LitBirthdays Dick Gregory

Happy Birthday Dick Gregory!

Richard Gregory (born October 12, 1932) – U.S. comedian, civil rights activist

Read about Dick Gregory here and here

Read the Guardian obituary for Dick Gregory here

“I walked into this restaurant and this waitress said ‘we don’t serve coloured people here’ and I said ‘that’s all right, I don’t eat coloured people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’” The joke encapsulates the three careers pursued by Gregory, who has died aged 84 – comedian, political activist and diet expert.”


Dick Gregory performs standup and speaks to David Letterman about his life (1984)

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October LitBirthdays

October (10)

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

Georgi Tenev

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)

Marcello Gagliani Caputo

October 31

Roy Arogan

Susan Orlean

John Keats

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September 15 – Agatha Christie

Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (born September 15, 1890) U.K. author of detective fiction – The Hollow (1946)

Read about Agatha Christie here and here

Watch a documentary about Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance
in December 1926

Watch a documentary about Christie’s writing

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September 6 – Robert Pirsig

Happy Birthday Robert Pirsig!

Robert Pirsig

Robert Maynard Pirsig – born September 6, 1928 – philosopher, novelist (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974)

Read the Wikipedia article about Robert Pirsig

Read a 2006 Guardian article about Robert Pirsig:

Twenty-six years, and several revisionist readings of the book [Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance] later, I’m still wondering what Pirsig thinks of when he thinks of himself. He suggests a lot of that idea still goes back to his childhood as a disaffected prodigy. He says that ever since he could think he had an overwhelming desire to have a theory that explained everything. As a young man – he was at university at 15 studying chemistry – he thought the answer might lie in science, but he quickly lost that faith. ‘Science could not teach me how to understand girls sitting in my class, even.’

He went to search elsewhere. After the army he majored in philosophy and persuaded his tutor to help him get a place on a course in Indian mysticism at Benares, where he found more questions than answers. He wound up back home, married, drifting between Mexico and the States, writing technical manuals and ads for the mortuary cosmetics industry. It was when he picked up philosophy again in Montana, and started teaching, that Phaedrus and his desire for truth overtook Pirsig once more.

At that time, he recalls, in his early thirties, he was so full of anxiety that he would often be physically sick before each class he taught.

Read about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in this New York Times obituary

Part road-trip novel, part treatise, part open letter to a younger generation, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” unfolds as a fictionalized account of a cross-country motorcycle trip that Mr. Pirsig took in 1968 with his 11-year-old son, Christopher, and two friends.
The narrative alternates between travelogue-like accounts of their 17 days on the road, from the Pirsigs’ home in Minnesota to the Pacific Coast, and long interior monologues that he calls his “Chautauquas,” after the open-air educational meetings at Lake Chautauqua, N.Y., popular with self-improvers since the 19th century.
Mr. Pirsig’s narrator (his barely disguised stand-in) focuses on what he sees as two profound schisms. The first lay in the 1960s culture war, in which the “hippies” rejected industrialization and the technological values that had been embraced by the “straight” mainstream society.
The second schism is in the narrator’s own mind, as he struggles in his hyperrational way to understand his recent mental breakdown. Mr. Pirsig, who was told he had schizophrenia in the early 1960s, said that writing the book was partly an effort to make peace with himself after two years of hospital treatments, including electric shock therapy, and the turmoil that he, his wife and children suffered as a result.
Describing both breakdowns, cultural and personal, Mr. Pirsig s narrator invokes the Civil War: “Two worlds growingly alienated and hateful toward each other, with everyone wondering if it will always be this way, a house divided against itself.”
He adds: “What I’m trying to do here is put it all together. It’s so big. That’s why I seem to wander sometimes.”

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September LitBirthdays


September 1

Nelson George

James Reaney

Eleanor Hibbert (aka Victoria Holt

Lily Tomlin

September 2

Tim Key

Tom Glazer

William C. Rhoden

Tetsuo Hara
原 哲夫

September 3

Eduardo Galeano

Naomi Lewis

Mahjoor (Ghulam Ahmad)

Mort Walker

Spike Feresten

September 4

Joan Aiken

Antonin Artaud

Damon Kyle Wayans

Richard Wright

September 5

Bob Newhart

Werner Herzog

Robert Fergusson

Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara)

