The Earth Swirls Down

Photographer Unknown, (The Earth Swirls Down)

“The Earth swirls down through the ominous moons of preconsidered generations.”  

—Mervyn Peake

Born in July of 1911, Mervyn Laurence Peake was an English writer, poet, and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the “Gormenghast” series of books. The three works were part of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, the completion of which was prevented by his death. Sometimes compared to the work of his older contemporary J. R.R. Tolkien, Peake’s surreal fiction was influenced by his childhood love for Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson rather than mythology and the structure of languages. 

Peake also wrote poetry and literary nonsense in verse form, and short stories for adults and children, including the 1948 “Letters from a Lost Uncle”. He also wrote stage and radio plays, and in 1953 “Mr. Pye”, a relatively tightly-structured novel in which God implicitly mocks the evangelical pretensions and cosy world-view of the hero.

During the 1930s and 1940s when he lived in London, Peake made his reputation as a painter and illustrator, receiving commissions for portraits. At the end of World War II, he received commissions by newspapers for illustrations depicting war scenes. 

Peake gained little popular public success during his lifetime; however, his work was highly respected by his peers and friends which included Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas and English novelist Graham Greene. Peake’s works are now included in the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Imperial War Museum in London, and the National Archives of the United Kingdom. In 2008, the British daily newspaper “The Times” named Peake among the list of ”The Fifty Greatest British Writers Since 1945”.

One Thousand and One Nights

“One Thousand and One Nights” , a collection of Mid-Eastern folk tales, was compiled during the Islamic Golden Age, a period of culture, economic and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam.This period is traditionally dated from the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid in 786 to 809 and extended, by some scholars’ estimate, as late as the end of the 15th to 16th centuries. The tales have their roots in Arabic, Persian, Indian, Greek, Jewish and Turkish folklore and literature. Collected by various authors and scholars, the stories have been presented in many editions; some contained a few hundred tales and others included a thousand in poem or prose form. 

There are two main Arabic manuscript traditions of the “One Thousand and One Nights”. The Syrian tradition includes the oldest manuscripts, with shorter and fewer tales. Believed the purest expression of the style of the medieval “Arabian Nights”, it has been republished most recently in 1984 and is known as the Leiden Edition. The Egyptian tradition emerged after the Syrian tradition and contains more tales of more varied content, collected over the centuries, including up to the 19th century. This tradition includes 1001 tales and is known as the “Calcutta II” or the “Macnaghten” edition, published between 1839 to 1842. 

The first European version, translated into French by Antoine Galland from the Syrian tradition and other sources, was a twelve-volume work entitled “Les Mille et Une Nuits, Contes Arabes Traduits en Francais”. This work included stories not found in the original Arabic manuscripts but which later became traditionally associated with “Nights”, such as the well-known “Aladdin’s Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. Since this first European version published from 1704 to 1717, many other editions have appeared through the years. In 2008, a translation of the Calcutta II edition was made by Malcolm and Ursula Lyons and published in three volumes by Penguin Classics. Although not a complete translation, it contains the standard text of the “1001 Nights”, includes the Ali Baba and Aladdin tales, and all the poetry.

The genre of the “One Thousand and One Nights” tales varies widely. They include tragedies, comedies, poems, historical tales, tales of love, and tales of erotica. Mixed with real people and geographic locations are sorcerers, jinns, apes, magicians, and places of legend. Probably the best known translation to English is Sir Richard Francis Burton’s “The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night”, a ten-volume version published in 1885. Printed during the Victorian era in England, it contained all the erotic nuances of the original material, complete with sexual imagery and gay allusions added as appendices. Sir Richard Burton avoided the strict obscenity laws of the Victorian era by printing an edition for subscribers only instead of a formal publishing.

The exotic atmosphere of “One Thousand and One Nights” lent itself easily to film, influencing Fritz Lang’s “Der müde Tod”, a parable fantasy of love and death with the figure of Death transporting the heroine to Persia, Venice of the 15th century, and China. In 1924, Raoul Walsh’s “The Thief of Bagdad” starred Douglas Fairbanks on a magical journey to win the hand of the Caliph of Bagdad’s daughter. The collection of tales also influenced the 1926 feature-length animated film “The Adventures fo Prince Achmed” by Lotte Reiniger The oldest surviving animation feature film, it contained exotic lands, magical adventures, flying horses, and a handsome prince meeting Aladdin. 

The gif images of Nyle DiMarco are from Ariana Grand’s “7 Rings”, the ASL Version, located at this site: This production was directed by Jake Wilson with cinematography by Matthew Tompkins. The ASL Version’s translation is by Nyle DiMarco, co-produced by Nyle DiMarco and Sami Housman.



A Year: Day to Day Men: 3rd of December,  Solar Year 2018

The Dark Blue Suit

December 3, 1857 was the birthdate of Polish-British writer Joseph Conrad.

Joseph Conrad, born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzenlowski,  was a member of the second generation of the intelligentsia, a social class that was at that time starting to play an important role in Central and Easter Europe. He had absorbed enough of the history, culture and literature of his native Poland to develop a distinctive world view and make unique contributions to his adoptive country of Britain. it was the tensions that originated in his childhood in Poland and grew in his adulthood abroad that gave rise to Conrad’s literary achievements.

Joseph Conrad started a merchant-marine career in 1874, serving for four years on French ships before joining the British merchant-marines. He spent a total of nineteen years working in ships, including long periods in ports, for over ten years and just over eight years at sea. Most of Conrad’s stories and novels. as well as his characters, were drawn from his seafaring career.

