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]

 

pr09_037
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