Dylan Thomas at 100

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) is being fêted in his homeland and abroad on the eve of what would be his 100th birthday. Thomas’ works include ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ and ‘The hunchback in the park.’  The subject of much literary criticism and commentary over the years, he has also been compared to giants like T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.

Most events will take place at Swansea’s Dylan Thomas National Literature Centre. The Centre is housed in the Guildhall, a Victorian-era building extensively refurbished and opened to the public in 1995 by former president Jimmy Carter. The building itself is worth a visit to Swansea and as the city’s cultural and literary epicenter, it epitomizes the Welsh phrase Tŷ Llên, “A House of Literature.” (more…)

The Tomahawk: Poe & Criticism, Then and Now

Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe Illustrated by Harry Clarke
Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe Illustrated by Harry Clarke

Poe fans have much to celebrate – there was a statue dedication in Boston, Susan Jaffe Tane‘s Poe collection is on exhibit at the Grolier Club, and a movie based on his short story “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” will appear in theaters just in time for Halloween. While Poe’s popularity endures as the father of the modern detective genre, in his lifetime, he was better known as a critic. (more…)

Gregory Maguire’s Misunderstood Witches

Author Gregory Maguire

Today’s theatergoers and readers like their witches misunderstood and maligned, with an underlying desire to do good. Look no further than the latest offerings from Hollywood – from Angelina Jolie as the wronged Maleficent in the eponymous film, to Disney’s reincarnation of the Ice Queen in the animated blockbuster Frozen. Two of Gregory Maguire’s books, the bestselling Wicked, and his latest publication, Egg & Spoon (Candlewick Press, $17.99) also deal with powerful women on the fringes of society, whose magical gifts may actually be their community’s salvation.

Maguire was a misunderstood witch once as well, without heels and wig. During a conversation this summer, he recalled a Halloween during his childhood when he was casting about the family home for a costume. “There were seven of us, and so we had to cobble together costumes with what we had. One of my brothers was an altar boy, and I found his black cassock. It is the only time in my life I indulged in cross dressing.” That amusing memory helped Maguire to recall why he wanted to be a witch in the first place. “I could tell from my childhood reading that the identity of a witch was porous and permissible. Everybody could partake of that character’s possible sense of shape-shifting and of performing mysterious acts. And so could I, even as a young boy.” Those commutative properties informed the author’s version of Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch of Russian lore who figures prominently in this latest book. (more…)

New Kerouac Letters Discovered

A young Kerouac

After leaving Lowell, Massachusetts, on a football scholarship to Horace Mann, a prep school in New York City, Jack Kerouac maintained a friendly and candid correspondence with his childhood friend George Apostolos. Seventeen of those letters, along with two postcards, and seven writing fragments were discovered by Apostolos’s daughter after his death and will be auctioned this fall in Boston by Skinner.

Sendak Collection Recalled to Connecticut

Image from First Folio listing for “Mother Goose Collection” on Biblio.com

In a stunning announcement this weekend, Derick Dreher, director of the Rosenbach of the Free Library in Philadelphia, stated that the institution’s Maurice Sendak collection, which had been “on loan” for decades, will be transferred to Connecticut, where Sendak estate trustees are planning to build a museum dedicated to the artist.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sendak never formally gifted the thousands of original drawings and manuscripts he deposited at the Rosenbach beginning in the 1960s. The artist died in 2012, and his will indicates that the collection belongs to his eponymous foundation, the trustees of which are tasked with founding a Sendak museum near his former home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The collection formerly on deposit at the Rosenbach will populate the new museum’s vault. (more…)

Jane Austen Fans Break World Record

[Image from Jane Austen Festival website]
Jane Austen fans gathered in Bath, England, this past weekend to break the world record for the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costume. (Apparently not counting the people who were actually alive in the Regency era).

With 550 men, women, and children regaled in Regency apparel in front of the novelist’s former home, the fans were pleased to learn that they broke the previous world record of 491 people. That record–in a disappointing, albeit temporary setback to British Jane Austen fans–was set in America.  (more…)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memoir to be Published this Fall

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memoir to be Published this Fall
Laura Ingalls Wilder Memoir to be Published this Fall

A previously unpublished memoir by beloved children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder will see the light of day this fall. “Pioneer Girl,” which was rejected by publishers during Wilder’s lifetime, will be published in September by the South Dakota Historical Society. The memoir includes a variety of episodes from Wilder’s girlhood on the American frontier that she considered inappropriate for inclusion in her bestselling children’s novels. (more…)

Doris Lessing’s Book Collection Donated to Zimbabwe Public Library

Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing

The estate of Doris Lessing, the British novelist who died last year at 94 years old, donated 3,000 books from her personal collection to a public library in Harare, Zimbabwe. The donation was made in her name by various beneficiaries listed under her will.

In August, staff from Lessing’s publisher Harper Collins, in conjunction with the nonprofit Book Aid International, packed up books in the author’s former London home for shipment to Africa. The volunteers found books in packed into every nook and corner of the house. Biographies, histories, reference books, poetry, and fiction were among the selected books. (more…)

Copernicus Book Thought Destroyed in Fire is Found Again

The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany – one of the country’s finest special collections – suffered a terrible fire in 2004.  50,000 books were lost to the flames, a full 25% of which were considered by the library to be irreplaceable.  One of the lost titles was Copernicus’s 1543 treatise De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Libri VI, an essential work in the history of science. (more…)