October 11 Writer Birthdays

1723 – Hedvig Strömfelt, Swedish writer, psalm writer, church historian, and baroness who was an important leader in the Moravian Church Stockholm congregation.

1727 – Elizabeth Griffith (sometimes credited as Elizabeth Griffiths), Welsh-born, Irish-based dramatist, fiction writer, essayist, and actress.

1782 – Steen Steensen Blicher, Danish poet, short-story writer, and failed clergyman.

1825 – Maria Firmina dos Reis, Brazilian writer, poet, novelist, teacher, and abolitionist; her novel Úrsula described life for Afro-Brazilians under slavery.

1854 – Adela Zamudio (full name Paz Juana Plácida Adela Rafaela Zamudio Rivero), Bolivian poet, feminist, and educator; she is considered the most famous Bolivian poet ever, and is credited as founding the country’s feminist movement. She also used the pen name Soledad.

1864 – Rosa de Eguílaz y Renart, Spanish playwright, writer, and journalist.

1871 – Harriet Boyd Hawes, pioneering American archaeologist, author, university teacher, nurse, and relief worker who is best known as the discoverer and director of Gournia, one of the first archaeological excavations to uncover a Minoan settlement and palace on the Aegean island of Crete.

1876 – Gertrud von Le Fort (full name Baroness Gertrud Auguste Lina Elsbeth Mathilde Petrea Freiin von Le Fort), German writer of novels, poems, and essays.

1884 – Eleanor Roosevelt, American politician, diplomat, writer, journalist, columnist, autobiographer, feminist, peace activist, human-rights activist, and longest-serving First Lady of the United States, through her marriage to her fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1885 – François Mauriac, Nobel Prize-winning French novelist, dramatist, critic, poet, and journalist, lauded “for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life.”

1887 – Stefán Sigurðsson (also known as Stefán frá Hvítadal), Icelandic poet and author. Some sources give his birthday as October 16, 1887.

1891 – Kim Seong-su, South Korean writer, journalist, calligrapher, educator, independence activist, politician, and entrepreneur who founded Korea University and was Vice President of South Korea.

1894 – Albert Jakob Welti, award-winning Swiss writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and painter who was known for his intellectual independence and often took a stand on cultural, literary, and political questions of his time.

1911 – Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, celebrated and influential Indian Malayalam poet, writer, and playwright who was known for his bestselling romantic elegy Ramanan, a play written in the form of verse and based based on the life of his friend Edappally Raghavan Pillai; it was adapted for film. He is credited with bringing poetry to the masses with his simple romantic style; his style influenced the next few generations of Malayalam poets.

1913 – Lieselotte “Lilo” Fürst-Ramdohr, German writer, memoirist, and World War II resistance fighter who was a member of the student resistance group White Rose in Nazi Germany.

1913 – Dorothy Woolfolk (née Dorothy Roubicek), American comic-book editor and writer who was one of the first women in the U.S. comic-book industry; as an editor at DC Comics during the 1940s Golden Age of Comic Books, she is credited with helping to create the fictional metal Kryptonite in the Superman mythos. She also wrote science-fiction stories and young-adult novels. The author Donna Woolfolk Cross is her daughter.

1915 – Thomas Llewelyn Jones (generally known as T. Llew Jones), prolific Welsh-language writer, poet, and author of popular children’s books.

1921 – Joan Olivia Wyndham, British writer and memoirist who rose to literary prominence late in life through the diaries she had kept more than 40 years earlier, which were an account of her romantic adventures during World War II, when she was a teenager who had strayed into London’s Bohemian set.

1922 – G.C. Edmondson (full name “José Mario Garry Ordoñez Edmondson y Cotton), Mexican author and translator who is best remembered for his science fiction but who also wrote westerns; some of his work was written under pseudonyms C.M. Kotlan, Kelly P. Gast, J. B. Masterson, and Jack Logan.

1923 – Ahmet Hromadžić, Bosnian writer, journalist, novelist, short-story writer, children’s writer, and editor who was best known for his writing for children, including Dwarf from the Forgotten Land, Dwarf Tells You, and Petrified Wolves; he was also one of the founders of a children’s library.

1925 – Elmore Leonard, American novelist who started out writing westerns but is better known for his suspense and mystery books, many of which have been made into movies.

1926 – Thích Nhất Hạnh (born Nguyễn Xuân Bảo), prolific Vietnamese author, Thiền Buddhist monk, peace activist, and founder of the Plum Village school of Buddhism.

1929 – Annette Baier, New Zealand writer and philosopher who focused on feminist philosophy and was a scholar of the works of Enlightenment philosopher David Hume.

1929 – Russell Freedman, Newbery Medal-winning American children’s author and biographer.

1930 – Michael Owen Edwardes, South African business executive and author.

