Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Literature

Cartography and World Building

As an early reader, maps always kept me fascinated – especially when I had the image of where things were in my mind, only to be tracing the steps of the characters in Hundred Acre Woods and find that Rabbit’s house is closer than I thought it was. Plus, I always thought it was cool that Christopher Robin got to draw the map… I had many nights tracing the map trying to be in the room with him (hoping it was Me!)… from the note on it  “Drawn By Me And Mr Shepard Helpd.

WinnePoohmap

There’s the map showing the way to Toad Hall and the surrounding environs in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. How interesting that the same cartographer  (Ernest H. Shepard) did the Hundred Acre Woods map, and the map to The Wind in the Willows.  Now I understand why I loved both of those books so much as a child!  Both maps had the same design style  and it made me feel comfortable  and familiar, as if I was with an old friend by my side as I read the books. There wasn’t a learning curve, I knew how the map would look, even as a young child so it was easier to follow.  Having both the black and white and colored maps1 on the endpapers in the book, it was magical to see the colors come to life before my very eyes.

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The Wind in the Willows map, black and white, by E.H. Shepard
wind in willows color
The Wind in the Willows map, color, by E.H. Shepard

Then there’s the map of Emerald City and the Yellow Brick Road in Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Who didn’t want to take that walk down the road with Dorothy and Toto all the way to the Emerald City, with all the characters along the way. The movie was always on around Thanksgiving, and I had to watch it in my parent’s bedroom. To be fair, the Wicked Witch scared the daylights out of me … but I wanted those ruby slippers more than anything when I was younger.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s maps of Hobbiton and Middle Earth brought Tolkien’s world alive in my mind.

Map of Gondor from The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Kids of all ages know the layout of Hogwarts from the Marauder’s Map in Harry Potter. One realizes how much detail you can get by enhancing the reading with visuals.

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The Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Authors who use maps, engage in world building by placing their characters inside the world and the geography of the area. Maps help readers, even at a young age, orient themselves to time and space and place. The legend of symbols helps them understand what a triangle is and what colors represent what topographical concept (rivers, mountains, roads).

Image result for map legends for young readers
Simple map legend

“But why are maps so useful when employed in literature, and in particular in children’s books? Much like the novels themselves, maps too tell stories, and so writers increasingly employ them within their books as a way to go beyond the words themselves. Not only do they provide us with further supplementary information to complement the story, but maps also have the potential to provide gateways to the imaginary lands which may otherwise only exist within our imaginations. By showing us the shape of the land, beautiful forests and daunting mountain ranges, they build on our imagination, encouraging us to go beyond the words themselves and inviting us into these fictional lands presented right before our very eyes.”2

Footnotes:

1 Both the black and white and colored maps of The Wind in the Willows by E.H. Shepard come from Shepard’s website. Go take a peek and see what other childhood memories come up when you see all the cartography he has done!

2https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/nov/11/putting-childrens-literature-on-the-map-young-adult

Note: Featured Image of the Marauder’s Map courtesy of littlefallingstar
Posted in In the News, Literature

‘How does it feel?’ Bob Dylan awarded Nobel Prize in Literature 2016

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Congratulations to Bob Dylan for his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded today, for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” according to the Swedish Academy.

Dylan is the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since Toni Morrison in 1993.

For Further Reading:

Facts on the Nobel Prize in Literature


“The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 13 Oct 2016. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/&gt;

Zalman, Jonathan. “Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature.”Tablet Magazine. Web. 13 Oct. 2016. <http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/215676/bob-dylan-awarded-nobel-prize-literature&gt;

Bob Dylan Nobel Prize image courtesy of NobelPrize.org

Posted in Language, Literary Arts Series, Literature, Words, Writing

Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps – Humorists Ogden Nash and James Thurber

What is the connection between Ogden Nash and James Thurber? Besides both being humorists, they published at The New Yorker during the same time period. In 1930, Nash’s first poem “Invocation” was published January 11.  Did you know Nash contributed 329 poems to The New Yorker between 1930 and 1971?

Meanwhile, the magazine ran a drawing by James Thurber for the first time in the February 22, 1930 issue. E. B. White had rescued Thurber’s doodles from being discarded, and encouraged the writer to publish his art work.

