January 31 Writer Birthdays

1624 – Arnold Geulincx, controversial Belgian author and philosopher who tried to work out more detailed versions of a generally Cartesian philosophy.

1735 – J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur (born Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur), French-American essayist famous for his book Letters from an American Farmer, which drew on his experience farming in Orange County, N.Y.

1872 – Zane Grey, American author of western novels and short stories, known for his idealized depiction of the American West; many of his works have been made into films. He was also a dentist.

1879 – Helena Ivanovna Roerich (born Shaposhnikova), Russian writer, translator, philosopher, theosophist, and explorer who created, in cooperation with the Teachers of the East, a philosophic teaching of Living Ethics (“Agni Yoga”) and took part in expeditions to remote regions of Central Asia; she was also Honorary President-Founder of the Institute of Himalayan Studies “Urusvati” in India.

1893 – Dame Freya Madeline Stark, French-born Anglo-Italian explorer, essayist, and travel writer who wrote more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan as well as several autobiographical works and essays; she was one of the first non-Arabs to travel through the southern Arabian Desert.

1902 – Alva Myrdal, Nobel Prize-winning Swedish writer, politician, diplomat, and sociologist who was a prominent leader of the disarmament movement.

1905 – John O’Hara, American writer who started in short stories, continued into novels, and dabbled in screenplays.

1915 – Thomas Merton, Anglo-American Catholic writer, monk, poet, and social activist whose autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, became a bestseller.

1923 – Norman Mailer, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, filmmaker, actor, cultural commentator, critic, and liberal political activist; he is considered a key figure in creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, which uses the style and devices of literary fiction in fact-based journalism.

1935 – Kenzaburō Ōe, Nobel Prize-winning Japanese author who “with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today.”

1941 – Gerald McDermott, American children’s author known for colorful treatments of mythological subjects.

1950 – Denise Fleming, American author of children’s picture books.

1959 – Laura Lippman, bestselling American author of detective fiction.

1979 – Daniel Tammet, British writer whose memoir Born on a Blue Day describes his life as an autistic savant.

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