Angelou, Maya

Maya Angelou (1928-) is one of those people whose very life is a testament to how high the human spirit can rise. As a young child, Angelou and her brother were shuttled between her grandmother and their divorced mother. The grandmother lived in a small town in Arkansas, and Angelou, an African-American, grew up in the deep south within a culture of extreme discrimination. At the age of eight, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend, after which she became mute for five years. Over the years, Angelou has led a remarkable life, having a variety of experiences, both bad and good (including becoming pregnant at the age of 16). In 1970, she published "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings", the first of a series of highly regarded autobiographies. Over the years, Angelou has become a world-renowned writer, poet, playwright, essayist and political activist. Angelou's life is a remarkable one, blessed with ambition and resilience. Just reading about Angelou will both inspire and humble you.


Web:

http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap10/angelo...
http://www.empirezine.com/spotlight/maya/maya1.htm
http://www.swisseduc.ch/english/readinglist/angelou_may...


Asimov, Isaac

Isaac Asimov was the consummate explainer. He was a genius in the sense that whatever he touched, he illuminated. In his lifetime, he wrote hundreds of books on a large variety of subjects, opening the doors of understanding to countless people around the world. And, oh yes, I think he wrote a science fiction story or two. (I will have to check.)


Web:

http://homepage.mac.com/jenkins/Asimov/Asimov.html
http://q.webring.com/hub?ring=isaacasimov
http://www.asimov.com/
http://www.asimovians.com/forum/
http://www.asimovonline.com/
http://www.newearth.demon.co.uk/asimov/asht00.htm

Usenet:

Google Newsreader alt.books.isaac-asimov


Atwood, Margaret

Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood (1939-) is a master of documenting and helping us understand the "Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde double life for women." Her books -- which reviewers love to call "powerful" -- concern themselves with the twin themes of feminism and the power that mass society has over the individual. Atwood's most well-known novels are "The Edible Woman"(1969) and "The Handmaid's Tale" (1986). (I found an interesting similarity, by the way, between the setting of "The Handmaid's Tale" and the part of Isaac Asimov's book "Prelude to Foundation" in which he discusses the land of Mycogen. If you are an Atwood scholar looking for a dissertation topic, you might want to check it out.) Atwood says that women sometimes ask her about her male characters: why doesn't she make them stronger? She answers that this is a matter that should more properly be taken up with God. "It was not, after all, I who created Adam so subject to temptation that he sacrificed eternal life for an apple." I guess you can color me sensitive, but, yes, I do feel a tad misunderstood.


Web:

http://www.owtoad.com/
http://www.web.net/owtoad/toc.html
http://www.wsu.edu:8000/~brians/science_fiction/handmai...


Bukowski, Charles

The German-born American writer Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) is the men's writer of the twentieth century, far more so than, say, the highly overrated Ernie Hemingway. When it comes to earthy, plain-spoken, male (there's that word!) prose, Bukowski alone managed to take the essence of life -- the pain of just plain being in a difficult and indifferent world -- pick it up, wave it around his head, and show it to us in seventeen different ways, all before breakfast. Moreover, unlike his contemporary angst-filled literary wannabes, Bukowski made it all look easy. If you are a man (or if you want to understand men), you must read Bukowski's novel "Women". Do so today. To tempt you, I'm going to tell you how the book ends. It ends with the Henry Chinaski (Bukowski's literary alter ego) feeding a stray cat. "I opened him a can of Star-Kist solid white tuna. Packed in spring water. Net wt. 7 oz." I promise you that, by the time you get to the end of the story, this bland, useless, throwaway ending will be one of the most powerful lines of prose you have ever read.


Web:

http://www.addict.com/issues/1.09/Features/Bukowski/
http://www.anti-heroart.com/buk.html
http://www.levee67.com/bukowski/
http://www.litkicks.com/buk/

Usenet:

Google Newsreader alt.books.bukowski


Cisneros, Sandra

Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros (1954-) grew up (with six brothers!) in a poor family that shuttled between Chicago and Mexico City. Although she was raised with the traditional expectations of her culture, Cisneros did not go gentle into that good life. Instead, she decided to rage, rage against the dying of her spirit: "...I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain." Thus declares one of the characters in "The House on Mango Street" (1983), Cisneros' first novel. From that auspicious start, Cisneros' developing oeuvre of novels, stories, poems and essays have elevated her to become, arguably, the best-regarded doyenne of Latina literature. Cisneros' appeal is simple: she writes well, and she talks about things few other American writers even understand.


Web:

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/sandracisneros.html
http://www.classicnote.com/ClassicNotes/Authors/about_s...


