Literary Birthdays – December 27 – January 2

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December 27

Kevin Patterson (born December 27, 1964) – Canadian novelist, short story writer, M.D. – News from the Red Desert (2016)  kevin-patterson

Read an excerpt from Patterson’s short story about a Canadian medical officer in Afghanistan: “Talk to Me Like My Father”

…Just then, a rocket whistles overhead, a short, thin stream of red light trailing behind it. Steve is already ducking low when it explodes in the military police compound, a hundred yards away. A fraction of a second later, another. As the attack siren goes off, we lie on the concrete pad among the pictures of the fallen—smiling, large-toothed men and one woman self-conscious in their posed portraits; the common elements: shoulders and acne.

After a few minutes, we scurry over to the nearest bunker, joined by a nervous clot of newbie soldiers from Canada and Holland, and Americans, who do 12- to 15-month tours and were long ago inured to such attacks. “That’s the helicopters going up,” one lanky Texan says, to the thumping sound filling the air. When it is next possible to be heard, he adds, “Give them 30, 45 minutes and y’all can go back to work.”

The Texan describes how the rockets are triggered when a block of ice holding down the release lever melts—leaving the Taliban time to get many miles away before the helicopters find the launch site. I nod more times than is necessary. He is entertained. The all-clear signal rings out and we walk quickly to the hospital.

Read the entire story in the July 2007 edition of Mother Jones magazine:

A review of Patterson’s  News from the Red Desert here

Listen to a 2008 podcast interview of Kevin Patterson here

December 28

Shen Congwen (Shen Ts’ung-wen) 沈從文 (born December 28, 1902) – Chinese novelist – The Long River / Chang He (长河)

Read a little about Shen Congwen’s writings here:

Read Terry Hong’s September 2009 Book Dragon blog post
about Shen Congwen:

December 29


William Gaddis (born December 29, 1922) – U.S. novelist –  J R (1975)

Read the Wikipedia biography here:

Read the 1994 New York magazine article about Gaddis:

Visit the William Gaddis website:

December 30

Alfredo Bracchi (born December 30, 1897) – Italian lyricist, scriptwriter

Read about Alfredo Bracchi here

and the songwriting team of Alfredo Bracchi and Giovanni D’Anzi here (Italian)

Listen to Nostalgia de Milan (lyrics by Alfredo Bracchi)

Stasera sont in vèna
de fà el sentimental!
La nòtt l’è inscì serèna
ma mi me senti mal!
Te scrivi, cara mamma,
son stuff de restà chi:
el mè Milan ‘l me ciama
visin a tì!

Oh mamma mia
mi son lontan,
ma gh’hoo la nostalgia
del mè Milan!
Mi voraria
tornà doman,
t’el giuri, corraria
col coeur in di man!

Vedè la Madonnina,
sentì el mè bel dialett,
svegliass ona mattina
in del mè lett!
Oh mamma mia,
inscì lontan
t’el giuri, corraria
pur de vess a Milan!

La par ‘na stupidada
se pensi al mè bastion
me foo ‘na zifolada
per cascià giò el magon!
E quand ven giò la sira,
ricòrdi i bei tosann,
rivedi la ringhera
di mè vint ann!

Listen to Bracchi’s A Capocabana (where woman is queen):

A Capocabana

Laggiù, / There,
a Capocabana, / in Capocabana,
a Capocabana la donna è regina, / in Capocabana the woman is queen
la donna è sovrana. / the woman rules.
Son tutte dei fragili fior, / All are fragile flowers
profumano tutte d’amor / Perfumed with love
e come ti sanno baciar, / and how you can kiss,
tanto baciar. / such kisses.

Laggiù, / There,
a Capocabana, / In Capocabana,
a Capocabana, le notti di luna, / in Capocabana, with the moon up above,
la donna che t’ama, / the woman you love,
ti bacia, ti prende, / she kisses you, captures you
t’accende, ti stringe, / lights you, embraces you,
t’infiamma d’amore così. / so that you are burning with love.
Laggiù, a Capocabana. / There, in Capocabana.

A Capocabana ti rubano il cuor! / In Capocabana she steals your heart!
A Capocabana si vive l’amor! / In Capocabana you fall in love!

and Non Dimenticar le mie Parole

And his Bambina Innamorata (Baby in Love):

December 31

Siné (Maurice Sinet) (born December 31, 1928) – French cartoonist

Read the Wikipedia article about Maurice Sinet

See some of Sine’s work here:

Read this May 2016 French language obituary about Sine

or read a death notice in English

January 1

René de Ceccatty (born January 1, 1952) French novelist, essayist, literary translator (Japanese and Italian) rene-de-ceccatty

January 2

Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry (born January 2, 1956) – U.S. cartoonist, writer

Watch this excellent 1 minute biography of Lynda Barry:

Read an interview with Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry: When I work on a book, I usually start with a question. …for Picture This, the question I had was “Why do we start drawing, and why do we stop? And why do we start up again?”

I was at a conference here in Chicago a couple years ago, the Cusp Conference, and there were all these designers, these really fancy designers who had done the interior of like the Chevy Volt, or they had designed the Segway… just these fancy, fancy designers. We’re having drinks. I always set up my little gear, my rig. And I usually just start painting. And if I do that, people come over and talk to me. And then I’ll hand them a brush. I’m interested in being able to teach painting someday. But the only way I could teach it is to watch how people naturally take the brush, and what they naturally want to do.

The designers were all freaked out. I’d hand one the brush. They go “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. Mary, you do it!” “No! Hey, come on, Bruce!” “No, no, no!” I thought “This is sort of interesting. What I could do to get them to try it?”

And I made up this game. The game is actually in Picture This. You draw a square and divide that in half, and then you divide that in quarters, and you keep going to see how close you could get. But if the lines touch, you get electrocuted.

As soon as I said that, they wanted to do it. So I thought “What just happened? What changed this from ‘I can’t touch this brush in front of other people’ to ‘If I’m going to get electrocuted, I absolutely will do it’?”

So my theory was, here were these designers all looking at this blank piece of paper, and each one was going to have to make a thing to show that they really were as good as their reputations. As soon as that was removed and we made the paper a place, for this game, we were ready to play.

Visit Lynda Barry’s teaching blog The Nearsighted Monkey




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