Category Archives: History

Robert Louis Stevenson

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

RLS

Robert Louis Stevenson

The well-known author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson was born 165 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland on November 13. We are very lucky that he didn’t go into the family business of building lighthouses!! He left us with children’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses, many other lyric poems, and of course, his novels, Kidnapped, Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Louis (he was never really called Robert) was sickly as a child, and continued to struggle with ill health all his life. His mother and father had lung problems and he inherited his breathing problems from them both. His family often moved to warmer climates during the colder weather, which he and his family continued later on in his life. His parents were well-off and well-read and moderate Presbyterians. His nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) was fervent in her beliefs and scared young Louis out of sound sleep many nights with her scary stories of sinners going to hell, and supernatural beings coming to get him. It’s no wonder he had such a great imagination!

fanny-vandergrift-osbourne_wikipedia_web

Fannie van der Grift Osbourne

He was tutored at home often, attending school sporadically, because of his ill health, and only liking playing games at recess. He wrote stories throughout his childhood, but his father determined he needed to have a career, so he was sent to Edinburgh University to become a lawyer. He did pass the bar, but never practiced. His father came to understand that Louis would have to be a writer, and continued to support him from time to time until his death. Louis travelled and wrote about his travels. He traveled and met people, most of them ended up helping him with publishing or editing his works. When he was 26, he met an American woman, Fannie van der Grift Osbourne, while they were staying at a hostel in France. He fell in love but she was still married (with two surviving children) and unsure about her feelings. She returned to America to gain a divorce and Louis, desperate to see her again, sailed across the ocean in steerage, and then traveled across county to Monterey, California. He nearly died- his health was never very good after this trip. They married and began to try to find the best places for his health to live. It was while happily married with Fanny that he wrote his most famous books. Lloyd, Fanny’s son helped him with Treasure Island. He was a teen at the time and found the story involving. He helped make the map.

The Stevensons found the best place for Louis’ health were the South Sea Islands and ended up living in Samoa. Louis became involved in his adopted country and wrote a book about the history of the Islands that was well received. The natives called him Tusitala (Teller of Tales). He died in Samoa at the age of 44, after a massive brain hemorrhage in 1894. He wrote his own epitaph, his poem Requiem.

For bit a of levity, Nancy Horan, who recently wrote a fictionalized biography about Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, wrote an article for the Huffington Post about things you never knew about Robert Louis Stevenson.

  1. 9780486266886_custom-de4c7597f325d5e33e1fa15b18393c9e335c34a5-s400-c85He invented the sleeping bag – too bad he never got to see one for sale in a store. Wonder who saw his and went on to invent a better version?
  2. He wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in eight days, while bedridden and recovering from a bout of illness.
  3. He used a pseudonym when he published Treasure Island in monthly chapters in a children’s magazine. He probably thought Captain George North would be more seaman-like.
  4. He gave away his birthday to a twelve-year old girl. They were talking and she said she’d never had a birthday since she was born on Christmas Day. He was appalled that she’d never had an actual birthday and wrote a legal letter giving her his birthday. (This makes me think he must have been a fun person to be with!)

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Boris Pasternak’s Elusive Nobel Prize

pasternakBy Lance Hickerson, Reference Department

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (1890-1960) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition.” The Prize was prompted by his crowning achievement, Doctor Zhivago, an epic novel that concludes with a cycle of poetry by the main character weaving together the seasons of nature, love, redemption, and the life of Christ. While Pasternak was “infinitely grateful, touched, proud, surprised, [and] overwhelmed,” at the award, six days later he declined the prize in a telegram: “Due to the resonance caused by my award in the society I belong to, I have to decline the Prize; don’t consider my voluntary refusal an insult.”

Pasternak reflected on this moment in a poem entitled “The Nobel Prize,” which asks, “What sort of dirty trick I’ve done, am I a murderer, a villain? I, who made the whole world crying of my homeland’s beauty.”

Pasternak was neither murderer nor villain; however, his book challenged the presiding Russian-Soviet ideological vision of the world. He was given a strong indication of how Doctor Zhivago would be taken when he received a 10,000 word rejection letter by the Russian magazine New World saying that “the spirit of [the] novel [was] that of non-acceptance of the socialist revolution.” Explaining further, the magazine felt the novel’s main character, Dr. Yuri Zhivago, to be “an essentially immoral man who refuses to do his duty by the people and who is interested only in his own rights, including the alleged privilege of a superman to betray with impunity.”

It is at least obvious that the editorial board read his book. Following are some not so subtle statements that Pasternak made through his main character about those of whom it could be said, “We are the children of Russia’s terrible years”:

  • “It turns out that those who inspired the revolution aren’t at home in anything except change and turmoil: that’s their native element.”
  • “And do you know why there is this incessant whirl of never-ending preparations? It’s because they haven’t any real capacities, they are ungifted. Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. Life itself – the gift of life – is such a breathtakingly serious thing!”
  • “They always talk of ‘remaking life,’ but “people who can talk in this way,” claims Zhivago, “have never known life at all, have never felt its spirit, its soul. For them human existence is a lump of raw material which has not been ennobled by their touch.”
  • To Yuri, life “is always out of reach of our stupid theories.”
  • “They are so anxious to establish the myth of their infallibility, that they do their utmost to ignore the truth.” Yet, “They had the boastful, dead eternity of bronze monuments and marble columns.” (Series of quotations from the poetry foundation and Geoffrey Hosking)

Pasternak was just as clear in his own poem, “After the Storm.” He closed with this stanza: It is not revolutions and upheavals / which clear the way to a new life / But the revelations, storms and bounties / Of someone’s spirit on fire.

