Literary Birthdays – Week of September 13 – 19

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September 13

Tom Holt (born September 13, 1961) – U.K. novelist – Nothing But Blue Skies

Publisher’s blurb for Nothing But Blue Skies:

There are very many reasons why British summers are either non-existent or, alternatively, held on a Thursday. Many of these reasons are either scientific, dull, or both – but all of them are wrong, especially the scientific ones.

The real reason why it rains perpetually from January 1st to December 31st (incl.) is, of course, irritable Chinese Water Dragons. Karen is one such legendary creature. Ancient, noble, near-indestructible and, for a number of wildly improbable reasons, working as an estate-agent, Karen is irritable quite a lot of the time. Hence Wimbledon.

But now things have changed and Karen’s no longer irritable. She’s FURIOUS.

September 14

Hans Faverey (born September 14, 1933) – Dutch poet – Against the Forgetting – Selected Poems

Hans Faverey

Hans Faverey

Chrysanthemums, Rowers

The chrysanthemums
which are in the vase on the table
by the window; these

are not the chrysanthemums
which are by the window
on the table
in the vase.

The wind which is bothering you
and making a mess of your hair; this

is the wind which is messing up your hair;
it is the wind you no longer
want to be bothered by
when your hair is in a mess

Only when someone in a photo
stands as large as life
waiting for his death
is he recognized.

They are all standing on the bank,
watching their own birdie,
laughing, all of them.

No one recognized himself in this photo.
What does suddenly mean in a mirror?
Mirrors never recognize anyone.
What does suddenly mean in a photo?

If soon I can see a hand in front
of my face, let me hope
it is a hand of my own
or it is a hand
which wants to belong to me.

If I want to do something,
should I already have got up
to want to do it, or should I
have wanted to have already

done it to be able
to get up in such a way

that I would have had to do it;

and in so doing
the thread being lost,
did as it wanted itself
done, sans rancune:
though nothing had happened,

and I did no wish myself absent,
for I did no know myself that way,
as it was about to happen.

Read Faverey’s book Against the Forgetting here:

September 15

François, duc de La Rochefoucauld (born September 15, 1613) – French memoirist, writer of proverbs – Maxims (1664)

From Maxims:
“Any discovery made in the land of self-interest
still leaves many unknown territories”

Agatha Christie (born September 15, 1890) – U.K. detective fiction writer – Murder in Mesopotamia (1936, Hercule Poirot)

Excerpt from The Mysterious Affair at Styles – the first
appearance of Hercule Poirot (1916):

As I came out again, I cannoned into a little man who was just entering. I drew aside and apologised, when suddenly, with a loud exclamation, he clasped me in his arms and kissed me warmly.

“Mon ami Hastings!” he cried. “It is indeed mon ami Hastings!”

“Poirot!” I exclaimed. I turned to the pony-trap.

“This is a very pleasant meeting for me, Miss Cynthia. This is my old friend, Monsieur Poirot, whom I have not seen for years.”

“Oh, we know Monsieur Poirot,” said Cynthia gaily. “But I had no idea he
was a friend of yours.”

“Yes, indeed,” said Poirot seriously. “I know Mademoiselle Cynthia. It
is by the charity of that good Mrs. Inglethorp that I am here.”

Then, as I looked at him inquiringly:

“Yes, my friend, she had kindly extended hospitality to seven of my countrypeople who, alas, are refugees from their native land. We Belgians will always remember her with gratitude.”

Poirot was an extraordinary looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible. I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandyfied little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police. As a detective, his flair had been extraordinary, and he had achieved triumphs by unravelling some of the most baffling cases of the day.

Read The Mysterious Affair at Styles here:

September 16

Clive Bell (born September 16, 1881) – U.K. art critic – Art (1913)

Read the book Art here:

September 17

Hank Williams, Sr. (born September 17, 1923) – U.S. country music singer/songwriter – “Your Cheatin’ Heart” Hank Williams.jpg

Listen to Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”

Listen to this Voice of America feature on Hank Williams, directed
toward non-native English speakers:

Ken Kesey (born September 17, 1935) – U.S. novelist, youth culture writer – Sometimes a Great Notion Ken Kesey.jpg

Excerpt from Sometimes a Great Notion:

Yet all up and down the West Coast, there are little towns, much like Wakonda. Up as far as Victoria and down as far as Eureka. Towns dependent on what they are able to wrest from the sea in front of them and from the mountains behind, trapped between both. Towns all hamstrung by geographic economies, by rubber-stamp mayors and chambers of commerce, by quagmire time … canneries all peeling dollar-a-quart Army surplus paint, mills all sprouting moss between curling shingles … all so nearly alike that they might be nested one inside the other like hollow toys. Wiring all corroding, machinery all decaying. People all complaining forever about tough times and trouble, about bad work and worse pay, about cold winds blowing and colder winters coming.”

September 18

Samuel Johnson (born September 18, 1709) – British essayist, poet, novelist – The History of Rasselas (1759)

Read about Rasselas in the blog How Books Got Their Titles:

Excerpt from Rasselas:

The business of a poet, said Imlac, is to examine, not the individual, but the species; to remark general properties and large appearances: he does not number the streaks of the tulip, or describe the different shades in the verdure of the forest. He is to exhibit in his portraits of nature such prominent and striking features, as recal the original to every mind; and must neglect the minuter discriminations, which one may have remarked, and another have neglected, for those characteristicks which are alike obvious to vigilance and carelessness.

“But the knowledge of nature is only half the task of a poet; he must be acquainted likewise with all the modes of life. His character requires that he estimate the happiness and misery of every condition; observe the power of all the passions in all their combinations, and trace the changes of the human mind as they are modified by various institutions and accidental influences of climate or custom, from the spriteliness of infancy to the despondence of decrepitude. He must divest himself of the prejudices of his age or country; he must consider right and wrong in their abstracted and invariable state; he must disregard present laws and opinions, and rise to general and transcendental truths, which will always be the same: he must therefore content himself with the slow progress of his name; contemn the applause of his own time, and commit his claims to the justice of posterity. He must write as the interpreter of nature, and the legislator of mankind, and consider himself as presiding over the thoughts and manners of future generations; as a being superiour to time and place.

“His labour is not yet at an end: he must know many languages and many sciences; and, that his stile may be worthy of his thoughts, must, by incessant practice, familiarize to himself every delicacy of speech and grace of harmony.”

Read the book here:

September 19

Damon Knight (born September 19, 1922) – U.S. science fiction writer and critic

Watch Damon Knight talk about the history of science fiction writing:


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