Posted in Fictional Feasts, Literary Gastronomy, Literature

Fictional Feasts / Literary Gastronomy, part 2

Welcome back for Literary Gastronomy, Part 2.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” – Orson Welles

Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” (1861): Toasted Almond-bride cake

“As I looked along the yellow expanse out of which I remember its seeming to grow, like a black fungus, I saw speckled-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home to it, and running out from it . . . ‘I can’t guess what it is, ma’am.’ ‘It’s a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!’”

Ann Leckie “Ancillary Justice” (2013): Fancy tea. 

“Tea was for officers. For humans. Ancillaries drank water. Tea was an extra, unnecessary expense. A luxury.” Breq in Ancillary Justice

Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” (2005): Vanilla Kipferls ( crescent cookies)

Growing up in the southern suburbs of Sydney, Australia, my family was a small oddity; our last name wasn’t Smith, Jones, or Johnson. Even as kids, we knew that our parents—who had immigrated separately from Germany and Austria—had brought a whole different world with them when they came to Australia. This was often felt most around Christmas, when we celebrated on Christmas Eve as opposed to Christmas Day. We cooked up weisswurst and leberkase and rouladen, with kraut and potato salad, and everything happened in the night.

The other memory I have of that time, of course, is the sweet things. For starters, my mother would make colossal gingerbread slabs and fashion them into houses. Sometimes her construction work was sound. Sometimes it wasn’t.

Us kids would decorate the houses with icing and lollies that ranged from smarties (like M&M’s), freckles, crunchie bars, and jaffas. The jaffas always went along the top, on the ridge. Sometimes small pretzels also found their way onto those rooftops, and it really was the time of our lives, especially given that we felt deprived all year of these things! Of course, we loved it when the houses collapsed as we decorated them—it just meant that they had to be eaten immediately . . . so there was always plenty going on at our place around Christmas.

Next to the gingerbread houses, the accompanying ritual was the making of Vanillekipferl. This is technically the wrong plural—in German there’s no s on the end—but I’ll go with the English version here. As a child, I remember making the mixture and taking clumps of it and rolling it into a long sausage. We would then chop it into the sizes we wanted and make them into horseshoe shapes.

Of course, these cookies were always best made on cold days, which can be hard to come by in Australia around December. Still, that’s what I do now. As soon as there’s a cooler day in the lead-up to Christmas, I start making Vanillekipferl. For the first time this year, I made them with my daughter, who just turned four. That’s the other good thing about this recipe. Kids can easily get involved. The ingredients are minimal, and if you destroy a cookie or two in the dough-making, it doesn’t matter. You just squash it up and try again.

The only warning I offer apart from choosing the right day to make them is that no matter how well you make these cookies, they’ll never taste as good as your mother’s. It’s just the way it goes.

Aimee Bender’s “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” (2010): Lemon Cake

My birthday cake was her latest project because it was not from a mix but instead built from scratch—the flour, the baking soda, lemon-flavored because at eight that had been my request; I had developed a strong love for sour. We’d looked through several cookbooks together to find just the right one, and the smell in the kitchen was overpoweringly pleasant. To be clear: the bite I ate was delicious. Warm citrus-baked batter lightness enfolded by cool deep dark swirled sugar.

Because the goodness of the ingredients—the fine chocolate, the freshest lemons—seemed like a cover over something larger and darker, and the taste of what was underneath was beginning to push up from the bite….None of it was a bad taste, so much, but there was a kind of lack of wholeness to the flavors that made it taste hollow, like the lemon and chocolate were just surrounding a hollowness

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865): Queen of Hearts Tarts

“In the next moment, her eyes fell on the White Rabbit that was serving the court as a herald and was reading the accusation that the Knave of Hearts had stolen the Queen’s tarts. In the middle of the court, a large platter of tarts was on display.”

Fannie Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” (1987): Fried Green Tomatoes

“Idgie and Ruth had set a place for him at a table. He sat down to a plate of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, cornbread, and iced tea.”

Astrid Lindgren’s “Pippi Longstocking” (1945, Sweden): sandwiches, pancakes, sausages, pineapple pudding

“And they shouted with delight when they saw all the good things Pippi had set out on the bare rock. There were lovely little sandwiches of meatloaf and ham, a whole pile of pancakes sprinkled with sugar, little brown sausages, and three pineapple puddings.”

Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy” (1964): Tomato Sandwiches

“‘Listen, Harriet, you’ve taken a tomato sandwich to school every day for five years. Don’t you get tired of them?’
‘No.’”

