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J.M. Coetzee (11/10)
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, J. M. Coetzee* studied first at Cape Town, earning degrees in English and mathematics. He worked for several years as a computer programmer while he researched his thesis on the novelist Ford Madox Ford. In 1968 he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a PhD in English,...
Kazuo Ishiguro (10/10)
Born in Nagasaki, Japan on November 8, 1954, Kazuo Ishiguro moved to Britain in 1960 at the age of five when his father began research at the National Institute of Oceanography. His family had not expected to stay, but ended up making Britain their home. He was educated at a grammar school for boys in Surrey, and later read English and ...
Ethiopian Authors (10/10)
Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. In 1980 he immigrated to the United States with his mother and sister, joining his father, who had fled the communist revolution in Ethiopia two years before. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and of Columbia University's MFA program in fiction. He has also reported ...
Margaret Drabble (10/10)
Margaret Drabble was born in 1939 in Sheffield, England. Her father was a barrister, county court judge and a novelist. Her sister is the author A.S. Byatt. Margaret attended the Mount School in York from where she won a scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge to read English. She received a Starred First (First Class Honours with ...
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (10/10)
Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in London in 1797. As the daughter of the feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and William Godwin, a political philosopher and an early anarchist proponent, Mary was born into a family that challenged social norms and encouraged ...
John Clare - A Little Known English Poet (09/10)
The Quickening Maze is based on real events in the lives of English poets John Clare and Alfred Tennyson. Tennyson, better known as Lord Tennyson (even though he was well into his eighth decade before becoming a peer) will be familiar to most of us for a handful of his better known poems including The Charge of the Light Brigade, one...
Beirut 39 - An anthology of writing by thirty-nine Arabic writers under thirty-nine. (08/10)
Beirut 39 derives its title from 'Beirut39', a group of thirty-nine writers of Arab heritage who were all born in or after 1970. The countries of origin represented in the anthology include Palestine, Saudia Arabia, Syria, Oman, Jordan, Sudan, Libya, Lebanon, and Egypt, among others.

These writers met for workshops, readings, and ...
Frame Narration and Ekphrasis (07/10)
Paul Auster frequently employs two particular literary techniques which, when combined, turn his novels into multi-layered stories with internal echoes and reverberations.

The first is a frame narrative, in which the main plot is a story, usually in the form of a manuscript, which is discovered and introduced by someone else. This ...
Russia’s Poetic Troika (07/10)
Born in Odessa, Russia in 1889, Anna Akhmatova began writing poems at the age of 11, adopting her grandmother's surname because her father would not permit her to publish under his own. As a member of the Acmeist school of poetry, Akhmatova achieved celebrity along with her husband, Nikolay Gumilyov, who was executed in 1921 as a ...
The Anti-Updikeans (06/10)

'I'd like to offer assurances that your reviewer is not one of these spleen-venting, spittle-spattering Updike-haters one encounters among literary readers under 40. The fact is that I am probably classifiable as one of very few actual sub-40 Updike fans.'

This quote comes from an essay by David Foster Wallace, the upstart author of ...
Lev Grossman's Worlds (06/10)
Lev Grossman was born in 1969, the son of two English professors, and grew up in Lexington, MA, a placid little suburb of Boston. After obtaining a literature degree from Harvard and working towards a PhD in comparative literature at Yale, he gradually turned himself into a journalist and after a few years as a free-lancer, was hired...
Shariar Mandanipour (06/10)
Shariar Mandanipour's varied life began in the city of Shiraz, where he was born in 1956. In the 1970s, he participated in protests against the authoritarian rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; in the 80s, he volunteered in the Iran-Iraq war; and, since 2009, he has served as the chief editor for Asr-e Pandishanbeh (Thursday Evening), an ...
Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother (05/10)
Several months before the release of Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs, his wife, writer Ayelet Waldman, published a memoir called Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, which offers another look at the Chabon/Waldman family.

