My two latest reviews for the Internet Review of Books have been posted. FBI Girl is a memoir, and Prairie Fires is the Pulitzer-winning biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Thanks to the NFiction folks who critted them for me. And my apologies for sending this first to the wrong list.
I have a painting and a poem up at The Ekphrastic Review.
My story, "Turn Around," is up at Sunlight Press. I began this story in Practice and it was critiqued in Fiction as well, so I have a lot of people to thank.
Joanna M. Weston
My poem, 'Being friends', is up at Stanzaic Stylings. It's good to have writing friends all over the place!
My eighth published story this year has landed at The Literary Nest: An Online Magazine of Literary Art. Hagar, Cezarija, Wayne, Edita, Paul, Siewleng, John, Pauline and Tony all provided great suggestions to turn a sloppy, implausible SUB into a publishable story.
Monday, July 16, 2018
Friday, July 13, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On July 13th, 1798, the legendary English poet William Wordsworth wrote his classic poem Tintern Abbey. He had just returned from a visit to Wales, accompanied by his sister Dorothy.
While on a four-day walking tour of the Welsh countryside, they visited Tintern Abbey, a ruined church that was the first Cistercian monastery in Wales, and only the second in the United Kingdom.
Wordsworth composed the poem in his head while on the four-day walking tour, using a singsong method he had developed called "booing and hawing."
That was quite a feat, considering the length and quality of the poem. As soon as he got back home to Bristol, he wrote the poem down. The day after that, he brought it to the printers.
The poem Tintern Abbey first appeared in the book Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems, which Wordsworth co-wrote with his friend, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Published later in 1798, it included Coleridge's classic poem, Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. The first edition sold out within two years. The second edition of the book included a preface article on Romantic poetry.
Tintern Abbey, (its full title is Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey) a long blank verse poem that read more like prose, was steeped in the fundamental themes of Romantic poetry
These themes included communion with nature, which has a restorative power. The poem also deals with memory, specifically childhood memory and how it affects us as adults. These themes were hugely important in Wordsworth's work.
William Wordsworth would go on to become the Poet Laureate of England. He died of lung disease in April of 1850 at the age of 80. He is still considered one of the greatest English Romantic poets of all time.
Quote Of The Day
"What is a Poet? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them." - William Wordsworth
Today's video features a complete reading of William Wordsworth's classic poem, Tintern Abbey. Enjoy!
Thursday, July 12, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On July 12th, 1817, the legendary American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts. The Thoreau family had their own business - a pencil factory founded by Henry's grandfather.
Henry David Thoreau graduated from Harvard University in 1837. According to legend, his first act of rebellion was refusing to buy one of the honorary Master's degrees that Harvard would bestow on its graduates.
To receive one of these degrees, one would give a $5 (the equivalent of $95 in today's money) donation to the university. It was a long held tradition that graduates bought these worthless degrees.
At the time of Thoreau's graduation, the employment opportunities for college graduates were typically limited to business, medicine, and the church. None of these interested Thoreau.
He became a schoolteacher, but his first teaching job only lasted three weeks. He resigned in disgust rather than carry out his superiors' order to administer corporal punishment to his students.
Thoreau and his brother John then founded their own school. It was a progressive elementary school where they introduced a new, then revolutionary activity to their educational curriculum - the field trip.
Students would partake in everything from nature hikes to visits to local shops and businesses and see the real world in action. Sadly, the school would close in four years, following the sudden death of John Thoreau from tetanus.
When he wasn't running the school with his brother, Henry David Thoreau spent time with legendary poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had become not only his close friend, but also his literary mentor and father figure.
Like Emerson, Thoreau was a ferocious abolitionist and had no use for organized religion. He followed Emerson's Transcendentalist philosophy. When he became fascinated with his idol's practice of keeping a journal, Emerson encouraged him to keep a journal of his own.
After Thoreau lost his brother and closed their school, he tried to begin a literary career. With Emerson's encouragement and assistance, he began publishing essays, poems, and journal excerpts.
For a time, he lived with Emerson, tutored his children, and served as his assistant, editor, gardener, and handyman. Later, he worked at his family's pencil factory, where he perfected a graphite recycling process.
Thoreau would make good pencils from inferior, reject graphite by using clay as a binder. He would later produce plumbago at the factory - a type of graphite used for typesetting machine ink.