Like other intellectuals at the time of his country’s Revolution, Pasternak held high hopes that change would work for a new and better Russia. But life 40 years “after the storm” gave him such extended and overwhelming evidence against the socialist utopia, that he went from disappointment to disillusionment to a “new birth” of sorts that included his taking seriously once again his Christianity. Pasternak was part of the intellectuals who could be called “pre-Soviet; post-Marxist.” This helps make sense of two statements Pasternak made during the Doctor Zhivago controversy when he requested his closest loved one to write “that I was born not in the Soviet Union, but in Russia,” while he wrote Premier Krushchev to avoid deportation, with this explanation: “Leaving the motherland will equal death for me. I am tied to Russia by birth, by life and work.”

“I won the Nobel Prize for Literature, what’s your crime?” Cartoonist Bill Maudlin / Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 30, 1958. Bill Maudlin received the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for cartooning this cartoon.

While Doctor Zhivago was censured in the former Soviet Union, the novel escaped to the West in 1957 through a publisher in Milan, Italy, who refused to return the book “for revisions.” By the next year the novel had been translated into 18 languages, including English.

Meanwhile, The Union of Soviet Writers (of which Pasternak was one of the some 800 members) took swift action. It is important to understand that the Writer’s Union was indoctrinated and in full concert with Soviet Socialist Realism. “Socialist Realism is the officially sanctioned style of art that dominated Soviet painting for 50 years from the early 1930s. The style and content was laid down by the state with the purpose of furthering the goals of socialism and communism. The result was a huge body of work by thousands of artists, the majority of which is stultifyingly boring and which has been mocked in the West ever since as “Girl meets tractor”. (This description of Socialist Realism and policy quote below from http://www.russianartdealer.com/socialist-realism/)

Applying Socialist Realism to literature, The Union of Soviet Writers stated in 1934 that “Socialist Realism is the basic method of Soviet literature and literary criticism. It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development. Moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism.”

Olga_IvinskaiaIt is hardly surprising that Doctor Zhivago inspired hostility from those committed to the spirit of socialism. One Union representative called Pasternak, “a literary whore, hired and kept in America’s anti-Soviet brothel,” while a government official called him “a pig who has fouled the spot where he eats and cast filth on those by whose labor he lives and breathes.” Not only was Pasternak excommunicated from the Union of Soviet Writers, but some demanded that he be banished from Russia altogether.

Pasternak did not have to leave Russia; however, his being cut off from the Union of Soviet Writers meant that his many translations of the classics into Russian could no longer be published. This made it impossible for him to make a living as a writer. The love of Pasternak’s life, Olga Ivinskaya, said “The easiest way of dealing with intellectuals like us was simply to starve us into submission.” Ironically this did not silence Pasternak, and neither Ivinskaya. Another way of getting to Pasternak, however, was pressuring Ivinskaya. She was taken away to prison in 1950 while pregnant with Pasternak’s child. While there she experienced a miscarriage.

As Pasternak completed the translation of many tragedies of Shakespeare, it seemed his real life was just as tragic. Pasternak’s reaction to times of suffering is formulated, naturally, in poetic verse:

The order of the acts has been schemed and plotted / And nothing can avert the final curtain’s fall / I stand alone / All else is swamped by Pharisaism / To live life to the end is not a childish task.

Yet, Pasternak’s determination to stay the course, is neither simple defiance nor resignation. He expressed, “If there is suffering anywhere, why should not my art suffer and myself with it? I am speaking of the most artistic in the artist . . . of the sacrifice without which art becomes unnecessary.”

The insight of literary critic Mitzi Brunsdale is surely significant here. Explaining the novel’s point of view, she writes:

“Zhivago” itself derives from the Russian verb “to live,” lending irony to the opening scene of the novel, the funeral of Zhivago’s mother: “’Who’s being buried?’ – ‘Zhivago’ [the living one].” The name also has a wealth of religious connotations stemming from the risen Christ’s question in the Orthodox Easter liturgy, “Why seek you the living [zhivago] among the dead?” In his search for truth, the thinking man Yuri Zhivago at first naively embraces revolution as the natural result of the czarist repression of the people, only gradually realizing that enforced collectivization under the Soviets means the spiritual slavery of the very souls it falsely purported to free. The truth at which Yuri Zhivago at last arrives, after his long journey through the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the savagery of World War I and the Civil War, and the struggle for survival that faced his people during the 1920s, is the old truth of humanity’s youth – that an individual can be fulfilled only by free choice in pursuing his own creativity, his own love, unhampered by political or social stricture.” (from the Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Volume 6, pp. 3464-3465)

41XBNR5FSSLPasternak, “presented Zhivago’s inability to influence his own fate not as a fault, but as a sign that he was destined to become an artistic witness to the tragedy of his age. The author closely identified Zhivago’s predicament with that of the suffering Christ.” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/zhivago/ei_pasternak.html)

