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]

Posted in Editor's Toolkit, Language, Writing

The Editor’s Toolkit: Hemingway App

hemingway
Ernest Hemingway photo courtesy of Yousuf Karsh

Ernest Hemingway‘s writing style is known almost instantaneously by most readers. It is distinctive, recognizable, and influential. Critics believe his style was honed during his time being a cub reporter in Kansas City.  Using short, rhythmic sentences, and selecting only those elements essential to the story, he created a clean style that works with having a journalistic background.

Featured today in my Editor’s Toolkit, the Hemingway App.

hemingway app
The Hemingway App

The Hemingway App shows you what is wrong with your writing in a clear and easy-to- follow method. Overly long sentences show up in yellow. Adverbs appear in blue. Words or phrases that can be simplified, purple. Green indicates passive voice. And red sentences are very hard to read.

Writer Ian Crouch of The New Yorker took Hemingway’s own writing and put it through the Hemingway App.  The opening paragraph from Hemingway’s short story,”A Clean, Well-Lighted Place“, only scored Grade 15 (OK).

It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference. The two waiters inside the cafe knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying, so they kept watch on him.

 

Hemingway_A Clean Well-Lighted Place
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” opening paragraph on Hemingway App. Image courtesy of Dara Rochlin Book Doctor.

I hope this allows you to see how you can utilize different tools and websites to make your writing stronger and more concise.  Be sure to check out the other Editor’s Toolkit posts including The Punctuation Guide and the OneLook Reverse Dictionary. Come back for what’s upcoming the rest of the week, as I highlight what else is in my Editor’s Toolkit.

Feel free to let me know what is in your Editor’s Toolkit in the comments and I will mention you if it becomes part of the series.

Know of other useful writing apps that aren’t included here? Let me know about them on Twitter!