Happy Bloomsday! How Will You Celebrate?

Love it or hate it, Bloomsday is the annual day of celebration for James Joyce’s polarizing novel Ulysses. It takes place on June 16th each year, to mark the first day of the protagonist Leopold Bloom’s journey across Dublin.

To mark the occasion some Joyce fans follow the tradition of reading the novel in Edwardian garb—though Marilyn Monroe did it back in 1955 in decidedly modern attire… her bathing suit.

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Nowadays, though, celebrations can consist of two weeks of lectures, film screenings and readings surrounding the novel that the majority of people (at least all the sane ones) find impossible to read. And while to these readers, including yours truly, suffering through lectures on Ulysses is a punishment only slightly worse than actually reading a chapter of Ulysses (and very marginally better than suffering the fate of Prince Oberyn vs The Mountain), in Vanity Fair’s opinion, Bloomsday has become a “travesty” for another reason: Read the rest of this entry »


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 Read the rest of this entry »


Dear Professor Einstein

Albert-EinsteinAs arguably the most important intellectual of his time, Albert Einstein exchanged letters with powerful contemporaries: fellow scientists, heads of state, dignitaries, philosophers. But what most might not know is that he also corresponded with children around the world.  That’s right–curious children would write and Einstein would reply, even at the height of his career and influence. Their letters back and forth are touching, honest, often hilarious but also poignant, thanks to the tone Einstein took with every note, never talking down to the children. A selection of these can be found in the book Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children, as well as a sprinkling below.

In a 1920 response to the question of what he looked like, Einstein wrote

Let me tell you what I look like: pale face, long hair, and a tiny beginning of a paunch. In addition, an awkward gait, and a cigar in the mouth … and a pen in pocket or hand. But crooked legs and warts he does not have, and so is quite handsome – also no hair on his hands as is so often found with ugly men.

In 1943, a young girl wrote to Einstein about her difficulties with mathematics in school. He encouragingly replied

Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
Best regards
Professor Albert Einstein.

Read the rest of this entry »


After the Dash: Ten Literary Epitaphs

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It’s Halloween!  In honor of the creepiest of holidays, why not contemplate your own mortality? GOOD TIMES!

Here are ten well-written or interesting conceived final goodbyes from folks (or folks who knew them) who have shuffled off this mortal coil.

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1.  William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
[Gravestone in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon]
GOOD FREND FOR IESVS SAKE FORBEARE
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE
BLESTE BE Y MAN Y SPARES THES STONES
AND CVRST BE HE THAT MOVES MY BONES

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2.  Edmund Spenser (1510-1596)
Here lyes
(expecting the second Comminge of our Saviour Christ Jesus)
the body of Edmond Spenser, the Prince of Poets in his time;
whose divine spirit needs no other witness
than the works he left behind him.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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