1932 – Suresh Parshottamdas Dalal, award-winning Indian Gujarati poet, essayist, writer, editor, and university professor.

1932 – Saul Friedländer, Pulitzer Prize-winning Israeli historian and author of The Years of Extermination.

1934 – Jose N. Nolledo, Filipino lawyer, constitutional law expert, and author.

1935 – Daniel Quinn, award-winning American author, environmentalist, cultural critic, and publisher of educational texts; he is best known for his novel Ishmael.

1936 – James M. McPherson, Puliter Prize-winning American historian, author, essayist, and professor who specializes in American history of the Civil War and civil rights eras; he is best known for the book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era.

1936 – Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa, bestselling Spanish novelist, screenwriter, film director, and inventor.

1942 – Else Annika Hagström, Swedish journalist, author, documentary filmmaker, television presenter, and singer.

1944 – Margaret Busby, Ghanaian-born publisher, editor, writer, and broadcaster who now lives in the UK, where she was Britain’s youngest and first black female book publisher in the 1960s when she co-founded the London-based publishing house Allison and Busby.

1946 – Silvia Molina, award-winning Mexican author, playwright, editor, and essayist.

1952 – B.M. Suhara, award-winning Indian Malayalam novelist and short-story writer.

1962 – Anne Enright, Irish novelist, short-story writer, and nonfiction author whose novel The Gathering won the Man Booker Prize; much of her work deals with issues of family, love, identity, and motherhood.

1962 – Richard Paul Evans, American author best known for his novel The Christmas Box.

1963 – Juanita Phillips, Australian journalist, author, children’s writer, autobiographer, and television news presenter.

The Cemetery Where Laura Played

Yesterday I posted a blog entry from ten years ago this week. Back in 2011, I took a solo road trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa, detouring along the way to visit the town of Burr Oak, Iowa, where Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family lived for more than a year. Visiting there was moving for me; the Ingalls had been going through a difficult time. They had lost almost everything after the failure of their farm in Minnesota; even worse, the youngest Ingalls, baby brother Freddie, had died, and now they were far away and couldn’t even visit his resting place. Laura had to work hard, at chores she hated, in a place she found depressing. But she still managed to find some moments of happiness.

I made two blog posts about my visit to Burr Oak 10 years ago. This is the second one, originally posted in October 2011. This has been edited for clarity.

Burr Oak, part 2

Yesterday I posted about my visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa, the destination of a side trip I took en route to the NFPW Conference in Council Bluffs. Burr Oak was the site of the Masters Hotel, where Laura and her family lived and worked in 1876 and 1877, when Laura was 9 years old. The “Little House” books she later wrote about her childhood never mentioned her family’s time in Iowa, but she was there for more than a year. Today, I have a few more photos to share from my time at Burr Oak.

Laura would have been busy during her year there. She worked at the hotel, went to school, helped look after her younger sisters — including new baby Grace — and even tended the family cow. I cannot begin to imagine my own 9-year-old taking on such responsibility. But occasionally Laura managed to squeeze in some free time to spend with her friend Alice Ward. The girls especially loved to stroll through Burr Oak Cemetery, talking, playing, and dreaming.

“The graveyard was a beautiful place,” she later wrote. “The grass was soft and short, there was velvety green moss in little hollows and on some of the gravestones…. The white stone standing amid all this beauty didn’t look sad.”

When I spotted the cemetery and realized it was the same one Laura and Alice had so loved, I had to follow in the girls’ footsteps. I’d been told that it still looks much as it did during Laura’s year in Burr Oak, and that’s easy to believe. Certainly, many of the stones I walked among that day were the same ones whose inscriptions she must have known by heart.

One difference: During Laura’s stay in Burr Oak, the church seen in the photo was just being built. She would have watched the building go up, board by board; she had always been fascinated with how things were made. Wandering through the cemetery myself on a brilliant September day, I imagined her sitting on the green grass amid the white gravestones, her blue eyes wide as she watched workers hoisting beams or nailing down shingles.

One gravestone in particular caught my attention; it is dated 1866, so Laura would have seen it too. Addie May Benedict was a little over 6 months old when she died. Laura may have run her fingers over the inscription, thinking of her own baby brother, Freddie, who died at the age of 9 months shortly before the Ingalls family moved to Iowa.

