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Cover Image: The American Dream by ALBEE, Edward

The American Dream

First edition. Fine in fine dustwrapper. A beautiful copy of the author's... more>>

Cover Image: Black Folk Then and Now: An Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race by DU BOIS, W.E.B. (DuBois)

Black Folk Then and Now: An Essay in...

First edition. An older bookplate on the front pastedown, light wear at the... more>>

Cover Image: The Negro and His Songs: A Study of Typical Negro Songs in the South by ODUM, Howard W. and Guy B. JOHNSON

The Negro and His Songs: A Study of...

First edition. A thin, horizontal strip of cloth neatly removed from the rear... more>>

Cover Image: The Doctor's Son and Other Stories by O'HARA, John

The Doctor's Son and Other Stories

First edition. Fine in a very attractive, near fine dustwrapper a trifle sunned... more>>

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This Week...

This week in literary history.

1683 English ironmonger Izaak Walton died in Winchester, Hampshire at age 90 on December 15, 1683. He wrote several respectable biographies, but his great claim to fame is his oft-reprinted 1653 discourse on the joys of fishing, The Compleat Angler.

1775 English novelist Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, was born in Steventon, Hampshire on December 16, 1775. In her lifetime her novels were published anonymously, and it was only after her death that her brother made her authorship public. Furthermore, it was not until 121 years after her death that the first of the numerous screen adaptations of her work, an early BBC television version of Pride and Prejudice, was produced. She received no royalties.

1780 Ignatius Sancho, who had been born on a slave ship to African parents, but was brought to England where he received his freedom and an education, died on December 14, 1780. He published a treatise on music and two plays, and was the first black African to vote in a British election. When he died, he was the first African to be given an obituary in the British press. Two years later his Letters were published - one of the earliest accounts of African slavery written by a former slave in English.

1784 The great English man of letters Dr. Samuel Johnson, whose dictionary was the first major English dictionary to use illustrative historical quotations, died in London on December 13,1784 at age 75.

1807 Author and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, known for his writing of rural New England life in works such as the poem "Snow-Bound," was born near Haverhill, Massachusetts on December 17, 1807.

1815 On December 15, 1815 Jane Austen's Emma was published, a day before she turned 40 (anonymously, as was the case with all her books published during her lifetime). Among her many excellent novels it is possibly her best. She died eighteen months later of Addison's disease.

1819 Sir Walter Scott's popular historical novel Ivanhoe was published on December 18, 1819. Scott was so intent on keeping his authorship anonymous that he had a contractual clause with his publisher that they would be held to a 2000 pound penalty if his name were revealed.

1830 Jules de Goncourt, French writer and publisher in whose honor the Academie Goncourt was founded at the bequest of his brother Edmond, was born in Paris on December 17, 1830.

1832 American poet, polemicist, sea captain, and newspaper editor Philip Freneau, sometimes called the "Poet of the American Revolution," died near Freehold, New Jersey on December 19, 1832 at age 80 - he froze to death while trying to return home. Among his many works, his poem "The House of Night" is one of America's first romantic poems, while his "The Wild Honey Suckle" from 1786 is a precursor to the Transcendentalist movement.

1843 Charles Dickens' perennial favorite A Christmas Carol was published on December 17, 1843.

1848 English novelist Emily Bronte died, one year after the publication of her only novel Wuthering Heights, on December 19, 1848 in Haworth, Yorkshire. She caught a cold at her brother's funeral in September 1848 and died suddenly of tuberculosis a few months later at age 30.

1855 English poet Samuel Rogers, who was acclaimed during his lifetime but whose work has long-since been eclipsed by his contemporaries (and friends) William Wordsworth, Walter Scott, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron, died in London on December 18, 1855 at age 92. He was the son of a prominent banker and used his wealth to aid several impecunious fellow writers, but he also had a bitter wit and the British actress and author Fanny Kemble observed of Rogers that "He certainly had the kindest heart and unkindest tongue of any one I ever knew."

