Tag Archives: Literature

Happy Saint Crispin’s Day

Testosterone must run at peak levels on October 25th

This is Saint Crispin’s Day….

Also the day of the Battle of Agincourt (1415) were Shakespeare set this famous speech so well done by Kenneth Branagh in the film of “Henry V.”

It’s also the day of the Battle of Balaclava when the famous Light Brigade charged in 1854 and inspired Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s famous poem.

Yes, I know….my Liberal Arts Education and History Major are showing again….

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Did J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI Push Ernest Hemingway to Suicide?

Speaking of evil…

I wonder if it’s possible to count the number of famous and not so famous lives destroyed by J Edgar Hoover.

This article from The Guardian raises some interesting new theories on his possible role in Ernest Hemingway’s death:


For five decades, literary journalists, psychologists and biographers have tried to unravel why Ernest Hemingway took his own life, shooting himself at his Idaho home while his wife Mary slept.

Some have blamed growing depression over the realisation that the best days of his writing career had come to an end. Others said he was suffering from a personality disorder.

Now, however, Hemingway’s friend and collaborator over the last 13 years of his life has suggested another contributing factor, previously dismissed as a paranoid delusion of the Nobel prize-winning writer. It is that Hemingway was aware of his long surveillance by J Edgar Hoover’s FBI, who were suspicious of his links with Cuba, and that this may have helped push him to the brink.

Writing in the New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death, AE Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway and Hemingway and His World, said he believed that the FBI’s surveillance “substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide”, adding that he had “regretfully misjudged” his friend’s fear of the organisation.

The reassessment is significant as it was precisely because of Papa Hemingway that the writer’s fear of being bugged and followed by the FBI first surfaced. Hotchner’s belated change of heart casts a new light on the last few months of Hemingway’s life and two incidents in particular.

In November 1960, Hotchner writes, he had gone to visit Hemingway and Mary in Ketchum, Idaho, for an annual pheasant shoot. Hemingway was behaving oddly, Hotchner recalls: “When Ernest and our friend Duke MacMullen met my train at Shoshone, Idaho, for the drive to Ketchum, we did not stop at the bar opposite the station as we usually did because Ernest was anxious to get on the road. I asked why the hurry. ‘The Feds.’


“‘They tailed us all the way. Ask Duke.’

“‘Well… there was a car back of us out of Hailey.’

“‘Why are FBI agents pursuing you?’ I asked.

“‘It’s the worst hell. The goddamnedest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted.’

“We rode for miles in silence. As we turned into Ketchum, Ernest said quietly: ‘Duke, pull over. Cut your lights.’ He peered across the street at a bank. Two men were working inside. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Auditors. The FBI’s got them going over my account.’

“‘But how do you know?’

“‘Why would two auditors be working in the middle of the night? Of course it’s my account’.”

It would not be the only time during this visit that Hemingway would complain about being under FBI surveillance. On the last day of Hotchner’s visit, at dinner with the writer and his wife, Hemingway pointed out two men at the bar who he identified as “FBI agents”.

More: Fresh claim over role the FBI played in suicide of Ernest Hemingway | Books | The Observer.

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So You Want to Write a Novel

I thought I would run this again for all my writer friends…

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“Dorian Gray” to Appear as Wilde Actually Wrote It

Fascinating article from Salon.com about Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and the restored edition about to come out…

Altogether, the revised 1891 manuscript that eventually appeared in book form encompassed a whole series of changes and omissions designed to alter and conventionalize the “moral,” such as it is, by heightening the beautiful Dorian’s monstrosity and thus rendering him a far less sympathetic character than he had appeared to be in the original typescript. Looking at the typescript, then, we find more comprehensible Wilde’s oft-quoted statement on the book’s autobiographical elements: “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be — in other ages, perhaps.”

Frankel has done much to place Wilde and his novel within the context of their time — “a heated atmosphere of hysteria and paranoia” about sexual “deviation.” The 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act was extended by Henry Labouchère, a radical member of Parliament, to include the criminalization of acts of “gross indecency” between men. (The Labouchère amendment was not repealed until 1956.) The vagueness of the amendment’s language — just what acts did “gross indecency” encompass, anyway? — caused fear amounting to paranoia among the homosexual community; as Frankel writes, “The conditions had been created for a series of homosexual scandals that would rock London and increase the level of homophobia in British society.”

The so-called Cleveland Street Affair, which broke only months before “Dorian Gray’s” first appearance, was the most spectacular of these, involving the infiltration and arrest of a ring of “rent boys” who worked by day as telegraph messengers and by night as prostitutes out of a brothel in Cleveland Street. A number of aristocrats and prominent military men were implicated; Lord Arthur Somerset, the Prince of Wales’ equerry, fled the country; a shadow was even cast on the name of the prince’s elder son, though that suspicion was subsequently proved groundless. “In the wake of the Cleveland Street Scandal,” Frankel explains, “Wilde’s emphasis on Dorian Gray’s youthfulness, or susceptibility to the ‘corruption’ of an older aristocratic man (Lord Henry), is one of the features of the novel that most outraged reviewers.”

via “Dorian Gray” as Wilde actually wrote it – Fiction – Salon.com.

