LitBirthdays in October

October 1

Julie Andrews

Majrooh Sultanpuri (Asrar Hussain Khan)

Jimmy Carter

October 2

Annie Leibovitz

Bud Abbott 

Groucho (Julius Henry) Marx

Mahatma Gandhi

October 3

John Patrick Shanley

Alvin Toffler

Talib Kwili

October 4

Adam Hollanek

Kazuki Takahashi

Anne Rice

Rene (Mable Neighbour) Cloke


October 5

Zoran Živković

Václav Havel

Bernie Mac

Magda Szabó


October 6

David Brin

Ayten Mutlu

Ariane Dreyfus


October 7

Andreea Iacob

Sherman Alexie, Jr.

Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones)

John Cougar Mellencamp

October 8

Ha Joon Chang

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) Landau

Harvey Lawrence Pekar


October 9

Jody Williams

Ivo Andric

John Lennon

Jackson Browne


October 10

Dilsa Demirbag Sten

Ken Saro-Wiwa

Frederick Barthelme


October 11

 Amos Gitai

Thích Nhất Hạnh

Elmore Leonard

October 12

Rafael Ábalos

Richard Price

Ding Ling (Jiǎng Bīngzhī 蒋冰之)


October 13

Selima Hill

Christine Nöstlinger

Lenny Bruce


October 14

Hannah Arendt

Erik Johan Stagnelius 

Edward Estlin Cummings


October 15

Hans Lindahl

Biljana Srbljanović 

Mario Puzo


October 16

George Washington Williams 

George Turner

Robert Hall Weir (Bob Weir)


October 17

Alexandrine Tinné

Eminem (Marshall Bruce Mathers III)

Jupiter Hammon


October 18

Juan Tamariz

Thomas Love Peacock

Jan Erik Vold


October 19

Agnès Jaoui 

John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell)

Miguel Ángel Asturias


October 20

Claudio Bergamin

Dorothea Rosa Herliany 

Art Buchwald

Lepa Brena


October 21

Salomé Ureña de Henríquez 

Simon Gray

Ursula Le Guin


October 22

John Wesley Harding 

Madhav Ghimire

Doris Lessing

Deepak Chopra


October 23

Antjie Krog

Weird Al Yankovic (Alfred Matthew Yankovic)

Michael Crichton


October 24

Ziraldo Alves Pinto

Emma Donoghue 

Alexandra David-Néel


October 25

Christos Tsiolkas

Suheir Hammad

Anne Tyler

Geoffrey Chaucer


October 26

Carlo Lucarelli

Shan Sa

Infinito 2017 (Marcellous Lamont Lovelace)


October 27

Francis Fukuyama

Albert Wendt

Nawal El Saadawi (Arabic: نوال السعداوى‎)


October 28

Frédéric C. Martel 

Ayi Kwei Armah

Louis Jenkins


October 29

Frans de Waal

Zbigniew Herbert

Derek Miller

October 30

Robert Caro

Louis Malle

Grace Slick (Grace Barnett Wing)

October 31

Roy Arogan

Susan Orlean

John Keats

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Sophie Hannah and Poirot

2014 Fall for the Book Festival Report

The Monogram Murders

by Sophie Hannah

Mystery author Sophie Hannah talks about writing the first and only Poirot mystery since Agatha Christie

(Excerpts from the 2014 Fall for the Book Festival)

How the book came about

(10 minutes)

Golden Age Mystery Novels

(6 minutes)

Inspiration for Poirot

(11 minutes)


Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s novels have been sold around the world. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand-new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation, Hercule Poirot.

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle sure to baffle and delight Christie’s fans as well as readers who have not yet read her work. Written with the full backing of Christie’s family, and featuring the most iconic detective of all time, this new novel is a major event for mystery lovers the world over.

From reader reviews:

“Fair is fair, and The Monogram Murders should not be judged on whether it is pitch-perfect Agatha Christie — it clearly isn’t — but whether it is an enjoyable mystery. And there Sophie succeeds.”

(Miss Ivonne)

“For this reader (an Englishman who has lived in the States for the past ten years), THE MONOGRAM MURDERS was nothing short of bliss. You can read it as an Agatha Christie novel, and on that score I think it compares favorably with a lot of Dame A’s work. But you can also read it as something deeper and darker.