Hesse, Hermann

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was a German-born Swiss novelist and poet. His work revolves around the recurring theme that artists are estranged from the society in which they live and, hence, suffer from a spiritual loneliness. Perhaps his best known novels are "Siddhartha" (1922) and "Steppenwolf" (1927). As he grew older, Hesse's novels became more analytical and -- to the chagrin of undergraduate English students forced to write long essays in order to pass mandatory literature courses -- more symbolic. In 1946, Hermann Hesse was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.


Web:

http://www.gss.ucsb.edu/projects/hesse/
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/hhesse.htm

Listserv Mailing List:

List Name: hesse-l
Subscribe To: listserv@listserv.ucsb.edu


Huxley, Aldous

The English writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) is best remembered for his novel "Brave New World", mainly because it has found a firm and enduring place on the list of books high school students are forced to read by English teachers who took a job temporarily, so as to have an income while they worked on their novel and, now, twenty years later, are still teaching while the notes for their long-forgotten literary work lie neglected at the bottom of a dusty attic cupboard. Notwithstanding, "Brave New World" is actually a good book. Moreover, Huxley is more than a literary one-trick pony, and when you can pull yourself away from the superficial demands of day-to-day existence, it behooves you to track down some of Huxley's other work, such as his novels, essays or poetry, and watch him make mash out of the intellectual pretensions of his contemporaries.


Web:

http://www.huxley.net/
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ahuxley.htm
http://www.somaweb.org/


Mailer, Norman

In 1948, the American novelist Norman Mailer (1923-) wielding his first novel "The Naked and the Dead" and an incipient ego the size of Brooklyn (where Mailer grew up), burst onto the cultural scene as a post-World War II literary prodigy. With that one novel, Mailer settled into a tenured appointment as an American man of letters, a position he has held ever since, through a series of books, some good, some bad, and some great. As the years passed, Mailer developed from a prodigy to an enfant terrible, and thence to the aging, almost respectably rakish grand old man of words he is today. He has broken new ground several times, as editor of "Dissent" (1952-1963,) as the co-founder of the "Village Voice" (1955), and in his pre-Hunter Thompson forays into the melding of literary smugness and journalism. (See, for example, "Armies of the Night", Mailer's personal reportage of his experiences at the 1968 Washington peace rallies.) Over the years, Mailer has taken a break from his writing long enough to marry six times and sire nine children. I guess he is better at taking breaks than I am. (Actually, that's not really important at all. It's just that I always wanted to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Norman Mailer.)


Web:

http://www.americanlegends.com/authors/norman_mailer.ht...
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/nmailer.htm
http://www.normanmailerworksanddays.com/


Morrison, Toni

African-American Toni Morrison (1931-) is celebrated for her vivid, colorful writing and her idiosyncratic characters. Although she often writes about the details of life in small black towns, her intricate, complex stories appeal to anyone who enjoys immersing themselves in the nuances of personality and human motivation. Her stories invite you to puzzle over what is really happening as the plot unfolds. Morrison's breakthrough as a writer came in 1977 with the publication of her novel "Song of Solomon", a mystical, fantastic tale of a black man in search of his past. A later novel, "Beloved" (1987) was an intense, emotional story set in the time of slavery, which earned Morrison enduring popularity. In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Web:

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/tonimorrison.html
http://www.educeth.ch/english/readinglist/morrisont/
http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/tonimorrison/ton...
http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/1993/morrison-...


Orwell, George

By 1946, when English author George Orwell (1903-1950) started to write "1984", his last and most celebrated book, he was a 43-year-old widower suffering from a debilitating case of tuberculosis that would eventually kill him. Orwell had a long history as a reporter, commentator, essayist and political novelist, but it was not until the publication of "Animal Farm" (1946), the story of a revolution carried out by farm animals, that Orwell achieved his first large commercial success. In "1984", Orwell depicts a futuristic England after a totalitarian revolution. In the book, Orwell marries superb writing with political themes that he had been discussing for years: how control of the language can sabotage legitimate political discourse, and how a world of several large superpowers would wage a useless, continual war against one another. Although the world that Orwell envisioned did not come to pass (and we do not have a government that exhorts us to believe that "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength"), I, all too often, see chilling reminders that the political weaknesses about which Orwell warned us are ever-present and all too real.


Web:

http://pages.citenet.net/users/charles/links.html
http://www.k-1.com/orwell/
http://www.orwell.ru/home.htm

Usenet:

Google Newsreader alt.books.george-orwell


Parker, Dorothy

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) was an American humorist, drama critic (for "Vanity Fair") and book critic (for "The New Yorker"). However, what she was best known for was her role as critic of humanity, starting with herself and working sideways. Her humor, quips and light verse virtually define the idea of irony (at least for the twentieth century). She was the only female member of the Algonquin Round Table -- a group of New York-style witty bon vivants that included her wistfully just-beyond-reach paramour Robert Benchley. Have you ever been bothered by someone, and then had the experience of thinking of the perfect comeback -- smooth and subtle, with exactly the right amount of graceful reproach -- only six hours too late? Dorothy Parker could do it perfectly and in real-time.