1862 John Fox, Jr., author of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, was born in Stony Point, Kentucky on December 16, 1862.

1863 Jorge Agustin Nicolas Ruiz de Santayana y Borras, better known as the philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana was born in Madrid on December 16, 1863. Within his writings can be found such famous observations as "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" and "Only the dead have seen the end of war," but unfortunately for him these are usually misattributed to other philosophers.

1870 Master short story writer and satirist Hector Hugh Munro, better known by his pen name, Saki, was born in Akyab, Burma on December 18, 1870, the son and grandson of British officials. Initially he followed his father into the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, but after contracting malaria he resigned and lived in Britain. When WWI broke out, although officially over-age, he joined the royal army as an ordinary soldier (needless to say he had to keep his homosexuality a secret) and repeatedly distinguished himself on the battlefield until he was killed by a German sniper at age 45. Munro's cousin Dornford Yates was also a prolific and successful author.

1873 English novelist Ford Hermann Hueffer was born in Merton, Surrey on December 17, 1873 to a German father and English mother. Approximately midway through his career he changed his name to Ford Madox Ford (allegedly because it sounded too German and in honour of his grandfather, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown). Today he is best remembered his tetralogy Parade's End and his 1915 novel The Good Soldier.

1875 British novelist and short story writer T.F. Powys, author of Unclay and Mr. Weston's Good Wine, was born in Shirley, Derbyshire on December 20, 1875. His literary family included his ancestor, the poet William Cowper, as well as his novelist brothers John Cowper Powys and Llewelyn Powys.

1888 American playwright Maxwell Anderson, among whose works were Winterset, High Tor, Anne of the Thousand Days, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Both Your Houses, was born on December 15, 1888 in Atlantic, Pennsylvania.

1895 American children's book author and illustrator Marie Hall Ets, whose works included The Story of a Baby and the Caldecott Medal-winning Nine Days to Christmas, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 16, 1895.

1896 Elisabeth Wehner was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York on December 15, 1896. Under her married name, Betty Smith wrote about her childhood experiences in the classic first novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Her other novels included Tomorrow Will Be Better, Maggie-Now, and Joy in the Morning.

1899 English playwright, composer, actor, and wit Noel Coward was born in Teddington, a London suburb, on December 16, 1899. Among his many works were Blithe Spirit, In Which We Serve, and Still Life (which became the film Brief Encounter).

1900 British author V.S. Pritchett, known for his short story collections including You Make Your Own Life, Blind Love, and A Careless Widow, was born in Ipswich Suffolk on December 16, 1900.

1901 American anthropologist Margaret Mead, whose widely read books included Coming of Age in Samoa and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 16, 1901.

1901 Anthropologist and fiction author Oliver La Farge, whose first novel, Laughing Boy, won the Pulitzer Prize, was born in New York City on December 19, 1901.

1903 Novelist Erskine Caldwell, author of Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre, was born in Coweta County, Georgia on December 17, 1903.

1907 American humorist and journalist H. Allen Smith was born in McLeansboro, Illinois on December 19, 1907. The title of his book Low Man on a Totem Pole became a popular catchphrase, and his several other humor books included Lost in the Horse Latitudes (about his time as a Hollywood screenwriter) and Rhubarb, about a cat that inherits a professional baseball team.

1908 Donald Grant Mitchell, who wrote under the pseudonym Ik Marvel, died in New Haven, Connecticut on December 15, 1908 at age 86. Among his better remembered works are his nostalgic, sentimental books on American life, especially Reveries of a Bachelor and Dream Life.

1910 Veteran comedy writer and composer Abe Burrows was born in New York City on December 18, 1910. Although at one time he had his own radio program, today Burrows is best remembered for his plays, including his marvelous musical adapation of Damon Runyon's Guys and Dolls and the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (both with frequent collaborator Frank Loesser). He was also a mentor to a younger generation of comedy writers, notably Larry Gelbart and his own distant cousin, Woody Allen.