By the spring of 1845, after a period of restlessness, Thoreau decided to write full time. To do this, he required solitude, a quiet place away from the rest of the world.
He began an experiment in simple living, building a cabin on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson near Walden Pond, a beautiful wilderness that would inspire him to write his most famous book.
The following year, Thoreau ran afoul of the local tax collector, Sam Staples, who demanded that he pay six years of back poll taxes. The poll tax was a tax one paid for the privilege of voting in federal elections.
Some state and local governments imposed additional poll taxes for their elections. The poll tax was hugely controversial; it took away the voting rights of poor people who couldn't afford to pay the tax.
It was another way for the wealthy elite to maintain their power and oppress the working class. After the Civil War, the Southern states imposed steep poll taxes to prevent freed blacks from voting. The poll tax wouldn't be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court until 1937.
Thoreau refused to pay his poll taxes for a different reason: he refused to pay any taxes to support a federal government that allowed slavery to remain legal. He also refused to pay taxes to support the Mexican-American War.
That unpopular conflict, which took place from 1846-1848, was instigated by President James K. Polk and fought to allow Americans to expand into the West. We wanted land that belonged to Mexico, so we decided to take it by force.
War was declared on Mexico, bolstered by a recent, successful armed insurrection by American settlers living in a Mexican territory that would become the state of Texas. The insurrection was waged so the settlers could keep both their stolen land and slaves to work it. The Mexican government had banned slavery.
During the Mexican-American War, heavy American casualties and the skyrocketing cost of the conflict drove the government to sign an armistice with Mexico which called for certain territories to be sold to the United States.
These territories, which would become the states of New Mexico and California, were turned over to the United States in exchange for $18 million (the equivalent of $450 million in today's money) and the forgiveness of all Mexico's debts.
For Henry David Thoreau and other abolitionists, achieving the goals of the Mexican-American War meant that the new territories would be built on the backs of slaves. This is why Thoreau refused to pay his taxes.
He was taken to jail, but released a day later when his aunt paid his taxes, which infuriated him. The entire ordeal would change Thoreau forever. He would develop an anarchist philosophy of which he would become a noted and popular lecturer.
In January of 1848, Thoreau gave a lecture at the Concord Lyceum that was attended by writer and philosopher Bronson Alcott, the father of legendary writer Louisa May Alcott.
Bronson wrote that he "took great pleasure" in Thoreau's lecture. Thoreau would become a close friend of the Alcott family. He would also rework his lecture material into a classic essay, Civil Disobedience.
Civil Disobedience (1849) was inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley's classic political poem The Masque of Anarchy (1819) and by Thoreau's anger at legislation like the Fugitive Slave Act.
The Fugitive Slave Act was a Congressional compromise to appease the South. It prohibited all people - even those living in free states - from helping runaway slaves. Thoreau opined:
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.… where the State places those who are not with her, but against her,– the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor.… Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.
If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
When he wasn't lecturing or doing odd jobs to pay his bills, Henry David Thoreau lived in his beloved wilderness, kept up his journal, and worked on the book that he would become most famous for.
Walden, or Living in the Wilderness (1854) was a memoir of the two years that Thoreau spent living in his cabin in a wilderness located about two miles away from his family home.
The purpose of his experiment was to see if he could live a simple life under minimal conditions and away from what he called "over-civilization." He did not, however, intend to become a hermit. He received many visitors and would leave his cabin to make visits of his own. He summed up his objectives this way:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
Steeped deep in philosophy, spirituality, and satire, and featuring some of the finest writings about nature, Walden became an all-time classic nonfiction book. The legendary poet Robert Frost said of it, "In one book... [Thoreau] surpasses everything we have had in America."
The experience would kindle within Thoreau lifelong interests in natural history and botany. He came to admire the work of naturalists William Bartram and Charles Darwin.
Henry David Thoreau contracted tuberculosis in 1835. Amazingly, the disease would come and go, and he suffered from it only sporadically. This enabled him to conduct his Walden experiment.
Unfortunately, in 1859, after getting caught in a rainstorm one night, Thoreau contracted a bad case of bronchitis which brought his tuberculosis back with a vengeance. His health began to decline until he was bedridden.
Realizing that he was dying, Thoreau spent his last years revising unpublished manuscripts, writing letters, and keeping up his journal until he was too weak to do so.
