Remembering Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Oscar Hijuelos, Dead at 62

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“Oh yes!…The sweet summons of God to man.  That’s when He calls you up to His arms.  And it’s the most beautiful thing, a rebirth, a new life.  But, just the same I’m in no rush to find out.” ― Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Oscar Hijuelos, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love , died yesterday of a heart attack while playing tennis, according to his agent, Jennifer Lyons.  Hijuleos was 62.

Hijuelos was the first Latino writer to be awarded the coveted prize.  The novel traces the journey of two Cuban brothers who leave Havana for a life in New York to pursue a career in music. In 1992, the novel was adapted into a film starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas.

Although the Pulitzer brought the author fame, it also brought hardships.  Hijuelos felt labeled as an “ethnic” writer.   In an interview on NPR’s Newshour in 2011, Hijuelos  discussed his memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes.  He told interviewer Ray Suarez that he

 sometimes felt like a freak, simply because the level of my success and traveling around the world as — quote — “a Latino writer” as much as anything, was sort of wonderful and also very strange for me at the same time, because, indeed, I’m — I came up as but one version of many potential versions of Latinos that there could be.

And I have never — as I say in the memoir, I have never intended to represent myself as a spokesman for anybody but myself. And yet I would be in a roundtable in Sweden, in Stockholm, Sweden, at a live television show, and the host would come on and look around trying to figure out who the Latino guy was in the group. That kind of thing was both interesting and alarming at the same time.

Here is the complete interview. Rest in Peace, Mr. Hijuelos.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Comes to the Silver Screen

Get ready this Christmas for an adaptation of James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Although “adaptation” might be a stretch here…

Of course, since very little actually happens in Thurber’s tale, it’s not totally surprising that a Hollywood film would stray far from the original. But it does look like the only remnants of Walter Mitty that make it into the movie are his lapses into daydreams.

It’s nice to imagine a Walter Mitty who gets his happy ending, though! What do you think?

“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).

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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A Cheater’s Guide to the Classics

DISCLAIMER: If you are a student assigned to read any of the following classics in school, you should ABSOLUTELY read them all the way through! Not only are they classics for a reason, but that’s your job as a student, and as members of the educational community we would be remiss if we didn’t point that out.

If you are, on the other hand, one of the 62% of adults who are simply willing to lie to make themselves appear smarter, well then this article is for you!

That’s right, roughly 6 out of 10 adults claim to have read books they’ve never even opened in an effort to appear more intelligent and impress others. How do they get away with it? Mostly through movie adaptations. But why rely on a director’s interpretation of Great Expectations when walking into the potentially vicious traps set by your dinner party counterparts? I mean, if you really want to get serious about appearing smarter, you’ll have to study with some study guides. And what a surprise–we just so happen to have some of those! 

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You could read the 1,225 pages this Tolstoy classic, or you could just prop it on your bookshelf at home and internally vow to get around to it “one day”

The top ten books people claim to have read, but haven’t, are:

1984 by George Orwell – 26%

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – 19%

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – 18%

Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger – 15%

A Passage to India by E M Forster – 12%

Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkein – 11%

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 10%

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – 8%

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – 8%

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – 5%

Titles that just missed the cut are The Bible (3%), Homer’s Odyssey (3%) and Wuthering Heights (2%).

Be serious about appearing smarter: study smarter. Never walk into a dinner party unprepared again!

Hey, You Forgot…Oh, Nevermind: Top Ten Books Most Often Left in Hotel Rooms

The most common things left behind in hotel rooms are chargers, “intimate” items, and books.  Every year, Travelodge releases a list of those unfortunate tomes, and here is this year’s top ten, and for your snarky pleasure, comments from Amazon readers.

Topping the list, to the surprise of literally no one who has ever seen the internet, we have the third in the inexplicably best-selling Fifty Shades series.  (So many unanswered questions from the first two, I know…. ).

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1.  Fifty Shades of Freed by E.L. James 

Review:  Be under no illusions Dear Readers, this book is terribly written. It makes Twilight look like Anna Karenina and that is saying a lot since it started as Twilight fan-fiction (if that isn’t enough to put you off then you cannot be saved, good luck to you). I’ve read stories by 5th Graders with more character development and narrative drive than this.

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2.  Bared to You by Sylvia Day 

Review:  Bare to You is as close to Fifty Shades of Grey as a book can get and not be called Fifty Shades of Grey.

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3.  The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Review:  Poorly written dialogue & sex scenery* make this book very boring.

(*Sex scenery? What is that, exactly?)

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