Richard Attenborough, Actor and Director, 1923-2014

attenborough-obit-3-master315British actor and director Richard Attenborough died on Sunday at the age of 90. Although a familiar actor in Britain, it wasn’t until he was cast in the 1963 war film The Great Escape that he became established in Hollywood. He won Golden Globe Awards for best supporting actor in The Sand Pebbles in 1966 and again in 1967 for his role in Doctor Doolittle. He also acted in Indian director Satyajit Ray’s The Chess Players and in Steve Spielberg’s hit Jurassic Park. His later years were devoted to directing, including his 1982 epic Gandhi which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won eight.  His earlier directing jobs include the 1969 satirical musical Oh! What a Lovely War; Young Winston in 1972; A Chorus Line in 1985, and Cry Freedom in 1987. Mr. Attenborough was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1967, was knighted in 1976, made a baron in 1993 and given a seat in the House of Lords. For more about this distinguished “giant of British cinema” see today’s NYT article. And check the EPL catalog for more of his films.



British Author Mary Stewart Dies at 97

MStewart-1-Obit-master180Mary Stewart, British writer best known for her trilogy of Merlin books died May 9 at her home in Scotland. The Crystal Cave, first in the trilogy, was published in 1970. But Ms. Stewart had already written more than a dozen novels, including The Moon-Spinners, Nine Coaches Waiting, and The Gabriel Hounds. After reading History of the Kings of Britain, “she was inspired to retell the story of King Arthur as seen by Merlin, the king’s adviser and house magician.” In a 1989 interview Ms. Stewart sympathized with the women of that time, saying: “Don’t forget what a dreadful life these medieval women must have led. Shut up in those ghastly castles while the men were away having fun. Nothing to do but your embroidery and play at ball in the garden” Named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1968, she was also given a lifetime achievement award by the Scottish Parliament in 2006. You can read the entire NYT article here. And check the EPL catalog for more of her works.


Lorraine Hansberry Website

lorrainehansA new website dedicated to the work of playwright Lorraine Hansberry offers “all things Hansberry” including never-before released photographs, video clips of her television interviews, audio of her radio interviews and speeches. Although best known for her play A Raisin in the Sun, her estate created the site to focus on her work not only as a writer but also as a civil rights activist. You can read the entire NYT article here. And check the EPL catalog for more of Ms. Hansberry’s work.


Gone With The Wind Prequel To Be Published

27MAMMY-master675Margaret Mitchell’s estate has authorized the publication of Ruth’s Journey – the story of the house slave Mammy in Gone With the Wind. Author Donald McCaig, who also wrote the 2007 Rhett Butler’s People, felt that “Mammy was such a fascinating and crucial character to the book he wanted to flesh out a story of her own.” According to the editorial director of Atria Books, author McCaig’s book “respects and honors its source material, but it also provides a necessary correction to one of the more troubling aspects of the book, which is how the black characters are portrayed.” Read the entire NYT article here.


Manhattan’s Fading Literary Landscape

bookstore1-articleLargeSky-high rents are forcing many of Manhattan’s bookstores to close or move out of Manhattan according to today’s disheartening article in the New York Times. Independent stores Coliseum Books, Shakespeare and Company, Endicott Booksellers and Murder Ink have all closed and now the big chain stores like Barnes & Noble are closing as well. Biographer and historian Robert Caro said the loss of bookstores from Manhattan is “a profoundly significant and depressing indication of where our culture is.” Chief executive of  Hachette Books said “compared to other cities, New York is no longer a bookstore city.” You can read the entire article here.


Book the Writer

30CLUBjp-master675Book the Writer, a recently established venture in New York is matching authors and book groups. The first author to to take part was Alexandra Styron (daughter of novelist William Styron) who talked about her 2011 memoir Reading My Father – and was questioned by club members – in exchange for a fee ($750). The service, started by novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz, has attracted authors including Michael Cunningham, Kurt Anderson, Susan Choi, Zoe Heller, and Luke Barr. As of now the service is only available to Manhattan and Brooklyn book groups.”For club members, it offers a rare opportunity to question authors in person about the writing process … For authors, it is a way to talk directly to their readers, hoping to build word-of-mouth for their books and earning a little money on the side for an evening’s work.” You can read more about this unique venture in today’s NYT article.


