literary executor. He wrote a biography of Poe called Memoir of the Author, where he described Poe as a depraved madman addled by drink and drugs.

Most of Griswold's claims were lies or half-truths; for example, although Poe was an opium user and wrote about it, he was a casual user and never became addicted to the drug.

Griswold's biography was virulently denounced by those who knew Edgar Allan Poe. The letters that Griswold presented as proof of his claims were later revealed to be forgeries.

Edgar Allan Poe's writings, especially his classic horror stories such as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Cask Of Amontillado, and The Fall of the House of Usher continue to inspire new generations of writers.


Quote Of The Day

"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality." - Edgar Allan Poe


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story, The Fall of the House of Usher - performed by Christopher Lee! Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Notes For January 18th, 2022


This Day In Literary History

On January 18th, 1867, the legendary Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío was born. He was born Félix Rubén García Sarmiento in Metapa, Nicaragua. Shortly after his birth, his parents' rocky marriage fell apart. His father was a hopeless alcoholic.

Rubén's mother moved to Honduras to live with her new boyfriend, leaving him to be raised by her aunt and uncle in Leon. Rubén considered his Uncle Felix and Aunt Bernarda his real parents and never had any use for his birth parents.

A child prodigy, Rubén Darío learned to read when he was three years old, and begin writing poetry not long afterward. At the age of twelve, his first published poem appeared in a local newspaper.

Within a year, his work was appearing regularly in El Ensayo, (The Test) a literary magazine in Leon, where he became famous as El Niño Poeta de Leon - The Child Poet of Leon. He would often be invited to read his poetry at public functions.

Around this time, Rubén's Uncle Felix died, and he was sent off to be formally educated by the Jesuits. By then, his private studies of the great Spanish poets and writers of the day had kindled within him strong liberal convictions.

These convictions clashed bitterly with the teachings of the Jesuits, whom he would blast in El Jesuita, an essay written in 1881 - when he was fourteen.

In December of that year, Rubén Darío moved to Managua, where some liberal politicians campaigned to have a government grant pay for him to be educated in Europe.

Unfortunately, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Alfaro, the conservative president of congress, denied the grant, as he was offended by Rubén's anti-religious writings.

After a public outcry, a compromise was offered that would pay for Rubén to be educated in the city of Granada, Nicaragua, but he opted to stay in Managua, where he would write for the city's top newspapers.

The following year, in 1882, Rubén Darío met a girl named Rosario Murillo. It was love at first sight for both of them, but there was a problem - he was fifteen years old and she eleven. He planned to marry her when she reached the age of consent, but his friends talked him out of it. He left Managua and set sail for El Salvador.

Several years later, following the sudden death of his first wife, he would be reunited with Rosario, now in her late teens. After her brother caught them in bed together, he forced Rubén to marry her in a shotgun wedding. It would not be a happy marriage. He drank and lived mostly with his mistress.

In El Salvador, Rubén Darío was befriended by the Salvadoran poet Joaquin Mendez, who took him under his wing and introduced him to the President, Rafael Zaldivar. Darío also met poet Francisco Gavidia, a connoisseur of French poetry.

Gavidia introduced him to the works of the French symbolist poets and Victor Hugo. He would later meet his idol, French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, in Paris. He learned the French language well enough that he began writing poetry in French and using French rhythm and meter in Spanish poems.

When the Spanish-American War broke out, Darío served as a war correspondent. In his prophetic poem, To Roosevelt (1905), published several years after the war ended and dedicated to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, Darío accurately predicted the plunder and exploitation of Latin America and her people by U.S. imperialists:

You are the United States
you are the future invader
of the naive America that has indigenous blood
that still prays to Jesus Christ and that still speaks Spanish


His work as a war correspondent finished, Darío served as the Nicaraguan ambassador to France. He had held other diplomatic positions before, which enabled him to travel around the world.

When he visited New York City, he met Cuban poet José Martí. While working as an ambassador, he remained a prolific poet and continued to publish collections of his work.

In 1916, after writing his autobiography, Darío went bankrupt and fell ill with pneumonia. He returned home to Nicaragua and his wife Rosario, and died peacefully in bed. He was 49 years old.

Rubén Dario remains a huge influence on Spanish poetic voice and is considered a folk hero in Latin America. If you visit Nicaragua, you'll see a huge portrait of him hanging in Managua's international airport.

In 1965, a collection of Rubén Darío's poetry would be published in an English language edition by translator Lysander Kemp. This volume includes the classic Nocturne:


NOCTURNE

Silence of the night, a sad, nocturnal
silence — Why does my soul tremble so?
I hear the humming of my blood,
and a soft storm passes through my brain.
Insomnia! Not to be able to sleep, and yet
to dream. I am the autospecimen
of spiritual dissection, the auto-Hamlet!
To dilute my sadness
in the wine of the night
in the marvelous crystal of the dark —
And I ask myself: When will the dawn come?
Someone has closed a door —
Someone has walked past —
The clock has rung three — If only it were She!