Ogden Nash 37¢
(1902-1971)

Ogden Nash.jpg

Issue Date: August 19, 2002
City: Baltimore, MD
Quantity: 70,000,000

American humorist and poet Ogden Nash wrote light-hearted, whimsical, and sometimes nonsensical verse. He often used an extremely large poetic license to create comical rhymes and puns. Ogden Nash is the 18th honoree of the Literary Arts Series.

An interesting couple of notes about the Ogden Nash stamp. It is the first time the word ‘Sex’ has appeared on a stamp; and probably also is the first time a limerick has appeared on a U.S. stamp.

U.S. Postal Service chief stamp developer Terry McCaffrey told CBSNews.com he expects to get complaints about “sex,” which is included in the six Nash poems in the background of the design: “The Turtle,” “The Cow,” “Crossing The Border,” “The Kitten,” “The Camel,” and “Limerick One.”

Nash poked fun at human foibles without cynicism. He wrote on many subjects, but all of his poems expressed his wry wit and demonstrated his playfulness with language. “I’m very fond of the English language. I tease it, and you tease only the things you love,” Nash reportedly said. He invented words and used puns, creative misspellings, irregular line lengths and unexpected rhymes to make his verse humorous and memorable. Because of his unique style, many consider Ogden Nash to have been one of the most accomplished American writers of light verse in the 20th century.

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times in 1969, Nash complained about stamps that would not stick to envelopes. He lamented, “The Post Office should supply a roll of Scotch tape with every 100 stamps, but mine won’t even sell me one. I’d like to go back to where I came from: 1902.”

Nash considered himself a ‘worsifier’. One of the most universally known verses is: “Candy is dandy/but liquor is quicker.” Others include: “If called by a panther, / Don’t anther,” and “In the vanities / No one wears panities.”

Did you know? Nash’s great-great-grandfather was governor of North Carolina during the Revolution, and that ancestor’s brother was General Francis Nash, for whom Nashville, Tennessee, was named.

James Thurber 29¢
(1894-1961)

James Thurber

Issue Date: September 10, 1994
City: Columbus, OH
Quantity: 150,750,000

One of the most popular humorists of his time, James Thurber celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people.  In Thurber-Land, the men are often sad, bewildered, and inept; the women are fierce and determined; and their dogs are indifferent to men a women alike, and are immersed in a fantasy world of their own.  Thurber is the author of The Secret Life of Walter Mittywhich portrays an oversensitive man who escapes from his nagging wife through his daydreams and the creator of numerous New Yorker magazine cover cartoons.  Writing nearly 40 books, he won a Tony Award for the Broadway play, A Thurber Carnival, in which he often starred as himself.

One of his books, My World and Welcome To It, was turned into an NBC television series in 1969-1970 starring William Windom. My World and Welcome To It, won best Comedy Series and Windom won Best Actor in a Comedy Series at the 1970 Emmys.

Thurber spent much time in and about the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.  Though never a formal member of the Algonquin Round Table, he was a favorite among many of its members including, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

Thurber is the 11th honoree of the Literary Arts series. Read his “The Art of Fiction” interview the Paris Review by George Plimpton and Max Steele.

Did You Know?  As a child, Thurber’s brother shot him in the eye with an arrow during a game of William Tell. James Thurber lost his left eye, and the incident left his vision permanently impaired.


For the rest of the Give A Lick: Literary Arts series of blog posts, check out Dorothy Parker and John Steinbeck, as well as Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison.


For Further Reading & Source Material: 

A New Yorker Timeline

Eighty-five from the archive: Ogden Nash

PR Wire “Literary Arts series Continues with Issuance of Ogden Nash stamp”
*Note: The cool thing about this link is that it shows you the full verses of poems used on the Ogden Nash stamp.

Poetry Foundation / Ogden Nash

Thurber House

Ten Facts about Caldecott Winner , James Thurber

Thurber Prize for American Humor 
*Note: The Thurber Prize for American Humor is the nation’s highest recognition of the art of humor writing. 

Posted in Language, Literary Arts Series, Literature, Words, Writing

Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps – Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison

Continuing on the Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamp week, today I will be featuring Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison. The connection between these two stamps is that they are the only two in the series that are intended for three-ounce letters.