In 1894, aged 36, Joseph Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health, partly due to unavailability of ships, and partly because he had become so fascinated with writing that he had decided on a literary career. His first novel “Almayer’s Folly”, set on the east coast of Borneo, was published in 1895, marking the first use of his pen name “Joseph Conrad”. While Conrad had only limited personal acquaintance with the inhabitants of Maritime Southeast Asia, the area figures prominently in his early works. he was intrigued by the struggles of its people aimed at preserving their national independence.

The literary critic Edward Garnett urged Conrad to begin a second novel, and so “Almayer’s Folly” was followed in 1896 by “An Outcast of the Islands”, which repeats the theme of a foolish and blindly superficial character meeting the tragic consequences of his own failings in a tropical region far from the company of his fellow Europeans. Conrad was interested in writing about the feelings of mankind: its feelings of guilt, responsibility, and insecurity.

It was this purpose, rather than a taste for the outlandish or exotic locations, that distinguishes Conrad’s work from that of many novelists of the 19th and early 20th century. Conrad’s work was aimed at the isolation and concentration of tragedy. Conrad’s view of life is indeed deeply pessimistic. In every idealism are the seeds of corruption, and the most honourable men find their unquestioned standards totally inadequate to defend themselves against the assaults of evil. This despairing vision gains much of its force from the feeling that Conrad accepted it reluctantly, rather than with morbid enjoyment.

Joseph Conrad’s life as an author was plagued with poor health developed from his travels abroad, near poverty, and difficulties of temperament. It was not until 1910, after he had written what are now considered his finest novels that his financial situation became relatively secure. These novels were: “Lord Jim” published in 1900; “Nostromo” published in 1904; the 1907 “Secret agent”; and “Under Western Eyes” published in 1911; the last three were novels of political intrigue and romance.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 1st of December,  Solar Year 2018

The Painted Wall

December 1, 1887 marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes in print.

The first appearance of Sherlock Holmes was in the detective novel “A Study in Scarlet” written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It appeared in the magazine “Beeton’s Christmas Annual” on December 1st of 1887, published by Ward Lock and Company of London. Although Sir Conan Doyle wrote fifty-six short stories featuring Holmes, “A Study in Scarlet” is one of only four full-length novels in the original canon.

Sir Conan Doyle, a general practice doctor,  wrote “A Study in Scarlet” at the age of twenty-seven in less than three weeks. The novel was originally entitled “A Tangled Skein” but changed for publication in the Christmas Annual. Doyle received twenty-five pounds for the novel, but no royalties.

“A Study in Scarlet” begins with a heading which establishes the role of Dr. John Watson as narrator, setting up the point that the work to follow is not fiction but fact, being a reminiscence of Dr. Watson. The novel introduces Holmes to Watson, establishes their friendship, and brings in the character of Inspector Lestrade. It is also the first work of detective fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

There are only eleven complete copies of the 1887 “Beeton’s Christmas Annual” known to exist; each now having considerable value. Ward Lock and Company published “A Study in Scarlet in a book form in July of 1888 with featured illustrations by Charles Doyle, Conan’s father. A second edition was published in the following year, this time illustrated by George Hutchinson. In 1890 the first American version was published by Philadelphia-based J.B. Lippincott and Company.

As the first Sherlock Holmes story published, “A Study in Scarlet” was among the first to be adapted to the screen. In 1914, Conan Doyle authorized a silent film to be produced by G. B. Samuelson. Holmes was played by James Bragington, an accountant who worked as an actor for the only time of his life. He was hired for his resemblance to Holmes, as presented in the sketches originally published with the story. Due to the nature of film at that time and the rarity of archiving, it is now a lost film. The success of the film allowed for a second version to be produced that same year by Francis Ford, which has also been lost.

The novel “A Study in Scarlet” has rarely been adapted in full: the 1933 film entitled “A Study in Scarlet” with Reginald Owen actually bears no plot relation to the novel. The most notable instance closest to the novel is the episode in the second season of the BBC television series “Sherlock Holmes” with Peter Cushing as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson, which put more detail into the screenplay.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Blackwork and Cigarette

November 13, 1850 was the birthdate of author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of a noted lighthouse builder and harbor engineer. Though healthy at birth, Stevenson soon became a victim of constant breathing problems that later developed into tuberculosis. These persistent health problems made him extremely thin and weak most of his life.

By the time Stevenson entered Edinburgh University at the age of sixteen, he had fallen under the spell of language and had begun to write. For several years, he attended classes irregularly, developing a bohemian existence. At the age of twenty-one, he openly declared his intention of becoming a writer, against the strong opposition of his father. Having traveled to the European mainland several times for health and pleasure, he now traveled between Scotland and a growing circle of artistic and literary friends in London and Paris.

Stevenson’s first book, “An Inland Voyage” published in 1878, related his adventures during a canoe trip on Belgium and France’s canals. In 1879, Stevenson stayed in an abandoned mining camp in the United States, later recounted in the 1883 “The Silverado Squatters”. A year later, he was back in Scotland; however, the climate in Scotland proved to be a severe hardship on his health. Stevenson and his wife soon moved and lived in Switzerland and the south of France. Despite his health, these years proved to be productive. The stories Stevenson collected at that time, ranging from detective stories to Scottish dialect tales, were published as “The New Arabian Nights” and “The Merry Men”.

