Literary Birthdays – Week of October 4 – 10

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October 4

Anne Rice (born October 4, 1941) – U.S. novelist – Interview with the Vampire (1976)

Excerpt from Interview with the Vampire

“No,” said the vampire abruptly. “We can’t begin that way. Is your equipment ready?”

“Yes,” said the boy.

“Then sit down. I’m going to turn on the overhead light.”

“But I thought vampires didn’t like the light,” said the boy. “If you think the dark adds atmosphere–” But then he stopped. The vampire was watching him with his back to the window. The boy could make out nothing of his face now, and something about the still figure there distracted him. He started to say something again but he said nothing. And then he sighed with relief when the vampire moved towards the table and reached for the overhead cord.

At once the room was flooded with a harsh yellow light. And the boy, staring up at the vampire, could not repress a gasp. His fingers danced backwards on the table to grasp the edge. “Dear God!” he whispered, and then he gazed, speechless, at the vampire.

The vampire was utterly white and smooth, as if he were sculpted from bleached bone, and his face was as seemingly inanimate as a statue, except for two brilliant green eyes that looked down at the boy intently like flames in a skull. But then the vampire smiled almost wistfully, and the smooth white substance of his face moved with the infinitely flexible but minimal lines of a cartoon. “Do you see?” he asked softly?

Read more here:

Rene (Mable Neighbour) Cloke (born October 4, 1904) – U.K. children’s book illustrator, author cloke-town mouse-2.psd

See examples of Rene Cloke’s book art here:

October 5

Václav Havel (born October 5, 1936) – Czech playwright, political leader – “Leaving”

Listen to this Radio Praha feature about Havel’s latest play, Leaving

bernie-mac Bernie Mac (Bernard Jeffrey McCullough) (born October 5, 1957) – U.S. comedian, actor – Maybe You Never Cry Again (2004 memoir)

Excerpt from Maybe You Never Cry Again:

I was born on October 5, 1957, on the south side of Chicago, in the Woodlawn area, a neighborhood that hasn’t changed much in forty-five years.

We were poor. You know how to tell if a person’s poor? You look in the fridge. If there”s nothing in there but bologna, you’re talkin’ serious poor. Mmmm, but that bologna was good! We used to fry it up till a black circle formed at the edges, then roll it like a hot dog and eat it slow, make it last. You’d be chewing with your eyes closed, telling yourself, Never had nothin’ taste so good!

Lot of beans in our house too. Pinto beans. Lima beans. Red beans. And cereal. Only you’d be eating it with a fork, leave the milk at the bottom for the next guy. I ain’t lyin’. You think I’m lyin’, you don’t know what poor is.

Sundays was different, though. Sundays we had a real dinner. Roast and mashed potatoes and butter rolls and macaroni and cheese and gravy, boatloads of gravy. That was some serious eating. I couldn’t wait for Sundays. I lived for Sundays. ‘Course, next day we were back to potted meat and beans, with sometimes a neck bone floating around in there if you was lucky.

Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t think nothin’ about it.  I thought we were just like everybody else.  I thought life was good. I thought, This is how life is.

Watch Bernie Mac talk about Kids
(strong language/profanity)

More Mac

October 6

Ariane Dreyfus

Ariane Dreyfus (born October 6, 1958) – French poet

Read the French Wikipedia article about Ariane Dreyfus here:


Mais Dieu, surtout pas. / But God, certainly not.
Ne mettez pas de mots vides dans votre bouche, / Don’t put empty words in your mouth,
Hommes, regardez / People: look

Iris, malgré le mur, / Iris, despite the wall,
Debout / is standing
C’est votre bleu. / It’s your blue.

Votre ligne, imaginons / Your line, we imagine
Une plaie vivement recousue. / A deep wound stitched.

Votre broderie, sa joie se gonflant, / Your embroidery, its joy inflated,
Quelques secondes d’amour par miracle successives. / A few sequential seconds of love, by some miracle.

Ici, / Here
Du balancement le velours dressé, / A stand to balance the velvet,
Iris. / Iris.

Je m’endors les mains sur toi. / I fall asleep in your hands.
Tu m’aimes si profondément qu’en dormant / You love me so deeply when sleeping
Il y a ton visage pour le dire. / It’s written on your face.

La nuit n’est pas noire. / The night is not black.
Reconnaître ton sexe / Knowing your sex
A mon bonheur touché, / I reached  happiness,
Fleur de l’infinie sculpture, fleur. / Flower of infinite sculpture: flower.

Plus rien de multiple. / Never again repeated.
La simplicité qui serait violente de te perdre, / The simple fact of losing you
qui serait d’un coup. / would be a blow.

La vie simple vite tranchée / This ordinary life sliced apart
Serait mon visage dans la sciure. / Would be my face in the sawdust.

Tu fermes les yeux pour que je les embrasse aussi, / You close your eyes for me to kiss them too,
C’est en confiance le ciel. / Believing in  heaven.
La langue dans le baiser, je dis la vérité. / In the language of kissing, I tell the truth.

Si j’ai la voix grave ? / Isn’t my voice deep?
Tantôt basse, tantôt soulevée dans le corps que tu cherches au milieu de tes mains. / Sometimes low, sometimes high, in the body that you seek with your hands.
Mes enfants grandissent, l’air passe. Serre-moi, toi qui es l’amour amour. / My children grow up, in passing. Hold me, you who are love’s  love.

La vie éternelle n’est que mort, la vie veut seulement que les épaules frémissent l’une et l’autre et s’il fait froid, c’est qu’il n’y a pas de lumière sans qu’elle change. /
Eternal life is nothing but death, a life that is only shivering, rubbing shoulders; and it is cold because there is no light without change.
La nuit les mains dansent obscurément. / The hands of night dance darkly.