I disagree with the user who claims that the book ‘misses the point entirely’. The point, as I see it, is for a new voice to step into Christie’s shoes. Whether or not Sophie Hannah nails Christie’s voice exactly (although for my money she does!) seems to me beside the point. This is HER Poirot, and I’m very grateful to have read it.”

(John Massey)

“Sophie Hannah’s The Monogram Murders is a disappointing Hercule Poirot pastiche, with an oddly-behaving Poirot, an unlikable narrator in Edward Catchpole and a lumbering and ultimately nonsensical puzzle plot structure, lacking the grace and deceptive simplicity of Christie’s narratives. Sophie Hannah has only made me appreciate the peerless talent of the true Queen of Crime even more.

The novel, which is set in 1929, opens with a chapter reminiscent of the late Christie novel Third Girl (1966). Poirot encounters a mystery woman named Jennie, who seems to be in fear for her life. Jennie makes intriguing cryptic comments about her plight before fleeing from Poirot into the night.

For those of us used to Poirot delicately sipping tisane, chocolat, creme de menthe and sirop de cassis, the idea of this well-traveled Continental often dismissive of English gastronomy not only grabbing coffee at an insalubrious London coffee house–he eats beef chop and vermicelli souffle there too, incidentally–but actually finding it the best coffee he has had in all the world seems well-nigh inconceivable.

Our new narrator is one Inspector Edward Catchpool, who rooms at the same lodging house as Poirot (so that’s why Hannah plops Poirot down there!). We learn the novel is in fact a manuscript written by Catchpool, which explains the sudden point-of-view shifts that occur. Catchpool is one dim and dismal fellow. Never have I so missed Poirot’s perennial Golden Age “Watson,” Captain Arthur Hastings. Hastings may not be the brightest bulb in the art deco chandelier, but he is of course merely an amateur assistant to Poirot and there is a great deal of charm and affection in the Poirot-Hastings relationship, as portrayed by Christie. I discerned neither charm nor affection in the Poirot-Catchpool relationship.”

(Curtis Evans)

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LitBirthdays September 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Marie Arana!

Marie Arana born September 15, 1949

Marie Arana (born 1949) U.S. / Peruvian journalist, memoirist – American Chica (2001);  Bolivar, American Liberator (2013)

Read the Wikipedia entry for Marie Arana here and visit Arana’s website here. Read more about Arana here.

Listen to Marie Arana on the Diane Rehm Show in 2001.

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LitBirthdays September 8, 2014

2014 National Book Festival Report

Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

by Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez talks about life and the essays in his book. (Excerpts from his speech at the 2014 National Book Festival)

Introduction and the death of religion

(5 minutes)

Lost touch with the local

(5 minutes)

Women and the darkness of the cave

(5 minutes)

Mother Teresa and questions

(11 minutes)

From the Booklist description:

“Richard Rodriguez may be the most empathic essayist in America….His sentences are reliable joys: liquid and casual, they slip in and out of philosophy and anecdote noiselessly, like people padding through an empty chapel, expecting to hear nothing more than the sound of their own passage.”

(Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker)

From reader reviews:

This is essay writing carried to the highest level of art, but without the stuffy sound of that term, if that’s what it has for you. He is never ponderous, always engaging. He collages more than he used to, bits and pieces of historical or topical writing, jumps back and forth from past to present, turns on a dime from universal to personal, and allows full range to his erudition, which is considerable. (Bartolo)

If there is a uniting thread in this collection, it is the essays devoted to examination of the three religions that sprang of desert origins–Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The author’s own ambivalent but steady connection to Catholicism is examined throughout, particularly when he is musing about homosexuality and women. His observations on these subjects are compelling and authentic. (Barry Ballow)

Richard Rodriguez is a compelling oral essayist. The voice, the perpetual expression of sadness, the complex mix of cultures he personifies produce an often arresting composite on TV where we can see and hear him. I am sorry to say I was disappointed by cold words on the printed page, which I found disjointed and often incomprehensible. This seems to be a collection of essays tied together by the label “spiritual autobiography” which it did not seem to be, at a level I could understand. I did find one bright spot: his praise of the “heroic women” — the Sisters of Mercy who educated him– is moving, and long overdue in our culture. (Dr. Jay)




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