Sunday, April 3, 2011

Literary Fact of the Day | March 2011

It's time again for my monthly round-up of literary facts of the day (#lfotd). If you follow me on Twitter (@readingape), you get these everydayish. For the rest of you, here is a dispatch of tidbits from the writing world.

  • Wallace Stegner once refused a medal from the NEA because be believed the institution had become too political.
  • Joan Didion shares the screenwriting credit for the 1976 version of A Star is Born with her husband John Gregory Dunn.
  • Port Warwick, a 150-acre development in Newport News, VA, is named after a fictional city in William Styron's Lie Down in Darkness.
  • James Salter defined youth as the time when one "mispronounces words and believes dreams."
  • Walker Percy's father and paternal grandfather both committed suicide with a shotgun.
  • In an effort to duck a drug charge, Ken Kesey faked a suicide by leaving his truck by a cliff with a suicide note.
  • HG Wells wanted his epitaph to be "I told you so. You damned fools." Instead, he was cremated and his ashes spread at sea.
  • In 1956, friends gave Harper Lee a year's wages to write "whatever she wanted"; it became the 1st draft of To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Paule Marshall fought with her husband about hiring a babysitter so that she could finish her first novel Browngirl, Brownstones.
  • John Cheever came to hate his first short story collection so much that we would eventually destroy every copy he came across.
  • Paul Bowles was forced to return his advance for The Sheltering Sky because Doubleday said "we asked for a novel."
  • Norman Mailer married his fifth wife for one day in 1980 in order to legitimize the child they had together.
  • Betty Smith published and produced more than seventy one-act plays before A Tree Grows in Brooklyn brought her widespread acclaim.
  • Carson McCullers' husband tried to convince her to commit suicide with him. She then fled to France & he overdosed on sleeping pills.
  • At age 23, Nathaniel Weinstein changed his name to Nathaniel West, later citing Alger's slogan "Go West young man" as the inspiration.
  • After Margaret Mitchell divorced her abusive, bootlegging first husband, she married John Marsh, who had been best man at her wedding.
  • In 1928, John Dos Passos went to Russia to study communism. More than 30 years later, he would actively campaign for Richard Nixon.
  • John O'Hara had more than 200 stories published in The New Yorker
  • Henry Miller's first published pieces were under the name of his Chicago Tribune editor, since proofreaders weren't allowed to submit.
  • First published in 1934, Henry Roth's Call It Sleep received mixed reviews but went on to sell 1 million+ copies after a 1964 reissue 
  • After the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government denounced Pearl Buck as an "imperialist" & forbade her from ever again visiting.
  • Though he had contracted TB during WWI, Dashiell Hammett pulled strings to enlist during WW2. He was then blacklisted by HUAC in 1953.
  • A few months before his death, Thomas Wolfe submitted more than one million words of manuscripts to his editor.
  • Tony Blair closed his 9/11 speech with the last two paragraphs of Thornton Wilder's The Bridge on the San Luis Rey.
  • Between 1914 and 1917, Jean Toomer attended six institutions of higher education, including NYU, CUNY, U of Chicago, and Wisconsin.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I can't even decide which one is my favorite. I really like the Margaret Mitchell fact because it is such a BITCH MOVE. But the Carson McCullers factoid is soooooo creepy-weird and sad. I just don't know! Maybe I'll go with Betty Smith, that's a lot of one act plays...