Professor Brunsdale ends her critical consideration of Pasternak by refusing to ignore the strong religious aspect of Pasternak’s work. The cycle of poetry concluding Doctor Zhivago speaks not only of nature and love, but also the meaning of life and the life of Christ. She explains: “Pasternak exercised . . . intense awareness of all cosmic and human reality as ‘life in Christ,’ and the consequent plunge into love as the only dynamic and creative force which really honors this ‘Life’ by creating itself anew in Life’s – Christ’s – image. In the glorious healing lesson of Doctor Zhivago, that modern man’s renewal lies in identification of his sufferings with those of his Savior, undistracted by selfish materialistic desire, the poet of Doctor Zhivago thus is “the living one” against whom godless history cannot prevail.”

In 1987 Pasternak was posthumously reinstated to the Soviet Writer’s Union. In 1988, thirty years after its censure, Doctor Zhivago was published in Russia. The New World, which had rejected Doctor Zhivago, went on to publish Solzhenitsyn. Pasternak’s house was made into a museum. In 1989, Pasternak’s son accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of his father.

Geoffrey Hosking (from The Cambridge History of Russian Literature), observes, Pasternak’s “novel and its accompanying poems . . . were to be very influential, for they helped to revive a concern with the human personality, with morality and with religion, which had been largely submerged within the majestic state sponsored collective certainties of the Soviet era.”

It is only appropriate to let Pasternak conclude with his poetry, the last three stanzas of HOLY WEEK from the “Poems of Yuri Zhivago.” Pasternak became the suffering artist he had mentioned, with a profound artistic message for his Motherland. His message neither suppressed nor submerged the suffering, but rather offered the highest social realism, transformation, and hope for the Russian people he loved so much.

March scatters handfuls of the snow; Like alms among the lame,
As though a man had carried out
The holy Ark outside the church,
And gave its all unto the poor.
They sing until the sunrise hour.

Then, having wept their fill,
Their chants of the Psalms and Acts
Flow with an air serene
Into an empty lamplit street.

All creatures hear the voice of spring
In the still of night, believing
That when good weather comes
Death itself shall be destroyed
By the travail of the Resurrection.

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War of the Worlds (We’re all gonna die.)

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department

It’s the evening before Halloween, October 30th, 1938, a Sunday. If you were alive on that particular Sunday in 1938 and were fortunate enough to have a radio set, you’d probably be gathered around listening to either one radio channel or the other; there were only two. You’d have taken your pick between a light comedy series or a dramatic play. Perhaps you tuned in to the play a little late at 8:12pm, switching channels after the comedy musings of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen ended, and missed the broadcaster’s announcement that the program you were about to hear was a fictional play put on by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre.

wow3Orson Welles, age 23 at the time, was an unknown actor and writer who had been on the radio for several years as the voice of “The Shadow”, a popular mystery program. Later, some would speculate that the Halloween Eve broadcast is what launched Welles’ career out of obscurity and into a Hollywood studio where he would produce, co-write, direct, and star in what many call the greatest American film ever made, Citizen Kane. But for now, Welles is still an obscure voice actor, standing in front of a microphone with his other actors and sound effects men, on the verge of terrifying a nation.

That night, Welles and his Mercury Theater Company were presenting an updated radio version of H.G. Wells’ (no relation) War of the Worlds – a science fiction novel published in 1898. After the Mercury Players were announced, however, the listeners did not hear the opening lines of a play as they might have expected. Instead, several minutes of Spanish tango music played before a series of unsettling, although dramatized, news-flashes:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News.”

The news flashes weaved in and out of the musical program to keep listeners up-to-date on the recent gas explosions on Mars. Listeners were taken to the Princeton Observatory where the (fictitious) world-famous Professor Pierson relayed breaking news as he gazed through the lens of his giant microscope. Although the professor could not account for the sudden eruptions on the red planet, the announcer assured everyone that Mars was “a safe enough distance” at 40 million miles away. Professor Pierson was then handed a special news bulletin:

“…Seismograph registered shock of almost earthquake intensity occurring within a radius of twenty miles of Princeton. Please investigate.”

Professor Pierson dismissed this as a coincidental meteorite of an unusually large size that had nothing to do with the Mars explosions. After another round of musical entertainment, however, a breaking news bulletin confirms – the object was no meteorite. Our announcer, now at the scene, describes the strange object:

“Yes, I guess that’s the . . . thing, directly in front of me, half buried in a vast pit. Must have struck with terrific force. …Doesn’t look very much like a meteor… It looks more like a huge cylinder.”

According to the announcer, a crowd begins to form near the yellow-white object made of strange metal. The police attempt to push the mounting crowd back. And then, an unnamable noise is heard from inside of the object. Is it scraping? No one seems to know, until:

“She’s movin’! Look, the darn thing’s unscrewing! … Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it . . . Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”

It is difficult to say at which point the radio audience, thousands of them across the country, started to panic. Weather they’d forgotten this was a dramatization or missed the opening announcements altogether, the bombardment of realistic “news flashes” were taken seriously and grew more terrifying by the minute:

“A humped shape is rising out of the pit. I can make out a small beam of light against a mirror. What’s that? There’s a jet of flame springing from the mirror, and it leaps right at the advancing men. It strikes them head on! Good Lord, they’re turning into flame!”
(SCREAMS AND UNEARTHLY SHRIEKS)
“Now the whole field’s caught fire. (EXPLOSION) The woods . . . the barns . . . the gas tanks of automobiles . . . it’s spreading everywhere.”

