Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

Today is the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth. Check out ways to commemorate the day below, complete with cakes, quizzes, quotes and more.

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Bake a Shakespeare-inspired birthday cake

Introducing Cakespeare! To celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London invited bakers to design cakes inspired by the Bard’s prose. See a few below, or check out the full gallery here.

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Happy Earth Day!

This Earth Day we’re taking inspiration from literature’s greatest nature-lovers, the transcendentalists:

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Today we celebrate Earth Day, an annual event dedicated to environmental protection. Surprisingly, some of the earliest conservationists in history can be found in American literature. The transcendentalists, whose movement developed during the 1820’s and 30’s, displayed a deep appreciation for the natural world and wrote avidly about their own experiences in nature. So frequently we approach climate change as a monolithic issue, impossible to tackle and incomprehensible in terms of personal philosophy. But perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman had it right; their steadfast appreciation and attempts at understanding the value of the natural world led them to be ever mindful of their surroundings. If we were to put these ideals into conversation with today’s problems, we may find some distinct similarities, as well as some helpful insight into the philosophical value of nature for mankind.

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Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez Dead at 87

Celebrated Colombian author Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez died today at the age of 87 after a recent hospitalization for multiple infections. His death comes two years after it was reported he was suffering from dementia.

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“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

In his extroadinary lifetime Márquez received widespread acclaim for his novels and short stories, including One Hundred Years of SolitudeLove in the Time of Cholera and Chronicle of a Death ForetoldOne Hundred Years in particular became incredibly popular, selling more than 50 million copies worldwide in over 25 languages. With his works Márquez stood as an ambassador for Latin American literature, and the father of magical realism.

When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, he dedicated his lecture to the spirit of Latin America, and revealed to the world its inextricable ties to his particular writing style:

We have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.

Márquez is survived by his wife Mercedes and his two sons. He died at home in Mexico City. His memoirs remain unfinished.

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Works of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez:

Love in the Time of Cholera

One Hundred Years of Solitude

The Autumn of the Patriarch

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

The General in His Labyrinth

and more found here.

 

New Tennessee Williams Short Story Uncovered

Williams’ “Crazy Nights” is set to be published after spending 80 years hidden from the public.

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Another day, another case of newly uncovered literature from a deceased author. Last year, we heard of recent discoveries of work from Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Today it was revealed that famous Southern playwright Tennessee Williams has new work for readers to enjoy.

The story is described by the Guardian as one “in which a college freshman recounts the details of a romance that reaches ‘the ultimate degree of intimacy’ before ending.” It’s believed that the story actually describes Williams’ own relationship with his college girlfriend Anna Jean O’Donnell, who shares a name with the love interest of “Crazy Nights.” If that’s the case, the short could provide the puzzle piece missing from fans’ insight into Williams’ romantic life.

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The Love Lives of Authors

Love is dangerous—best to leave it to the experts.

Spend your Valentine’s Day living vicariously through these writers and their passionate love lives. Because let’s face it, you’d rather be draped in chocolate wrappers than a volatile amour, right? Just me?

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Lord Byron

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The 6th Baron Byron was a Romantic with a capital ‘R,’ but that doesn’t mean he was particularly gentlemanly. His first partner in scandal, Lady Caroline Lamb, described him aptly when she professed he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Indeed, she was just one of many public conquests that rocked British society, several of which produced children. Only one of these was legitimate, the Honorable Augusta Ada Byron, also known as the co-creator of the first computer, Ada Lovelace. Others, save for a daughter he had with Mary Shelley’s sister, were never proven or recognized by Byron. In essence, he was a cad with a weakness for women, or so we can assume from his poem “Don Juan.” I mean, not even his own half-sister was off-limits to him.

But still some come to his defense. Poet Katha Pollitt excused Byron’s bad boy behavior with an interesting take on his contribution to feminism: “Byron’s great insight, in an era where women were expected to be placid and insipid (not that they were!), was to see that women were much like men: They wanted sex and went after it eagerly, if secretly.”

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This Week in Poetic History

Just for fun: we’re celebrating the lives of three poets that were changed this week in history, many years ago, and examining the curious ways one turn of events can change a legacy. Here are three world-altering events from three years in poetic history…

“The Raven” Is Born

Tenniel-TheRavenOn this day in 1845, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” one of the best-known poems in the English language, was first published. But it was no easy feat getting it into print. Poe first submitted the poem his friend and owner of Graham’s Magazine George Rex Graham, who declined. He did, however, give Poe $15 out of what could best be described as pity. The poem was eventually bought by The American Review, for $9. Still, Poe was not yet to become the household name he would shortly be; the magazine printed it under the pseudonym “Quarles.”

It was in the Evening Mirror that the poem first appeared with Poe’s name beneath it. Thanks to this publication, Edgar Allen Poe and his “Raven” achieved Continue Reading ›

Zeroes and Ones and Your Odds of Writing a Best-Seller

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Did you ever suspect the runaway best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey was written by robots?  Well, somebody check E.L. James for vital signs because she might actually be an algorithm.  Check this out:

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Surely a human being would die of boredom before biting a lip in print forty-three times in one novel.

Actually, I’m skewing things a bit.  But it is true that “[s]cientists have developed an algorithm which can analyse a book and predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether or not it will be a commercial success.” (Source)

By downloading books in public domain from Project Gutenberg , scientists from Stony Brook University in New York developed a program called “statistical stylometry, which mathematically examines the use of words and grammar” to determine the popularity of a book, matching the programs results to the sales of works from the past. The experiment involved a wide range of literary styles, from science fiction, to novels, to poetry. Factors in determining sales and popularity included the “style” of writing as well as novelty in plot and character (they do acknowledge that “luck” plays a role as well.)

The program accurately predicted success, or failure, of those works an astonishing 84% of the time.

So what factors seemed to indicate, in a more concrete way, what you should do to increase your odds of becoming a best-selling writer?

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