John Ernst Steinbeck Jr.

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (1902-1968) won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.

In accepting Steinbeck said: the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.

The acceptance points directly to the points of criticism that many expressed. Swedish newspapers said the award was "one of the Academy's biggest mistakes.” The New York Times referred to his books as “watered down by tenth-rate philosophizing.”

Steinbeck said of writing that “to write well about something you had to either love it or hate it very much, and that in a sense was a mirror of his own personality.”

His first financial success was with the writing of Tortilla Flat in 1935. Before that he made his living as a carpenter, ranch hand, factory laborer, sales clerk, caretaker and reporter, and was also given financial assistance by his father in the hope that he would develop his craft.

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Lee Child

James D. "Jim" Grant, is best known by his pen name Lee Child. He was a Television director who became is a British author when his TV job went away. He said starting writing novels saying they are "the purest form of entertainment."

His first novel, Killing Floor, was published in 1997, and he moved to the United States in the summer of 1998

Child is best known for his Jack Reacher novel series. Reacher is a former American Military Policeman described as being 6 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 250 pounds and having a 50-inch chest. He grew up on military bases and has served all of his life until leaving in his mid thirties.

He wanders the United States but carries no luggage. When his clothes get dirty he just goes to the local stores and buy more and just puts his old ones in the trash.

Child has referred to these books as revenge stories– "Somebody does a very bad thing, and Reacher takes revenge."

Child’s writing style is, like Reacher, that of a rogue. He says that rather than follow the advice to “show not tell” he is perfectly willing to have his character look in the mirror and tell us what he sees. Rather than not talk about the weather he says if that is what is on the mind of his character that he starts with it. As for creating suspense he said—”it all boils down to asking a question and making people wait for the answer.”



FYI Interesting Fact…………………Someone, somewhere, buys one of Child’s Jack Reacher crime thrillers every 13 seconds. 

SEE REVIEWS OF THE FOLLOWING BOOKS

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Stephen King a Literary Influence

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Stephen King says on page 106 of his book, On Writing, "You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair-the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart."

King’s books are marketed as literary fiction and his influence is immense. For the past four decades, no single writer has dominated the landscape of genre writing like him. To date, he is the only author in history to have had more than 30 books become No. 1 best-sellers

King says: "Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." Some still may haggle over the "merit" of the writing. Merit can be such a snobbish tool.”

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Stephen King said years ago: "When he went home from the hospital he watched the Titanic and he knew his IQ had been damaged."  If thinking is the requirement for writing to have "merit" then no one can say that King's Horror Genre doesn't make you think. The problem for some may be what you wind up thinking about!  


These books below are ones that have been reviewed on this site. Click the book to see the review. 

*Happy Birthday September 21, 1947

Is C.S. Lewis a Literary Influence

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Is C.S. Lewis a Literary Influence? Is having a legacy the same as having a Literary Influence?

Lewis does indeed have a legacy. He is best known for his writings both in the area of fantasy, especially his sci-fi trilogy, and religion.

In the more than 50 years since his death his works of fantasy still have power. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, for example, resonates with many and still endures. Lewis’s writings of his conversion to Christianity and thought about Christianity are prolific and have had a strong influence.

According to Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury , Lewis is not considered to be an academic theologian  but "in what you might call pastoral theology: as an interpreter of people's moral and spiritual crises; as somebody who is a brilliant diagnostician of self-deception."

Whether the Archbishop is correct in his opinion, much of Lewis’s writing does have broad appeal. “The Screwtape Letters” may be the best example of this, where his perceptive inquiry into temptation is cast as a series of witty letters between a demon and his apprentice.

“Mere Christianity” is a book that might confirm the Archbishops view, but then it was based on a series of BBC radio talks Lewis gave during the second world war and it may not be fair to judge his writings on Christianity based on it.

Lewis didn’t have a lot of good things to say about poets and some say that this is because he had not succeeded as a poet.

Other areas of focus were as a children's writer, novelist, memoirist, essayist, critic, broadcaster and apologist. So yes, C.S. Lewis had an enormous literary influence . He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University and Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. He wrote more than thirty books: just the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures, so far.

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Harold Bloom

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Professor Harold Bloom: He was born in 1930 and he is likely, no he must really be the most knowledgeable Shakespeare Scholar on the planet.

(See Shakespeare Literary Favorite Click Here

He is an American literary critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities and English at Yale University. He has written more than forty books, including twenty books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and a novel.  

Bloom considers Shakespeare to be the ultimate center of the Western canon and even said of himself that he was only a parody of Falstaff.” (See Falstaff Review Click Here) The pictures used to portray Falstaff do seem to resemble Bloom.  

Bloom's theory is that people tend ultimately to be either more Hamlet (see Hamlet review Click Here), “an abyss, a chaos of virtual nothingness”, or Falstaff, overflowing with vitality and perpetual laughter, for whom “the self is everything“.