Flannery O’Connor 93¢
(1925-1964)
Flannery O'ConnorIssue Date
: June 5, 2015
City
: McLean, VA
Quantity
: 20,000,000

Flannery O’Connor’s stamp is 30th in the Literary Arts Series, released in 2015.

Mary Flannery O’Connor was an American writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, she wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. Her writing also reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics.

The stamp shows O’Connor surrounded by peacock feathers—an homage to O’Connor’s love for the birds that she cared for on her mother’s farm toward the end of her life. She wrote about peacocks in a 1961 essay called “The King of Birds.” Today, three of those peacocks that were her pets have been returned to her homeplace in Andalusia, which has become a visitor center.

All three birds are named after characters in O’Connor’s work. The strutting male bird is Manley Pointer, after the scheming Bible salesman from O’Connor’s story “Good Country People.” One of the hens is named Joy/Hulga, after the woman whose prosthetic leg Pointer steals in the same story. The second hen’s name is Mary Grace, the “raw-complexioned girl” from O’Connor’s story “Revelation” in her collection “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”

The setting of Andalusia, including the ever-present peafowl, figures prominently in her fiction. If it is true, as critics and scholars have noted, that Southern fiction is marked by the importance given to a sense of place, then a major force in shaping Flannery O’Connor’s work is landscape. Andalusia provided for her not only a place to live and write, but also a functional landscape in which to set her fiction.

While living at Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor completed Wise Blood, which was published in 1952. Then her highly acclaimed collection of short stories A Good Man Is Hard To Find was published in 1955. She also wrote another novel, The Violent Bear It Away, published in 1960. Her second collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, was published posthumously in 1965. A collection of nonfiction prose titled Mystery and Manners, edited by Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, was published in 1969. The Complete Stories, edited by Robert Giroux, won the 1971 National Book Award for Fiction. Then Sally Fitzgerald edited a large collection of O’Connor’s letters, The Habit of Being, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award after its publication in 1979. O’Connor’s Collected Works was published in 1988 as part of the Library of America series, the definitive collection of America’s greatest writers.

 

Ralph Ellison 91¢
(1913-1994)

ralph ellison

Issue Date: February 18, 2014
City: Kansas City, MO
Quantity: 30,000,000

Ellison’s stamp is 29th in the Literary Arts series, released in 2014.

With his 1952 novel Invisible Man, a masterpiece of 20th-century fiction, Ellison drew on a wide range of narrative and cultural traditions, shedding vivid light on the African-American experience while setting a new benchmark for all American novelists.

The stamp art is an oil-on-panel painting featuring a portrait of Ellison based on a black-and-white photograph by Ellison’s friend Gordon Parks, a renowned staff photographer for Life magazine. The photo appeared on the back of the dust jacket of the first edition of Invisible Man in 1952. The background of the stamp art shows a Harlem street at twilight.

Drawing deeply on European and American literature as well as jazz, the blues, African-American folklore, and popular culture, Invisible Man won the National Book Award in 1953. Ellison’s nonfiction writing, especially the 1964 collection Shadow and Act, has also been praised for providing touchstones for black artists who loved American culture but often felt excluded by it.

In case you missed it, come and check out the rest of the “Give a Lick” Literary Postage Stamp series: 
John Steinbeck and Dorothy Parker
Humorists James Thurber and Ogden Nash
[Bonus James Thurber cartoon]

 

 

Posted in Language, Literary Arts Series, Literature, Words, Writing

Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps – John Steinbeck and Dorothy Parker

Inspiration comes from many places. Today’s blog post inspiration came from the Richard Wright quote of last week, when I went looking for an image of Mr. Wright to use as the focal point. His postage stamp led me to wonder what other literary wordsmiths had been immortalized on postage stamps.

The USPS started the Literary Arts series in 1979.  According to the USPS, “These skillful wordsmiths spun our favorite tales — and American history along with them.”

The full list of Literary Arts postage stamps can be found on the USPS website. I will be highlighting two per day this week, with perhaps a second week to come later on.

Today’s highlighted Literary Giants are John Steinbeck and Dorothy Parker.