Firefighters rush to the scene. Fortunately the monster has gone back into its cylinder. With forty dead, New Jersey under martial law, and our faithful announcer lying charred in a nearby hospital, a second announcer informs us that it’s “all quiet in the pit”. The media decides to dedicate all radio coverage to the event, and in a statement that will later ring with irony, exclaims:

“In view of the gravity of the situation, and believing that radio has a responsibility to serve in the public interest at all times, we are turning over our facilities to the state militia at Trenton.”

wowWe are taken back to the landing site, where seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine guns have surrounded the cylinder. A solid metal monster rises from the ship, an impenetrable shield on legs taller than trees. The announcer concludes that the gas explosions were no coincidence. A Martian army has invaded planet Earth. He leaves little room for hope, exclaiming:

“The battle… has ended in one of the most startling defeats ever suffered by any army in modern times; seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine guns pitted against a single fighting machine of the invaders from Mars. One hundred and twenty known survivors. The rest strewn over the battle area…, crushed and trampled to death under the metal feet of the monster, or burned to cinders by its heat ray. The monster is now in control of the middle section of New Jersey and has effectively cut the state through its center… By morning the fugitives will have swelled Philadelphia, Camden, and Trenton, it is estimated, to twice their normal population… We take you now to Washington for a special broadcast on the National Emergency…”

Back in reality, the news of a Martian invasion was spreading through telephones and streets. Weeping, frantic women called police stations, cars packed full of children and luggage clogged the roads. An Indianapolis woman barged into a church service, screaming, “New York destroyed; it’s the end of the world. You might as well go home to die. I just heard it on the radio.” And on the radio, the Martians kept coming. New ships were spotted in the air and discovered on land while the gas explosions on Mars continued.

“They seem to be making conscious effort to avoid destruction of cities and countryside. However, they stop to uproot power lines, bridges, and railroad tracks. Their apparent objective is to crush resistance, paralyze communication, and disorganize human society.”

By that time the fictional war was in full swing. An officer shouted coordinates. The audience heard gun shots, coughing, and voices muffled by gas masks. The Martian’s heat rays sprayed over the troops. Their poisonous black gas, undeterred by the masks, poured through the streets of New Jersey. They effectively destroyed the entire army. Frantic, the announcer relayed the final news:

“This is the end now. Smoke comes out . . . black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now . . . thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke’s spreading faster. It’s reached Times Square. People trying to run away from it, but it’s no use. They’re falling like flies. Now the smoke’s crossing Sixth Avenue . . . Fifth Avenue . . . one hundred yards away . . . it’s fifty feet . . .”
(BODY FALLS)
OPERATOR: “2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . New York. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone . . . 2X2L”

With the announcer dead, it was time for intermission.

If you weren’t already shouting warnings in the streets, moving your living room furniture in preparation for an alien ambush, running on foot to a nearby park, preparing to poison yourself, rushing to your nearest church for some last-minute saving, or flooding radio and police stations with questions about evacuation procedures (all of which really happened), and were still listening to your radio, this intermission may have assured you that the hysteria was all fiction.wow2

But the reaction was so overwhelming that the Associated Press sent out a news bulletin at 8:48 PM informing everyone that this was “a studio dramatization”. As soon as news of the hysteria reached Orson Welles in the studio, he was said to have broken character and to also reassure listeners that this was a fictional event.

After the public had been informed that the play was intended for nothing more than Halloween entertainment, people were infuriated. Some speculated that Orson Welles was trying to create hysteria, but his reaction suggests otherwise. In his own words he was “just stunned” by the audience’s panic, stating, “Everything seems like a dream”.
Thomas Doherty, Professor of American studies, considers the event to be “… among the top five mass-communications events in history — along with the Kennedy assassination, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.” We may overlook this mass-communication event because in this case, there was no event. Panic was created by smoke, mirrors, and what this author assumes to be the most talented voice actors and sound effects men of all time.

In order to understand the reaction, Doherty reminds us to first understand the audience. The people of 1938 were anticipating a German invasion. They were becoming uncomfortably familiar with the sound of breaking news broadcasts, which the Mercury Theater duplicated in detail, including reporters fumbling over words, crackling static, and the buzzes of short-wave radio.

Now-a-days we have Google, which makes it unlikely for an event of this type and magnitude to happen again. But you have to admit, although unintended to cause such chaos, it must be one of the most successful Halloween “pranks” of all time. And in the spirit of Halloween, I leave you with Orson Welles’ final words in the play that horrified a nation:

“So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian. . .it’s Hallowe’en.”


Sources:

Leif Erikson Day

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Departmentimages

It’s Leif Erikson Day! Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone! Turns out this what Spongebob Squarepants wishes everyone on Leif Erikson Day. It’s his second favorite holiday, after April Fool’s… He even has a costume!

