Tag: American literature

135 Years of ‘Huckleberry Finn’

“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.” – Goodreads 

Image Via Time

Mark Twain (real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens), was born on Nov. 30th in the small town of Florida, MO as the sixth child to John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens. When Samuel was twelve, his father died of pneumonia, and Samuel was forced to leave school to become a printer’s apprentice.

Samuel found his enjoyment of writing when he began working for Orion’s newspaper as a printer and editorial assistant. By the time he was seventeen, Samuel had left Orion’s newspaper to work for a printer in St. Louis. There he became a river pilot, which is where he adopted his pseudonym, Mark Twain, a term used by river pilots to mean “that is safe to navigate”(CMG World Wide).

 

 

Due to the lull in river trade during the Civil War in 1861, “Clemens began working as a newspaper reporter for several newspapers all over the United States”, according to CMG World Wide. Seven years later, Samuel married a woman named Olivia Langdon, and the two had four children, one of whom died in infancy, and two more in their twenties. Clara, their only surviving child, lived to be 88 years of age, with one daughter. Unfortunately, Clara’s daughter died young without having any children of her own, leaving no living descendants of Samuel Clemens.

Image Via Medium

Twain’s legacy survives, however, through his books, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn, as it’s often called, has been taught in schools as one of the most famous works of literature. Below is a book summary:

“A nineteenth-century boy from a Mississippi River town recounts his adventures as he travels down the river with a runaway slave, encountering a family involved in a feud, two scoundrels pretending to be royalty, and Tom Sawyer’s aunt who mistakes him for Tom.” – Goodreads

 

 

Although it is the most famous, Huck Finn, is also very controversial. It turns up in the news more often than you think for being banned or restored in the school systems. On its anniversary, I encourage you to dive in and obtain a little bit of Mark Twain’s legacy.

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Featured Image Via National Post

Top 10 Literary Places to Explore in NYC!

January and February are the coldest and toughest months in New York, and if you’re feeling the blues, we got some good news to cheer you up! Because, guess what, now is the perfect time to huddle around and explore the best literary places this magnificent city has to offer all you book nerds out there! So, without further adieu, here’s a big list to keep you busy!

1. The new york public library

image via the nation

The main branch of the NYPL lives up to its hype and is just as magnificent as you would imagine. They hold interesting exhibits frequently enough and the Rose Main Reading Room is beautiful and worth a visit just to get lost in the architecture, and of course — the books!

2. the morgan library and museum

image via conde nast traveler

If you haven’t heard of this magnificent library yet, you need to change that right now! They have ongoing exhibitions all year round, including Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens and many more. Also, fun fact: Did you know this library actually belonged to the famous J.P Morgan, and was opened to the public by J.P Morgan Jr? Well, now you do!

 

3. strand book store

image via downtown magazine

Strand! Everyone’s heard of the famous bookstore and its 18 miles of books, but did you also know that they have a whole floor dedicated to banned books? How awesome is that? Also, they host frequent events, so check out their calendar to be in the loop!

4. poets house

image via pinterest

If you’re a fan of poetry, you’ll love Poets House! It’s literally a massive poetry library, free and open to the public, located in Tribeca. It has over 70,000 volumes of poetry (insane, I know!) and hosts awesome events all year round.

5. edgar allen poe cottage

image via nycgo

Fans of “The Raven” can gather around and make their way to The Bronx, where Edgar Allen Poe’s cottage still exists! Poe spent the last years of his life there and the park where its located is actually called Poe Park, how neat! It’s open to the public and gathers tons of tourists all year long, and you could be one of them too!

6. the jefferson market library

image via millie fiori

This location of the New York Public Library was actually a courthouse originally, and has served the Greenwich Village community for over 50 years! And also, the Jefferson Market Library is now considered a national monument as well, so definitely worth a visit!

 

7. bluestockings

image via bluestockings

Bluestockings is a volunteer-initiative based and collectively-owned super cool, one of a kind bookstore! They also have a fair trade cafe, and an activist center, located in the LES. The store specializes in feminism, queer and gender studies, global capitalism, climate & environment and many other pressing issues– so we’re sure you’re dying to check it out, and you should!

8. forbidden planet

image via facebook

Calling all comic nerds! Forbidden Planet, located right next to Strand, is THE place for graphic novels, figurines and T-shirts! So feel free to head your way over there and geek out to your hearts content!

9. housing works bookstore cafe

image via wikipedia

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and Bar is a non-profit, donation based bookstore, run solely by volunteers and their proceeds go towards people affected by homelessness and AIDS. So, every time you purchase a book or a baked good from there, know that you’re giving back to the society directly! And if the great cause wasn’t a good enough reason to visit the store, know that it’s also gorgeous inside!

10. drunk shakespeare

image via nytimes

If you haven’t seen this radical show in performance yet, can you even call yourself a literary enthusiast? Drunk Shakespeare is exactly as enticing as it sounds. One actor shoots five shots of whiskey, then attempts to act as the lead in a performance of a Shakespeare play, while the other four try to keep up. It’s rowdy, literary, and wildly entertaining, and trust us when we say that you don’t want to miss this!

So, while this list keeps you busy, we’ll go compile some more cool stuff for you to do, so these dreary months don’t feel as long! Until then, keep reading!

featured image via the crazy tourist


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Gatsby Was First Published in 1925. So What Else Was Going on?

On April 10th, 1925, Scribner published a short novel by popular author F. Scott Fitzgerald which didn’t sell many copies or receive positive reviews. Today, The Great Gatsby is one of the most widely taught works of fiction in the United States.  Safe to say, the publishing climate in the 1920s was about as unpredictable as international conflict at the time — so what other bookish things were happening in 1925?

