Tag Archives: books

Almanac – May 30

1593 – Christopher Marlowe died.  English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era.

Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day, and  greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe’s mysterious early death. Marlowe’s plays are known for the use of blank verse, and their overreaching protagonists.

He was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. During an argument Marlowe snatched Frizer’s dagger and wounded him on the head. In the ensuing struggle, according to the coroner’s report, Marlowe was stabbed above the right eye, killing him instantly. The jury concluded that Frizer acted in self-defence, and within a month he was pardoned.

Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford immediately after the inquest, on 1 June 1593.

 

 

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1778 – Voltaire died. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state.

 Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.

 

 

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1993 – Sun Ra died. Prolific jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his “cosmic philosophy,” musical compositions and performances.

“Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial,” critic Scott Yanow said, because of Sun Ra’s eclectic music and unorthodox lifestyle.

Claiming that he was of the “Angel Race” and not from Earth, but from Saturn, Sun Ra developed a complex persona using “cosmic” philosophies and lyrical poetry that made him a pioneer of afrofuturism. He preached awareness and peace above all.

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Almanac – May 20

1799 – Honoré de Balzac born. French novelist and playwright.

His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature, and is renowned for his multifaceted, morally ambiguous characters.

His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.

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Almanac – April 27

1759 – Mary Wollstonecraft born. British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights.

During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book, though she   is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement, while her daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, would become an accomplished writer herself.

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1947 – Ann Peebles born.   American singer-songwriter who gained celebrity for her Memphis soul albums of the 1970s on the Hi Records label.

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1998 – Carlos Castaneda died. Peruvian author and student of anthropology.

Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his alleged training in shamanism. The books, narrated in the first person, relate his supposed experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan Matus.

 His 11 books have sold more than 28 million copies in 17 languages. Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness.

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Almanac- April 14

1917 – L. L. Zamenhof died.  Jewish doctor, linguist, and the creator of Esperanto, the most successful constructed language.

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1929 – Gerry Anderson born.  English publisher, producer, director, and writer, famous for his futuristic television programmes, particularly those involving supermarionation, working with modified marionettes – Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Fireball XL5, etc.

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1935 – Erich von Däniken born. Swiss author best known for his controversial claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, in books such as Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968.

Däniken is one of the main figures responsible for popularizing the “paleo-contact” and ancient astronauts hypotheses.

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1986 – Simone de Beauvoir died. French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist.

While she did not consider herself a philosopher, Beauvoir had a significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography, monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues.

 She is perhaps  best known for her novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, as well as her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism.

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Almanac – April 10

1778 – William Hazlitt born. English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as an art critic, drama critic, social commentator, and philosopher, he was also a painter.

 He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language,  placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell, though  his work is currently little read and mostly out of print.

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1880 – Montague Summers born. English author and clergyman.

He is known primarily for his scholarly work on the English drama of the 17th century, as well as for his idiosyncratic studies on witches, vampires, and werewolves, in all of which he professed to believe.

He was responsible for the first English translation, published in 1928, of the notorious 15th-century witch hunter’s manual, the Malleus Maleficarum.

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1882 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti died. English poet, illustrator, painter and translator.

He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.

His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement.

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Almanac – April 06

1992 – Isaac Asimov died.  American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards

Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke,  he was considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers during his lifetime.  Asimov’s most famous work is the Foundation Series;  his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series.

His  robot stories promulgated a set of rules of ethics for robots and intelligent machines that greatly influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the subject.

Asimov notes in one of his biographical pieces that he was largely inspired by the almost relentless tendency of robots up to that time to fall consistently into a Frankenstein plot in which they destroyed their creator.

The Three Laws of Robotics

1 – A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2 – A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3 – A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

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Almanac – February 02

Candlemas Day

Happy Candlemas !

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If on Candlemas Day it be shower and rain
Winter is gone, twill not come again

Or if you prefer…

When the wind’s in the East on Candlemas Day
There it will stick till the 2nd of May

1650 – Nell Gwynne born. Long-time mistress of King Charles II of England, by whom she had two sons.  Called “pretty, witty Nell” by Samuel Pepys, she has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella.

Elizabeth Howe, in The First English Actresses, says she was “the most famous Restoration actress of all time, possessed of an extraordinary comic talent.”

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1709 – Alexander Selkirk [or Selcraig] was resused from Juan Fernandez Island, in the Pacific, by privateer Captain Woodes Rogers.

Selkirk had marooned himself on the island in 1703, following a row with his then captain, Thomas Stradling. His time as a castaway inspired Daniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe [1719].

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1882 – James Joyce born.  Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century.

Joyce is best known for Ulysses (see below), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer‘s Odyssey are paralleled in an array of contrasting literary styles, perhaps most prominent among these the stream of consciousness technique he perfected.

Other major works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His complete oeuvre also includes three books of poetry, a play, occasional journalism, and his published letters.

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1922 – Ulysses by James Joyce  published. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach  in Paris.

Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, 16 June 1904 .Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer‘s poem Odyssey, and the novel establishes a series of parallels between its characters and events and those of the poem.

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1969 – Boris Karloff died. best remembered for his roles in horror films and his portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). His popularity following Frankenstein was such that for a brief time he was billed simply as “Karloff” or “Karloff the Uncanny.”

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