Leif Erikson (pronounced Layf, like some of us of a certain age remember the actor Leif Garrett) was a Norwegian traveler, voyager, explorer and sailor who is considered the leader of the first boat of explorers to visit North America. It’s generally considered that he landed at Newfoundland and later Labrador. Leif had a very adventurous father, Erik the Red, who established a colony on Greenland, after being kicked out of Iceland—but that’s another story.

cPMaA9b68CKpHW3LzRXGywdHThere was no place for Leif there, since Erik the Red was a larger than life person himself, so he set his eyes on the West. There had been rumors of a far-away land full of wonders, (specifically from Bjarni Herjólfsson, another Viking explorer who some believe is the true first discover of North America.) He decided to go exploring, heading west across a great body of water. Artifacts excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland have been dated to around 1000 A.D., which is considered the only confirmed Viking settlement in North America. According to sagas, the Norse called the area Vinland, because they found grapes growing there.

It wasn’t until 1924 that President Calvin Coolidge, after learning of the research done by Norwegian-American researchers, recognized Erikson as the “Discoverer of America,” even though the first book written about the Norse having discovered America was published in the late 1800s. Wisconsin was the first state to make Leif Erikson day an official holiday—not surprising since it was mostly settled by Scandinavians. Over the years, other states made the day an official holiday. In 1963, a U. S. Congressman from Duluth introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson day across the nation. In 1964, L B J started the tradition of proclaiming October the 9th as Leif Erikson Day. Every year, it’s at least one thing Congress can agree on!

Why is it October 9? Since there were no records available from the Viking visitation in 1000, any date could have been chosen for Leif Erikson Day. How was October 9th chosen? The Norwegian ship Restauration, bearing the first official waive of Norwegian immigrants, arrived in New York on October 9, 1825.

So have a happy holiday, and remember that it’s because of Leif Erikson and the Restauration that Congress is actually agreeing once a year.  Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone!

(As always, the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and in no way reflect upon the beliefs and principles of Williamson County Public Library, its employees, or the Norwegians.)


Sources:leif

It’s The Greatest Comic Strip Ever, Charlie Brown!

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

See what I did there with the title? And if you don’t, then you may have been living under a rock similar to the ones that Charlie Brown used to get in his trick-or-treat bag on Halloween. For the uninitiated, Peanuts is a syndicated comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz that made its debut on October 2, 1950 in nine American newspapers: The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Minneapolis Tribune, The Allentown Morning Call, The Bethlehem Globe-Times, The Denver Post, The Seattle Times, The New York World-Telegram & Sun, and the Boston Globe. Original strips ran daily and Sundays until February 13, 2000, and at its peak, Peanuts appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers worldwide and was translated into 21 languages. The four-panel format set the standard for comic strips, and combined with other media and merchandise, Peanuts earned Schulz more than $1billion in his lifetime. Reprints are still syndicated and run in almost every U.S. newspaper.

peanuts 1

The debut strip from October 2, 1950. From left to right: Charlie Brown, Shermy, and original Patty.

 

Peanuts originated from a weekly panel comic called Li’l Folks that appeared in Schulz’s hometown newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947 to1950. In addition to a round-headed kid that evolved into Charlie Brown, the early strip also featured a little dog that resembled the early 1950s version of Snoopy. Li’l Folks was dropped in early 1950, and later that year Schulz approached United Feature Syndicate with a collection of his best work. A deal was accepted, but a name change for the new strip was necessary in order to avoid confusion with two existing comic strips, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner and a comic titled Little Folks. The syndicate settled on Peanuts as the name for the new strip, and it was a name that Schulz always disliked. (Author’s random thought: I wonder if he got over that, when his earnings from Peanuts climbed into the millions.)

The final daily original Peanuts comic strip, in which Schulz announced his retirement, was published on Monday, January 3, 2000. It contained a farewell note to readers from Schulz, and had an illustration of Snoopy deep in thought atop his doghouse with his iconic typewriter. Schulz had drawn 5 extra Sunday strips which had yet to run, and the last-ever of these was published on February 13, 2000, the day after Schulz’s death at age 78 from complications from colon cancer. It incorporated a colorized version of Schulz’s farewell strip from January 3, several drawings from past strips, and the sweet note to Schulz’s faithful readers.

Final Peanuts Sunday strip, issued February 13, 2000, one day after the death of creator Charles M. Schulz.

Final Peanuts Sunday strip, issued February 13, 2000, one day after the death of creator Charles M. Schulz.

 

Despite the end of the strip, Peanuts remains popular throughout multiple platforms –syndicated strips in daily and Sunday newspapers, television specials, books, theatrical productions, apparel and other merchandise, board games, amusement park characters, and perhaps the largest single venue of them all: the MetLife Insurance Company blimps, christened “Snoopy One” and “Snoopy Two.”

