Friday, December 10, 2010

Literary Fact of the Day Round Up: November 13-December 9, 2010

Here's your tri-weekly Literary Fact of the Day round-up. You can get these delivered hot and fresh daily by following me on Twitter (@readingape). Also, if you have a good LFOTD candidate, shoot me an email (readingape AT gmail DOT com), leave a comment here on the blog, or hit me with a direct message on Twitter. I'm an academic at heart, so I'd like some sort of documentation (re: link) to verify the fact. I'll of course give you credit both in the tweet and here at the round-up when it comes time. 

On to the facts:
  • In 1840, Margaret Fuller was the first woman allowed to use Harvard's library & was widely considered the best-read person in the US.
  • Alice Munro & her husband James opened their own independent bookstore in 1963 in downtown Victoria, Canada. It is still open today.
  • Thomas Pynchon dictated Gravity's Rainbow to his college friend Richard Farina.
  • Oprah Picks an Underdog Edition: Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities is the best selling novel of all time.
  • Isabelle Allande once lost a job translating English romances for changing the heroines' dialogue to make them seem more intelligent.
  • Theodore Dreiser's early short story, "Cracker," was based on a lynching he witnessed in 1893.
  • John Steinbeck claimed to be audited by the IRS every year of his literary life because of a personal vendetta by J. Edgar Hoover.
  • Mark Twain studied 2000 miles of the Mississippi for two years as an apprentice before earning his steamboat pilot's license in 1859.
  • Nicole Krauss won a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford, eventually earning a masters in art history, writing on Rembrandt.
  • Zora Neale Hurston's father was mayor of the first all-black town in America: Eatonville, Florida.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne died while touring the White Mountains with Franklin Pierce. The two had been friends for more than 40 years.
  • Dickinson's literary executors edited her work heavily; a complete, nearly unedited collection of her poetry didn't appear until 1955.
  • Paul Auster was struck by lightning as a teenager.
  • Bill Clinton once said that his favorite novel is Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • Between 1971 & 1978, Don DeLillo wrote and published six novels.
  • Self publishing success: Ezra Pound's first book of poetry was self published. The 100-copy run sold out, for a price of 6 cents each.
  • Only two of Robert Frost's six children outlived him, and one of those two spent the last 20 years of her life in a mental hospital.
  • Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm have together sold more copies than any two works by any other 20th Century author.
  • Katherine Anne Porter decided to become a writer while in a sanitarium and recovering from tuberculosis.
  • When Flannery O'Connor was six, she trained a chicken to walk backward, which gave her a certain local celebrity status.
  • Eudora Welty was the first living author to have her collected works published by the Library of America.
  • Kurt Vonnegut's mother committed suicide on Mother's Day in 1944.


  1. I'm amazed that at any point in the history of the world, there was one "best read" person in the U.S. How exactly was this measured...?

  2. It was, of course, not measured. It was an appellation bestowed on her by her literary coterie peers. Whether or not it was accurate, the fact that Emerson, Thoreau, et al considered her the most "well-read" is indicative of her literary status.