LitBirthdays – February 26

Happy Birthday Jela Krečič!


Jela Krečič – born February 26, 1979 – Slovenian novelist and journalist (None Like Her / Ni Druge – 2016)

The GoodReads bio of Jela Krečič

Read her 2013 interview with Julian Assange

Read a review of Krečič’s novel None Like Her

Watch a 2013 interview of Jela (Slovenian language)

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LitBirthdays February 18

Happy Birthday Toni Morrison!

February 18


Toni Morrison (Chloe Ardelia Wofford) (b. 1931) – U.S. novelist, 1993 Literature Nobel Prize winner – Beloved

Read the excellent Authors Calendar biography of Toni Morrison

Read the MSBush bio of Toni Morrison

Meridian. The sound of it opens the windows of a room like the first four notes of a hymn. Few people can say the names of their home towns with such sly affection. Perhaps because they don’t have home towns, just places where they were born. But these girls soak up the juices of their home towns, and it never leaves them. They are thin brown girls who have looked long at hollyhocks in the backyards of Meridian, Mobile, Aiken, and Baton Rouge. And like hollyhocks they are narrow, tall, and still. Their roots are deep, their stalks are firm, and only the top blossom nods in the wind. They have the eyes of people who can tell what time it is by the color of the sky.

page 81, The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Read more from The Bluest Eye here:

Watch a BBC documentary about Toni Morrison

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Old Books of the Month

The play’s the thing…

Look for DempseyBooks used books on

It’s Buy or Bygone: Books not sold sooner will be thrown out later.


Building a Character
by Constantin Stanislavski


Six Modern American Plays
Includes: Mister Roberts, The Glass Menagerie, The Little Foxes, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Emperor Jones, Winterset

The Art of the Drama
The Art of the Drama
by Fred Millett and Gerald Bentley

Dial M for Murder
by Frederick Knott


by William Inge

White Towers
by Paul Hirshorn and Steven Izenour
Historic photos of White Tower resturants from the 1930s to the 1970s
Trumpet at a Distant Gate – The Lodge as Prelude to the Country House
by Tim Mowl
The Lawmen, United States Marshals and their Deputies, 1789 – 1989
by Frederick S. Calhoun
What You Should Know About the People’s Republic of China by John Roderick

Progress in Aircraft Design Since 1903 (N.A.S.A publication)

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February LitBirthdays


February 1

Big Boi

Langston Hughes

Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin

February 2

Xuân Diệu

Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr.

James Joyce

February 3

Paul Auster

Marlon Riggs

James Michener

February 4

Abdul Rahman Badawi

Buell Gordon Gallagher

Betty Friedan

February 5

Andrew Greeley


Jermain Wesley Loguen

Jovan Dučić

February 6

Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Melvin B. Tolson

Anne Spencer

Christopher Marlowe

Nay Win Myint

February 7

Gay Talese

Chris Rock

Eubie Blake

Charles Dickens

February 8

Nancy Oliver

Mae Street Kidd

Ron Tyson

John Grisham

February 9

Carole King

Alice Walker

Cassandra Steen

Amy Lowell

February 10

Johan Harstad

Michael Anthony

Roberta Flack

Ivri Lider

February 11

Celeste O. Norfleet

Jarena Lee

Florynce Kennedy

Lydia Maria Child

John Langalibalele Dube

February 12

Michel Joseph Martelly “Sweet Micky”