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Does anyone want to be “well-read?” – Roger Ebert’s Journal

Another great article on Reading and Readers from Roger Ebert…

It’s especially sad that, given digital books and the physical accessibility of “books” in so many formats today, that more people aren’t reading these authors.

I read a lot and I’m going to make a commitment to myself to read some of these “old friends” so at least I can say I read them.  And quote them….

“Consider: who at this hour (apart from some professorial specialist currying his “field”) is reading Mary McCarthy, James T. Farrell, John Berryman, Allan Bloom, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Edmund Wilson, Anne Sexton, Alice Adams, Robert Lowell, Grace Paley, Owen Barfield, Stanley Elkin, Robert Penn Warren, Norman Mailer, Leslie Fiedler, R.P. Blackmur, Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag, Lillian Hellman, John Crowe Ransom, Stephen Spender, Daniel Fuchs, Hugh Kenner, Seymour Krim, J.F. Powers, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Rahv, Jack Richardson, John Auerbach, Harvey Swados–or Trilling himself?”

I read through this list with dismay. I have read all but two of those writers, love some, and met five. Yet I know with a sinking feeling that Ozick asks the correct question. Who at this hour is reading them? Paul Goodman, whose books so deeply influenced and formed me? Edmund Wilson, a role model? James Farrell, whose naturalistic Studs Lonigan evoked a decade of Chicago life? Mailer, who boasted he had beaten all of his contemporaries?

How many of them have you read? Some, I suspect, but they belong to your past. Most of you will have read Ginsberg’s “Howl,” but how much more of his poetry? I have his collected poems on my shelf, but don’t care to take them down. Whitman’s poems, on the other hand, are at the side of my chair and I read one every morning. I have every one of Edmund Wilson’s books, in the sublimely uniform Farrar Strauss & Giroux editions. Who cites him? Susan Sontag? Remembered for defining Camp.

via Does anyone want to be “well-read?” – Roger Ebert’s Journal.

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“The Help”: First Movie Trailer is here….

And it looks like it’s going to be good…

I’m so glad because I loved this book….

Here it is:

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Snooki gets $32K to Speak at Rutgers; $2K More Than Toni Morrison

Sadly, this does not seem to be an April Fool’s Day Joke…

It does, however,  seem to be more evidence of a declining civilization…

From the Associated Press:

The pouf is mightier than the pen when it comes to speaking fees at New Jersey’s largest university.

The Rutgers University Programming Association paid Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of the reality TV show “Jersey Shore” $32,000 Thursday to dish on her hairstyle, fist pumps, as well as the GTL — gym, tanning, laundry — lifestyle.

That’s $2,000 more than the $30,000 the university is paying Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison to deliver Rutgers’ commencement address in May.

Money for Polizzi’s appearance came from the mandatory student activity fee.

Freshman Adham Abdel-Raouf told The Star-Ledger of Newark he thought the price was a bargain given Snooki’s popularity. Another freshman, Dan Oliveto, said it was a waste of money.

Snooki’s advice to students: “Study hard, but party harder.”

via The Associated Press: Snooki gets $32K to talk ‘GTL’ on Rutgers campus.

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Words of Wisdom

I keep finding so many amazing comments from E.M. Forster as I continue to read the fascinating new Wendy Moffat biography and cross read his writings.

His world view and concerns from the early 20th Century are often still scarily relevant to the challenges and issues of the 21st Century.

From E.M. Forster in 1938…

I do not believe in Belief.  But this is an age of faith, and there are so many militant creeds that, in self-defence, one has to formulate a creed of one’s own.

Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world which is rent by religious and racial persecution, in a world where ignorance rules, and science, who ought to have ruled, plays the subservient pimp.

And this one, that I published in a blog a week or so ago, bears repeating:

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and bies:  school was the unhappiest time of my life, and the worst trick it played on me was to pretend that it was the world in miniature.  For it hindered me from discovering how lovely and delightful the world can be, and how much of it is intelligible.  From this platform of middle age, this throne of experience, this altar of wisdom, this scaffold of character, this beacon of hope, this threshold of decay, my last words to you are:  “there’s a better time coming.”

In other words:  It gets better.

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Filed under Books, Literature, Politics

E.M. Forster: It Gets Better

I’m currently reading the wonderful new biography, A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster by Wendy Moffat.

As you may recall, Forster was the author of the novels Howard’s End, A Passage to India, A Room with a View and, of course the posthumously published Maurice.

The book and his experiences at school as a young man in England at the turn of the 20th Century reminds me how timeless the fears of young people are and how prevalent “bullying” has always been for Gay people or people who are just a little different.

In light of the “It Gets Better” campaign to reassure young gays, lesbians and other victims of bullying, this passage, quoted from Forster’s diaries by Moffat, stood out:

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and bies:  school was the unhappiest time of my life, and the worst trick it played on me was to pretend that it was the world in miniature.  For it hindered me from discovering how lovely and delightful the world can be, and how much of it is intelligible.  From this platform of middle age, this throne of experience, this altar of wisdom, this scaffold of character, this beacon of hope, this threshold of decay, my last words to you are:  “there’s a better time coming.”

In other words:  It gets better.



Filed under Books, Gay