A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” (1926): Honey

“‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘it’s the middle of the night, which is a good time for going to sleep. And to-morrow morning we’ll have some honey for breakfast. Do Tiggers like honey?’
‘They like everything,’ said Tigger cheerfully.”

What’s your favorite literary recipe or reference? Leave a comment down below!

Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Literature, Travel

Literary Tour: New Orleans

I’ve recently become enamored with the literary tours around the country that delve deep into the writing history of the city you are visiting.  I thought I would share with you, my readers, some of the cities that I’d like to visit and what you can do there, if you are a bibliophile like I am.

I’ve visited New Orleans while driving across country from New York to California, and had a wonderful time. It is one of those places on my bucket list to go back and spend some serious time exploring. The literary history just calls to me, so if you are nearby, please take advantage of it and let me know what you think.

Without further ado, come with me as we stroll Crescent City.

Hotel Monteleone
214 Royal St., between Bienville and Iberville Streets

history_literary
Photo courtesy of The Hotel Monteleone

Hotel Monteleone, a historic New Orleans hotel, has long been a favorite haunt of distinguished Southern authors. Many of them immortalized the Grand Dame of the French Quarter in their works. Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner always made 214 Royal Street their address while in the Crescent City.

In 1999, the hotel was designated an official literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association. (The Plaza and Algonquin in New York are the only other hotels in the United States that share this honor.)

Did you know… You can request the Literary Suites at the Hotel Monteleone, and stay in William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, or the Eudora Welty Suite.

Tennessee Williams Home – A Streetcar Named Desire
1014 Dumaine Street, New Orleans, LA 70116

“Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour – but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who knows what to do with it?”
~Blanche Dubois

http://www.hnoc.org/collections/tw/twpathindex.html

Tennessee-tux-300

If you’re  planning a trip, there’s the Tennessee Williams/ New Orleans Literary Festival.  being held March 24 – March 28, 2021 (hopefully!).

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival was founded in 1986 by a group of local citizens who shared a common desire to celebrate the region’s rich cultural heritage.

Don’t forget the Stella and Stanley Shouting Contest!

William Faulkner House
624 Pirate’s Alley, around the corner from St. Louis Cathedral

A little byway to get to the Faulkner House Books

Faulkner-plaque

http://www.nola.com/homegarden/index.ssf/2009/11/william_faulkner_house_in_new.html

Food and Drink… 

Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House
240 Bourbon Street,
corner of Bourbon and Bienville

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Be sure to stop for a drink at the Old Absinthe House, where P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, General Robert E. Lee, Frank Sinatra, and Enrico Caruso have come through the doors. The story goes, that Pirate Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson planned the Battle of New Orleans there.

Try the Absinthe Frappe (Herbsaint, Anisette, soda water) invented there by Cayetano Ferrer!

Antoine’s Restaurant
713 St. Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Open since 1840, Antoine’s Restaurant has been part of Crescent City history. Franklin Roosevelt, Pope John Paul II, The Rolling Stones, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby have all dined at Antoine’s. Be sure to have the Oysters Rockefeller, try the Baked Alaska, and have a drink at the Hermes Bar (725 St. Louis St.).

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Finish off your days of wandering with some Coffee !

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French Truck Coffee
217 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

This coffee is so good, (my daughter had it while she was performing with her high school jazz band on their NOLA trip right before the coronavirus hit), that we have it shipped to us! When the ROUGAROU coffee comes back in season, I recommend that. One can’t go wrong with LE GRAND COQ ROUGE and LA BELLE NOIR.

or:

side-left-coffee3

PJ’s Coffee – Lower Garden District
2140 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

For cold drinks, try the Original Cold Brew Iced Coffee or the Velvet Ice Frozen Blended in either Mocha or Vanilla.

PS: If you want to delve into local history, let me introduce you to my very good friend, and client, Edward Branley. He is a font of knowledge, having written five books on NOLA history, as well as fiction novels.

Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Literature, Writing

Favorite Closing Lines in Literature

Some books just stay with you. They haunt you. You dream of the characters, and of what would be if it just ended differently. Sometimes the closing lines just make sense, and sometimes they hint of a path not taken.  Some give us closure, some are cliffhangers, yet they make me want to read the book again, and again. How about you?

Here are a few of mine.

Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley
“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”

Lord of the Flies
by William Golding
“He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.”

A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”

Animal Farm
by George Orwell
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden
“Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
“Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.”

Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“But that is the beginning of a new story – the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”

In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote
“Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky – seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Hippos Go Berserk
by Sandra Boynton
One hippo, alone once more, misses the other 44.

 

What’s your favorite last line? 

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

oscar-wilde-green
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