“Treasure Island”, first published as a series in a children’s magazine, ranks as Stevenson’s first popular book, and it established his fame. A perfect romance, according to Stevenson’s formula, the novel tells the story of a boy’s involvement with murderous pirates. “Kidnapped” published in 1886, set in Scotland during a time of great civil unrest, has the same charm. In the 1886 “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde”, Stevenson dealt directly with the nature of evil in man and the hideous effects that occur when man seeks to deny it. This work pointed the way toward Stevenson’s more serious later novels.

In 1889 Stevenson and his family set out on a cruise of the South Sea Islands. When it became clear that only there could he live in relatively good health, he settled on the island of Upolu in Samoa. He bought a plantation, built a house, and gained influence with the natives, who called him Tusifala or “teller of tales”. By the time of his death on December 3, 1894, Stevenson had become a significant figure in island affairs. His observations on Samoan life were published in the 1896 collection “In the South Seas” and in the 1892 “A Footnote to History”.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 8th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Diamond Seal of Approval

November 8, 1847 was the birthdate of Irish author Bram Stoker.

Born in Clontarf, County Dublin, Ireland, Bram Stoker was an invalid in early childhood; he could not stand or walk until he was seven. Stoker outgrew his weakness to become an outstanding athlete and soccer player at Trinity College in Dublin, where he earned a degree in mathematics. He was eimployed for ten years in the civil service at Dublin Castle, during which he was also an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Evening Mail.

Stoker made the acquaintance of his idol, the actor Sir Henry Irving, in 1878 and, until Irving’s death twenty-seven years later, Stoker acted as his manager,  accompanying him on his American tours. Bram Stoker also managed the business of the Lyceum Theater which Irving owned.

While acting as Irving’s manager, Bram Stoker was writing his first book. His “The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland”, a handbook in legal administration, was published in 1879. Turning to fiction late in life, Stoker published his first novel, “The Snake’s Pass”, a romantic thriller with a bleak western Ireland setting, in 1890.

Stoker was a deeply private man with an intense adorations of Henry Irving, Walt Whitman and Hall Caine, and shared interests with Oscar Wilde, leading to scholarly speculation that he was a repressed gay man who used his fiction as a possible outlet for his frustrations. Possibly fearful, and inspired by the monstrous image and threat of otherness that the press coverage of his friend Oscar’s trials generated, Stoker began writing “Dracula” only weeks after Wilde’s conviction.

His masterpiece, “Dracula”, appeared in 1897. The novel is written chiefly in the form of diaries and journals kept by the principal characters: Jonathan Harker, who made the first contact with the vampire Count Dracula; Wilhelmina Murray, Jonathan’s eventual wife; Dr. John “Jack” Seward, a psychiatrist and sanatorium administrator; and Lucy Westenra, Mina’s friend and a victim of Dracula who herself becomes a vampire.

The story is that of a Transylvanian vampire who, using supernatural powers, makes his way to England and victimizes innocent people there to gain the blood on which he survives. Led by Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Seward’s mentor and an expert on “obscure diseases”, Harker and his friends are at last able to overpower and destroy Dracula. The immensely popular novel enjoyed equal success in several versions as a play and later as a film.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 1st of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Revelation From On High

November 1st was the opening day of two of William Shakespeare’s plays.

On November 1, 1604, William Shakespeare’s tragedy play “Othello”, believed to have been written in 1603, had its first presentation in the Banqueting House at Whitehall. The story revolves around Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, and his jealous and traitorous ensign, Iago. It is believed to  be based on the story “A Moorish Captain” by Giovanni Battista Giraldi, the Italian novelist and poet. However, the story also resembles an incident in the tale “The Three Apples” from the “Arabian Nights” collection.

Shakespeare, while following the story of Giraldi, departed from it in some details, such as adding minor characters. The major departure is the death of the heroine Desdemona. In his presentation, Shakespeare has Othello kill Desdemona by suffocation, toning down the violence. In Giraldi’s story, the “Moor” bludgeons his wife to death with a sand-filled stocking, described in gruesome detail. In Shakespeare’s play, Othello, commits suicide; and in Giraldi’s tale Othello is exiled and then pursued by Desdemona’s relatives who kill him.

Later performances of “Othello” occurred in April of 1610 at the Globe Theater and at Oxford in September of 1610. It also was performed at the Blackfriars Theater in London by the King’s Men, an acting company to which Shakespeare belonged for most of his career. “Othello” was one of twenty plays performed by the King’s Men during the winter of 1612, in celebration of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick V, the Electorate of the Palatinate region of the Holy Roman Empire.

On November 1, 1611, Hallowmas night, Shakespeare’s romantic comedy “Tempest”, believed to have been written 1610-1611, was first presented by the King’s Men before King James I and the English royal court at Whitehall Palace. This play was also one of the twenty plays performed to celebrate Princess Elizabeth’s marriage. The next recorded performance was at the Blackfriars Theater in 1669; this is supported by the stage directions written within the play script.

The “Tempest” differs from Shakespeare’s other plays, being organized in a stricter Neo-classical style. Shakespeare in the “Tempest” observed the three rules of drama: the play’s plot  should have one action that it follows, with minimal subplots; the action in the play’s plot  should occur no longer than a day’s span; a play’s plot should exist in a single physical space with the stage representing that place. Shakespeare’s other plays’s plots took place in multiple separate locations and over the course of several days or years.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 28th of October, Solar Year 2018

The Wayfarer

October 28, 1726 was the publishing date of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”.