Henry David Thoreau died in May of 1862 at the age of 44. His old friend Bronson Alcott planned the funeral service. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the eulogy.
Quote Of The Day
"Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience." - Henry David Thoreau
Today's video features a complete reading of Henry David Thoreau's most famous book, Walden. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On July 11th, 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird, the classic novel by the famous American writer Harper Lee, was published.
The classic semi autobiographical Southern Gothic Bildungsroman novel was inspired by actual events from the author's childhood. Harper Lee, born Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama, in 1926, was the daughter of a prominent lawyer.
Her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, once defended two black men accused of murder. After the men were convicted, hanged, and mutilated, Amasa never practiced criminal law again. This took place in 1919, before Harper was born.
In 1936, when Harper was ten, a black man named Walter Nett was accused of rape by a white woman, convicted, and sentenced to death. A series of letters then appeared which contained proof that Nett's accuser had lied.
Instead of being released from prison, Nett's death sentence was commuted to life. He died a year later of tuberculosis. After Harper Lee's father quit practicing law, he founded a newspaper. The paper would cover the Nett trial and its shocking aftermath.
Some scholars believe that it wasn't the Nett case but the case of Emmett Till that inspired Harper Lee to write her famous novel. In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy visiting relatives in Mississippi, made the mistake of flirting with a white woman.
The woman's name was Carolyn Bryant. When her husband Roy found out that a black kid had flirted with his wife, he, his half-brother John Milam, and an unknown accomplice abducted Emmett Till, beat him savagely, shot him in the head, then dumped his nude body in the Tallahatchie River.
Roy Bryant and John Milam were arrested and charged with murder. At their trial, it took an all-white jury just over an hour to acquit them both. One of the jurors later said, "If we hadn't stopped to drink pop, it wouldn't have taken that long."
The murder of Emmett Till would serve as a catalyst for the then fledgling Civil Rights Movement, helping to bring it to prominence and setting the stage for the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders.
To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of a black man's tragic fate in Depression era Alabama, as seen through the eyes of the white little girl whose father defended him.
In the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, circa 1936, spunky little tomboy Jean Louise "Scout" Finch lives with her big brother Jem and their widower father, Atticus Finch, a prominent, respected attorney.
School is out for the summer, and Scout and Jem make a new friend - Dill, a boy who is visiting his aunt, who lives nearby. The three children spend their days outside playing and fantasizing about another neighbor, Arthur "Boo" Radley.
As his nickname implies, Boo is a strange and spooky character, a mysterious recluse whom everyone knows of but no one ever sees. As they try to think of ways to get him to come out of his house, the kids wonder if he really is a monster.
Soon, little trinkets begin to appear in the tree outside Boo Radley's house - apparently gifts to Scout and Jem from Radley, though the man never seems to come out of his house.
Scout's obsession with Boo Radley is put aside when a black man named Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman, and her father, Atticus, agrees to defend him. For this, Atticus pays a dear price.
Once one of the most respected and admired men in Maycomb, Atticus quickly becomes the most hated man in town. Scout and Jem are taunted by the other children, who call their father a "nigger lover."
After shaming a lynch mob into backing off, Scout, Jem, and Dill secretly watch the trial from the colored section of the courtroom.
Atticus believes that Tom Robinson's accuser, Mayella Ewell, and her father, Bob - a violent, alcoholic racist - are lying. During the trial, Atticus exposes the truth. The lonely, abused Mayella flirted with Tom and got caught by her father.
After beating his daughter, Bob Ewell forced her to accuse Tom Robinson of rape in order to save face. He couldn't allow his friends and neighbors to think that his daughter would flirt with a black man.
Despite the truths revealed in court, the all-white jury still convicts Tom Robinson of rape. The conviction causes Atticus and Jem to lose faith in the American justice system. Later, Tom is shot and killed when he tries to escape from prison.
Even though he won in court, Bob Ewell, furious with Atticus Finch for exposing his daughter, spits in the lawyer's face. In the novel's memorable climax, a drunken, enraged Bob Ewell attacks Scout while she and Jem are walking home from a school Halloween pageant.
Jem tries to save his little sister and gets his arm broken. Suddenly, a man appears out of the shadows and attacks Bob Ewell, stabbing him to death with his own knife. Scout realizes that their savior is none other than Boo Radley.