September 6

Sergio Aragonés

Edward Einhorn

Christopher Brookmyre

Robyn Davidson

September 7

Elia Kazan

(Janet) Taylor Caldwell

Houshang Moradi Kermani

September 8

Boris Ryzhy

Michael Frayn

Kimberly Peirce

Jack Prelutsky

September 9

Aleksandar Hemon

Leo Tolstoy

Sonia Sanchez

September 10

Shlomo Sand

Franz Werfel

Charles Kuralt

Andrei Makine

September 11

Katri Vala

D(avid) H(erbert) Lawrence

Tony Gilroy

September 12

Kristin Hunter Lattany

Louis Macneice

Stanislav Lem

September 13

Bill Monroe

Roald Dahl

Tom Holt

Tavis Smiley

September 14

Ivan Klima

Hans Faverey

Ekiwah Adler Beléndez

Ayo (Joy Alasunmibo Ogunmakin)

September 15

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

François, duc de La Rochefoucauld

Agatha Christie

Dan Lungu

Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich (Elizabeth Charlotte Welskopf)

Marie Arana

September 16

Prasoon Joshi

Clive Bell

Molly Shannon

Paul Henning

September 17

Igor Štiks

Hank Williams,

Ken Kesey

Hope Larson

Francis Chichester

September 18

Samuel Johnson

Christopher Lynn Hedges

Agnes de Mille

September 19

Oksana Zabuzhko

Maud Sulter

Damon Knight

September 20

Kazumasa Oda
(小田和正 / Oda Kazumasa)

Judith Thompson

Upton Sinclair

Charlie Kaufman (Charles Stewart Kaufman)

Slappy White (Melvin White)

September 21

Ethan Coen

Chuck Jones

Frédéric Beigbeder

Stephen King

Leonard Cohen

H.G. Wells

Édouard Glissant

September 22

Rene O. Villanueva

Ashokamitran (Jagadisa Thyagarajan)

György Faludy

Manzoor Ahmad

Svilen Noev

September 23

Joshua Foer


Ana Marie Cox

Pauline Réage (Anne Desclos)

Ani DiFranco

September 24

Eavan Boland

Brinck (Niels Brinck Kristensen)

Nia Vardalos

F. Scott Fitzgerald

September 25

Ian Tyson

William Faulkner

Shel Silverstein

Lu Xun

Andrzej Stasiuk

September 26

Raoul Cauvin

Jane Smiley

T.S. Eliot

Zhang Tianyi

September 27

Romano Scarpa

Josef Škvorecký

Grazia Deledda

September 28

Confucius / 孔子 / Kǒng Zǐ

Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys)

Prosper Mérimée

Rosario Ferré

September 29

Gábor Csupó

Steve Tesich

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

September 30

Francesco Tullio Altan

Laura Esquivel

Elie Wiesel

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

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LitBirthdays Ali Smith

Happy Birthday Ali Smith!

Ali Smith

Ali Smith (born August 24 1962) – Scottish fiction and nonfiction author – Winter (2017)

Read about Ali Smith here and here

Smith grew up in Inverness, the youngest, by some years, of five children, and had what she describes as “an ideal childhood”. Her parents had both left school prematurely, thrust into the world of work by the death of their parents and a shortage of money.

Her father founded a small contracting business, wiring up the houses that lined Loch Ness, including that of the writer of Ring of Bright Water, Gavin Maxwell (“He’s a bit funny, you know,” he told his daughter). Deprived of education themselves, they determinedly steered their children towards university, with the professions firmly in mind; Smith was to be a lawyer. “I knew I’d be terrible. I couldn’t argue to save myself, never mind save anybody else, and I knew there was something else I wanted to do.” She wanted to study English; her parents didn’t want her to. But there was never a row: “In a family of five, you learn to sit still as a stone sometimes, and just hold your position … there was a pressure and I exerted a similar pressure back, and at some point it was all right.”

(From the Guardian, September 6, 2014)

Ali Smith speaks at a 2012 conference on the task of writing a novel

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LitBirthdays Kamila Shamsie

Happy Birthday Kamila Shamsie!

Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie (born August 13, 1973) – Pakistani novelist – Home Fire (2017)

Read about Kamila Shamsie here and here
“…it wasn’t until Shamsie moved to America as a student that she began to write about Karachi. ‘That came out of homesickness,’ she says. ‘It was a way of recreating the world on the page.'”

Shamsie gives a talk on Karachi culture:

“Urdu poetry… has always been very much more democratic in a way that it doesn’t even rely on literacy. Where there’s music, there’s poetry.”
[Reading from one of her books at minute 47:40]


Read about Shamsie’s nomination for the 2017 Man Booker Prize here

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