“Gulliver’s Travels” is a prose satire written by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, who later became Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The book, a satire on the human nature, is Swift’s best known full-length work, written in the style of a traveler’s tale.

In 1713, Jonathan Swift joined with writers, Gay, Pope, Arbuthnot and others, to form the Scriblerus Club, an organization of writers interested in using satire in the popular genres of literature. Swift was assigned to satirize the ‘travelers’ tales’ literary genre and to write the memoirs of the club. From Swift’s correspondence, it is known that he started writing Part One and Part Two of “Gulliver’s Travels” in 1720; Part Four was written in 1723 and Part Three was written in 1724. After making amendments to the existing writing, the book was completed by August, 1725.

“Gulliver’s Travels” was an obvious satire of the Whig party, the political faction that was in control of the government at that time. It is likely that Jonathan Swift had his manuscript recopied so that his handwriting could not be used as evidence against him if the authorities wished to prosecute. This had happened to him earlier when some of his Irish pamphlets criticizing the government were seized.

In March of 1726 Jonathan Swift traveled to London and delivered his manuscript secretly to publisher Benjamin Motte, who used five printing houses to speed the printing. Motte, recognizing a best seller but fearing prosecution, cut passages and altered the worst offending ones, such as court contests and the citizen rebellion in part three. The first edition was published anonymously and released in two volumes on October 28, 1726 at the price of eight shillings.

The Irish publisher George Faulkner printed a set of Jonathan Swift’s works, which included “Gulliver’s Travels”, in 1735. The new printing of the story was done by using the manuscript given to Benjamin Motte, but without Motte’s annotations and amendments. This printing is regarded as the ‘editio princeps’ of “Gulliver’s Travels”, the first printed edition that previously existed only in manuscript form which could be circulated only after being copied by hand. The only exception to this publication of the work was an added piece by Swift, complaining of the changes done by Motte.

The book was very popular upon release and was commonly discussed within social circles. Public reception widely varied, with the book receiving an initially enthusiastic reaction with readers praising its satire, and some reporting that the satire’s cleverness sounded like a realistic account of a man’s travels. As popularity increased, critics came to appreciate the deeper aspects of “Gulliver’s Travels”. It became known for its insightful take on morality, expanding its reputation beyond just humorous satire. It was, however, sharply criticized by the Whig party.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of October, Solar Year 2018

Working in the Heat

October 20, 1854 was the birthdate of poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud.

Arthur Rimbaud was born in the provincial town of Charleville, France, to a father who was a military officer and a mother lacking in a sense of humor, who Rimbaud nicknamed “Mouth of Darkness”. Rimbaud was a writer from a young age; at the age of nine, he wrote a seven hundred word essay objecting to his having to learn Latin in school. In 1865, he and his brother were sent to the Collège de Charleville where he became a highly successful student able to absorb great quantities of knowledge. In 1869 Rimbaud won eight first prizes in the French academic competitions, and in 1870 won seven first prizes.

Arthur Rimbaud’s first poem to appear in print was “Les Étrennes des Orphelins” (“The Orphans’ New Year’s Gifts”), published in the January 2, 1870 issue of “La Revue Pour Tous”. At the age of fifteen Rimbaud was salready howing  maturity as a poet. His poem “Ophelie” would be included in many anthologies and is regarded as one of Rimbaud’s three or four best poems. From late October in 1870, Arthur Rimbaud’s behavior at the age of sixteen became rebellious, drinking, stealing, and writing scatological poems. His friend Charles Auguste Bretagne advised him to write to the eminent Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine.

Arthur Rimbaud sent Verlaine two letters with poems, including his hypnotic and shocking “Le Dormeur du Val”. Verlaine was intrigued and sent Rimbaud a one-way ticket to Paris. Rimbaud arrived in late September of 1871 and resided briefly with Verlaine and his pregnant wife at their home. Verlaine and Rimbaud led a wild, vagabond-style life, a short and torrid affair filled with absinthe, opium and hashish. The Paris literary circle were scandalized by Rimbaud, who still writing poetry, was considered an archetypical enfant terrible. Their stormy relationship brought them to London in September of 1872, where Verlaine abandoned Rimbaud to return to his wire.

Arthur Rimbaud eventually returned to Charleville and completed his prose work “Une Saison en Enfer”, A Season in Hell, widely regarded as a pioneer work of modern Symbolist writing. He returned to London in 1874 with the French Symbolist poet Germain Nouveau, whose work was mostly published after his death. They lived together for three months while Nouveau finished his work “Illuminations”. By March of 1875, Rimbaud had given up his writing in favor of a working and traveling life.

In February of 1891, in Aden, Rimbaud developed what he thought was arthritis in his right knee. Failing to respond to treatment, he returned to France. On arrival in Marseille,, he was admitted to the Hôspital de la Conception where, a week later on the 27th of May, his right leg was amputated.The post-operative diagnosis was bone cancer. After a short stay at the family farm in Roche, he attempted to return to Africa, but his health deteriorated. He was re-admitted to the same hospital and received last rites from a priest before dying on November 10, 1891 at the age of thirty-seven.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 16th of October, Solar Year 2018

Three Yellow Boards

October 16, 1758, was the birthdate of lexicographer Noah Webster.

