The Bibliophile's Adventurers Club

Exemplars of bookish delight

Category: Bookish sorts (page 2 of 5)

{authors, illustrators, readers}

Winter Sunday on a Summer Monday

Asa Bundy Sheffey was born in Detroit, Michigan, on August 4, 1913.

We know him as the poet Robert Hayden.

An easy life, his was not. His parents passed him off to foster parents, from birth. They raised him in a low-income neighborhood, with a mocking name (Paradise Valley), in a home loud and violent. Given the boy’s small stature and his bottlecap glasses, school life was much the same.  He retreated into the pages of books — but while they gave him moments of reprieve, they could not save him from bouts of severe depression.

So in honor of Robert Hayden’s day of birth, here’s a reading of his poem ‘Those Winter Sundays.’ The words are cold and melancholy, sure; but they reflect the life into which he was born — the life that gave him the heart of a poet . . .

Have a heart

percyshelley

On the twenty-eighth of July, in 1814, twenty-one year old Percy Bysshe Shelley set off for Europe with 17-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin . . .

He was married to another at the time.

You see, a few years prior, he had eloped with a sixteen-year-old named Harriet Westbrook. Harriet attended boarding school with his sisters; she wrote Percy long letters, describing her desperation to escape her circumstances. Percy decided to be her knight in shining armor. As you might imagine, their marriage was less than idyllic. Harriet remained miserable and Percy soon followed suit.

Then he met Mary — a bright, intelligent young lady — and all sensibility went out the window. So it was, while his wife was pregnant with their son, he thought it a splendid idea to take off for Europe with Mary and her step-sister. For six weeks they sailed and walked and read aloud great works of literature.

Just a little culture, before heading back to domestic life.

Two years later, Harriet drowned herself and their unborn child.

Two weeks after that Percy married Mary.

Of course, so as not to sound quite so callous, he was attempting to gain custody of his children. Not that it did any good.

The Shelleys spent most of their short, married life ‘escaping’ to Europe, dodging creditors, but surrounded by literary sorts.

Just shy of his thirtieth birthday, a sudden storm overtook his boat on the Gulf of Spezia (or so the story goes) and he drowned . When his body washed ashore, he had to be cremated, due quarantine laws of the day.  Nonetheless, a friend snatched his heart from the flames. A gift to his wife.

His remains are now buried near Mary’s, at St. Peter’s Church.

Destination Moon

It was July 7, 1907 that a baby boy was born to Rex Ivar and Bam Lyle Heinlein, in Butler, Missouri. They would name him Robert Anson—Robert Anson Heinlein.

He would grow up to become the ” dean of science fiction writers”–one of “the big three” (alongside Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke). He brought a literary flavor to science fiction; he became one of the first science fiction authors to be published in The Saturday Evening Post. He co-wrote a movie script (Destination Moon), creating many of the special effects, which went on to win an Academy award. All in all he published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 short story collections. He influenced countless others.

Of course, the fellow also happened to be an Agnostic–he was no fan of organized religion. He believed in free love. Many of the themes in his work were quite controversial.

Loved by all, he was not.

Nonetheless, he sparked debate, as he sparked imagination. He introduced us to new worlds.

With that, here’s the first part of a ‘sneak peek’ of the film Destination Moon. It originally aired on KTLA sometime around 1949, it also includes an interview with Heinlein, himself. Seems a good way to celebrate his birthday, non?

Writing with one hand, beating demons with the other

CarverRaymond

In the world of authors and writers there’s a certain belief that you must have issues in order to be truly great at what you do. Mental instability, alcoholism, drug addition–one or a little of everything, it doesn’t matter so long as they’re present and accounted for.

On the one hand, it’s understandable. After all, artists of all sorts tend to be a passionate bunch. Many hail from difficult backgrounds. In order to write well, you must feel deeply. You must walk in the shoes of another, feel what they feel, think as they think. It’s a heavy load for anyone to bear.

But Raymond Carver proves you don’t have to sacrifice your gift to beat your demons.

As a matter of fact, it was June 2, 1977 that Raymond Carver quit drinking for good. He had tried unsuccessfully a few years before; but after being hospitalized four times in one year, he sought treatment–and with the help of Alcoholic Anonymous began his ‘second life.’ His second life was no less creative, mind you. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship and two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. He continued to teach (and by teach I mean teach not, you know, drink); he won a myriad of honors and awards.

So you see, it may be tempting for authors and writers to give in to the demons–to seek an easy escape, to chalk it up as the creative life–but it’s best to find another way. After all, in beating those demons, authors and writers not only allow the characters on the page to live, but themselves, as well . . .

The infamous ‘day job’

Eliot_typing

How many of us hope and dream of the day we can pursue our passion full time, without need of a ‘day job?’ Be that as it may, many authors and poets kept a variety of jobs outside their writing profession—some right down to the bitter end. T.S. Eliot, for instance . . .

Born in the U.S., adopted by the U.K., Eliot may best be known as a poet – including such famous works as ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ or ‘The Waste Land’ – but at one time or another he was also a professor, a school teacher, a book reviewer, and editor.

In 1917, he accepted a position with Lloyds Bank in London. Responsible for foreign accounts, he traveled extensively. It was on one such trip, to Paris, that he met a certain James Joyce. While he found the fellow to be rather arrogant, over time they found themselves in the land of respect and friendship.

Of course, during his time with the bank, he also wrote reviews and essays, founded a quarterly, and developed his own unique form of poetry – just a little something on the side.

Eight years after coming aboard with Lloyds Bank, Eliot accepted an editor position with Faber and Gwyer (what would later become Faber and Faber). Already admired as a poet, the job allowed him to focus on what he loved. He would work for the publishing house until his death, at which time he held the position of director – and responsible for publishing such greats as W.H. Auden and Ted Hughes.

Faber and Faber also introduced him to his second wife, by way of secretary. Esmé Valerie Fletcher would become his greatest champion, preserving his legacy by editing and annotating The Letters of T.S. Eliot.

So you see, the day job may be a ‘necessary evil’ – for a time, or for the long haul. What matters is that we work hard, give others a chance, and pursue the aspiration of our hearts . . .

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