1910 French petty criminal and social outcast turned writer Jean Genet, an important novelist and leading figure of avant-garde theater, was born in Paris on December 19, 1910.

1911 Prussian-born, English-educated American novelist Percival Pollard died unexpectedly from "brain neuritis" in Baltimore on December 17, 1911 at age 42. Among his works were the Queen's Quorum mystery Lingo Dan and Their Day in Court, a 1909 book of literary and cultural commentary.

1911 Hortense Calisher, whose novels included False Entry, The New Yorkers, and Queenie, was born in New York City on December 20, 1911.

1913 Science-fiction author Alfred Bester, whose 1953 novel The Demolished Man, a police procedural set in the future, won the first Hugo Award, was born in New York City on December 18, 1913.

1916 Shirley Jackson, master of psychological horror tales such as "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House, was born in San Francisco, California on December 14, 1916.

1916 British author Penelope Fitzgerald, daughter of Punch editor Edmund Knox and niece of Biblical translator and mystery author Ronald Knox, was born in Lincoln, England on December 17, 1916. She wrote biographies, detective fiction, and literary novels such as The Bookshop and the Booker Prize-winning Offshore.

1917 Science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, who collaborated with director Stanley Kubrick to create the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, was born in Minehead, Somerset on December 16, 1917, England. For several decades he lived in Sri Lanka, where he pursued his interest in undersea exploration.

1919 Australian mystery writer Charlotte Jay was born in Adelaide on December 17, 1919. She wrote only nine books, but they were celebrated for their unusual settings. The haunting Beat Not The Bones won the first Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year in 1954.

1924 William Faulkner's first book, a thin volume of poetry entitled The Marble Faun, was published on December 15, 1924.

1927 American postmodern novelist David Markson, whose works included Springer's Progress, Reader's Block, and his final book, The Last Novel, was born in Albany, New York on December 20, 1927. Although he began publishing in the 1950s, he was not widely known or read until the 1988 publication of his masterpiece, Wittgenstein's Mistress, when he was 60 years old.

1928 Science-fiction author Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 16, 1928. A few months after his death Blade Runner, the first of many films based on his writings, was released.

1928 Irish author Eve Bunting, best known for her young adult works and children's books, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Smoky Night, was born in Maghera on December 19, 1928.

1929 Mystery author Warren Kiefer was born in Paterson, New Jersey on December 18, 1929. His 1973 book The Lingala Code won an Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel. Kiefer may or may not be the same Warren Kiefer who is a screenwriter and director and after whom the actor Kiefer Sutherland is named. Sources differ on this point - the director's real name is supposedly Lorenzo Sabatini while the author's father's surname was Birck and his mother's maiden name was Kiefer. Frankly, we ourselves are entirely confused by the whole matter.

1929 American playwright and screenwriter Howard Sackler was born in New York City on December 19, 1929. He is best known for his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning 1967 play The Great White Hope, and for the 1970 film adaptation, which he also scripted. James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander starred in both the stage and screen versions.

1937 Novelist John Kennedy Toole was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 17, 1937. His first attempted novel, The Neon Bible, went unpublished, and after the rejection of his second work, A Confederacy of Dunces, he committed suicide. For a decade his mother shopped the manuscript around, eventually connecting with Walker Percy, with whose support it was finally published to great acclaim and a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

1939 The epic film version of Margaret Mitchell's first and only novel, Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta, Georgia on December 15, 1939.

1951 Hilary Aidan St. George Saunders, who with John Leslie Palmer wrote under the pen name Francis Beeding, died on December 16, 1951. The pseudonymous Beeding wrote many notable mysteries, including The House of Dr. Edwardes, which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock as Spellbound.

1953 Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of Cross Creek and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Yearling, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in St. Augustine, Florida on December 14, 1953 at age 57.

1954 English novelist James Hilton, author of Lost Horizon and Good-bye, Mr. Chips, died in Los Angeles, California on December 20, 1954 at age 54 of liver cancer.

