South African writer Nadine Gordimer died today in Johannesburg at the age of 90. Known for her writings dealing with themes of injustice and cruelty in apartheid South Africa, Ms. Gordimer wrote more than two dozen works of fiction as well as essays and literary criticism. Three of her books were banned in her country – her second novel A World of Strangers (1958), The Late Bourgeois World (1966), and Burger’s Daughter (1979). In 1974 she on the Booker Prize for The Conservationist and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991. She said it wasn’t her country’s problems that started her writing. “On the contrary, it was learning to write that sent me falling, falling through the surface of the South African way of life.” She continued writing after apartheid, saying “it wasn’t apartheid that made me a writer, and it isn’t the end of apartheid that’s going to stop me.” Read the entire NYT article here and check the EPL catalog for works by this acclaimed author.
Actress Ruby Dee died Wednesday at her home in New Rochell, NY at the age of 91. A passionate and versatile performer, she received accolades for her role in the 1970 Athol Fugard drama Boesman and Lena, and her role as Ruth Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama A Raisin in the Sun. She went on to reprise that role in the 1961 film version with one reviewer noting: “Is there a better young actress in America, or one who can make everything she does so effortless?” Her film career included roles in the films of Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever) as well as for a supporting role in the 2007 film American Gangster, for which she won an Oscar nomination. A lifelong civil rights activist, along with her husband Ossie Davis, Ms. Dee “lent her voice and presence to the cause of racial equality outside show business.” In With Ossie and Ruby, she wrote” The largest piece of unfinished business before humankind is, in our opinion, poverty, spiritual as well as material, racism, yes, and sexism, too; Struggle is all there is, and we are still committed.” Read more about this legendary actress in today’s NYTimes and NPR tributes. And check the EPL catalog for more of her works.
86-year-old poet and activist Maya Angelou died Tuesday at her home in Winston Salem, N.C. Born Marguerite Johnson, she grew up in St. Louis, Mo. and Stamps, Ark. and was first called Maya by her brother. Leaving a troubled childhood and a segregated South, she began a career as both dancer and singer, touring Europe in the 1950s in a production of Porgy and Bess. She also studied dance with Martha Graham and performed with Alvin Ailey. Patrick Henry Bass, an editor at Essence Magazine, talked about her unique voice: “You would hear that voice, and that voice would capture a humanity, and that voice would calm you in so many ways through some of the most significant challenges.” The first of her series of memoirs I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings revealed some of the “scars of her past”. Film director John Singleton who used Ms. Angelou’s poems in his film Poetic Justice said he remembers the effect her poem Still I Rise had on him: “It makes me feel better about myself, or at least made me feel better about myself when I was young.” The poem begins with these lines:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Read the entire articles from NPR and from the NYT here. And check out the EPL catalog for the many works by this acclaimed author.
Nobel-Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez died today in Mexico City at age 87. The Colombian novelist “widely considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century,” was a master of the literary genre magic realism. In a 1984 interview with NPR, he said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child:
“There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand … there was the world of my grandfather; a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about…. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.”
His 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which poet Pablo Neruda called “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote” established him as a literary giant. Both the New York Times and NPR have in-depth coverage. And check out the EPL catalog for works by this revered author.
Author and naturalist Peter Matthiessen died Saturday at his home in Sagaponack, New York at age 86. According to this fascinating NYT article, Mr. Matthiessen ” was a man of many parts: litterateur, journalist, environmentalist, explorer, Zen Buddhist, professional fisherman and, in the early 1950s, undercover agent for the Central Intelligence Agency in Paris.” He wrote more than 30 books, mostly nonfiction, and is the only writer to win the National Book Award in both fiction (Shadow Country) and nonfiction (The Snow Leopard). His final novel In Paradise has just been published. You can read the entire NYT article here. And check the EPL catalog for more works by this author.
French filmmaker Alain Resnais died on Saturday in Paris at the age of 91. Most well-known for his films Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima Mon Amour, Mr. Resnais was often associated with French New Wave directors Jean-Luc Godard and Francoise Truffaut. “Fascinated by the ability of film editing to take apart and reassemble fragments of time, Mr Resnais incorporated the effects of scrambled memories, deja vu and fantasy into his work.” Born in 1922 in Brittany, he began making short films at the age of 14. Although most of his films were serious in nature, he loved cartoons, comedy and Broadway musicals, and was inspired by the television show Curb Your Enthusiasm. Recently honored at the Berlin Film Festival for his last film “The Life of Riley”, Mr. Resnais was editing drafts for his next project from his hospital bed. Read more about this influential director in this NYT article. And check the EPL catalog for his works.
Popular and much-acclaimed author Doris Lessing, winner of the 2007 Nobel in literature, died today in her London home. The prolific author of novels and short stories is most known for her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, a loosely autobiographical exploration of the inner lives of women. Lessing was a harsh critic of society’s treatment of women and minorties, and even as a young woman in her native South Africa spoke out against that country’s treatment of blacks. She also never minced words when being interviewed. In 2007, she arrived home to find her front stoop filled with journalists who informed her of her Nobel prize. She quipped, “Oh, Christ! I couldn’t care less.” Read more about her many accomplishments in this NY Times obituary.
Acclaimed jazz pianist Marian McPartland died at the age of 95 on August 20. Born in England and trained as a classical pianist, she was “drawn to the improvisational freedom of jazz.” and succeeded, according to critic Leonard Feather in spite of “three hopeless strikes against her: she was British, white, and a woman.” Besides recording over 50 albums, Ms. McPartland composed music, and led the way for other female jazz performers from Carmen McRae to Norah Jones. She is perhaps best remembered for her interviews and performances with other musicians on her long-running NPR program “Piano Jazz” which first aired in 1979. In 1958 she was one of two women included in the famous portrait of jazz musicians which inspired the 1994 documentary A Great Day in Harlem. She won a “Lifetime Achievement” Grammy in 2004 and in 2010, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. You can read the entire NPR article here and the Washington Post obit here. And check out the EPL catalog for her recordings.
Controversial Chicago priest Andrew Greeley died Thursday at the age of 85. Although he was an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church, “his criticism was seen as offering the faithful a route back to the church, and helping the church find its way toward embracing them.” In addition to his duties as a priest, Rev. Greeley was a renowned sociologist, a longtime columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, and a best-selling author. His first novel The Cardinal Sins was on the NYT best seller list for eight months and sold three million copies. But above all, “I always wanted to be a priest”, he wrote. “My core identity is priest. I will always be a priest.”You can read Neil Steinberg’s obituary in today’s Sun-Times or the more in-depth NYT obit. Also check out the library catalog for books by Andrew Greeley.
Popular and Pulitzer-Prize winning film reviewer Roger Ebert died Thursday after a long battle with cancer at the age of 70. Film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, Ebert was well known for his trademark thumbs-up/thumbs-down PBS television show he co-hosted first with the late Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and then with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper. He won a Pulitzer in 1975 for distinguished criticism (“the first, and one of only three, given to a film reviewer since the category was created in 1970.”) And in 2005, he became the first critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Despite cancer surgeries which resulted in losing his ability to speak, eat, and drink he resumed his writing and television work. Author of more than 20 books, Ebert also noted in his 2011 memoir Life Itself that he considered himself “beneath everything else a fan.” Tributes have been pouring in from filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and colleagues as well as Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel and President Obama. Director Steven Spielberg summed it up best: “Roger’s passing is virtually the end of an era and now the balcony is closed forever.” Read the complete article here which includes special memories, quotes, and some of his best-known reviews. And check the EPL catalog for books by him.