Accessibility or Reduction (of Literature)?

The New York Times has posted an article about the latest alternative to the (Cliff Notes) alternative to reading a book in its entirety. In the latest Critic’s Notebook entry, “Homies in Verona, Gangstas in Elsinore”, author Neil Genzlinger expresses his seemingly disgusted amazement at the latest technique used to summarize classic literary works.

Thug-Notes, a rap version of Sparknotes (no affiliation), features a fictitious persona, Dr. Sparky Sweets, played by comedian Greg Edwards, who raps a summary of literary works such as Moby Dick and Romeo and Juliet for the masses. Genzlinger refers to similar websites and personas that use the “language of the streets” to explain literature, mathematic  concepts, historical events and science terms as “a trend” that he defines as the  “application of street sensibility to high-culture, high-concept areas.”

This is a trend Zenslinger takes on to express that he (although he uses “we” and I am hoping he is not speaking for me OR the NYT) does “not want to go much further than it already has, especially educationally.” Zenzlinger’s paranoia that our neurologists will soon not read but be into rap battles instead is unjustified (and an insult to our medical schools).

Being an avid reader who is well-versed in the literary canons of both American and British culture, and a fan of hip-hop, I do not see the problem with taking one art form and interpreting it with another. This sentiment is emphasized exponentially when it turns the audience onto reading and writing (it can be done; see Erin Gruwell’s experience with the “Freedom Writers”). What do you think? Is Thug-Notes increasing accessibility or reducing literary works to “street language?”

Daylily A.

P.S. My epic rap-poem about John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is in pre-production. Just kidding…maybe.

P.S.S. To correct Mr. Zenzlinger, the right to rap IS protected by the Bill of Rights, Foo. See the First Ammendment and check yo’self.

Go Online with Emily

23dickinson-span-articleLargeDickinson – that is. The Emily Dickinson Archive which was inaugurated Wednesday gives scholars and lay readers access to “high-resolution photos of thousands of the poet’s manuscripts, including envelopes or bits of paper with poems jotted on them, letters, doodles, and many, many exuberant em-dashes.” The project reignited a decades-long dispute between Harvard and Amherst, which hold the two largest collections of Dickinson’s papers. When Emily Dickinson died in 1886, she left behind “just 10 published poems and a vast and enigmatic handwritten paper trail.” And that’s when the trouble began. Read more about the quarrel here and check the EPL catalog for works by this fascinating poet.


A Show That Lives Up To Its Poe-tential

poe“Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul” is a new exhibit opening Friday at  New York’s  Morgan Library & Museum.  Drawn from holdings of the Morgan, the New York Public Library’s Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, and Susan Jaffe Tane, described as “the world’s foremost private Poe collector,  the exhibit brings together an amazing collection of Poe materials including manuscripts, letters, first editions, Poe daguerreotypes, and “even a fragment of Poe’s original coffin.” There are some treasures as well – “three copies of Poe’s first book, “Tamerlane and Other Poems, which is among the rarest books in American literature (only 50 copies were printed, and just 12 remain), and one of only three existing pages of “The Lighthouse,” a story left unfinished at Poe’s death.” Besides all the Poe artifacts, the show also highlights his influence on other writers such as Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, Vladimir Nabokov and Stephen King. Read more about the collection in this NYT article. And check the EPL catalog for works by and about this writer.


Tom Clancy, 1947-2013

03clancy-articleInlineBest-selling novelist of espionage thrillers Tom Clancy died Tuesday in Baltimore at the age of 66.  A former insurance agent,  he sold his first novel The Hunt for Red October to the Naval Institute Press for only $5,000.  After the book’s publication in 1985, he was propelled to fame and fortune. And when President Ronald Reagan received a copy,  he called it “my kind of yarn.” But Mr. Clancy said “writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right.” Seventeen of his novels were No. 1 on  the New York Times‘ best seller lists, including his 2012 release Threat Vector.  And his books including Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October, and Clear and Present Danger were made into successful Hollywood films.  His last book Command Authority is due to be published in December. Read the entire NYT obituary here. And check the EPL catalog for his works.