Seeing Addie May’s stone would have made Laura sad, I think. But maybe she would have found solace in it, too. She could no longer visit her baby brother’s final resting place. Spending time at Addie’s grave may have helped her mourn the brother she had so doted on, the only boy born to Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

Laura didn’t much like living in Burr Oak, Iowa. Her family was destitute after the failure of their wheat crops and devastated by the loss of baby Freddie. The town felt old and tired. Certainly, changing linens in the guest rooms and serving meals to strangers would not have been work she enjoyed. In fact, it was in Burr Oak that a wealthy young couple who could not have children of their own begged Ma and Pa to let them adopt Laura. They thought their offer would reduce Ma and Pa’s financial burden and provide Laura with luxuries her own parents couldn’t dream of. But Laura was horrified. All the pretty dresses, candy sticks, and music lessons in the world couldn’t take the place of her beloved family. Of course, her parents felt that way too and politely declined the offer.

Laura wasn’t one to mope or complain. Like her parents, she did what had to be done, even if it meant working hard at chores she hated. And she never lost her sense of wonder, her appreciation for her family, and her ability to find beauty and joy in simple things — an inspiring teacher, a peaceful hillside cemetery, and the laughter of a new baby sister. In Burr Oak, the Ingalls family pulled together and regrouped before moving on to the next phase of their lives. The following year, they would return to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where they stayed briefly before moving on to South Dakota.

From left: Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls. This photo was taken around 1880, a few years after the family’s time in Burr Oak. Laura was roughly 13 years old.

October 10 Writer Birthdays

1834 – Aleksis Kivi, Finnish playwright, novelist, and poet.

1870 – Louise Mack, Australian poet, journalist, and novelist who is best known for her writings about World War I and her involvement in 1914 as the first woman war correspondent in Belgium.

1892 – Ivo Andric, Nobel Prize-winning Yugoslav novelist, poet, and short-story writer.

1892 – Lilly Daché, French-born American milliner, fashion merchandiser, and author who started her career in a small bonnet shop and eventually ran her own fashion empire, custom-designing fashionable hats for wealthy women, celebrates, socialites, and movie stars; later in her career she expanded her fashion line to include dresses, perfume, and jewelry. She also wrote books, including her witty autobiography, Talking Through My Hats.

1906 – R.K. Narayan, Indian author who is best known for bringing Indian fiction to an English audience.

1908 – Mercè Rodoreda, award-winning Spanish Catalan novelist, journalist, playwright, short-story writer, and children’s writer who is considered to be the most influential contemporary Catalan-language writer; her bestselling novel La plaça del diamant (The Diamond Square, also called The Time of the Doves) is regarded as one of the best novels published in Spain since the Spanish Civil War.

1913 – Claude Simon, Nobel Prize-winning Madagascar-born French novelist who “in his novel combines the poet’s and the painter’s creativeness with a deepened awareness of time in the depiction of the human condition.”

1924 – James Clavell, Australian-born British/American novelist and screenwriter, known for his Asian saga, which included the novels Tai-Pan and Shogun.

1928 – Sheila Walsh, award-winning British writer of romance novels who also wrote under the pen name Sophie Leyton.

1930 – Harold Pinter, Nobel Prize-winning English playwright who “in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms.”

1933 – Thomas Kanza, Congolese writer, author, biographer, newspaper founder, politician, diplomat, and jazz musician.

1934 – Kunie Iwahashi, award-winning Japanese novelist, biographer, and short-story writer; one of her short stories was made into a film.

1935- Yumiko Kurahashi, award-winning postmodernist Japanese novelist, short-story writer, and translator whose work was experimental and antirealist, questioning prevailing norms about sex, violence, and social order.

1938 – Lily Tuck, National Book Award-winning French-born American novelist and short-story writer.

1939 – Goli Taraghi (real name Zahren Taraghi-Moghadam), award-winning Iranian novelist, short-story writer, and university teacher; she wrote in Persian, French, and English.

1940 – Tran Bich San (born Trần Gia Thái), Vietnamese writer, newspaper editor, journalist, author, activist, and military official who emigrated to the United States after the fall of Saigon.

1941 – Terence Heffernan, award-winning Canadian screenwriter and playwright who is most noted for writing the film Heartaches.

1941 – Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nigerian activist, dramatist, diarist, and poet.

1942 – Ratko Adamovic, award-winning Serbian novelist, essayist, literary critic, and short-story writer.

1942 – James Marshall, American children’s author best known for his George and Martha books.

1943 – Frederick Barthelme, American novelist, short-story writer, memoirist, and screenwriter who is one of the seminal writers of minimalist fiction.

1944 – Linda Rogers, award-winning Canadian poet, novelist, nonfiction author, and children’s writer.

1945 – Denis Henriquez, award-winning Aruban writer, author, and teacher.

1950 – Nora Roberts, prolific American novelist, beloved for her bestselling romantic works, though she also writes mysteries; in addition to writing under her own name, she has published under the pseudonyms J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty.

1946 – Mildred Grieveson, popular author of more than 160 romance novels; she most often uses the pseudonym Anne Mather but has also written under the names Caroline Fleming and Cardine Fleming. Her novel, Leopard in the Snow, was developed into a 1978 film.