The book stems partly from Waldman's controversial essay ...
Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America (04/10)
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was born in Paris on July 29, 1805. His parents, both of aristocratic background, narrowly avoided the guillotine during the aftermath of the French Revolution, and were exiled to England. They were later able to return to France during the reign of Napoleon. His father supported the Bourbon...
Ian Sansom on Libraries, Writing, and Flapjacks (03/10)
On his website Ian Sansom speaks about the role libraries have played in his life:

'Libraries are places where you go to invent and reinvent yourself, or maybe just to use the toilet, if they have toilet facilities, and to find out how other people have reinvented themselves, and what they've written on the walls, and the desks, and in the...
To Read or Not To Read in Series Order (03/10)
When I was a teenager, my mother gave me some advice which I almost immediately ignored. We were both avid readers who preferred reading to talking and most of our limited conversation was about what we were reading.

She had enjoyed English novelist Norah Lofts's trilogy about the history of a house and the stories of the people ...
The WPA's American Guide Series (11/09)

State by State was inspired by the American Guide Series, a project that grew out of The Federal Writers Program (FWP). FWP was established in 1935 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal agency created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The FWP employed over 6000 Depression-era writers, editors, historians, researchers,...

Death in Literature (10/09)
Saramago's characterization of death departs from convention in several ways—not least in her insistence in remaining lower case: 'I am not Death, but death. Death is something of which you could never even conceive, and please note, mister grammarian, that I did not conclude that phrase with a preposition, you human beings ...
Five Notable Pakistani Authors (05/09)
While Indian authors have been the darlings of the literary world for the past couple of decades, Pakistani novelists writing in English have remained in the shadows -- but no longer. Even as their country sinks into violence, a growing number of novelists are winning acclaim around the world. Here are five Pakistani authors ...
Vergil (05/09)
History records that Publius Vergilius Maro, better known as Vergil (or Virgil), was born in 70 BCE. Scholars argue about his place of birth and his early education, but legend has it that he was born the son of a farmer in Northern Italy, which was then known as Cisalpine Gaul ('Gaul, on this side of the Alps'). Despite a ...
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Absinthe & Brooklyn (01/09)
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was the best-selling novel of the 19th century (and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible) and is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850's. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States alone....
Literary Rats (01/09)
Though his book is wildly inventive, Savage is far from the first novelist to anthropomorphize a rat. Firmin stands out for presenting literature as sustenance for the body as well as the mind - as Firmin eats his way through the books, the thoughts, words and deeds contained consume him with intoxicating curiosity.

For every work of ...
Redactions in Modern Literature (01/09)
Though the memo at the end of the novel from the CIA Publications Review Board is addressed to the novel's protagonist, Mark Ruttenberg, thus revealing the redactions (blanked out text) as a fictional device to create an aura of authenticity, the noveldid actually pass by the PRB—six times. Weisberg preemptively redacted his own work...
Rosemary Mahoney (11/08)
Some people categorize Rosemary Mahoney as a travel writer, but she is much more than that label suggests. Her intellectual curiosity, fearlessness, and ability to craft beautiful prose, along with her uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, have led to her success.

Her first adventure occurred when she was ...
Hamlet Summarized (11/07)
It's not at all necessary to be familiar with Hamlet to appreciate The Dead Fathers Club, but for those who would like to freshen their memories, here is a quick outline:

Hamlet's father, King Hamlet of Denmark, is recently dead. Claudius, the dead king's brother, becomes King and quickly marries King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude. Young Hamlet...
What is a Gothic Novel? (10/07)
Definitions of a gothic novel abound but most sources agree that it is one in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of terror are pervasive, and where the action usually takes place in a dark, mysterious building, typically a castle built in the Gothic architectural style*.

Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764) is considered...
William Henry Ireland Forger of Shakespeare (07/07)
William Henry Ireland was born in London in 1777. His father, Samuel Ireland, was a successful publisher of travelogues and collector of antiquities. At an early age William became a collector of books and while apprenticed to a mortgage lawyer he started to experiment with forgery - forging signatures on genuinely old paper.

In 1794 he...
Edgar Allan Poe (07/07)
Edgar Allan Poe was born Edgar Poe in 1809 to Elizabeth and David Poe, both actors. They died when he was three and he was taken in by John Allan, a tobacco merchant living in Virginia. He became estranged from his foster father in the mid to late 1820s and joined the US Army under the name Edgar Perry - he served for two years before...
The Satanic Verses (11/06)
Did you know?
The 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie proclaimed by Ayatollah Khomeini (then leader of Iran) triggered by the publication of The Satantic Verses in 1988/ It was reaffirmed in 2005 by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's current spiritual leader, and again in February 2006 when the government-run Matyrs Foundation announced, &...
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