Web:

http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/parker/parke...
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/dparker.htm
http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/parker.h...


Salinger, J.D.

Is there any teenager who has read "Catcher in the Rye" and not immediately and irrevocably identified with its protagonist, Holden Caulfield? This short novel is a monologue that details several days in the life of a 16-year-old boy (although he is 17 at the time he relates the story). Caulfield has been expelled from school and is spending a few days in New York before returning home to face his parents. By the end of the book, Caulfield has a nervous collapse, but before he does, he takes us on a personal journey, one which questions our reasons for living, thinking, working, and being who we are. The author of the book, American writer J.D. (Jerome David) Salinger (1919-), published very little in his life: only this one novel and 35 short stories. Salinger worked on "Catcher in the Rye" for over ten years, from 1941 until it was published in 1951. Like Caulfield, Salinger is a strange, unhappy person, one who, for years, has been in the clutches of a mental illness. As a result, he has never published another novel and has lived the life of a recluse. However, though Salinger the man may be a cipher in the annals of American literature, Holden Caulfield, his finest creation, is anything but. Caulfield has a ferocious hold on a reading public that, with each new generation of teenagers, discovers "Catcher in the Rye" and begins to seriously question what it means to grow up, to wrestle with the complex ambiguities of life, and to glimpse the significance of losing the innocence of childhood.


Web:

http://www.morrill.org/books/salbio.shtml
http://www.salinger.org/
http://www.tmtm.com/sides/catcher.html


Silko, Leslie Marmon

Leslie Marmon Silko (1948-), an American of Native American, Mexican, and European ancestry, is a storyteller in the tradition of her tribe, the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico. Silko integrates poetry and prose into her intricate, vivid pictures of modern life as it relates to Native American culture. Her best-known book is "Almanac of the Dead". In order to fully appreciate her stories, it helps to have a feeling for Native American history. Once you do, Silko's work will quickly draw you into a compelling and fascinating narrative. For example, in her story, "Return of the Buffalo", a character named Wilson Weasel Tail explains to an audience how centuries of abandonment of the traditional spiritual life is responsible for the loss of their power and well-being as a people. As a writer, Silko's reach extends far beyond her Native American upbringing to offer an entertaining and enlightening sense of context to our modern lives.


Web:

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/lesliemarmonsilko.htm...
http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap10/silko....
http://www.ipl.org/cgi/ref/native/browse.pl/A75


Stein, Gertrude

"A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," wrote Gertrude Stein -- several times actually, in various poems. Stein (1874-1946), was an eccentric American writer who spent most of her life in Paris with her lifelong companion Alice B. Toklas. Between the world wars, Stein created a salon frequented by leading artists and writers, many of whom were American expatriates. For years, Stein was a cultural leader to the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson and F. Scott Fitzgerald. So what did Stein mean about roses? Nothing, probably, beyond the abstraction. Stein was one of the early proponents of Cubism and other experimental art, and imbued much of her writing with the Cubist use of fragmentation while concentrating on the present moment. As a result, much of her work is abstract and difficult to understand. Although she wrote throughout her life, Stein's work did not become popular until the 1933 publication of "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" (actually, about Stein herself). However, she was right about one thing: a rose is a rose.


Web:

http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap7/stein.h...
http://www.ellensplace.net/gstein1.html
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/gstein.htm


Tan, Amy

American writer Amy Tan (1952-) grew up in California, surrounded by strong Chinese and American influences. Her work deals with universal conflicts, such as discord between generations, and between men and women. Tan's best known work is her first novel, "The Joy Luck Club", the story of four Chinese immigrant women who eat dinner together every week. Over time, as the women struggle to deal with their daughters' rebellion against their parents and the Chinese culture, their very separate families become interconnected. Tan's stories are related by narrators who search constantly for a balance between their Chinese heritage and their modern American lifestyles. As such, Tan touches us all. We do, after all, spend our lifetimes reconciling our own personal conflicts and doing our best to integrate our heritage into an unfeeling, quirky, ever-changing melting pot world.


Web:

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/amytan.html
http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/amytan/


Thompson, Hunter S.

