What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?
Ralph Ellison (born March 1, 1914) took about six years to write his first novel, Invisible Man, which won a National Book Award. His second, Juneteenth, had a harder road. First, 300 pages of the manuscript burned in a house fire, then he wrote 2,000 pages that were pared down and published posthumously.
All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.
When legendary musician Johnny Cash (born February 26, 1932) joined the Air Force, he wasn’t allowed to use his birth name, J.R., so he named himself John. Based in Germany during the Korean War, Cash was a Morse Code interpreter and became the first American to know of Stalin’s death.
Is it fair to have given us the memory of what was and the desire of what could be when we must suffer what is?
Happy 67th birthday, Neil Jordan! His original dream was to write fiction, but Jordan successful films soon overshadowed his novels—My favorite, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair (1999), he’s written and directed The Crying Game, Michael Collins, and Breakfast on Pluto.
Over the river and through the wood
To grandfather’s house we go
Lydia Maria Francis Child
American activist Lydia Maria Child (born February 11, 1802) may have been the first prominent abolitionist to advocate immediate emancipation without compensation to slave owners—she also wrote anti-slavery fiction. However, Child is best known for her children’s poem, Over the River and Through the Wood.
Become major, Paul. Live like a hero. That’s what the classics teach us. Be a main character. Otherwise what is life for?
Happy 77th birthday, J.M. Coetzee! The reclusive South African writer did not show up to the awards ceremony for his two Booker Prizes, but he did make an appearance when he won the Nobel Prize in 2003.
Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world.
Grace Paley (born in the Bronx on December 11, 1922) was an American short story writer, poet, teacher, and political activist. Her Collected Stories was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Her other books included the short story collections The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), and Just As I Thought (1999).
Unlike baked beans, loaves of breads or Fuji apples, books once consumed, do not disappear.
John Sutherland (born October 9, 1938) has built a distinguished career as a British academic scholar specializing in Victorian fiction. He’s taught at schools like University College London and Caltech, written regular columns for The Guardian, and produced popular works on literary history (So You Think You Know Jane Austen?) in addition to titles that celebrate his lifelong passion (How to Read a Novel). His autobiography is called The Boy Who Loved Books—which simply says it all.
Creativity requires a state of grace. So many things are required for it to succeed.
Magda Szabó (born October 5, 1917) was a prominent Hungarian writer, known for her poetry, plays, and novels that attracted a wide readership even as she faced censorship under Stalin’s communist government. She received numerous literary prizes during a career that produced popular works like Abigél, Old-Fashioned Story, Mural, The Fawn, Honey-Cake for Cerberus, and the memoir Für Elise. She was married to the writer and translator Tibor Szobotka, and The Door—written in 1987—is modeled after events in her own life.