Bookish News

John Ashbery, 1927-2017

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Award winning poet John Ashbery, author of such collections as Some Trees and Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, has died.

Unlike poets who come to their craft in a roundabout fashion, it was clear from a young age that Ashbery had the makings of a writer.  His first poems were published when he was still in grade school, and by the time he graduated from Harvard, where he studied literature, his trajectory seemed to be set.  A Fullbright Scholarship allowed him to move to France, where he worked as an editor of literary magazines and a translator.

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Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Today marks the 97th anniversary of the birth of Ray Bradbury, the screenwriter, essayist, and novelist whose works include such classics as The Martian Chronicles and Farenheit 451.

Though his formal education ended when he graduated from high school, Bradbury was nevertheless determined to hone his skills as a writer.  While running a newstand on LA streetcorners, he spent all his free time crafting stories.  Just five years after graduating, he was a full-time writer, selling short stories to periodicals and collecting them into volumes, like his first: Dark Carnival.  Three years after this first collection came Bradbury's first novel, The Martian Chronicles, about humanity's first attempts to colonize Mars.  Though well received, it was Bradbury's second novel, published in 1953, that...

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Sam Shepard, 1943-2017

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, actor, and writer Sam Shepard has died.

Shepard was born Samuel Shepard Rogers on November 5th, 1943, in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.  His father was an Army officer and former Air Force pilot, so the family moved frequently from military base to military base across the country.  By the time Shepard graduated from high school, he was living in California.  Having worked on a ranch as a teenager, he briefly studied agriculture at Mount Antonio Junior College, but dropped out to pursue acting and writing. 

Before long, Shepard had found his place in...

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Happy Birthday, Beatrix Potter!

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Beatrix Potter, best known for her beautifully illustrated children's stories featuring Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, and other animal friends, was born on today's date in 1866 in London, England.

Though never formally educated, Helen Beatrix Potter was a curious and dedicated student of the natural world.  She began drawing and painting at a young age, often using her pet rabbits Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper as models.  Her family summered in Scotland, and later the Lake District in northwest England, where she...

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Happy Birthday, Ernest Hemingway!

Friday, July 21st, 2017

Today marks the 118th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's birth.  A war-time ambulance driver, journalist, big-game hunter, and novelist, Hemingway's spare and straightforward writing style seemed to capture feeling of his generation, from the everyday horrors of war to the sense of stark reality they faced even after the conflicts had ended.

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Happy Birthday, Bill Watterson!

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Bill Watterson, best known as the cartoonist behind the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, is 59 years old today!

Watterson grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, in the 50s and 60s, and the time and place has played a major role in his work.  Though he worked as a freelance artist and cartoonist early in his career, it wasn't until 1985, when a cartoon of a six-year-old boy and his stuffed tiger made its debut, that Watterson's work caught the attention of a larger audience.

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Michael Bond (1926-2017)

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Author Michael Bond, best known as the creator of Paddington Bear, has died at his home in London. 

Bond had not originally planned on being a writer.  After dropping out of school at 14, he served in both the British Army and Royal Air Force during World War II.  His first short story, which he sold to The London Opinion magazine, was published in 1945, and though he continued to write stories, articles, and radio dramas, it was more a hobby than a career.  After the war, Bond took a job with the BBC, where he worked while continuing to write in his spare time.

The idea for Paddington came to Bond on Christmas Eve in 1956, when...

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Denis Johnson (1949-2017)

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Author Denis Johnson, best known for his story collection Jesus' Son and National Book Award winning novel Tree of Smoke, has passed away at the age of 67. 

Johnson's father was a U.S. State Department employee, so though Johnson himself was born in what was then West Germany, he grew up in such varied locales as Japan, the Phillipines, and the suburbs of Washington D.C.  He earned a bachelor's and then a master's degree from the University of Iowa, where he studied with Raymond Carver.  Johnson's career as a writer got off to an early and auspicious start when he published his first book, a poetry collection entitled The Man Among the Seals, at only 19 years old, but...

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Happy Birthday, Gary Paulsen!

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Gary Paulsen has always been an adventurer, which is perhaps why his many books for children and young adults are such perennial favorites.  Born in 1939, he developed a love of reading early in life, but never had much interest in school.  At 14, he actually did what so many youngsters dream of—he ran away to join a traveling carnival. 

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