George Elliott Clarke

Abraham Lincoln

Charles Darwin

February 13

Mark Watson

Lenard Duane Moore

Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Georges Simenon

February 14

Beejan Olfat

Richard Allen

Carlton Moss


Frederick Douglass

Eric Andersen

February 15

Miep Gies

Brian Holland

Masuji Ibuse

Adam Nadasdy

February 16

Elisabeth Eybers

Otis Blackwell

Paul Gilroy


February 17

Julia de Burgos

Huey Newton

Lupe Fiasco

February 18

Leonard (Len) Deighton

Audre Lorde

Toni Morrison

Nikos Kazantzakis

February 19

Jaan Kross

Clifton Taulbert

Eileen Jackson Southern

Andre Breton

February 20

Nevena Stefanova

Linda Brown

Ellis Cose

Buffy Sainte Marie

February 21

Hakan Nesser

Claudia Jones

Corey Harris

Anais Nin

Hanne-Vibeke Holst

February 22

Danilo Kis

William Whipper

Ishmael Reed

James Russell Lowell

February 23

Aziz Ansari

Claude Brown

W.E.B. DuBois

February 24

Alain Mabanckou

Kasi Lemmons

Grant Allen

February 25

Russell Atkins

George Schuyler

Mary Coyle Chase

George Harrison

February 26

Adem Demaçi

Fats Domino

Sharon Bell Mathis

Victor Hugo

February 27

Charlayne Hunter-Gault

J. Rawls

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

February 28

Adelle McQueen

Anthony Kelley

Jeanne Cherhal

February 29

Natasha Beaulieu

Dempsey Books are on

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January 12 – Haruki Murakami

Happy Birthday Haruki Murakami!


Haruki Murakami (村上 春樹) (born January 12, 1949) – Japanese novelist – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2015)

Read the Wikipedia article about Haruki Murakami

Read an interview of Murakami

Tsukuru Tazaki, as the author calls his own novel for short [Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage], sold a million copies in two weeks when it came out last summer in Japan. (Murakami was born in Kyoto to two literature teachers, and grew up in the port city of Kobe. These days he lives near Tokyo, having spent periods in Greece, at Princeton and Tufts universities – where he wrote his masterpiece, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle– and recently in Hawaii.)

Murakami has often spoken of the theme of two dimensions, or realities, in his work: a normal, beautifully evoked everyday world, and a weirder supernatural realm, which may be accessed by sitting at the bottom of a well (as does the hero of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, or by taking the wrong emergency staircase off a city expressway (as in 1Q84). Sometimes dreams act as portals between these realities.

Read about Murakami’s writing style in this 2014 Atlantic article “The Mystery of Murakami – His sentences can be awful, his plots are formulaic—yet his novels mesmerize”

Page after page, we are confronted with the riddle that is Murakami’s prose. No great writer writes as many bad sentences as Murakami does. His crimes include awkward construction (“Just as he appreciated Sara’s appearance, he also enjoyed the way she dressed”); cliché addiction (from a single, paragraph-long character description: “He really hustled on the field … He wasn’t good at buckling down … He always looked people straight in the eye, spoke in a clear, strong voice, and had an amazing appetite … He was a good listener and a born leader”); and lazy repetition (“Sara gazed at his face for some time before speaking,” followed shortly by “Sara gazed at Tsukuru for a time before she spoke”). The dialogue is often robotic, if charmingly so.

Murakami’s impoverished language situates us in a realm of utter banality, a simplified black-and-white world in which everything is as it appears. When, inevitably, we pass through a wormhole into an uncanny dimension of fantasy and chaos, the contrast is unnerving.

Murakami writes genre fiction—formulaic, conventional, with an emphasis on plot. But it is a genre that he has invented himself, drawing elements from fantasy, noir, horror, sci-fi, and the genre we call “literary fiction.” The other ingredient, which we tend to think of as antithetical to genre fiction, is a hostility to tidy resolution.

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January 6 – C.D. Wright

Happy Birthday C.D. Wright!

Carolyn D. Wright (born January 6, 1949) U.S. poet – One With Others (2011)

Read about C.D. Wright here and here

Born in Arkansas in 1949, Wright wrote over a dozen books of poetry and lyric prose. Her writing is fierce, funny, and as attuned to morality as a compass needle to the north. She was a pioneer of what can be described as “documentary poetry.” Calling herself a “humble factotum” she would alight on a subject and describe it as accurately as possible using the poet’s tools — tone, metaphor, music, voice — rather than the journalist’s, but the goal was essentially the same: to tell the Truth with a capital T.

