On October 14, Richard Wilbur, second Poet Laureate of the United States, passed away at the age of 96. Wilbur worked as a writer for more than 60 years and valued “traditional virtuosity over self-dramatization.” He won his first Pulitzer for the collection Things of This World: Poems, published in 1956 (it also won the National Book Award), and his second Pulitzer for New and Collected Poems, published in 1989. Continue reading “Quote of the Week | Richard Wilbur, Poet Laureate”
October is marked by the conspicuous onslaught of Halloween. Stick-on scarecrows pose brokenly in shop windows. Ghostface masks pop-up in drug stores. Pumpkin spice lattes dilute the otherwise smoky smell of the city.
In books, memoirs and biographies are set aside in favor of more mysterious, macabre materials. To jumpstart preparations for the spooky holiday, our Quote of the Week features the man who “became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.” Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” – Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston to the British actress Elizabeth Arnold Poe and the American actor David Poe, Jr. When he was three, Poe’s mother died of tuberculosis and his father disappeared; he was thereafter raised by the Richmond-based tobacco merchant John Allan and his wife, Frances Valentine. Poe was writing poetry by the age of 13 and – much to his foster-father’s displeasure – liked to write drafts on the back of Allan’s business papers.
After a not-so-successful career in the military, Poe turned to writing full-time. Looking for opportunities, he lived in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Richmond, publishing poems and short stories. In 1835, he started writing for the Southern Literary Messenger.
Poe made a name for himself writing scathing reviews of his contemporaries’ work. He’s also credited with launching the new genre of detective fiction with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” published in 1841. His poem “The Raven,” however, published in 1845, is generally agreed to be the piece that made his career. Ironically enough, the “Father of the Detective Story” died under mysterious circumstances on a train to Philadelphia in 1849.
For more Poe, the “The Black Cat” (1843), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), and “Annabel Lee“ (1849) are readily available to read online. The Morgan Library & Museum is also hosting an advance screening of the PBS American Masters documentary film Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive next Friday, October 20, from 7–10pm. Tickets are free with museum admission. You can watch the trailer here:
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive premieres on the American Masters series Monday, October 30 at 9 pm on THIRTEEN and nationwide on PBS.
October 2nd marks The International Day of Non-Violence, a 24-hour period set aside by the United Nations to “disseminate the message of nonviolence” and work towards “a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and nonviolence” throughout the world. The commemoration falls deliberately on the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi, whose nonviolent philosophy of passive resistance helped orchestrate the Indian independence movement. (His work came to a culmination on August 15, 1947 when the Indian Independence Act was made into law.)
— United Nations (@UN) October 2, 2017
In light of recent events, our Quote of the Week features the man whose acts of nonviolent protest inspired human rights movements around the globe, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights moment in the United States (1954–1968) and Nelson Mandela’s campaign to end apartheid in South Africa (1959–1994).
“If nobody reads the writing on the wall, man will be reduced to the state of the beast, whom he is shaming by his manners.”
― Mahatma Gandhi,
Gandhi – later known as Mahatma or “the great-souled one” – was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Kathiawar, India, then a part of the British Empire. At 13, he married Kasturba Makanji, the daughter of a merchant; together, they had four boys: Harilal, Ramdas, Manilal, and Devdas. When he was 18, Gandhi sailed to England to study law. He struggled to find work in India after graduation, and so accepted a one-year legal contract in South Africa. It was here that he was first struck by the unjust treatment of Indian immigrants by the British.
After moving his wife and children to South Africa, Gandhi organized his first civil-disobedience campaign in 1906, which he called “Satyagraha,” or “truth and firmness.” The crusade was coordinated to protest South Africa’s recently-imposed restrictions on the rights of Indians in the country, like the government’s refusal to recognize Hindu marriages. Seven years later, in 1913, the South African government imprisoned hundreds of people from India, including Gandhi. Eventually, “under pressure, the South African government accepted a compromise negotiated by Gandhi and General Jan Christian Smuts that included recognition of Hindu marriages and the abolition of a poll tax for Indians.”
This was just the start of a prodigious life rooted in civil disobedience. His enduring campaigns were made famous by great victories, like the 24-day Salt March in 1930 (protesting Britain’s Salt Acts, which prevented people in India from collecting or selling salt), the “Quit India” movement in 1942 (which called for Britain’s immediate withdrawal from India), and other lifelong efforts to remove India from imperialist influence.
On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fundamentalist in Delhi.
Today, various anthologies of Gandhi’s writings are available to read. His autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, describes his life from early childhood to 1921. On the work: “Gandhi was a fascinating, complex man, a brilliant leader and guide, a seeker of truth who died for his beliefs but had no use for martyrdom or sainthood. His story, the path to his vision of Satyagraha and human dignity, is a critical work of the twentieth century, and timeless in its courage and inspiration.”
Banned Books Week
September 24–30, 2017
“Book banning” is as antiquated a term as it is a practice – isn’t it? Not according to the American Library Association. Between 2000 and 2009 alone, more than 5,000 challenges to remove books from libraries and schools were raised because of “sexually explicit” content, “offensive language,” “violence,” “homosexuality,” and materials deemed “unsuited to age group.”
Despite strides taken to reduce censorship, books continue to be challenged for their language and depictions of violence and sex. Banned Books Week is an annual event held by librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers to discuss the importance of literary freedom. (Spoiler alert: more to come for Link of the Week on Wednesday!)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s bestselling anti-slavery novel – credited for helping to bring about the Civil War – is considered by many historians to be the first book in the history of the United States to have been banned on a national scale.
After its publication in 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was barred from bookstores because of its “pro-abolitionist agenda.” Preventing the book from reaching popular circles, however, proved an impossible task for the Confederacy. Stowe’s work became so widespread that President Abraham Lincoln said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war,” when he met her in 1862.
To take part in this event, our Quote of the Week features the woman who started it all: Harriet Beecher Stowe.
“Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart. What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear.” – Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1811 to a family committed to social justice. (Her father was a progressive Congregationalist minister, her sister Catharine was an author and teacher, and her other sister, Isabella, was a leader in the fight for women’s rights at the time.) As an act of protest against Congress’s passing of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which sold 300,000 copies in its first three months of life. She remained a prominent and influential figure in the North until her death in 1896.
Well, everyone, we’ve made it to week two. First and foremost, congratulations. Between classes, assignments, and publishing events, we’ve all hit the ground running.
For returning students, the transition from summer to fall is a familiar one. For new students, many of whom have never lived – or perhaps even visited – this dense and sprawling city, the shift and pace of life can seem overwhelming and mysterious. Even the great mystery novelist Agatha Christie is reported to have said, “It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story.”
That said, the American novelist, poet, and short story writer John Updike is renowned for having said, “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”
These teaser quotes have paved the way for what the blog is going to spotlight today for the Quote of the Week. It is an uplifting, hopeful statement meant to put New York City newbies – those who are familiarizing themselves with Updike’s understanding of the city’s charms – at ease.
“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as
much in five minutes as in five years. “ — Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1931. After studying at Washington and Lee and Yale, he became a reporter. Very early on in his career, his coverage of Cuba for The Washington Post won him the Washington Newspaper Guild’s foreign news prize. Wolfe is best known, however, for helping to bring about the New Journalism movement, in which literary techniques were combined with journalistic principles to highlight actual events. Wolfe is also the author of 14 books. His most recent novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, was published by Picador in 2005. (Picador is a Macmillan imprint.)
For more on Tom Wolfe, check out this interview with The Daily Beast on memoirs and memory.