I have to confess, that in addition to having that pervasive earworm of a song in my head while I wrote this—you know, the song that Schroeder played on his magical piano in A Charlie Brown Christmas, that all the gang did their righteous dance moves to—I also had Bob Seger’s “Beautiful Loser” in my head. According to a 1986 interview by Seger in Creem magazine, that song is about people who set their goals so low that they never achieve anything of substance. It occurs to me that Peanuts’ central character, Charlie Brown, does just the opposite of that. He can’t fly a kite, win a baseball game, talk to the little red-haired girl without freaking out, or kick the football that Lucy heartlessly pulls away Every. Single. Time. Yet, against the mountain of evidence that suggests that the results will be the same, he keeps trying. He doesn’t give up. He perseveres.

peanuts 3

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and not a reflection of Williamson County Public Library or its employees. She can occasionally be found sitting behind a desk in the Children’s Department offering psychiatric help, but she is no longer allowed to charge 5 cents for her services.

 

DH Lawrence: More than just “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

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lady-chatterley

David Herbert Richards Lawrence was born 130 years ago this September, on September 11. Most people only know the name DH Lawrence because two of his novels, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, were censored. A few people would probably admit to reading these two books under the covers with a flashlight! He was much more than just a novelist though– he was a noted poet, playwright, literary critic and painter.

Lawrence was born in Newcastle, England. His parents were from the working class—his father was a miner and his mother was a tutor. Early on, he contracted tuberculosis, which plagued him all his life. This disease made him sickly and he often bullied at the schools he attended. He did go a local school early on, won a scholarship to primary school, and then won another scholarship to Nottingham High School. He had to be a writer after this—he kept winning scholarships! He didn’t do so well at the high school though, and dropped out to go to work. His mother, realizing his intelligence and looking for someone to teach, began tutoring him at home. Her attention paid off; he was hired as a student-teacher at the University College, Nottingham. He also started writing in his spare time. He always wrote.

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Click to see his his interesting fact***

During his first job, teaching at a school in Croydon, which he surprisingly did well, his first works of literature, poems, were published in the prestigious English Review. He was asked about other works he had, and soon became known for his writing. His mother passed away, which devastated him and had a major impact upon his life and writing—directly influencing his novel Sons and Lovers. While reconnecting with a former professor of his, he fell in love and ran away with the professor’s wife. She left behind three small children! Since the former Mrs. Weekley (Frieda) was German, they had a hard time finding a place to live during World War I—they fell under suspicion constantly. After the war, he nearly died from influenza, got fed up with hateful reviews (and the suspicion) and moved out of England for good. He was living in Italy when Women in Love was published.

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Frieda von Richthofen

He and Frieda, the former Mrs. Weekley, tried living in Sardinia, then Ceylon. He was working his way toward the United States, where they wanted to live. He figured they would be easier on him—or at least not as cruelly critical. They stayed in Australia for a time then finally made it to North America. They found a place in Taos, New Mexico, which is known as The D H Lawrence Ranch. It belongs to the University of New Mexico, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

They visited Mexico, where he contracted three horrible diseases, one after another—typhoid, pneumonia and a recurrence of tuberculosis. He nearly died again. A recurring theme… He returned to Italy, where he wrote and edited Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Failing health kept him from traveling back to the United States. He spent the rest of his life vehemently defending his censured works, especially Lady Chatterley’s Lover.   He died on March 2, 1930.

Frieda, the former Mrs. Weekley, and now Mrs. Lawrence, continued living at the ranch until her death in 1956.

***Interesting fact: D H Lawrence has a Facebook page! Truly! It is maintained by http://www.dh-lawrence.org.uk/

 


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National Spirit of ’45 Day

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department70thAnniversarylogo.REVISEDjpg

This year Williamson County Public Library is having a program on Saturday, August 15 in conjunction with Spirit of ’45 to commemorate the end of World War II and the soldiers who fought, served, returned or died during the war.

Why August 15th? The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw so eloquently named them, would know immediately. Japan surrendered on august 14, and August 15 immediately began to be celebrated as V-J Day (as June 6th was V – E Day.) 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As those who served in World War II and those who lived during it pass away, many people began to realize that as they pass away, so does our connection to World War II and remembering the cost and sorrow of the war.

Led by Susan Collins, Senator from Maine, supported by Senators Daniel Inouye and Frank Lautenberg, who co-sponsored this resolution, Congress in 2010 voted unanimously to create a national day to preserve and honor those who served in World War II. Spirit of ’45 Day is observed on the second Friday of August this year, aligning with August 14, 1945, when spontaneous celebrations broke out across America at the news that the most destructive war in history was over. The purpose of Spirit of ’45 Day is to renew the sense of community, national unity, shared sacrifice and “can do” attitude that were the hallmarks of the generation that endured the difficult times of the Great Depression, fought to defend democracy in the largest mobilization of manpower since the building of the pyramids, and led an unprecedented effort to assure a better future for their children and their children’s children, for both former ally and foe alike.

Spirit of ’45 Day has been steadily gaining traction each year, and is now being celebrated throughout the country with events and activities organized by museums and community history associations, WWII heritage groups, senior living communities and care providers, veterans’ organizations, youth leadership organizations, and others.  This year, Scarlett Johansson and Elton John both are stepping up in a big way to help commemorate this generation. John’s mother manned an anti-aircraft gun during the Battle of Britain, and Johansson’s great uncle was the last soldier to die in combat on August 15, 1945.