Noah Webster enrolled in Yale just before his 16th birthday and graduated in 1778 with a liberal degree. After a break in his studies, Webster returned to college, studied law, and passed his bar examination in 1781. Turning to literary work to channel his ambitions, Webster wrote a series of well-received articles justifying the American Revolution and arguing for permanent separation from Britain. He then founded a private school in Goshen, New York, and, by 1785 had written his speller, a grammar book and a reader for elementary schools.

In December of 1793 Noah Webster founded New York’s first daily newspaper “American Minerva”, later known as the ‘Commercial Advertiser”, which he edited for four years and wrote the equivalent of twenty volumes of articles and editorials. As a Federalist spokesman, he defended the administrations of Washington and Adams, especially their neutral policy to Britain and France, and criticized the terror of the French Revolution.

Moving in 1798 to New Haven, Connecticut, Noah Webster was elected as a Federalist to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1800 and again in 1802-1807. The Copyright Act of 1831 was the first major statutory revision of copyright law in the United States, a result of lobbying by Webster and his agents in Congress. He also had an important role in lobbying individual states to pass American copyright laws.

Noah Webster thought that Americans should learn from American books; so he began writing the three volume compendium “A Grammatical Institute of the English Language”: a speller published in 1783; a grammar book published in 1784; and a reader published in 1785. He believed that the people-at-large must control the language, and popular sovereignty in government must by accompanied by popular usage in language. These books were arranged so that the subjects could be easily taught to students, and each section progressed by the age of the students.

In 1806, Noah Webster published his first dictionary. In 1807 he began compiling an expanded and fully comprehensive dictionary, “An American Dictionary of the English Language”, a feat that took twenty-six years to complete. To evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned twenty-eight languages, hoping to standardize the American speech throughout the country.

Noah Webster’s dictionary contained seventy thousand words, of which twelve thousand had never before appeared in a dictionary. Though it now has an honored place in the history of the American Language, it only sold 2,500 copies. By mortgaging his house, Webster found the funds to publish a second edition in two volumes, however as a result, his remaining life was plagued with debt. On May 28, 1843, a few days after revising an appendix to his work, Noah Webster died.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 21st of September, Solar Year 2018

Green Drawstring Shorts

September 21, 1866 was the birthdate of English author Herbert George Wells.

In 1890 Herbert George Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London External Program and began teaching science.. Wells’ first published work was a “Text-Book of Biology” in two volumes in 1893. After leaving his teaching position,  H. G. Wells began to write short humorous articles for journals such as  “The Pall Mall Gazette”, which he later collected and published in two volumes, “Selected Conversations with an Uncle” in 1895 and “Certain Personal Matters” in 1897. His success with these shorter pieces encouraged him to write book-length work, leading to his first novel, “The Time Machine” in 1895.

H.G. Wells married Amy Robbins, one of his former students, and moved to a rented house in Woking, Surrey where they stayed for a short time. It was during this eighteen month period of time in 1895 to 1896 that he was perhaps the most productive and creative in his writing career. While staying there, Wells wrote “The War of the Worlds”, completed “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, wrote and published “The Wonderful Visit” and “The Wheels of Chance”. He also began writing two other books, “When the Sleeper Wakes” and “Love and Mr. Lewisham”.

Wells’ approach to science fiction, with his personal rules of writing,  was one of the major contributions to the genre. In his opinion, the author should always strive to make the story as credible as possible, even if the reader and the writer knew certain elements were impossible, thus causing a suspension of disbelief. Wells also thought there should be a sense of realism to the concepts and the story should contain only a single extraordinary assumption. Detail was imperative and adherence to the hypothesis of the story should be rigorous.

Prior to 1933, Wells’s books were widely read in Germany and Austria, and most of his science fiction works had been translated shortly after its publication. By 1933, he had attracted the attention of German officials because of his criticism of the political situation in Germany. On May 10th of 1933, Wells’s books were burned by the Nazi Youth in Berlin’s public square, and his works were banned from libraries and book stores.

Wells, as president of Poets, Essayists and Novelists International, angered the Nazis by overseeing the expulsion of the German PEN club from the international body following the German PEN’s refusal to admit non-Aryan writers to its membership. At a PEN conference in Ragusa, Croatia, Wells refused to yield to Nazi sympathizers who demanded that the exiled Ernest Toller, a German left-wing Expressionist playwright, be prevented from speaking.

Near the end of the World War II, Allied forces discovered that the Schutzstaffel (SS) had compiled lists of people slated for immediate arrest during the invasion of Britain in the abandoned Operation Sea Hunt, with Wells included in the alphabetical list of “The Black Book” to be placed into the custody of the Gestapo.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of September, Solar Year 2018

Afternoon’s Drawing Class

September 20, 1878, was the birthdate of American writer Upton Sinclair.

In 1904, Upton Sinclair spent seven weeks in disguise, working undercover in Chicago’s meatpacking plants to research his next book. After its publication in 1906, Sinclair acquired particular fame for his classic novel “The Jungle”, which exposed labor and sanitary conditions in the U.S. meatpacking industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. With the income from “The Jungle”, Sinclair founded the utopian, but non-Jewish and white-only, Helicon Home Colony in Englewood, New Jersey; this colony burned down a year later under suspicious circumstances.

In 1919, Upton Sinclair published “The Brass Check”, an exposé of American journalism that publicized the issue of yellow journalism and the limitations of the free press in the United States. Yellow journalism is a tern for journalism and associated news sources that present little or no legitimate well-researched news while instead use eye-catching headlines or exposé to generate sales or viewing.  Four years after publication of “The Brass Check”, the first code of ethics for journalists was created.