1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, Japanese manga artist whose most famous works in the west are the InuYasha series.

1967 – Jonathan Littel, American/French author whose book The Kindly Ones won the Prix Goncourt in France.

1969 – Dilsa Demirbag Sten, award-winning Swedish/Kurdish author and journalist.

1979 – Kim Keum Hee, award-winning South Korean novelist, editor, and short-story writer; a common theme in her works is the value of things that are old or forgotten; rather than rejecting frustrating realities or running away from them, her characters take ownership of their past and of who they are now.

Pilgrimage to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Burr Oak Home

Ten years ago, I took a solo road trip to a conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Along the way, I treated myself to several side trips, including one to a town I had always wanted to see: Burr Oak, Iowa. This was briefly the home of one of my favorite authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Though she never wrote about Burr Oak in her “Little House” books, Laura’s family moved there when she was nine years old. Their Minnesota farm had failed and they had lost almost everything. When Ma and Pa were offered the chance to operate a small hotel in Iowa, they didn’t see any other option but to go.

Laura was born near Pepin, in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, and moved repeatedly throughout her childhood. She was usually excited to see new places, but she and her father hated having to move to Iowa; traveling East instead of West felt to them like a retreat, an acknowledgement of failure.

Readers have wondered why Laura left Burr Oak out of her books. It probably hurt too much to revisit that dismal period.

As a writer, I also speculate that running a small hotel in Iowa was much like running a boarding house in South Dakota (as described in By the Shores of Silver Lake), and that recounting both experiences would have felt redundant. Besides, she simplified her family’s travels in other ways (leaving out, for instance, the second time she lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin). Maybe she thought narrating every move her family made would have complicated the narrative and distracted readers from the stories she wanted to tell.

In any case, here is what I wrote in October 2011 in my first blog post about my visit there. I’ve edited a bit for clarity.

Burr Oak, part 1

Driving to Iowa last month for the 2011 NFPW Conference, I detoured to the town of Burr Oak, in the northeast corner of the state, to see one of the homes of one of my favorite children’s book authors.

Laura Ingalls Wilder never wrote about Burr Oak in her “Little House” books, but her family lived there for a little over a year. One of my long-term goals is to visit all of the places where Laura lived. With this site and another I saw on the same trip, I’ve now been to five. (2021 update: I’ve now been to seven.)

The Ingalls family was forced to leave Walnut Grove after grasshoppers destroyed the wheat crop two years in a row, as described in On the Banks of Plum Creek. The museum in Burr Oak displays this notice that offers a bounty of 5 cents for every quart of dead grasshoppers collected.

Laura and her family moved to Burr Oak in 1876, when Laura was nine. They traveled there by covered wagon after two years in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where their farm failed because grasshoppers destroyed the crops. Before moving on to Iowa, the family stayed for a short time with relatives in Minnesota, where Laura’s baby brother Freddie (Charles Frederick, Jr.) died.

Burr Oak is the site of the only childhood home that Laura did not mention in her books, the Masters Hotel, which the family would help manage. It now serves as a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum for fans of her nine-book “Little House” series.

The Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa, is the only one of Laura’s childhood homes that still exists as the original building in its original location.

The town was already on the decline in 1876 when Laura arrived, because the newly built railroad had passed it by. Laura and her family lived and worked at the hotel — one of two hotels in town at the time. But today, the building is a museum and there is no working hotel at all. I had to stay in nearby Decorah, Iowa. In fact, the town of Burr Oak is smaller now than it was in Laura’s time. The current population is about 100 residents.

I like the way the locals pronounce Burr Oak. They slur the words together so that it sounds like one: “baroque.” I found that amusing, since rural Iowa is about the least baroque place I can imagine.

These life-size dolls were crafted for the museum by a fan of the “Little House” books. The entire Ingalls family is there, but these are, from left, Mary, Pa, and Ma holding baby Grace.

The museum displays life-size dolls, above. They are a little goofy, but they amused me. The entire Ingalls family is represented in the room that used to be the parlor of the Masters Hotel. The ones I’ve pictured are, from left to right, eldest sister Mary (who had not yet lost her eyesight when the family lived here), Pa with his fiddle, and Ma holding baby Grace, who was born in Burr Oak.

Running the hotel was a family activity. Laura and her mother and sisters spent hours each day cooking and serving meals in the hotel’s dining room, top photo above, which was in the basement.

Today, the hotel kitchen displays spices grown and dried on the site, along with tools like those Laura’s family used (second photo, above). Among the items pictured are two reminders of the winter of 1880-81, which the Ingalls family spent in De Smet, South Dakota, as Laura described in The Long Winter. With all trains halted for months by ice and snow on the tracks, vital supplies such as firewood, fuel, and flour could not reach De Smet. Laura and other family members toiled in their freezing lean-to, twisting hay into sticks to burn in the stove as their only source of heat. The coffee grinder pictured is the same kind the Ingalls family used to grind wheat into a coarse flour for bread.