WWII in Images: Remembrance and Reflection


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Music of World War II

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Library


Music and movies were two of the best and least expensive forms of entertainment during World War II. Ballrooms were packed as people got together to listen to music, dance, and forget about the Depression and the War for a while. Music pulled communities and nations together, and could be used symbolically to remind everyone what the soldiers and armies were fighting for.

Remember, there was no television yet, only radio, and people gathered around their radios to listen to news and radio programs, and the music they loved. Sometimes groups of people danced in living rooms, “cutting a rug,” others danced at school dances, in ballrooms and clubs. The famous Savoy Ballroom opened in 1926; it had a huge dance floor and a raised bandstand and was an immediate hit—that’s where the song “Stompin’ at the Savoy” came from. Prices were low; everyone was doing what they could to contribute to the war effort. It was a release to have fun and dance.

Many in Europe used Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as a secret code to show support for the Allies. The first five notes of the symphony are exactly the same at V (for victory) in Morse code – dit dit dit dah. Even though Beethoven was a German, he was known to have stood up for individual rights and was against Napoleon’s empire-building, which was enough for many Europeans. The Germans, under the leadership of Hitler, were big fans of Wagner, which made Wagner’s comeback after World War II take much longer than normal.

World War I vets had fallen in love with Paris, and the “Lost Generation “of the 1920s followed suit. Many soldiers had fond memories of Paris and wanted to remember France in better days. Starting with “As Time Goes By” (by Max Steiner) in Casablanca to “The Last Time I Saw Paris” (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein) showed that men fighting abroad and other Allied countries mourned the Nazi occupation of France.

As for popular music, Hitler was rumored to detest jazz – perhaps because it was played (written and sung) by non-Aryans? The response to this belief was definitely to listen to more jazz, jive and swing music. Big bands and swing music were popular before World War II, and continued to be popular throughout the war. It was a nice diversion from thinking about the war and worrying if your special someone would be coming back. This was the time of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Bennie Goodman and their orchestras. Also included in this popular craze were Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. “Swing, Swing, Swing, Swing” was a popular song, instrumental with lots of brass. “Deep Purple” (not to be confused with the band that came later!–guitarist Richie Blackmore named the band after the song because it was his grandmother’s favorite) was such a popular piano piece that words were quickly written for the song. Other popular swing music songs were “Begin the Beguine”, “In the Mood”, “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Sentimental Journey”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Midnight Serenade”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, and “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.


Big bands became less and less big as there were fewer and fewer men to play the instruments. Glenn Miller was rumored to have been a spy for the United States. He was flying over the English Channel when his plane went down in bad weather in December 1944. No one on the plane was ever found. So we’ll never know if he was a spy or just a musician going to another USO gig to remind the GIs of home. The music of the 1930s and 40s will always be remembered as a background to war, and a time when all people of the Greatest Generation were connected by music and patriotism. The fact that swing keeps coming back is a testament to its beat, its popularity and a true sense of nostalgia. Read the rest of this entry

The Love Affair of Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

Early on an English summer morning more than two centuries years ago, a young girl ran away with an obscure poet and the two fled to France. She was seventeen years old. He was twenty-two and left behind a pregnant wife and a child. Depending on how you look at it, this was either the beginning of a sordid affair or the very stuff of romance. Either way, there’s much more to the story. The young man, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was a literary genius and became a celebrated Romantic poet. His lover, Mary Godwin, wrote Frankenstein, one of the most famous novels of all time. Today’s date, July 28, marks the 201st anniversary of their elopement in 1814 and the beginning of their tumultuous life together.

Upbringings625px-RothwellMaryShelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born into an aristocratic family on September 4, 1792. Percy enjoyed a life of privilege and was sent to Eton College when he was twelve. After six years at Eton, where he became known for his anti-authoritarian views and began writing poetry and prose, he entered Oxford University in 1810. At Oxford he and a friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, influenced each other’s growing rejection of societal rules. Their collaboration on a pamphlet titled The Necessity of Atheism resulted in their expulsion from Oxford. Percy’s father, angered by his expulsion and refusal to renounce the pamphlet’s atheist ideas, cut him off financially until he came of age two years later. While living in poverty, Percy eloped with sixteen-year-old Harriet Westbrook.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’s childhood has elements of “Cinderella,” complete with a malevolent stepmother. Mary was the child of two renowned freethinkers – reformer and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women), and William Godwin, noted writer, philosopher, and atheist. Mary Wollstonecraft died days after Mary’s birth on August 30, 1797. William then married Mary Jane Clairmont, a widow with two young children. The new Mrs. Godwin favored her children over Mary and was jealous of William’s attention to her. She made life difficult for Mary and promoted her children’s education at the expense of Mary’s. Despite Mrs. Godwin’s efforts, Mary received an excellent education. She had access to her father’s library, listened to his discussions with other leading intellectuals, and immersed herself in her late mother’s writings. Due to clashes with her stepmother, Mary was sent to live with the Baxter family in Scotland. Here she finally found a loving family, and began to focus on her writing.

740px-Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_by_Alfred_Clint_cropThe Meeting

On a visit home in 1812, fifteen-year-old Mary met Percy Shelley, an admirer of her father. Percy visited the Godwin home often and became friendly with Mary, whom he recognized as an intellectual soulmate. Percy resented that his wife Harriet, preoccupied with one child and pregnant with another, no longer made him the center of attention.

