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Friday, February 7, 2014

Three Literary Birthdays

Three great authors have birthdays today and tomorrow!
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Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder: February 7th, 1867 – February 10th, 1957). Today would be her 147th birthday. I’m sure most of us are very familiar with this beloved author, especially because the books that made us fall in love with her are about her life growing up in a pioneer family. My mom read the nine Little House books to me and I did a unit study when I was 11-13 years old. I’ve only read Farmer Boy since then, so they are long overdue for a reread, but I still remember many characters and situations. I was privileged to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home area in De Smet, South Dakota, and wrote three blog posts about it.
She was born in the “Big Woods” of Wisconsin and throughout her life lived in Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida, before dying on her farm in the Missouri Ozarks at the age of 90. She lived one of those lives that begged to be memorialized in stories, and her only daughter Rose, a talented writer as well, encouraged her to write her fictionalized autobiographies. Laura’s other writings include a regular newspaper column and a few other nonfiction works.
Here’s a passage I pulled out at random; it’s a good example of what I enjoy about her writing:
“There was nothing more that a house could possibly have. The glass windows made the inside of that house so light that you would hardly know you were in a house. It smelled clean and piny, from the yellow-new board walls and floor. The cook stove stood lordly in the corner by the lean-to door. A touch on the white-china door knob swung the boughten door on its boughten hinges, and the door knob’s little iron tongue clicked and held the door shut.
‘We’ll move in, tomorrow morning,” Pa said. “This is the last night we’ll sleep in a dugout.’”
On the Banks of Plum Creek
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Charles John Huffam Dickens: February 7th, 1812 – June 9, 1870. Today would be his 202nd birthday! Wow, it’s hard to know where to start with his life. First of all, he was born in southern England and lived there for most of his life, including London. I think we’re all familiar with his writings and what made his career so great. He was prolific and brilliant, and many of his stories and characters are well-known even by people who haven’t read them – like me! Yes, I admit with a sheepish grin, although I really, really like his style, I have only read A Tale of Two Cities. But it was pretty amazing so I will get around to reading more. I will!
He wrote mostly about his contemporary Victorian England. Here is how wikipedia summarizes his bibliography: “Charles Dickens published over a dozen major novels, a large number of short stories (including a number of Christmas-themed stories), a handful of plays, and several non-fiction books. Dickens’s novels were initially serialised in weekly and monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats.”
I’m going to pull another random passage; it has to be from A Tale of Two Cities or else I may get distracted by reading a new book …:
“A wonderful corner for echoes, it has been remarked, that corner where the Doctor lived. Ever busily winding the gold thread which bound her husband, and her father, and herself, and her old directress and companion, in a life of quiet bliss, Lucie sat in the still house in the tranquilly resounding corner, listening to the echoing footsteps of years.”
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Jules Gabriel Verne: February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905. Today would be his 186th birthday. He was born on the Loire River in France and is primarily known for his science-fiction works, of which genre he was more-or-less the inventor. I’ve read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – good mostly because of Captain Nemo – and Around the World in Eighty Days – which I found much more fascinating. (The ending was absolutely spectacular … one of the best endings ever … if you’ve read it, do you agree?) I hope to read Journey to the Center of the Earth before all is said and done.
Here’s the first passage from Around the World in Eighty Days:
“Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814. He was one of the most noticeable members of the Reform Club, though he seemed always to avoid attracting attention; an enigmatical personage, about whom little was known, except that he was a polished man of the world. People said that he resembled Byron, – at least that his head was Byronic; but he was a bearded, tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old.”

What do you think of any or all of these authors? Which one is your favorite?

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