When she wasn’t working, Laura attended school, where she really appreciated her teacher, William Reed, who also lived at the Masters Hotel. His room has been restored with period details and clothing that actually belonged to him and members of his family.

When they weren’t working hard cooking and cleaning for hotel guests, Laura and her sisters Mary and Carrie attended school in Burr Oak. Laura’s teacher, a young man named William Reed, impressed her greatly. She later said she felt indebted to Reed in particular for teaching her elocution.

Lodgings were cramped. For 25 cents a night, a traveler could share a bed in one of the tiny, crowded upstairs rooms or could sleep solo in this very public spot on the stair landing, pictured below. This bed was often saved for the stagecoach driver who brought guests to the hotel. Notice the outrageous period wallpaper in this photo. It would have looked much less gaudy in an era without electric lights.

Above, the room at the top of the stairs, where one hotel guest would sleep, in full view of anyone coming up the staircase. Below, the room near the kitchen where the Ingalls family slept — all five of them.

When they first moved to Iowa, the Ingalls family didn’t only work at the Masters Hotel; they lived there, too. The parents and all three children shared this crowded bedroom, above, near the kitchen. Ma was pregnant at the time.

Before baby Grace was born, the family was still working at the hotel but had moved out in order to remove the children from the corrupting influence of the hotel tavern. They lived in an apartment above a grocery store down the street for a time, and later rented a small brick house near Silver Creek, which ran behind the hotel.

Tomorrow I’ll post more about Burr Oak.

October 9 Writer Birthdays

1221 – Salimbene di Adam (often known as Salimbene of Parma), Italian Franciscan friar, theologian, and chronicler whose work is a key source for 13th century Italian history.

1741 – Gaspar de Molina y Zaldívar, Spanish writer, poet, architect, painter, and engineer.

1772 – Mary Tighe, Irish poet and novelist; poet John Keats was one of her admirers and paid tribute to her in his poem, “To Some Ladies.”

1791 – Amalie Schoppe (born Amalie Weise, and also known by her pseudonyms Adalbert von Schonen, Amalia, and Marie), German writer, journalist, and prolific author of books for children and young adults.

1799 – Louisa Stuart Costello, Anglo-Irish novelist, poet, historian, and artist who lived in Paris and often wrote on travel and French history.

1823 – Mary Ann Shadd Cary, American and Canadian anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher, and lawyer; she was the first Black woman publisher in North America, the first woman publisher in Canada, and the first Black woman to attend law school in the U.S.

1825 – Clementine Helm Beyrich, popular German author of books for children and young adults; she also wrote poems, songs, short stories, and fairy tales, and was an anthologist and a teacher.

1854 – Mihaljo Pupin, Pulitzer Prize-winning Serbian-born physicist, chemist, autobiographer, and author; he was also a diplomat who helped determine the borders of Yugoslavia.

1862 – Fatma Aliye Topuz (often known as Fatma Aliye or Fatma Aliye Hanım), Turkish novelist, columnist, essayist, women’s rights activist, and humanitarian who was one of the first published female novelists in Turkish literature and the Islamic world.

1863 – Edward Bok, Pulitzer Prize-winning Dutch-born American magazine editor, author, and autobiographer.

1876 – Sol Plaatje (full name Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje), South African writer, journalist, translator, linguist, and politician who was a founding member and the first General Secretary of the South African Native National Congress, which became the African National Congress.

1881 – Victor Klemperer, Polish writer, diarist, autobiographer, linguist, university teacher, politician, and scholar of romance languages; his journals, published in Germany in 1995, detailed the hardships of his life under the Third Reich as the son of a Rabbi, though he avoided deportation through the intervention of his Aryan wife. His journals covering the period of the Third Reich have become standard historical sources on the period. He was a cousin to the conductor Otto Klemperer and to Otto’s son, the actor Werner Klemperer.

1887 – Saroj Nalini Dutt (née De), Indian writer, social worker, and activist for the rights of women.

1892 – Ivo Andrić, Nobel Prize-winning Yugoslavian novelist and short-story writer.

1894 – Agnes von Krusenstjerna, controversial Swedish writer whose books challenged the moral standards of the day; she was at the center of a great literary controversy over freedom of speech.

1898 – Tawfiq al-Hakim, prominent and prolific Egyptian novelist, playwright, journalist, and visionary who is considered one of the pioneers of the Arabic novel and drama.