Parfois le jour tu pars, / Sometimes you leave during the day,
Je ramasse de l’invisible à plein courage. / And I find courage in the invisible.

Read Iris and other poems (in French) here:

October 7

Amiri Baraka
Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones)  (born October 7, 1934) – U.S. poet, playwright, essayist – “Somebody Blew Up America” 2001

Excerpts from Somebody Blew Up America

(All thinking people
oppose terrorism
both domestic
& international…
But one should not
be used
To cover the other)

They say its some terrorist, some
A Rab, in
It wasn’t our American terrorists
It wasn’t the Klan or the Skin heads
Or the them that blows up nigger
Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row
It wasn’t Trent Lott
Or David Duke or Giuliani
Or Schundler, Helms retiring
* * *
Who/ Who / Who/

Who stole Puerto Rico
Who stole the Indies, the Philipines, Manhattan
Australia & The Hebrides
Who forced opium on the Chinese

Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers

Who owned the slave ship
Who run the army

Who the fake president
Who the ruler
Who the banker
* * *
Like an Owl exploding
In your life in your brain in your self
Like an Owl who know the devil
All night, all day if you listen, Like an Owl
Exploding in fire. We hear the questions rise
In terrible flame like the whistle of a crazy dog

Like the acid vomit of the fire of Hell
Who and Who and WHO (+) who who ^
Whoooo and Whooooooooooooooooooooo!

Read the whole poem here:

Amiri Baraka performs Somebody Blew Up America:

Sherman Alexie, Jr. (born October 7, 1966) – U.S. novelist, poet – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007)
Sherman Alexie by Mike Urban screenshot

After Building the Lego Star Wars Ultimate Death Star

How many planets do you want to destroy?
Don’t worry, Daddy, this is just a big toy,
And there is nothing more fun than making noise.

My sons, when I was a boy, I threw dirt clods
And snow grenades stuffed with hidden rocks, and fought
Enemies — other Indian boys — who thought,

Like me, that joyful war turned us into gods.

Read more Alexie poems in the January 2009 edition of Mudlark Flashes:

Visit Alexie’s website:

October 8

Ezekiel Landau Yechezkel (Ezekiel) Landau (born October 8, 1713) – Polish rabbi, interpreter of Jewish law – Nodah Bi Yehuda

Excerpt from an article about Rabbi Landau:

Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, in his magnum opus Nodah B’Yehuda, approaches the copyright issue from the perspective of the Talmudic passage, familiar to any Yeshiva student:

One who derives benefit and the other suffers loss [is liable].

The case addressed by Rabbi Landau involved a scholar who authorized a Talmudic commentary and paid the publisher the stipulated amount for printing his work (upon the margin of the page of Talmud). After completion of the printing, the publisher discarded the characters used in the printing of the commentary, but retained the typeset characters of the Talmudic text for use in printing an edition of the Talmud. The scholar claimed that by paying for the entire printing, he owned a share in the letter arrangement of the Talmudic text and was therefore entitled to a portion of the revenues realized by the sale of these volumes of Talmud. The defendant claimed that the actual print characters belonged to him and, as such, the plaintiff had no claim to any of the profits.

Rabbi Landau ruled that in cases where the author paid for the typesetting, the author retains rights to any reprintings made from those selfsame characters.

He [the printer] has caused a great loss [to the author], for if the printer had not published these [second] books, there would have been a great demand for Reuven’s [the author’s] work [which included the Talmudic text]…. Now, that Shimon [the printer] has printed [his volumes], these volumes which are cheap and in great supply will reduce the demand for Reuven’s [the author’s] work. Since the printer has caused the author a financial loss, we obligate him to pay all that he benefited from the author’s share in the typeset arrangement.

Read the entire article here:

Here is an anecdote about Rabbi Landau in A Treasury of Jewish Anecdotes by Lawrence Jeffrey Epstein (page 134)

A Jew from Prague traveled to a distant town in order to teach. As Passover approached, he wanted to send 100 gold crowns to his wife. Unfortunately, there were no postal connections in his small town, so he asked a merchant going to Prague if he would bring the money to the teacher’s wife. The merchant said that he did not wish to take the money because there was a chance he might lose it. The teacher promised to pay 5 crowns as a fee. The merchant said, “Five crowns is not enough. Since, however, your wife is in need, in this case I will deliver it provided you write to your wife that I may take as much money as I wish to for my efforts.”
The teacher agreed to this arrangement. When the merchant arrived in Prague, however, he told the teacher’s wife that he intended to give her only one crown out of the hundred. The woman was enraged. The two were to settle the dispute before Rabbi Landau.
The rabbi listened carefully to both sides and said, “I have decided that you, the merchant, may keep only one crown and must give 99 to this woman. Her husband’s note reads ‘I am sending 100 crowns with the understanding that the bearer is to give to my wife as much as he wishes.’ Since you wish 99 crowns, that is the exact amount you must give to this woman.”

October 9

Ivo Andric
Ivo Andric (born October 9, 1892) – Yugoslav (Croatian) novelist, 1961 literature Nobel Prize winner – The Bridge on the Drina (1945)

Read about the Bosnian bridge made famous by Andric’s novel:

Read more about Andric


October 10

Ken Saro Wiwa
Ken Saro-Wiwa (born October 10, 1941) – Nigerian activist, dramatist, diarist, poet – The Transistor Radio

Listen to a scene from The Transistor Radio:

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