The Elopement

In 1814, Mary and Percy met again, began spending time together, and fell in love. William Godwin forbade the relationship and Mary promised not to see Percy. But after Percy threatened to commit suicide, she agreed to flee to France with him. Mary’s stepsister, Jane Claire Clairmont, accompanied them. Mary’s stepmother followed in hot pursuit to try to stop the elopement. She caught up with the three at the French port of Calais, but couldn’t persuade them to return with her. When the two lovers ran out of money and returned to England, William Godwin wouldn’t see them, and didn’t speak to Mary for almost four years. Percy’s father, angered by his son’s abandonment of Harriet, cut off his allowance, and Percy had to spend months on the run to avoid creditors.

frank5Married Life…and the Birth of a Monster

The couple experienced ups and downs over the next few years. In 1815, Mary was devastated by the death of her premature infant. Their finances improved when Percy received money after his grandfather died. In early 1816, Mary gave birth to their second child, William. A few months later, the couple visited Lord Byron and Mary’s stepsister Jane Claire Clairmont (Byron’s lover at the time) in Switzerland. One rainy afternoon, Byron suggested that his guests each write a ghost story. Only nineteen-year-old Mary finished her story, which eventually became the novel Frankenstein. In Mary’s novel, scientist Victor Frankenstein animates a creature from dismembered corpses. The enormous gentle but hideous creature is rejected and abandoned by Frankenstein. As the creature fails to find the love and companionship it craves, it becomes violent and brutal. Published anonymously in 1818 with a preface by Percy, it became one of the most popular works of the Romantic period.

Good and Bad Times

Percy and Mary returned to England in 1816 to face back-to-back tragedies. Mary’s half-sister committed suicide and a few weeks later, Percy’s wife Harriet killed herself. Harriet’s death allowed Percy and Mary to wed. Percy’s efforts to gain custody of his two children with Harriet were blocked by her family’s claims that his poetry (especially free love and atheism promoted in the political epic Queen Mab) showed him to be an unfit parent. In March of 1818, the Shelleys settled in Italy, where Percy became part of an expatriate artistic community centered on Lord Byron. There Percy wrote some of his best work – Prometheus Unbound, “Ode to the West Wind,” “The Cloud, “To a Skylark,” and “Ode to Liberty.” Sadly, their two children, William and Clara, died a year apart, in 1818 and 1819. Mary gave birth to a son, Percy Florence, in November 1819.

By 1822, the Shelleys had settled on the Bay of San Terenzo in Italy. They were joined by Edward Williams and his wife, Jane. Percy, disappointed in his marriage, began a flirtation with Jane and wrote several poems to her. In June, Mary almost died after the miscarriage of her fifth child. In July, shortly before Percy’s thirtieth birthday, he and Edward Williams drowned when their boat sank in a storm.

Mary devoted herself to caring for Percy Florence, the only one of her five children to reach adulthood. She was also dedicated to maintaining her husband’s literary legacy. She collected and edited Percy’s poetry and wrote his biography. She continued to write the rest of her life, and was able to provide Percy Florence with an excellent education at Harrow and Cambridge University. Mary died of a brain tumor in February of 1851.

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International CAPS LOCK Day!!

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department2326873674_c392bdc4e0_o

In 2000, when Derek Arnold created International CAPS LOCK day, it was a parody, making fun of those people who insist in typing everything in ALL CAPITALS. But, as it happened, it became more and more popular, with people celebrating it just for the key itself. No parody at all. The day became so popular with internet users that it is now celebrated twice a year—on June 28 (this Sunday)and on October 22.  But, WHERE DID WE GET THE CAPS LOCK KEY FROM?!?

antique-remington-typewriter-725x482In the beginning, before computers (GASP!) there were typewriters (ancient technology that went the way of the PHONOGRAPGH). Remington typewriters were the first to have a shift key, so you could shift to a capital letter but it was just a toggle switch–there was no way to keep that key down. In 1914, Remington added the SHIFT LOCK KEY on its Junior model, which gave the user access to more characters by keeping the key locked. Some think typewriters and computers added the CAPS LOCK KEY for businesses that needed forms typed in all caps (so anyone who hates the caps lock key, blame them). Typewriters placed the CAPS LOCK KEY where it is now, and computer designers copied the typewriter keyboard when the first put out computers, keeping the familiar QWERTY keyboard we all have become accustomed to. Even then, there were complaints when computers kept the same keyboard design (for those of you who wish the keyboard letters were alphabetical, they tried that first… there were issues, and now we’re stuck).

Early on in Internet history, Internet users had only text keys to show emphasis, no fun yet strange emoticons that can create entire conversations by themselves. They used **** and CAPS to differentiate their thoughts and emotions. Some people, holdovers from early Internet days perhaps, still type messages in all capitals. Nowadays, writing in ALL CAPS has become an etiquette NO-NO, since it is the equivalent of shouting online. Every once in a while for emphasis is considered OK, but not everything in caps. People have gotten fired for using all caps all the time. REALLY! In 2007, a woman in New Zealand was fired from her job after she sent one too many memos in all caps.

Hit your caps lock button and celebrate INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY! Just don’t get fired.9762955951_814205da36


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