Writing during the Progressive Era, Sinclair describes in his books the world of industrialized America from both the working man’s and the industrialist’s points of view. In his book “King Coal” published in 1917, Sinclair described the poor working conditions in the coal mining industry during the 1910s. As in his earlier work “The Jungle”, he used the novel to express his socialist view point. The 1937 “The Flivver King” described the rise of Henry Ford, his wage reform program, and the company’s Sociological Department; the book also described Ford’s decline into antisemitism.

Wanting to pursue politics, Upton Sinclair twice ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress on the Socialist ticket: in 1920 for the House of Representatives and in 1922 for the Senate. He was also the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of California during the Great Depression running under the banner of the “End Poverty in California” campaign, but was defeated in the 1934 elections.

“Do not let other people invade your personality. Remember that every human being is a unique phenomenon, and worth developing. You will meet many who have no resources of their own, and who will try to fasten themselves upon you. You will find others eager to tell you what to do and think and be. But it is better to go apart and learn to be yourself.” – Upton Sinclair


A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of September, Solar Year 2018

Hand Over Hand

September 14, 1910 was the birthdate of Korean author Kim Hae-Gyeong, known by his pen name Yi Sang.

Yi Sang graduated in 1922 from the Gyeongseong Engineering High School with training as an architect and was employed as a draftsman in the public works department of the Governor-General of Korea. In December of 1929, Yi Sang won first prize in a design contest for the cover of “Korea and Architecture” and third prize for the cover of the journal of the Korean Architecture Society.

Yi Sang joined the “Circle of Nine” whose core members included Kim Girim, Lee Taijun and Jung Jiyong, taking the position of editor of the journal. Several of Yi Sang’s works were published in the journal, including his poems “Paper Gravestone” and “Condition Serious” and the stories “Wings”, “Meetings and Farewells”, and “Children’s Skulls”.

In November of 1936, Yi Sang went to Japan, where he was arrested by Japanese police in early 1937. This was during the time that the Korean Empire had been officially annexed by Japan with the signing of the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. Japan officially ruled Korea, which was deprived of the administration of all its internal affairs. Yi Sang was eventually released on bail and admitted to the Tokyo University Hospital, where he died on April 17, 1937 at the age of twenty-six.

Yi Sang was perhaps the most famous avant-garde writer of the colonial era. In his work he experimented with language and interiority, the separation from inside one’s self as well as from the outer world. His poems, particularly, were influenced by Western literary concepts including Dadaism and Surrealism. Yi Sang’s history in architecture also influenced his work, which often included the languages of mathematics and architecture including, lines, dots, number systems, equations and diagrams.

Yi Sang’s literary legacy is punctuated by his modernist tendencies seen throughout his collected works. His poems reveal the desolate internal landscape of modern humanity and, as in the well known “Crow’s Eye View Poem”, utilize an anti-realist technique to show the themes of anxiety and fear. Yi Sang’s stories disjoint the form of traditional fictional writing to show the conditions of the lives of modern people. His most famous story “Wings” utilizes a stream-of-consciousness technique to express these conditions in terms of the alienation of modern people.

Yi Sang never received much recognition for his writing during his lifetime, but his works began to be reprinted in the 1950s. In the 1970s Yi Sang’s reputation soared as more people became aware of his work. The Yii Sang Literary Award, established in 1977, is sponsored by the Korean publisher Munhaksasangsa and has become one of the most prestigious literary awards in South Korea.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 30th of August, Solar Year 2018

The One Budded Cross

August 30, 1797 was the birthdate of English author, Mary Shelley.

Writer Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She was the daughter of philosopher and political writer William Godwin and famed feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. While Shelley  didn’t have a formal education, she did make great use of her father’s extensive library. Shelley found a creative outlet in writing.

In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father’s political followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married. Together with Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley left for France and travelled through Europe. Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy’s child. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. They married in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy Shelley’s first wife, Harriet.

In 1816, Mary and Percy Shelley famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus”. The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley.

In 1822, Percy Shelley drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio, in northern Tuscany, Italy. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumor that was to kill her at the age of 53 in February of 1851.

Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish her husband’s works and for her 1818 anonymously published “Frankenstein” novel, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations. Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley’s achievements.

Studies of her lesser-known works support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life. Mary Shelley’s works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practiced by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic-era ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 25th of August, Solar Year 2018

Marrakesh Delicacy

Beginning on August 25, 1835, six articles about the discovery of life on the Moon are published in the New York Sun newspaper.

The Great Moon Hoax refers to the series of articles published by the Sun, describing the discovery of life and possibly civilization on the Moon. The article was attributed to Sir John Herschel, one of the best known astronomers of that period, and written down by Dr. Andrew Grant, the personal secretary of Herschel.  The discoveries were made with an immense telescope based on an entirely new principle. Fantastic animals, including goats and bison, as well as bat-like winged humanoids were described. Ultimately, the observations were terminated with the destruction of the telescope and the observatory by the intense heat of the sun focusing through the lens of the telescope.

Authorship of the articles has been attributed to Richard Adams Locke, a reporter working for the New York Sun. Locke admitted it years later in an letter to the weekly paper “New World”. Rumors persisted that others were involved; but no evidence could be found to support that theory. Locke never gave any reasons for writing the series. His intentions were probably first to create a sensational story which would increase sales of The Sun, and, second, to ridicule some astronomical theories recently published.