1899 – Bruce Catton, Pulitzer Prize-winning and National Book Award-winning American historian and journalist who wrote popular histories of the American Civil War, including the book A Stillness at Appomattox.

1906 – Sayyid Qutb, prolific Egyptian author, educator, Islamic theorist, poet, journalist, philosopher, nonfiction author, and politician who wrote on the social and political role of Islam. He was convicted of plotting the assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and executed by hanging.

1906 – Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegalese poet and cultural theorist who was the first president of Senegal; he is regarded as one of the most important African intellectuals of the 20th century.

1915 – Belva Plain, bestselling American novelist whose books were often multigenerational Jewish-American family sagas featuring strong-willed women.

1916 – Mars Ravelo, Filipino comic-book cartoonist and graphic novelist.

1918 – Marianne Alopaeus, award-winning Finnish novelist who wrote in Swedish; her best known novel, Mörkrets kärna (“The Dark Core”) is about a woman who rejects the priorities of her children to concentrate on intellectual pursuits, and is thought to be influenced by the style and approach of the existentialist author Simone de Beauvoir.

1927 – Lokenath Bhattacharya, prolific Indian Bengali writer, poet, and translator.

1929 – Julia Elena Fortún, Bolivian author, historian, anthropologist, musicologist, and pioneering ethnomusicologist.

1937 – Joanna Hurwitz, American librarian and author of children’s books.

1938 – Gwendoline Chomba Konie, Zambian writer, poet, diplomat, and politician who was a candidate for president of Zambia in 2001.

1941 – Jean-Jacques Schuhl, French author who won the Prix Goncourt for his novel Ingrid Caven, which was named for his partner, a German actress and singer.

1942 – Michael Palmer, American doctor and bestselling author of medical thrillers.

1946 – Anne-Marie Garat, award-winning French novelist and educator whose books are psychological in nature and focus on female characters.

1946 – Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá, Puerto Rican essayist and novelist.

1950 – Jody Williams, Nobel Prize-winning American writer, professor, and activist.

1951 – Svyatoslav Vladimirovich Vitman (mostly known by his pen name, Svyatoslav Loginov), award-winning Russian novelist, short-story writer, and poet who writes mostly science fiction.

1951 – María Negroni, awarad-winning Argentinian poet, essayist, novelist, translator, and professor.

1953 – Jordan Plevnes, Macedonian writer, poet, politician, and diplomat.

1960 – Laura Ruohonen, Finnish writer, playwright, professor, and theatre director.

1962 – Eduardo del Llano Rodriguez, Russian-born Cuban writer, screenwriter, university professor, and film director; his short film Monte Rouge — a satire on the work of Cuban state security — cemented his reputation as a critic of the Cuban government.

1964 – Jacqueline Carey, American fantasy author, known for her “Kushiel” series set in the fictional land of Terre d’Ange.

1964 – Guillermo del Toro, Mexican movie director and novelist, known for his works of fantasy, suspense, and horror.

1976 – William Joseph Alexander, National Book Award-winning American author of young-adult fantasy novels.

1981 – Liu Di, Chinese writer and dissident whose pen name is “Stainless Steel Rat,” after a series of science-fiction novels by Harry Harrison; she became a symbol for democracy and free speech in China after her detention in November 2002.

Friday Photo: Sunflowers

This week I attended Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. In the room where images were being projected, to music, on all four walls and the floor, we were all seated on benches or chair, or on pillows on the floor. I took many photos in that room, but this is one of my favorites. This child near me kept fidgeting, stretching, changing positions, and wandering around the area. I caught him in this contorted position, among the contorted sunflower petals on the floor. The word “Sunflowers” on the wall looks like a title I photoshopped in, but it was actually part of the images being projected there, with the writhing sunflowers washing across the wall behind it.

(Also see one of the videos I took that day; I posted it a few days ago.)

The child looks like part of the painting, but he was an actual, live child moving around on the floor and trying to catch the sunflower images streaming across the room.

October 8 Writer Birthdays

1553 – Jacques Auguste de Thou, French writer, poet, historian, book collector, diplomat, and politician.

1712 – Alison Cockburn (also known as Alison Rutherford, or Alicia Cockburn), Scottish poet, satirist, lyricist, and wit who collected a circle of eminent friends in 18th-century enlightenment Edinburgh, including Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and David Hume.

1773 – Sophie Bawr, French novelist, playwright, children’s writer, memoirist, textbook writer, and composer; she was born Alexandrine-Sophie Goury de Champgrand, and was also known as Comtesse de Saint-Simon, Baronne de Bawr, and M. François.

1797 – Eeltsje Hiddes Halbertsma, Dutch Frisian writer, poet, and physician, and the youngest of the three Halbertsma Brothers, all of whom were published writers.