The strange, silent man scoops Jem up in his arms and carries him home. The sheriff is called, and he and Atticus argue about how to handle Bob Ewell's death. He convinces Atticus that justice would be best served by declaring Ewell's death an accident.
Though it would receive rave reviews and sell over 30,000,000 copies, Harper Lee never expected her novel to be a success. She said:
I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers, but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.
Lee was stunned when her novel won her a Pulitzer Prize. Two years after it was published, To Kill A Mockingbird was adapted as a highly acclaimed feature film.
Featuring an Academy Award winning screenplay by playwright Horton Foote, and starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch (he won an Oscar for Best Actor) and in an amazing performance, eight-year-old Mary Badham as Scout Finch, it's considered one of the all time great movies.
A staple of study for eighth grade English classes, (where I first read it) To Kill A Mockingbird has faced censorship battles due to its depictions of rape and use of racial epithets.
Scholars - and the author herself - argue that the novel's depiction of a black man suffering at the hands of ignorant, racist white Southerners is the real reason why some people want the book banned from the classroom.
In 2003, a rumor began spreading that To Kill A Mockingbird was written not by Harper Lee, but by her childhood (and lifelong) best friend, legendary writer Truman Capote, whom the character of Dill was based on.
An Alabama newspaper had quoted Capote's biological father, Archulus Persons, as stating that Capote had written "almost all" of Lee's novel.
Three years later, the rumor was discredited by a letter written by Capote himself that was donated to Monroeville's literary museum.
In this letter to a neighbor, Capote mentioned that his old and dear friend Harper Lee was writing a book that would soon be published. Capote's letter was corroborated by extensive notes between Lee and her editor at the Lippincott publishing house.
In 2006, she received an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame. A year later, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It seemed like To Kill A Mockingbird would be her only novel.
Then, on February 3rd, 2015, Harper Lee announced that she would be publishing another novel. The book, titled Go Set A Watchman and published a few months later in July, was a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird that follows Scout as a grown woman.
Watchman was actually written before Mockingbird, which was intended to be its prequel. Lee thought the manuscript had been lost forever, but it was found by her lawyer in a safe deposit box in 2011. The manuscript was published exactly as written, with no revisions.
It's 20 years later, and the Civil Rights movement is just starting to become a major force for change. With racial tensions escalating across the country, especially in Scout Finch's home state of Alabama, she can't help but recall the lessons she learned in childhood.
Scout, now going by her proper name Jean Louise, joins the Civil Rights movement and is stunned to discover that her now elderly father Atticus, whom she idolized and who risked everything to defend an innocent black man from racist injustice, is opposed to civil rights.
What's more, he's determined to fight school integration and has been consorting with the Ku Klux Klan. For the first time, Jean Louise begins to see her father through the eyes of an intelligent grown woman instead of the rose colored glasses of a naive, adoring little girl.
She finds that Atticus is flawed like any other person and, like other white Southerners, fears the sudden end of the only way of life he's ever known. Can it really be true? Will Jean Louise's relationship with her father be shattered forever?
The announcement of a second Harper Lee novel came as quite a shock to the literary community. The 89-year-old author had been residing in a nursing home, having suffered a stroke a while back. Her vision and hearing were deteriorating.
The timing of Watchman's publication made some wonder if Lee, perhaps senile, was being exploited by her publisher. Suspicion of elder abuse led the state of Alabama to conduct an investigation. They interviewed Lee and determined that no abuse had taken place.
Her longtime friend, historian Wayne Flynt, said that the "narrative of senility, exploitation of this helpless little old lady is just hogwash. It's just complete bunk."
Needless to say, the publication of Go Set A Watchman caused quite a stir. Many readers believed that Lee had betrayed them and soiled the legacy of one of America's most beloved literary characters.
Others, like this writer, found Watchman to be a powerful read and a worthy successor to To Kill A Mockingbird that truthfully explores the insidious nature of intolerance.
Harper Lee died in February 2016 at the age of 89.
Quote Of The Day
"Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself. It's a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent." - Harper Lee
Today's video features a complete reading of Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On July 10th, 1871, the legendary French novelist, essayist, and critic Marcel Proust was born. He was born Valentin Louis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust in Auteuil, France.