Quote Of The Day

"I seek a form that my style cannot discover, a bud of thought that wants to be a rose." - Rubén Darío


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Rubén Darío's poem To Roosevelt in English. Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2022

IWW Members' Publishing Successes For The Week Ending 1/16/22


Eric Petersen

My 100-word short story, The Final Procedure, has been published by A Story In 100 Words. Thanks to everyone on Fiction who critiqued it. It's amazing how changing just one word can improve a story.

Phyllis Sanchez

Poetry Northwest is publishing my poem “The Bait Shack” in the 2022 spring print issue of Poetry Northwest, as well as the digital issue. You can find the poem on page 44 under my pen name Lis Sanchez. To those who helped me with support and suggestions, thank you. Thank you! Truly, you are amazing!

The editors at poetry Northwest are offering as a gift during these hard times the entire digital issue, with this note: "Our hope is that a digital version will allow you to not only share your own work, if you wish, but that of your fellow contributors.”


Friday, January 14, 2022

Notes For January 14th, 2022


This Day In Literary History

On January 14th, 1886, the famous Anglo-Irish writer Hugh Lofting was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England. As a boy, he developed a love of animals and kept "a combination zoo and natural history museum" in his mother's linen closet.

He received his education in Jesuit-run private schools. He later went to the United States, where he studied civil engineering at MIT - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After graduating from MIT, Lofting returned to England and became a civil engineer, traveling throughout the British Empire as his job required him to do. When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the Irish Guards, a Foot Guards regiment in the British Army.

In his service as a soldier, he was horrified by not only the human carnage he witnessed, but also by the sufferings of horses and other animals used at the front. During the war, Lofting wrote letters to his children frequently.

Wishing to spare them the horrors of war, (and to escape from them himself) he would tell his children stories about John Dolittle, a country doctor who learned how to talk to animals. Lofting illustrated the stories in his letters.

When he returned home from the war, Lofting reworked his stories into a book he illustrated himself, the first in a hugely popular series that made him world famous. The Story of Doctor Dolittle was published in 1920.

In it, we meet Dr. John Dolittle, a young country doctor who lives with his sister in the small English village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. Over the years, his love of animals grows; he acquires a menagerie of exotic pets. Unfortunately, his animals scare off his human patients.

After he learns how to speak to animals from his parrot Polynesia, Dolittle gives up his human medical practice and becomes a veterinarian, only to see his new practice start failing after he adopts a crocodile.

In the animal kingdom, he becomes world famous. Just as he's about to go bankrupt, the British government conscripts Doctor Dolittle and orders him to go to Africa and contain an epidemic that's ravaging the monkey population.

So, Dolittle borrows a ship and supplies and sets sail for Africa with a crew of his animal friends. The group is shipwrecked upon their arrival. As they journey toward the monkey kingdom, they're arrested by the king of Jolligingki.

The king, after being victimized and exploited by Europeans, wants no white men in his country. Dolittle and the animals escape through a ruse and reach the monkey kingdom, which is in dire straits due to the raging epidemic.

Dolittle vaccinates the well monkeys and nurses the sick ones back to health, containing the disease. In appreciation, the monkeys give him a pushmi-pullyu - a rare and valuable two-headed animal that's a cross between a gazelle and a unicorn.

Unfortunately, Dolittle and his friends are arrested again in Jolligingki upon their return. This time, they escape with the help of the king's son, Prince Bumpo, after Dolittle bleaches Bumpo's face white so he can be like the European fairy tale princes and hopefully marry his white Sleeping Beauty.

Bumpo gives Dolittle and his animal crew a new ship. After having a couple run-ins with pirates, Dolittle wins a pirate ship filled with treasures. When he finally returns home to England, he exhibits the pushmi-pullyu in a traveling circus and makes enough money to retire.

Hugh Lofting would write a total of twelve Doctor Dolittle books, the last three of which would be published posthumously. They would be adapted numerous times for the radio, screen, and television.

Many years after their first publication, the Doctor Dolittle books would court controversy due to certain language, scenes, and illustrations now considered racially offensive and politically incorrect.

Beginning in the 1960s, certain words and scenes would be changed or removed in some reprint editions of the books in both the UK and the U.S. By 1981, the original, unexpurgated versions would go out of print in both countries.

In 1986, to mark the 100th anniversary of Lofting's birth, the Doctor Dolittle books were republished in a special edition - a severely bowdlerized version with passages of text rewritten or removed and some illustrations altered or replaced.

Ironically, Lofting himself was no racist; black African characters were portrayed sympathetically. In the first Doctor Dolittle book, the king of Jolligingki bemoans his country's exploitation by the white man:

Many years ago a white man came to these shores; and I was very kind to him. But after he had dug holes in the ground to get the gold, and killed all the elephants to get their ivory tusks, he went away secretly in his ship - without so much as saying `Thank you.'