1807 – Harriet Taylor Mill (born Harriet Hardy), British writer, essayist, poet, philosopher, and women’s rights advocate; her frequent collaborations with her second husband, philosopher and politician John Stuart Mill, make it difficult at times to tell which works were hers, which were his, and which were co-authored. She was a controversial figure because she chose to live apart from her first husband, John Taylor, after she fell in love with Mill, though it is likely that her relationship was not a sexual one until after Taylor passed away.

1845 – Louise Elisabeth Bachofen-Burckhardt, Swiss art collector, art critic, and philanthropist who wrote a catalog of her substantial art collection, which she bequeathed to the city of Basel’s art museum.

1847 – Rose Scott, influential Australian writer, salonnière, suffragist, and women’s rights activist; she is especially remembered for founding the Women’s Political Education League and for campaigning successfully to raise the age of consent to sixteen.

1872 – John Cowper Powys, British novelist, lecturer, philosopher, literary critic, and poet.

1876 – Cécile Tormay, two-time Nobel Prize-nominated Hungarian writer, translator, novelist, feminist, and social theorist.

1879 – Chen Duxiu, Chinese, writer, philosopher, journalist, professor, and politician who was the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.

1886 – Pedro Prado, award-winning, innovative Chilean writer and poet. His first book of poetry, Flores de Cardo, introduced free verse in Chilean poetry; his novels were philosophical and infused with creative and poetic imagery.

1886 – Isamu Yoshii, Japanese writer, tanka poet, playwright, novelist, and radio scriptwriter whose early work was influenced by European romanticism.

1892 – Marina Tsvetaeva, Russian writer, poet, translator, and diarist whose work is considered among the greatest in 20th century Russian literature.

1895 – Adivi Baapiraju, Indian Telugu-language novelist, poet, playwright, short-story writer, painter, newspaper editor, and art director; he was jailed for about a year for his participation in Mahatma Gandhi’s Indian independence movement, and later wrote the book Tolakari about his experiences in jail.

1897- Etelvina Villanueva y Saavedra, Bolivian poet and educator who was a leader in the struggle for equality for Bolivian women.

1903 – Colette Peignot, French author, poet, and social crusader who is most known by the pseudonym Laure, but who also wrote under the name Claude Araxe. She was profoundly affected during her childhood by the deaths of her father and three uncles during World War I, by her failing health (tuberculosis nearly killed her at age 13), and by sexual abuse from a priest; as a result, her writings are full of fury and suffering.

1909 – Yemima Avidar-Tchernovitz, award-winning Lithuanian-born Israeli author and translator who is best known for her children’s books, which have become classics of modern Hebrew children’s literature.

1914 – Thomas St. Germain Whitecloud II, American Chippewa writer and doctor whose most famous story, “Blue Winds Dancing,” is about a young man’s struggle to exist in ancient and modern America; it stands out in contemporary literature for its lyrical prose, vivid imagery, and social observations. As a doctor, he is known for developing innovative techniques in spinal surgery.

1917 – Walter Lord, bestselling American author of popular history books; he is best known for his account of the Titanic’s sinking, A Night to Remember, which was made into a movie.

1919 – Teresa Pàmies, award-winning Spanish Catalan writer, biographer, journalist, and political activist.

1920 – Maria Beig, award-winning German author, autobiographer, and educator.

1920 – Victoria Garrón de Doryan, Costa Rican writer, poet, biographer, and educator who was the first female Vice President of Costa Rica.

1920 – Frank Herbert, American science-fiction writer whose Dune saga is a classic of the genre.

1924 – Orlanda Amarílis (full name Orlanda Amarílis Lopes Rodrigues Fernandes Ferreira), Cape Verdean short-story writer, children’s author, and translator whose many literary themes include the lives of Cape Verdean women as well as depictions of the Cape Verdean diaspora; she has been described as “indisputably one of Cape Verde’s most talented writers.”

1925 – Iraj Afshar, Iranian writer, screenwriter, librarian, historian, university teacher, bibliographer, editor, and linguist who is an iconic figure in the field of Persian studies.

1926 – Lars Fredrik Jansson, Finnish author and cartoonist.

1930 – Faith Ringgold, African-American author and children’s book author.

1930 – Toru Takemitsu, Japanese composer, teacher, guitarist, and influential writer on aesthetics and music theory

1933 – Michael Korda, English-born writer, novelist, and editor.

1938 – William Corlett, English author known for his The Magician’s House set of children’s novels.

1939 – Harvey Pekar, American comic-book writer best known for his American Splendor series of autobiographical graphic novels.

1941 – Martin Florian van Amerongen, Dutch journalist, publisher, columnist, biographer, author, editor, and literary critic.

1943 – Catherine Hermary-Vieille, award-winning French novelist and biographer.