John Steinbeck 15¢
(1902-1968)

Steinbeck_15_1979
Issue date: February 27, 1979
City: Salinas, CA
Quantity: 155,000,000

John Steinbeck was the first to be honored on the Literary Arts series. Steinbeck’s novels mirrored America’s struggle and victory over the Great Depression. His most famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. Other Steinbeck novels include Of Mice and Men, The Winter of Our Discontent, The Pearl, Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.

I love the Paris Review’s “The Art of Fiction” interviews. If you haven’t read them, start with Steinbeck, Interview No. 45.

Listen to Steinbeck read two of his short stories, “The Snake” and “Johnny Bear” in 1953.

Dorothy Parker 29¢
(1893-1967)

Dorothy Parker
Issue date: August 22, 1992
City: West End, NJ
Quantity: 105,000,000

Dorothy Parker is 10th in the Literary Arts series.  Famous for her verses and her stories, she worked for Vogue and Vanity Fair, becoming their drama critic. She was published in Vanity Fair, Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Life (when it was still a comic magazine), and The New Yorker, run by her old friend, Harold Ross.

American journalist Vincent Sheean said: “Among contemporary artists, I would put her next to Hemingway and Bill Faulkner. She wasn’t Shakespeare, but what she was, was true.” John Keats in his biography of her, You Might as Well Live (1970) stated: “She wrote poetry that was at least as good as the best of Millay and Housman. She wrote some stories that are easily as good as some of O’Hara and Hemingway.”

A founding member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, she was best known for her wit. Among her more memorable quotes are, “I don’t care what is written about me as long as it isn’t true” and “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

Read Dorothy Parker’s Paris Review’s “Art of Fiction” Interview No. 13.

Have you heard Dorothy Parker’s voice? You can hear her reading 30 of her poems at The Dorothy Parker Society.


Note: Featured stamp collection image courtesy of Birmingham Coin & Jewelry.

Check out the rest of the “Give A Lick” series:

Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison
Humorists Ogden Nash and James Thurber
[Bonus: James Thurber Cartoon]

 

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2009 Richard Wright Postage Stamp courtesy of USPS

The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.

– Richard Wright
Native Son (1940)

 

Many writers do feel the urge to write about what they see, what they know, what they’ve experienced, capturing the writer’s zeitgeist.   Are you writing about your experience or are you more interested in your imagination’s ability to create new worlds?

Born September 4, 1908 in Roxie, Mississippi, Wright came from a family of sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South.  He was the 25th inductee into the Postal Service’s Literary Arts series. Best remembered for his controversial 1940 novel, Native Son, and his 1945 autobiography, Black Boy, Wright drew on a wide range of literary traditions, including protest writing and detective fiction, to craft unflinching portrayals of racism in American society. Wright died in Paris on November 28, 1960.

‘Words Can Be Weapons Against Injustice’

Did you know? 

Wright’s Native Son was the first best-selling novel by a Black American writer. It was also the first Book-of-the-Month Club selection by an African-American writer.

Native Son sold 215,000 copies within three weeks of publication. The book made Wright the wealthiest Black writer in America at that time.

For further reading:

Joe Bunting’s Do You Write from Experience or Imagination? 

Richard Wright Immortalized on Postage

10 Amazing Facts About ‘Native Son’ Author Richard Wright

Quote of the Day: Richard Wright

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Oscar Wilde

 There should be a law that no ordinary newspaper should be allowed to write about art. The harm they do by their foolish and random writing it would be impossible to overestimate—not to the artist but to the public. . . . Without them we would judge a man simply by his work; but at present the newspapers are trying hard to induce the public to judge a sculptor, for instance, never by his statues but by the way he treats his wife; a painter by the amount of his income and a poet by the colour of his necktie.

—Oscar Wilde, Art and the Handicraftsman

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was known as the “Apostle of Aestheticism”.  Wilde explained “Aestheticism is a search after the signs of the beautiful.  It is the science through which men look after the correlation which exists in the arts. It is, to speak more exactly, the search after the secret of life.” Wilde calls aestheticism a philosophy. “It is a study of what may be found in art and nature. Whatever in art represents eternal truth expresses the great underlying truth of aestheticism.”

Oscar Wilde Signature

 

 

 

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Notes:
Oscar Wilde photo courtesy of The American Reader

Wilde’s signature  courtesy of his official website

Title Quote from Oscar Wilde’s The Critic as Artist

 

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” Oscar Wilde