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Posts from the ‘Author Profiles’ Category

Tolkien In His Own Words

If you’re in the mood for a somewhat dry 1968 BBC documentary about JRR Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, then today’s post is for you!

Below is the first part of the documentary about Tolkien, which is part of the BBC series called “In Their Own Words.”

The setting is the Oxford campus, so the documentary also includes interviews with students and scenes from around campus. There’s dramatic, eerie music, grainy video, and, oh yeah, an interview with Tolkien as he walks throughout Oxford.

He explains how the Hobbit originated and what his thought process was in creating LOTR.

Like I said, a little dull in that 1960s documentary kind of way, but worth a watch if you haven’t seen much of Tolkien on video.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Should A Dead Author’s Private Letters Become Public?

One of the few things that stood out to me while I was reading Possession was this issue of publishing letters of dead authors.

The long-winding story in Possession is partly about this issue, and it touches on a real situation we’ve seen many times over. For example, excerpts from Elizabeth Bowen’s love letters to Charles Ritchie (and many diary entries about him) were published in 2009 as Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, Letters and Diaries 1941-1973.

The book’s editor, Victoria Glendinning discusses how she came across the letters in this Guardian article: Read more

Harry Potter Readers Are Stupid

So says A.S. Byatt, author of Possession. I’m paraphrasing.

The more I read about A.S. Byatt, the less likeable she seems.

Last week, we talked about her dismissiveness of bloggers and social media. This week, let’s talk about how much she dislikes Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. How fun!

Byatt comes across as the quintessential book snob. The complex, fantastical world of Harry Potter isn’t good enough for her. J.K. Rowling is just a simpleton, parroting old clichés.

This comes from an op-ed Byatt wrote for the New York Times in 2003.

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A.S. Byatt: “I’m terrified of accidentally tweeting.”

I stumbled across this interview that The Guardian did with A.S. Byatt a few years ago.

In much of the interview, she discusses the difficulties of communicating reality when reality is, more often than not, filled with the mundane. Within that discussion, she talks about the blogosphere, Facebook, and Twitter, and I find some of this fascinating because her mindset is so foreign to me.

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Politics Might Surprise You

I try to avoid politics on this blog. As a general rule, I despise politics and all that comes with it.

But when an author has unique political views, sometimes I step into the shallow end of the pool a little. That’s the case today with Zora Neale Hurston.

She was a Republican. Granted, being a Republican in the 1950s is different than being a Republican in 2014. But, still, her views were certainly unique in her culture during that time.

John McWhorter is a professor at Columbia University, and he’s called Hurston “America’s favorite black conservative.” Other academics have said she was more in line with a Libertarian. Either way, she wasn’t a Democrat—which generally gets about 90% of the African-American vote, according to The National Review. 

From the little reading I’ve done by and about Hurston, it seems she was very passionate about individual pride and personal responsibility, over cultural pride and “groupthink.”

You even see sprinkles of that throughout Their Eyes Were Watching God:

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How Zora Neale Hurston Changed African-American Culture

“How does it feel to be a problem?”

That’s what W.E.B. Du Bois asked of black people in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk. It was the beginning of a philosophical change for African-Americans, whose role in American society to that point had been relegated to “the Negro problem.”

Du Bois was one of the forerunners of the racial uplift idealogy. Middle and upper class African-Americans were sick of being portrayed in negative stereotypes, so these community leaders attempted to change those perceptions.

According to our dear friends at Wikipedia:

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The Amis Family Feud: Why Did Kingsley Hate His Son’s Work?

One of the most well-known father-son duos in all of literature has to be Martin Amis and his father, Kingsley Amis.

Martin, of course, is the author of Money while his father, Kingsley, is the author of Lucky Jim–both books are on the Time list.

The most interesting thing about their relationship, though, is Kingsley Amis’s disdain for his son’s work. Before he passed in 1995, the elder Amis wasn’t shy about publicly ridiculing Martin’s writing.

According to Martin, the two men still got along despite their differences. Here’s how he described their relationship to The New York Times in 1990.

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“I’ll try another one anyway, I guess.”

Six weeks after The Day of the Locust was published in 1939, Nathanael West wrote a letter to his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was updating F. Scott Fitzgerald on how book sales were going.

The letter contained this quote from West:

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Henry Roth’s Secret

We speculated a little last week about why Henry Roth might have gone into a 40 year writing funk after Call It Sleep was published in 1934.

This excerpt from a New York Times article goes a long way toward explaining the real reasons:

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The Problem With The Name Henry Roth

As you guys know, I do some research on the books from the Time list as I’m reading them. It goes without saying that Google is my friend.

So, as I prepared to read Call It Sleep, I attempted to do a quick Google search for its author, Henry Roth.

And here’s what you get when you google Henry Roth:

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