1955 American novelist and screenwriter Horace McCoy, best known for his novel of a Depression-era dance marathon, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, died of a heart attack in Beverly Hills, California on December 15, 1955 at age 58. Among his many other novels were Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and No Pockets in a Shroud, and although most of his film work was not particularly noteworthy, he was an uncredited script assistant for King Kong.

1957 Mystery author Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of Lord Peter Wimsey, died in Witham, Essex of heart failure on December 17, 1957 at age 64.

1961 American playwright Moss Hart, among whose many successes were You Can't Take It With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and My Fair Lady, died in Palm Springs, California at age 57 on December 20, 1961.

1965 English novelist and playwright W. Somerset Maugham, author of Of Human Bondage, Ashenden, The Moon and Sixpence, and The Razor's Edge, died of pneumonia in Nice at age 91 on December 16, 1965.

1967 American musician and author Paul Harding, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel Tinkers, was born on December 19, 1967.

1970 Novelist Pat Conroy's first book, The Boo, a non-fiction tribute to the beloved Commandant of Cadets at The Citadel, was published on December 17, 1970.

1972 British novelist and short story writer L.P. Hartley, best known for his 1953 novel The Go-Between, died in London on December 13, 1972 at age 76.

1978 Barrister and true crime writer Edgar Lustgarten, author of One More Unfortunate, died in London at age 71 on December 15, 1978. He is also remembered for hosting the film series Scotland Yard and The Scales of Justice.

1984 Spanish poet and Nobel laureate Vicente Aleixandre, whose works include Destruction or Love and History of the Heart, died in Madrid at age 86 on December 14, 1984.

1989 The English writer Stella Gibbons, best known for her first novel Cold Comfort Farm, died in London on December 19, 1989 at age 87.

1995 Crime novelist Ross Thomas, author of two Edgar Award-winners, The Cold War Swap and Briarpatch, died of lung cancer in Santa Monica, California on December 18, 1995 at age 69. Some of his novels were published under the name Oliver Bleeck.

1996 Mystery writer Harry Kemelman, famous for his Rabbi David Small series, died in Marblehead, Massachusetts on December 15, 1996 at the age of 88.

1996 South African author Laurens Van Der Post, whose many books included those on his experience as a POW of the Japanese during WWII (elements of which were combined and filmed in 1982 as Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence), as well as numerous travel books and some about the Bushmen of the Kalahari (whose existence he made famous to the Western world), died in London, England on December 16, 1996, three days after his 90th birthday.

1997 Children's book author Emily Cheney Neville, best known for her first novel, It's Like This, Cat, a Newbery Medal winner and one of the first books directed specifically at young adults to feature a contemporary, urban setting, died on December 14, 1997 at age 77.

1997 English-born American poet Denise Levertov died in Seattle, Washington on December 20, 1997 of complications from lymphoma at age 74. Her career had gotten off to an auspicious start when she was twelve and sent some of her poems to T.S. Eliot - he replied with a two-page letter of encouragement.

1998 National Book Award-winning novelist William Gaddis, who averaged just one novel a decade between 1955 and 1994, died on December 16, 1998 of pancreatic cancer in East Hampton, New York a couple of weeks before his 76th birthday.

2001 German novelist W.G. Sebald, whose works included Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn, died in a car accident in Norfolk, England on December 14, 2001. He was 57 years old. Before his death, some believe he was a strong candidate for the Nobel Prize. The Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously, although two exceptions were made, including the 1931 Literature award to the Swedish poet Erik Karlfeldt, who had died earlier that year. Coincidentally (or not, if you believe in Nobel Prize conspiracies), the other exception also hailed from the home country of the award.

2008 American writer Julius Fast, who started with prize-winning mysteries before turning to great commercial success with non-fiction works including What You Should Know About Human Sexual Response and Body Language, died in Kingston, New York on December 16, 2008 at age 89. He was the younger brother of novelist Howard Fast, and won the very first Edgar Award for his first novel, Watchful at Night (1946).

2011 Czech playwright, political dissident, and the first President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel died in Hradecek on December 18, 2011 at age 75.

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