She was a believer in Emily Dickinson’s mandate to “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Though by “slant,” both Dickinson and Wright meant something other than the kind of bias that word summons now. They advocate looking at the world from viewpoints and angles most people don’t choose: Dickinson gets her eyes right into the grass to see her “narrow fellow,” and Wright, too, walks right up to her subjects…

[by Craig Morgan Teicher]


Watch an interview with C.D. Wright:

“One with Others” is a mix of poetry and prose in which Wright examines a racist event. The work began as an homage to an anonymous self-taught, literary friend who lived in the Arkansas Delta in the 1960s. Wright was a teenager when she first met the woman and continued to have a relationship with her until she died a few years ago in New York City.

Wright (Minute 16:25): I felt even though I was a white woman from the Ozarks, that I had a footnote to add to all the wonderful literature about civil rights…

C.D. Wright reads from One With Others

Wright (Minute 10:35): V liked to say, if religion is the opiate of the masses, fundamentalism is the amphetamine that busted us up.

(18:10) Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t know what we’re watching. She’s in her puffy chair, a few feet from her designated death bed.  When she sleeps it’s in her pleather chair in front of her television. …She says to me, “I am Rafferty the poet: eyes without sight, mind without torment, going West on my journey. ”


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January 5 – Umberto Eco

Happy Birthday Umberto Eco!

January 5


Umberto Eco (born January 5, 1932) – Italian novelist, essayist – The Name of the Rose (1980)

Read Umberto Eco’s obituary in the New York Times and the Guardian

Read about Eco’s literary legacy in this 2016 Guardian article

Eco’s first, watershed novel, The Name of the Rose, was published in 1980. An artful reworking of Conan Doyle, with Sherlock Holmes transplanted to 14th-century Italy, the book’s baggage of arcane erudition was designed to flatter the average reader’s intelligence.

Yet the success of The Name of the Rose weighed heavily on Eco. When the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud released his film of the novel in 1986, Eco refused to speak to the newspapers about it. Each night when he returned to his flat in Milan he said he could “barely open the door” for the accumulation of interview requests. In private, Eco judged Annaud’s film a travesty of his novel, and found the monks (apart from the one played by Connery) “too grotesque-looking”. Yet Eco approved of Annaud’s Piranesi-like sets, which he concurred were “marvellous”.

His second novel, Foucault’s Pendulum (1988), was a thriller set amid shadowy cabals and conventicles such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucian Society. Eco saw modern-day political parallels with these and other sects; indeed, the P2 masonic lodge and the far-left fringe of the Red Brigades indulged a similar secrecy and fanaticism. Eco was fond of the Italian term dietrologia, which translates, not very happily, into “behindology” and presumes that secret cliques, camarillas and consortia are everywhere manipulating political scandals. In all his work, fiction and non-fiction, Eco displayed a classically Italian enthusiasm for conspiracy and arcana.

In 1971, Eco became the first professor of semiotics at Bologna, Europe’s oldest university. His lectures at the university, avidly attended by semioticians, analysed the James Bond novels, the Mad comic magazines and, with equal fizz-bang, photographs of Marilyn Monroe. Throughout his Bologna professorship, Eco denied that he was “intellectually slumming it” by speaking of Donatello’s David in the same breath as, say, plastic garden furniture.

When the entire world is a web of signs, he said, everything cries out for exegesis. Marginal manifestations of culture should not be ignored, he explained: in the 19th century, Telemann was considered a far greater composer than Bach; by the same token, in 200 years, Picasso may be thought inferior to Coca Cola commercials. (And who knows, Eco added jokingly, one day we may consider The Name of the Rose inferior to the potboilers of Harold Robbins.)

Umberto Eco speaks about words and the semiotics of translation

Umberto Eco [Minute 10:20]: Should a translation lead the reader to understand the linguistic and cultural universe of the source text, or transform the original by adapting it to the reader’s cultural and linguistic universe?

The question is not as preposterous as it seems when we consider that translations age. Shakespearean English is always the same, but even if modern Italian readers read Shakespeare in an Italian translation of the 19th century, we feel uncomfortable.

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