In 1824, Franz von Paula Gruithuisen, Professor of Astronomy at Munich University, published a paper titled “Discovery of Many Distinct Traces of Lunar Inhabitants,  Especially of One Their Colossal Buildings”. Gruithuisen claimed to have observed color on the lunar surface, indicating climate and vegetation zones, and lines and geometric shapes, indicating the existence of walls, roads, fortifications, and cities.  Reverend Thomas Dick, minister and science teacher, wrote a book that computed the number of inhabitants of the solar system; the moon by his count would contain four billion inhabitants. Reverend Dick’s writings were very popular in the United States; Ralph Waldo Emerson was a fan of his book.

The story was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication; even then, the New York Sun did not issue a retraction. Sir John Herschel was initially amused by the hoax, but grew annoyed when he had to answer questions by people who really believed the story was true. The Sun’s circulation increased dramatically because of the hoax and remained greater than before, establishing The Sun as a successful paper. The Great Moon Hoax is mentioned by characters in Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon”, published in 1865 by Pierre-Jules Hetzel.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 6th of August, Solar Year 2018

A Bed of Flowers

August 6, 1874 was the birthdate of American writer and researcher, Charles Hoy Fort.

During 1915, Charles Fort, an experienced journalist with wit and a contrarian nature,  began to write two books, titled “X” and “Y”, the first dealing with the idea that beings on Mars were controlling events on Earth, and the second with the postulation of a sinister civilization in existence at the South Pole. These books caught the attention of writer Theodore Dreiser who attempted to get them published, but to no avail.

Discouraged by this failure, Charles Fort burnt the manuscripts, but was soon renewed to begin work on the book that would change the course of his life, the 1919 “The Book of the Damned”, which Dreiser helped to get published. The title referred to “damned” data that Fort collected, phenomena for which science could not account and that was thus rejected or ignored.

For more than thirty years, Charles Fort visited libraries in New York City and London, assiduously reading scientific journals, newspapers, and magazines, collecting notes on phenomena that were not explained well by the accepted theories and beliefs of the time. He marveled that seemingly unrelated bits of information were, in fact, related. The notes were kept on cards and scraps of paper in shoeboxes, in a cramped shorthand of Fort’s own invention.

From this research, Charles Fort wrote four books. These are: “The Book of the Damned” published in 1919; the 1923 “New Lands”, a theory on the Super-Sargasso Sea: “Lo!“ published in 1931 dealing with astronomy and teleportation;  and the 1932 “Wild Talents” describing Fort’s new theory of psychic and mental powers.

Examples of the odd phenomena in Charles Fort’s books include many occurrences of the sort variously referred to as occult and paranormal. Reported events include: teleportation; the falling of frogs and fishes from the sky; spontaneous human combustion; ball lightning; levitation; unexplained disappearances; and giant wheels of light in the ocean, among others. His books offered many reports of out-of-place objects found in unlikely locations and out of their place in time. He was an early proponent of extraterrestrial spacecraft and the first to explain human appearances and disappearances by the hypothesis of alien abduction.

Suffering from poor health and falling eyesight in the early 1930s , Charles Fort was pleasantly surprised to find himself the subject of a cult following. The Fortean Society was initiated at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel in New York City on January 26, 1931 by some of Fort’s friends, many who were also writers. Fort rejected the official society but met informally with many members. Distrusting doctors, Fort did not seek medical assistance for his worsening health. After he collapsed on May 3rd of 1932, he was rushed to the Royal Hospital in the Bronx, dying only hours afterward, most likely from untreated leukemia. He was interred in the family plot in Albany, New York. More than 60,000 of his handwritten notes are in the New York Public Library.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of July, Solar Year 2018

Stripping Among the Cattails

July 29, 1954 was the publishing date for Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”.

“The Lord of the Rings” started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s work “The Hobbit”, published in 1937. The popularity of “The Hobbit” had led George Allen & Unwin, the publishers, to request a sequel. Tolkien warned them that he wrote quite slowly, and responded with several stories he had already developed; however the publishers thought more stories about hobbits would be popular. So at the age of 45, Tolkien began writing the story that would become “The Lord of the Rings”.

Persuaded by his publishers,Tolkien started the new Hobbit series in December of 1937. After several false starts, the story of the One Ring emerged. The idea for the first chapter , which became entitled “A Long-Expected Party” arrived fully formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo’s disappearance, the significance of the Ring, and the series title “ The Lord of the Rings” did not arrive until the spring of 1938.

Originally, Tolkien planned to write a story in which Bilbo had used up all his treasure and was looking for another adventure to gain more; however, Tolkien remembered the Ring and its powers and thought that would be a better focus for the new work. As the story progressed, he also brought in elements from his “Simarillion” mythology.

Because J.R.R. Tolkien had a full-time academic position and needed to earn further money as a university examiner, his writing on the project was slow. Tolkien abandoned writing the series during most of 1943 not restarting it until April of 1944. This spate of writing became a serial for his son Christopher, who was sent chapters as they were written while he was stationed with the Royal Air Force in South Africa. Tolkien made another concerted effort in 1946, and showed the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the next year, but Tolkien did not complete the revision of earlier parts of the work until 1949. Finished after twelve years, the original manuscript totaled 9,250 pages.