Proust's family was affluent, as his father, Achille Adrien Proust, was a prominent pathologist and epidemiologist whose work was dedicated to containing the epidemic of cholera in Europe and Asia. He wrote many books and articles on medicine and hygiene.
Marcel's mother, Jeanne, was the daughter of a wealthy, intellectual Jewish family. He was very close to her. As a boy, Marcel Proust was a sickly child. He suffered his first serious asthma attack at the age of nine.
At the age of eleven, he enrolled as a student at the Lycee Condorcet. Despite the fact that his education was often interrupted by his health problems, he excelled at his studies and won an award in his final year.
Proust began writing at an early age. In 1890, when he was nineteen and still in school, in addition to being published in literary magazines, for a year, Proust published a regular society column in the journal La Mensuel.
In 1892, he helped found a literary magazine called La Banquet, where his short pieces would often be published. He was also published in the famous Le Revue Blanche.
As a young man, the dandy Proust was a dilettante and social climber, lacking the discipline required to fulfill his aspiration to be a great novelist. He garnered a reputation as an amateur and a snob, then finally got serious, buckled down, and began writing what would become his magnum opus.
À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu, or In Search Of Lost Time, was a 3,000+ page epic semi autobiographical novel. It would be published in English as Remembrance Of Things Past.
After numerous rejections, Remembrance Of Things Past would be published in a series of seven volumes over a period of 14 years, with the last two published posthumously. The first volume, Swann's Way, was published in 1913.
Proust's dazzling novel is rightfully considered one of the greatest ever written, and continues to influence writers and scholars to this day. It was shaped by people and events in Proust's life, including his own experiences.
He employed a lyrical narrative rich in detail, symbolism, and philosophy. It's often melancholic and fascinated with the nature of memories, especially involuntary memories, which are triggered by seeing a certain object, hearing a certain sound, or smelling a certain aroma.
The most famous memory evoked in Swann's Way is the narrator's memory of eating that classic French tea cake, the madeleine:
Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savors, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?
The memories in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, recalled in incredibly rich detail, were in complete contrast with the plot-driven novels of its time. This may have contributed to its initial rejection.
Some believe it had more to do with the fact that Proust, who was gay, wrote openly and honestly about homosexuality at a time when it was not only despised by society but also illegal - a crime punishable by imprisonment.
His narrator in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu is not gay, but other characters are (most notably the Baron de Charlus in the fourth volume, Sodom and Gomorrah) and homosexuality is a recurring theme in Proust's writings.
Unfazed by the rejection of Swann's Way by publishers, Proust raised the money to publish the novel himself. It made him famous. Scholars have proclaimed A la Recherche du Temps Perdu to be one of the greatest modern novels ever written.
The legendary Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov named it as one of the greatest prose works of the 20th century, along with James Joyce's Ulysses and Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. W. Somerset Maugham called it "the greatest fiction to date."
In 2002, Penguin Books published a new English translation of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Edited by Christopher Prendergast, it's a collaboration of seven different translators.
Ten years later, Naxos Audiobooks began releasing its acclaimed series of unabridged English language audiobooks of all the volumes of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, narrated by Neville Jason, famous for the abridged audiobook version of the series he'd recorded many years earlier.
I have already listened to the first five volumes of this new unabridged series, and the narration is magnificent. As always, unabridged audiobooks are the only way to go, especially when listening to the classics.
Writing Remembrance Of Things Past would take a toll on Marcel Proust's chronically poor health. During the last three years of his life, he was mostly confined to his bedroom.
He slept during the day and wrote at night, struggling to complete his novel. In 1922, after he had finished the book, Proust contracted pneumonia and later died of a pulmonary abscess at the age of 51.
Quote Of The Day
"Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself." - Marcel Proust
Today's video features a BBC documentary on Marcel Proust. Enjoy!
Monday, July 9, 2018
Pure Slush has accepted my story, "Something Snapped," for their Greed anthology. They are working on a seven volume set based on the Seven Deadly Sins. I already have stories in their collections on Lust and Gluttony.
I'm working now on Sloth, if that's not too much of an oxymoron. Pure Slush doesn't pay, but I've grown to like their editor, Matt, who offers honest comments and tolerates my technological shortcomings.
I have three poems up at Soft Cartel.
My essay "Searching for Kentucky" is now up on the Sunlight Press website. Thanks to the many people on this list who critiqued this early on.