In addition to his Doctor Dolittle books, Hugh Lofting wrote other children's books, including a book of children's poems called Porridge Poetry (1924). His only book geared toward adult readers was Victory For the Slain (1942), an antiwar epic poem. He died in 1947 at the age of 61.


Quote Of The Day

"For years it was a constant source of shock to me to find my writings amongst 'Juveniles.' It does not bother me any more now, but I still feel there should be a category of 'Seniles' to offset the epithet." - Hugh Lofting


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Hugh Lofting's first book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle - the original version, now in the public domain. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Notes For January 13th, 2022


This Day In Literary History

On January 13th, 1926, the famous English children's book writer Michael Bond was born. He was born in Newbury, Berkshire, England.

As a boy, Bond was educated at Presentation College, a Catholic boys' school. During World War II, he served in both the RAF (Royal Air Force) and the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army.

Michael Bond began his writing career in 1945 at the age of nineteen. He sold his first short story to the London Opinion magazine. He continued to write stories and plays and later took a job as a cameraman for the BBC.

While working for the BBC, he would film the popular Blue Peter children's TV series. In 1958, his first book was published. It was a children's book, and the first in a beloved series of classic children's books that would bring its author international fame.

A Bear Called Paddington told the story of a bear from "Darkest Peru" who is sent to England by his Aunt Lucy. He arrives in London's Paddington Station wearing his bush hat, coat, and boots, carrying a battered suitcase and his favorite food - marmalade sandwiches.

He is found by the Brown family - Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their two children, Jonathan and Judy. Pinned to the bear's coat is a note that reads "PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR. THANK YOU."

The Browns decide to adopt the charming, well-mannered bear, whom they name Paddington. They bring him home, where he gets into all sorts of misadventures and annoys the Browns' foul-tempered next door neighbor, Mr. Curry.

Two years before his book was published, on Christmas Eve, 1956, Michael Bond noticed a lone teddy bear on the shelf of a London store. He bought it as a Christmas present for his wife.

That gave him the idea for the story of Paddington, and he based the details of the bear's arrival on old newsreels he'd seen during the war that depicted child evacuees leaving London with labels around their necks and carrying small suitcases.

The Paddington books would become hugely popular in both the UK and the U.S., and be published in many other countries. Bond would write over a dozen Paddington books throughout the years.

In the early 1970s, he began a new series of books featuring another popular character, Olga da Polga. The first book in the series, The Tales of Olga da Polga, was published in 1971.

Olga da Polga is a guinea pig and a teller of tall tales in the tradition of Baron Munchhausen. Something fairly ordinary will happen to her, and she'll give a wildly exaggerated account of it to her friends. Bond would write numerous books featuring Olga da Polga's alleged adventures.

In 1975, while he was working on his Olga da Polga series, Michael Bond served as the producer of a BBC TV series based on his Paddington books. The animated series was famous for its unique look.

While the other characters and the backgrounds were two-dimensional animations, Paddington was rendered in 3D stop-motion animation. Whenever Paddington touched two-dimensional objects, they would become 3D like him.

The series was a huge hit in the UK and just as successful when it premiered on American television. In 1989, a new Paddington animated series premiered on American TV, produced by the Hanna-Barbera studios and starring the voices of Charlie Adler as Paddington and Tim Curry as Mr. Curry.

A Paddington feature film was produced in 2014. Directed and co-written by Paul King, the film starred Nicole Kidman, Michael Gambon, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.

Michael Bond wasn't keen on a film adaptation of his cherished books, saying "They don’t like to consult you, just like publishers don’t like you to be alone with the illustrator – in case you’re plotting, which you often are."

But he loved the final product, and even appeared in a brief cameo. Released in January of 2016, the film was a critical and commercial success. It grossed $25 million - half its budget - in the opening weekend alone.

A sequel, Paddington 2, was released in 2018. Though popular with fans and critics, it didn't do quite as well on its opening weekend, grossing $11 million on its $40 million budget, but its worldwide theatrical gross was $227 million.

In the 1980s, Bond began yet another series of novels, this time geared toward adult readers. It was a series of humorous mystery novels featuring Monsieur Pamplemousse, a French food critic and amateur detective.

Assisting him in his investigations of crimes is his faithful bloodhound, Pommes Frites. The first book in the series, Monsieur Pamplemousse, was published in 1983.

In addition his popular novel series, Michael Bond has written numerous other books, including non-fiction books such as a travel guide and his autobiography, Bears and Forebears: A Life So Far (1996).

In 1997, he was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to children's literature. Ten years later, in 2007, the University of Reading awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Letters.

Michael Bond died in June 2017 at the age of 91. If you visit Paddington station, you'll see a bronze statue of Paddington Bear, sculpted by artist Marcus Cornish. In Saint Mary's Square, there's a sculpture of Michael Bond holding a Paddington teddy bear.


Quote Of The Day

"It's nice having a bear about the house." - Michael Bond


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a clip from the classic 1970s BBC TV series adaptation of Paddington, produced by his author, Michael Bond. This was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. Enjoy!

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