A dispute between Tolkien and his publisher George Allen and Unwin led to the book being offered to Harper Collins Publishers in 1950.  After Milton Waldman, Tolkien’s contact at Collins, expressed the belief that the book urgently needing “cutting”, Tolkien demanded that they publish it in 1952, Collins did not; so Tolkien took it back to Allen and Unwin, stating that he would consider it being published in parts.

For publication, the book was divided into three volumes to minimize any potential financial loss due to the high cost of type-setting and modest anticipated sales: “The Fellowship of the Ring“(Books I and II), “The Two Towers” (Books III and IV), and “The Return of the King”(Books V and VI plus six appendices). Delays in producing appendices, maps and especially an index led to the volumes being published later than originally hoped. The first volume of the “Fellowship of the Ring” was finally published in the United Kingdom on July 29th of 1954.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of July, Solar Year 2018

Stylized Flowers

July 18, 1937 was the birthdate of American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson.

Hunter S. Thompson carved out his niche in creative writing early in life. He was born in 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky, where his fiction and poetry earned him induction into the local Athenaeum Literary Association while he was still in high school. Thompson continued his literary pursuits in the United States Air Force, writing a weekly sports column for the base newspaper. After two years of service, Thompson endured a series of newspaper jobs, all of which ended badly, before he took to freelancing from Puerto Rico and South America for a variety of publications. The vocation quickly developed into a compulsion.

In 1967, Thompson published his first nonfiction book, “Hell’s Angels”, a harsh and incisive firsthand investigation into the infamous motorcycle gang then making the heartland of America nervous. He spent a year of research living and riding with the motorcycle gang to write the account of their experiences.

In 1970 he wrote an unconventional magazine feature entitled “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” for Scanlan’s Monthly magazine which both raised his profile and established him as a writer with counter-culture credibility. It also set him on a path to establishing his own sub-genre of New Journalism which he called “Gonzo,” which was essentially an ongoing experiment in which the writer becomes a central figure and even a participant in the events of the narrative.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, which first appeared in Rolling Stone in November 1971, sealed Thompson’s reputation as an outlandish stylist successfully straddling the line between journalism and fiction writing. The book tells of a savage journey to the heart of the American Dream in full-tilt gonzo style, Thompson’s hilarious first-person approach, and is accented by British illustrator Ralph Steadman’s appropriate drawings.

Thompson completed “The Rum Diary”, his only novel published to date, before he turned twenty-five. Bought by Ballantine Books, the novel was finally published to glowing reviews in 1998. The story, written when Thompson was twenty-two, involves a journalist who, in the 1950s, moves from New York to work for a  major newspaper in Puerto Rico. It was Thompson’s second novel, preceded by the still-unpublished “Prince Jellyfish”.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 16th of July, Solar Year 2018

Two Birch Trees

July 17, 1889 was the birthdate of American detective writer Erle Stanley Gardner.

Erle Stanley Gardner, as a lawyer, enjoyed litigation and the development of trial strategy but was otherwise bored by legal practice. In his spare time, he began writing for pulp magazines; his first story was published in 1923. Gardner created many series characters for the pulps, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a parody of the “gentleman thief”; and Ken Corning, crusading lawyer, crime sleuth, and archetype for his most successful creation, Perry Mason.

While the Perry Mason novels did not delve into their characters lives very much, the novels were rich in plot detail which was reality-based and drawn from Gardner’s own experience. In his early years writing for the pulp magazine market, Gardner set himself a quota of 1,200,000 words a year. With the success of the Perry Mason book series, which eventually ran to over 80 novels, Gardner gradually reduced his contributions to the pulp magazines until the medium itself died in the 1950s.

Gardner created Perry Mason as a recurring character in a series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, and then for the radio program “Perry Mason”  which ran from 1943 to 1955. In 1954, CBS proposed transforming the radio program into a television soap opera; but Gardner opposed the idea. In 1957, “Perry Mason” became instead a long-running CBS-TV drama series, starring Raymond Burr in the title role. Burr had auditioned for the role of the district attorney Hamilton Burger; but Gardner reportedly declared he was the embodiment of Perry Mason. The series’ last episode was “The Case of the Final Fade-Out” in 1966 with a cameo appearance of Gardner as a judge.

Gardner devoted thousands of hours to “The Court of Last Resort”, in collaboration with his many friends in the forensic, legal, and investigative communities. The project sought to review, and when appropriate, reverse miscarriages of justice against criminal defendants who had been convicted because of poor legal representation, abuse, misinterpretation of forensic evidence, or careless or malicious actions of police or prosecutors. The resulting 1952 book earned Gardner his only Edgar Award, in the Best Fact Crime category, and was later made into a TV series.

Gardner died in March of 1970 at his ranch in Temecula- the best-selling American writer of the 20th century at the time of his death. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds Gardner’s manuscripts, art collection, and personal effects. From 1972 to 2010, the Ransom Center featured a full-scale reproduction of Gardner’s study that displayed original furnishings, personal memorabilia, and artifacts.

Stanley Borack

Illustrations by Stanley Borack

Born in Brooklyn, Stanley Borack served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and studied art at the Art Students League of New York under the G.I. Bill.  He began his career as professional illustrator in 1950 and, up until he retired at the end of the 1970s, he did hundreds of covers for pulp magazines and paperback book publishers.  Among collectors, he is especially known for the racy covers he did for Ted Mark’s Man From O.R.G.Y. series.  After retirement, his spent his remaining years doing painting of the Old West for fine art galleries across the country.