Friday, July 6, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On July 6th, 1942, the legendary German writer Anne Frank and her family went into hiding to protect themselves from the Nazis. Otto Frank, his wife Edith, and their teenage daughters Anne and Margot were joined by some friends - Hermann and Auguste Van Pels and their teenage son, Peter.
The family was forced to flee when Margot Frank received a letter ordering her to report for transfer to a work camp. So, Otto Frank planted a note to fool the Nazis into thinking that the family had fled to Switzerland.
Instead, they remained in Amsterdam and moved into a hiding place, which was located above the offices of the Opekta Works - a company that manufactured pectin, a fruit extract used for making jam. Otto Frank was the former director of the company.
The Franks' new living quarters consisted of two small, adjoining rooms and a toilet on one level, one small and one larger open room on the second, and an attic that could be accessed from a ladder in the smaller room on the second level.
Anne Frank, then just thirteen years old, called these quarters "the secret annex." When the Franks fled, they could only take a few meager possessions with them; one of Anne's belongings was a diary given to her as a birthday present.
Given to her less than a month before she went into hiding, the diary was bound in beautiful red and green plaid cloth. It was actually an autograph book, but Anne used it as a diary. She had seen the book in a store window and loved it.
In her diary, Anne Frank chronicled not only her daily life in hiding, but also her hopes, fears, dreams, and feelings. She adored her father, but her relationship with her mother was strained at best. She disliked Mr. and Mrs. Van Pels.
When another family friend, dentist Fritz Pfeffer, moved into the hiding place, Anne was forced to share a bedroom with him. She came to hate him. Stifled by his confinement and fearful of the Nazis, Pfeffer took out his frustration on his roommates, especially Anne.
As time passed, Anne wrote of her growing love for Peter Van Pels, news she heard of the war, (the Franks had a radio) and her fears for the safety of all her Jewish friends. She wrote of her and the others' frustrations at being confined, and their fear of being discovered.
On the outside, the Franks were helped by a circle of friends that included Johannes Kleiman (current director of the Opekta Works), Opekta employees Victor Kugler, Jan and Miep Gies, secretary Bep Voskuijl, and her father, Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl.
They provided the Franks and their roommates with food and supplies that were bought mostly on the black market. All of them knew that if they were caught, they would face execution for helping to hide Jews.
For over two years, Anne Frank, her family, and their roommates lived in the Secret Annex. Then, someone - it's not clear who - betrayed them. On August 4th, 1944, the Secret Annex was raided by the German Security Police, and everyone was arrested.
Later, 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 eventually 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 sickness brought on by starvation after giving her food rations to her daughters.
When typhus swept through 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.
Later that year, Otto Frank, who had survived the horrors of Auschwitz, returned to Amsterdam. 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, after she 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 her roommates. The Van Pels family became the Van Daans, and Fritz Pfeffer's name was changed to Albert Dussel - Dussel 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 experiences with puberty, but the cuts didn't weaken the strong theme of Anne's growing maturity.
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.
An upcoming Broadway play adaptation of the diary was soon announced. The legendary playwright Lillian Hellman was the producers' first choice to write the play, but she passed on it, fearing that her adaptation would be too depressing.
The Diary Of Anne Frank, a stage play adaptation by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, (whom Hellman had recommended) premiered on Broadway in October 1955 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
A feature film adaptation of the play, starring a miscast but earnest Millie Perkins as Anne Frank and Shelley Winters as Mrs. Van Daan, was released in 1959. More adaptations followed, including more than one TV miniseries.
Over the years, the book's popularity has grown exponentially. It has sold over 25,000,000 copies worldwide. It often appears on middle school teachers' assigned reading lists; I first read this amazing book in 1983, in my eighth grade English class, 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.
Otto Frank had given the pages to Suijk, who claimed the right to publish the previously deleted material and 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 "definitive 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 Anne's diary was her legacy, and it continues to inspire nearly 75 years after her death.
The diary is a testament to the courage of an ordinary teenage girl trapped in extraordinary circumstances. It's also a testament to the evils of racism and fascism - one of the most important documents of the Holocaust.
Quote Of The Day
"Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?" - Anne Frank
Today's video is The Anne Frank We Remember - a 57-minute lecture on Anne's legacy given by noted Holocaust scholar Alvin H. Rosenfeld. Enjoy!