His book "Shakespeare The Invention of the Human" (see review click here) says that Shakespeare's vocabulary of 22,000 words is so infinite that it proves he knew pretty much everything there is to know about humankind. That he therefore “invented the human”.

In an interview published in 1995, Bloom reflected on the great authors of the Western world, stating, "We have to read Shakespeare, and we have to study Shakespeare. We have to study Dante. We have to read Chaucer. We have to read Cervantes. We have to read the Bible, at least the King James Bible. We have to read certain authors.…They provide an intellectual, I dare say, a spiritual value which has nothing to do with organized religion or the history of institutional belief. They remind us in every sense of re-minding us. They not only tell us things that we have forgotten, but they tell us things we couldn’t possibly know without them, and they reform our minds. They make our minds stronger. They make us more vital."

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Harold Bloom's list of books that can teach you to read well.

Harold Bloom in How to Read and Why sets out the following list of books, books which he believes have the power to instill in one a life-long love of aesthetically and intellectually great literature. 

 

Maya Angelou

"Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou (April 4, 1928 to May 28, 2014), known as Maya Angelou, was an American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet and civil rights activist best known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,* which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman."

*Click  below on books below Caged Bird Sings & other review   

She used her skills to leave people feeling different because of what she wrote. Her writing approach has been sometimes labeled "autobiographical fiction" because it went beyond some traditional bounds. She wrote speaking often in the first person singular using the word "I" when what she meant was "we". This approach is also considered the "slave narrative tradition" and it is a way to buffer a claim intended to be meant for everyone not just the author. Similar to the oral tradition she followed in her poetry her message came in the more expressive language of the street or ghetto.  Her autobiographies carried a message beyond just her life. She wanted to correct negative stereotype of black culture. 

President Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. The good news is you don’t have to be famous to leave people remembering how you made them feel. It happens whether you intended it or not. If you care about someone, they will know. If you don’t really care, they will know.

Her quotes & poems were more than feel good platitudes but hard truths that you could feel.

Poem: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou See Poetry Reviewed Section (click here)

“People will forget what you have said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. 

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” 

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.

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Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison at age 33 (1964) was jobless, divorced, with one child and one on the way. She had returned to her parents home in Ohio.

Today she is one of the most respected American writers as well as an editor, teacher, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University.  She is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She is known for her plays "Desdemona" and "Dreaming Emmett" and her movies, "A Moment in Time", "Conversations with Legendary Women", and "African American Women of Achievement".

Her writing style is intended not to just tell people about African-American problems and issues but to show them.  She does this without losing the traditional language. 

She has written many books but three stood out for me. "Beloved", "The Bluest Eye", and "Song of Solomon". Beloved was a book that showed us how black Americans repress and deny the experience of slavery. It was inspired by a true story and is considered her most difficult book and one that some critics said they felt they actually experienced slavery.  

She said of her book that:

"In hindsight, I think what is important about it is the process by which we construct and deconstruct reality in order to be able to function in it".

This viewpoint of Morrison, intended for the book Beloved, has application for my own viewpoints. I have felt that we need to write our own life-stories and that by doing so we re-invent ourselves. Just telling your life story will cause you to connect events and suggest that one influenced another ones outcome. That is the reality changing and it will change who you think you are

 

Quotes by Toni Morrison

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

 “At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”

 “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”

 “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” 

Beloved
By Toni Morrison
Tar Baby
By Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon
By Toni Morrison

Literary Favorites

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Thomas S. Monson, President & beloved Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, passed away on January 2nd 2018.  

"In addition to his deep love of scripture, Monson was also a lifelong reader of great literary works, often, over his 55 years of service, using themes and stories from novels, poetry and musicals to express his faith and offer counsel to members of the church". The value of looking at some of his favorites is clear, as is his observation that "we become like those whom we admire". 

He said of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic account, "The Great Stone Face," we adopt the mannerisms, the attitudes, even the conduct of those whom we admire — and they are usually our friends."

Some of President Monson's Favorites           used in many of his talks.

"My Kingdom," by Louisa May Alcott  

"I do not ask for any crown but that which all may win; Nor try to conquer any world except the one within."

King Author quoted from Camelot. 

"Do not let your passions destroy your dreams" 

"A Tale of Two Cities," by Charles Dickens  

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."

President Monson suggested that this quote also refers to our own day saying: "This is your world. The future is in your hands. The outcome is up to you. The way to exaltation is not a freeway featuring unlimited vision, unrestricted speeds and untested skills."

Favorite Quote"It's Up to You,"                          by Clinton T. Howell

You are the one who has to decide                    Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside ...                Whether you’ll strive for the goal that’s afar          Or just be content to stay where you are.

*25 literary favorites President Thomas S. Monson quoted in talks, devotionals By Lottie Peterson Johnson  Published: January 3, 2018