 

1. the Argosy Book store opened

 

 

New York City’s oldest independent bookstore, Argosy Book Store, opened for the first time in 1925, although it later moved from 114 East 59th Street to 116 East 59th Street. This famous bookstore still sells rare, used, and new books to customers in its elegant townhouse setting — until 6 p.m. most evenings, anyway.

 

2. American ya author robert cormier was born

 

 

Although he didn’t write his first novel until he was thirty-five , I Am the Cheese and The Chocolate War author Robert Cormier was born on January 17th, 1925, in Massachusetts. His books, later adapted into award-winning films, continues to receive flack today for its violent depictions of mental illness and abuse.

 

3. the new yorker published its first issue

 

The New Yorker magazine, a cultural vanguard for New York City and modern culture, published its first issue on February 21st, 1925 — and has hardly stopped releasing world-famous covers, cartoons, and commentary since then.

 

4. Flannery O’connor died

 

 

On March 25th, approximately a month before the publication of a book that would change the world, literature lost a legend when short-story writer and proponent of the Southern Gothic literary style Flannery O’Connor died from lupus at the age of thirty-nine.

5. T.s. eliot published the hollow men

 

 

20th Century poet T.S. Eliot officially published his haunting tribute to post-war Europe, “The Hollow Men,” on November 23rd, 1925, though there are many borrowed lines from some of Eliot’s previous works.

 

Featured Image Via Argosy Book Store.

 

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3 Classic Authors with Spooky Ties to the Occult

In the wake of Darwinism, the world was left with one loaded question: what does this discovery say about God and the afterlife? This search for meaning helped to spawn the Victorian Era obsession with the supernatural, a movement that sought the answers to life’s big questions- by any means necessary. Seances, astral projection, and psychic readings caught the interest of the era’s intellectuals, including some of your favorite authors.

 

1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

As it turns out, the author and creator of famous detective Sherlock Holmes was supernaturally gifted. Doyle was a devotee of the Spiritualist movement, a widespread pursuit of the mystical originating with three dubiously psychic sisters. In 1848, the Fox Sisters of Hydesville, NY used a pattern of taps to communicate with the spirits in their supposedly haunted house. In the United States, rampant industrialization (hello disease and poverty) led to a nationwide obsession with death. In a world where one-third of infants born in cities did not live over 1 year, the sisters thrived. Though they recanted their story in 1888, they later stated that they had been paid a bribe of $1,500 to… well, lie about lying. By that point, however, Spiritualism had its own supernatural power as a sweeping movement. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Spiritualist and mystery writer, was desperate to solve the greatest mystery of all: the secret of life beyond death.

 

Sherlock Holmes, creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Image Via denofgeek.com

 

Conan Doyle’s fascination with the Fox Sisters led him to attempt a seance during his time as a physician. Known to fervently believe in telepathy, Conan Doyle publicized his beliefs during his notorious and brief friendship with magician Harry Houdini. Conan Doyle believed that Houdini had actual supernatural abilities, and, with his wife, convinced skeptic Houdini to participate in a seance. Conan Doyle’s wife claimed to receive a telepathic message from Houdini’s late mother; unfortunately, Houdini’s mother didn’t speak English. Yikes. Friendship over. Undeterred, Conan Doyle continued performing seances with his wife to contact his relatives who died in World War One. He would abandon his fiction writing at the height of his fame, focusing exclusively on his Spiritualist beliefs. After a lifelong obsession with ghosts, he eventually became one. Medium Estelle Roberts famously claimed to summon Doyle’s spirit in front of a large audience at his funeral in 1930.

 

2. Charles Dickens

 

Charles Dickens, literary genius behind A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, was also all about that spooky lifestyle. Close friends would say he had a “hankering for ghosts,” an obsession that lasted throughout his life. This passion is evident in many of his works, perhaps most famously in A Christmas Carol. Though he later became more of a skeptic, he still sought out evidence of the supernatural. Dickens once explained he would never rule out any possibilities: “don’t suppose that I am so bold and arrogant as to settle what can and what cannot be, after death.” More interested in the scientific and psychological aspects of the supernatural, Dickens went on to become a proponent of Mesmerism.

 

 

Live action adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol'

Image Via electricliterature.com

 

The Mesmerist movement represented the crossover between proven science and faith in the unknown. A major part of Mesmerism was its focus on medical miracles and many (scientific?) attempts to cure disease with psychic energy. According to those who believed, a practitioner could put his patient into a trance and transfer his stronger energy into the weaker patient. This became (alarmingly!) a popular medical treatment in the 1830s and 1840s… not a time period known for its long lifespans. So much for your reason and skepticism, Dickens!

 

 

3. Henry James

 

Widely regarded as the bridge between American literary realism and modernism, The Turn of the Screw author Henry James had an occult connection through his brother. William James was a core member of the Society for Psychical Research, an organization of intelligentsia in pursuit of the secrets behind death. The Society sought to apply scientific principles to the unexplored territory of the supernatural. William himself was no crackpot, a Harvard man many call “the father of American psychology.” Although Henry James himself was not a member, the two brothers often stayed together, and Henry had frequent exposure to his brother’s ideas. One major area of William’s research was haunted houses, which he and the Society believed to be telepathic hotspots.

 

 

Haunted house graphic

Image Via yourtownmonthly.com

 

The Society for Psychical Research had a documented impact on the rising Gothic literary moment. Elements of Gothic literature include elements of horror, death, and gloom, along with the Romantic emphasis on intense emotions. William’s psychical investigations directly influenced Henry’s later ghost stories; it’s likely Henry also drew upon William’s paranormal research for his Gothic novel The Turn of the Screw.

 

As it turns out, anyone can believe in the supernatural, even the literary greats. So now the question is… do you?

 

 

Featured Image Via lovetoknow.com