Hunter S. Thompson (1939-) is an American writer and ex-journalist, best known for his books (such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") and his articles (many of which were published in "Rolling Stone" magazine). Thompson is the originator of gonzo journalism, an imaginative and opinionated style of writing in which the author becomes involved in the very story he is trying to cover. Despite his questionable lack of social skills, his drug and alcohol addiction, and his degeneration from a highly skilled writer to a literary non-entity, Thompson is worshipped by fans (of which I am one) for his legendary exploits, as well as a legacy of some of the finest writing produced in 20th-century America. This site has information about Thompson's life, his books and what he's doing now (mostly looking for beer and fretting over legal problems because he drinks and drives). Unfortunately, when the going gets tough, you can't stay cool forever.


Web:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/A246386
http://www.gonzo.org/


Vonnegut, Kurt

I have read virtually all the novels and short stories Kurt Vonnegut (1922-) has published, and I love almost everything. Vonnegut's writing is easy, very easy, to read, but the simplicity is an illusion. Although he seems to write in easy-to-digest bits and pieces, Vonnegut's work is complex, with well-developed characters and deep, subtle themes. What makes reading him so rewarding is that it takes so little effort, but gives you so much. Over the years, Vonnegut has carved a unique niche as the grand old, plain-spoken, cynical, entertaining master of American literature. (To quote the character Malachi Constant in the novel "Sirens of Titan" (1959), "I was a victim of a series of accidents as are we all.") If you have never read any of Vonnegut's work, you have a treat in store for you. Start with the "Sirens of Titan", my personal favorite. Not only will you find out the real purpose of human civilization, but you will learn about a chronosynclastic infundibulum. "What is it artists do?" asked Vonnegut in a 1994 commencement address at Syracuse University. "They do two things," he explained. "First, they admit they canít straighten out the whole universe. And then second, they make at least one little part of it exactly as it should be." Years ago, I once saw Vonnegut give a speech at a university. If he had been sober, it would have been quite an occasion.


Web:

http://www.duke.edu/~crh4/vonnegut/
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/books/kurt-vonnegut-faq/
http://www.ipass.net/~brianrodr/vonnegut/

Usenet:

Google Newsreader alt.books.kurt-vonnegut


Wells, H.G.

Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) was an English author and social critic, who had a long and varied career as a writer. He is best known for his fantastic stories (what would now be called science fiction), such as "The Time Machine", "The Invisible Man", and "The War of the Worlds". As Wells aged, his style moved from scientific fantasy to realism to pessimism. Wells was a lot more than a novelist, however. Before he started to write he taught biology, and later he wrote the well-received "The Outline of History" and co-wrote "The Science of Life" -- truly the Isaac Asimov of his day.


Web:

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/hgwells.htm
http://www.literature.org/authors/wells-herbert-george/...
http://www.online-literature.com/wellshg/
http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/science_fiction/warofwo...

Usenet:

Google Newsreader alt.books.h-g-wells


Wodehouse, P.G.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1975) was an English writer of novels, short stories, plays and song lyrics. Wodehouse (pronounced "Woodhouse") is the creator of a great many enduring characters, including Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves, Mr. Mulliner, Lord Emsworth and the Empress of Blandings, and Stanley Featherstonehaugh ("Fanshaw") Ukridge. Wodehouse is unique in that, over a long and successful career, he consistently demonstrated a level of skill that would be difficult to overpraise. He is, by far, my favorite author and, if you have never read any of his books, my advice to you is go out and buy one right now. If you happen to be reading this in a bookstore, it should be the work of a moment for you to pick up a Wodehouse book on the way out. Everything he created was uniformly pleasant and well-written: the best human nature has to offer. If you have not met Wodehouse, you have not led a full life.


Web:

http://www.eclipse.co.uk/wodehouse/
http://www.serv.net/~camel/wodehouse/
http://www.wodehouse.ru/

Usenet:

Google Newsreader alt.fan.wodehouse


Wright, Richard

Perhaps the most important contribution of Richard Wright (1908-1960), one of the greatest African-American writers of all time, was his ability to show whites an accurate picture of what it really meant to be black in America. Through Wright's books, the general public began to understand that blacks were not the clownish, subservient people portrayed in the popular culture. In doing so, Wright became the first African-American to have his work on the national bestseller lists. Wright grew up in a broken family, within the poverty of the American South. As an adult, he traveled widely in Europe, Asia and Africa and, as a result, was able to transcend the limitations of his childhood and write to a worldly audience about universal themes. His most well-known book, the novel "Native Son" (1940), tells the story of Bigger, a black man who accidentally kills a white woman. Throughout the story, Wright details the frustration of living in extreme poverty and racism. Wright's books provided a major impetus to the revolution of thinking among blacks in America, and inspired black leaders everywhere to work to shape the future of their people.


Web:

http://www.itvs.org/richardwright/
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/rwright.htm
http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/wri...