Literary America: Ten Places to Visit for National Author’s Day

Mark your calendars and make some plans!  November 1st is National Author’s Day.  In 1929, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs created the day to honor America’s writers; in 1949, the day was officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Congress. The resolution states, in part, that “[b]y celebrating author’s day as a nation, we would not only show patriotism, loyalty and appreciation of the men and women who have made American literature possible but would also encourage and inspire others to give of themselves in making a better America.”

Most of these historic places are privately staffed or state-run, meaning that even if the government shutdown continues, you should be able to visit these homes, museums, and locations:

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1. Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond, VA

Called “America’s Shakespeare,” Edgar Allan Poe created or mastered the short story, detective fiction, science fiction, lyric poetry and the horror story. His dark genius has invited children and adults to read and love literature for over 150 years.

Mark Twain Study sepia

2.  Mark Twain Study, Elmira, New York 

Built by Twain’s father-in-law, Twain called this retreat “The Cozy Nest.”  It is located on the campus of Elmira College.  Twain’s grave is also located in the town of Elmira.

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“A Government of Wolves”: Ten Writers Sound Off

Like most of you, I am becoming more and more annoyed by the government shutdown. Yesterday, I heard a sick child will not get his weekly visit with a therapy dog because those “non-essential workers” had been “furloughed.”

Here are ten quotes from writers, past and present, that may help you channel and articulate your own feelings and frustration with our elected leaders:

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1.  “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”  — Edward R. Murrow

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2.  “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”  — Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

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4.  “You have to remember one thing about the will of the people: it wasn’t that long ago that we were swept away by the Macarena.”  — Jon Stewart

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“The Point of Life Was to Press On”: Remembering Tom Clancy

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Fans of espionage and military science novels have lost one of that genres’ most popular authors. Tom Clancy has died at age 66.  The cause of death has not yet been released.

Here are some facts about Clancy that you may not know:

  • Worked as an insurance salesman after attending Loyola College.
  • Tried, but failed, to purchase the Minnesota Vikings.
  • Divorced after thirty years following revelations of an affair with a New York Assistant D.A.
  • Second wife is the niece of General Colin Powell.
  • Although he loved the military, poor eyesight prevented him from enlisting.
  • In 1984, President Ronald Reagan boosted sales of Clancy’s first novel, The Hunt for Red October, by praising it at a press conference. “It’s a really good yarn,” Reagan said.
  • Founded the gaming company Red Storm Entertainment in 1996 and sold it for a reported $45 million
  • Was the co-owns the Baltimore Orioles

Tom Clancy was one of the best-selling authors of the last thirty years.  In addition to The Hunt for Red October, his other popular works included Patriot Games (1988), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and The Sum of All Fears (1991).


Baffling Banned Books: A Fun (Disturbing) Quiz!

If you’ve waited to celebrate the chance to be Officially Subversive during Banned Books Week, it’s not too late!  Sure, you probably figured that Huck Finn is a perennial favorite for its politically incorrect language and Fifty Shades of Grey for its Crimes Against Ink and Trees, but I am willing to bet there are quite a few that will make you say, “Ummm. What?”  The alleged  “reasons” for protecting Our Nation’s Youth are even more bizarre than you can imagine. 

Take our quiz and see if you can guess the actual arguments that succeeded in getting the following ten books on the Naughty List. Answers at the end of quiz!

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1.  Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

a)  The National Pork Council feared declining bacon sales

b)  Children were trapping dangerous spiders and being bitten

c)  A Kansas school district decided that talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural

d)  Girls were being encouraged to defy their fathers

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2.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

a)  Removed from classrooms in Miller, Missouri, for ‘making promiscuous sex look like fun.’

b)  Removed from Texas libraries for “encouraging revolution”

c)  Attempted ban in California for “focusing on negativity.”

d) Both a and c

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Top Ten Dishes from the Classics

For her series “Fictitious Dishes,” photographer Dinah Fried staged her favorite food scenes from literature. Via The Picture Show, here’s a sample of her amazing work to delight foodies and book lovers alike.

“I’m interested in creating something that evokes an emotional feeling for myself and others. I wanted to see how other people who had read the books would connect on that level.”

On the Road

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“I ate apple pie and ice cream — it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer.”

The Bell Jar

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“Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad. Avocados are my favorite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics.”

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Writer Fight! Writer Fight! : William F. Buckley, Jr. v. Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer, that ever-so-macho author (The Armies of the Night, The Naked and the Deadis almost as well-known for his physical fights as for his writing. He famously head-butted Gore Vidal in the green room before their mutual appearance on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971.  Once on set, the altercation turned menacingly verbal, with Cavett getting in at least as many digs as Mailer:

A less-famous incident of verbal sparring occurred between Mailer and William F. Buckley, Jr. founder and long-time editor of the National Review

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How to Write Like Jane Austen

Here’s a tip: keep some sheep leather and blue gauls handy…

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Yesterday we brought you the recipes to two authors’ favorite meals, so today I give you the recipe to one authoress’ writing success: a good leather bound book and a batch of homemade ink. For those Austen enthusiasts feeling particularly crafty, here is the exact recipe for the ink Jane Austen used, provided by her sister-in-law:

Take 4 ozs of blue gauls [gallic acid, made from oak apples], 2 ozs of green copperas [iron sulphate], 1 1/2 ozs of gum arabic. Break the gauls. The gum and copperas must be beaten in a mortar and put into a pint of strong stale beer; with a pint of small beer. Put in a little refin’d sugar. It must stand in the chimney corner fourteen days and be shaken two or three times a day.

This iron gall ink would then be applied to the page with an old-fashioned quill. But on the quality of the pages themselves, Austen was quite particular. One of her favorites was “a quarto stationer’s notebook… bound with quarter tanned sheep over boards sided with marbled paper. The edges of the leaves [were] plain cut and sprinkled red.” 

Better find yourself some quarter tanned sheep. No self-respecting Austenite would be caught dead without a sheep leather notebook!

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