1943 – R.L. Stine, American author of children’s horror series, notably Goosebumps and Fear Street.

1945 – Ewa Lipska, Polish poet and writer associated with Poland’s New Wave literary movement. According to a critic: “While her verse may have some connections with politics, it always documents concrete personal experiences without reaching for grand generalizations. As it unmasks the language of propaganda, her poetry also indicates the weaknesses of language in general as an instrument of human perception and communication.”

1948 – Benjamin Cheever, American writer who is the son of noted author John Cheever.

1949 – Marjorie Hope van Heerden, award-winning South African writer and illustrator of children’s books.

1953 – Julia Navarro, Spanish journalist, nonfiction author on current affairs and politics, and bestselling novelist.

1958 – Steve Coll, American journalist and author, recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, on of them for the 2004 book Ghost Wars.

1958 – Bret Lott, award-winning American author, professor, and editor who is best known for the novel Jewel, an Oprah’s Book Club selection that was made into a movie.

1963 – Ha Joon Chang, South Korean economist and author who has been listed in Prospect magazine as one of the top 20 World Thinkers.

1966 – Claire Messud, award-winning American author and professor.

1968 – Jaclyn Moriarty, Australian novelist, most known for her young-adult literature; her sisters Liane and Nicola are also authors.

1971 – Pınar Selek, Turkish sociologist, feminist, writer, editor, children’s author, sociologist, and human rights activist; she is known for her work on the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey, including women, the poor, street children, sexual minorities, and Kurdish communities.

1975 – Tahmima Anam, award-winning Bangladeshi-born writer, novelist, journalist, and columnist.

Parallel Travelogue

I’ve posted several photos of the guest house in Port Isaac where we were planning to stay for a few days — it’s the shooting location for the doctor’s home and surgery on the BBC’s “Doc Martin.” But I never posted any of this lovely little inn we would have been checking into today, in Penzance. This was to be the first stop on our two-week trip.

Some quantum physicists theorize that every decision we make splits off a parallel universe in which we chose a different course. If that is true, then somewhere in a parallel universe, I will arrive today in Great Britain.

Last May, when covid-19 vaccinations were spreading far and wide, and the virus’s Delta variant was barely in the news, I booked a trip for my husband and me, which would have been centered on Cornwall and other counties in the southwest of England, with a side trip into Wales.

Mindful of the virus, we planned to stay in rented cottages and small inns, to avoid interior spaces frequented by hundreds. We would focus on villages and the countryside, not large cities where it’s harder to stay distanced from people. We would be fully vaccinated, we would follow the testing rules, and we would wear masks. At the time, the U.K. was requiring a quarantine for U.S. visitors, but we felt it would most likely be lifted before our trip. And it was. And everything I booked was fully refundable in case we had to cancel. But we were optimistic.

Then came summer. Americans who wanted the vaccine got it, and the other third of eligible adults outright refused, leading to a resurgence of the virus. Mask mandates lifted, just before Delta took hold here in the U.S.; Delta was already spreading rapidly through the U.K. And covid numbers rose.

We gave ourselves a September 1 deadline for making a decision. And by the time it arrived, we both knew what we had to do. Many friends were jetting off to Italy, Greece, Spain, and yes, the U.K., but we just did not feel that overseas travel was safe. A British friend asked why I thought it was so much more dangerous in her country than in ours, but that wasn’t it at all. If anything, it’s probably less safe here, on the whole. But travel itself seems unsafe and unwise. Airports, in particular, are hubs for transmission of the virus. I did not want to get covid, but maybe even more importantly, I did not want to feel that I was part of the problem. So we canceled.

Last night, in that parallel universe, we must have boarded a plane to set out on our British adventure. And right about now, our parallel selves are touching down in Amsterdam to board a connecting flight to Bristol, England, where we will pick up our parallel rental car and drive — on the right side of the road — to Cornwall. I hope our parallel selves have a wonderful time there.

October 7 Writer Birthdays

1540 – Pantaleon Candidus, Austrian writer, historian, and theologian of the Reformed Church.

1773 – Caroline Philippine von Briest (better known as Caroline de la Motte Fouqué), prolific German writer of the Romantic period who was one of the most accomplished women of Germany of her time; she wrote novels, short stories, travelogues, fairy tales, poetry, and essays, on a wide range of topics ranging from Greek mythology to the history of fashion.

1775 – Jaygopal Tarkalankar, Indian Bengali writer, Sanskrit scholar, educator, and translator; he devoted his career to the goal of uplifting the Bengali language and rescuing it from Persian and Arabic influences.

1783 – Augustus Bozzi Granville (born Augusto Bozzi), Italian writer, physician, author, and gynecologist; he is credited with performing the first medical autopsy on an ancient Egyptian mummy, which he described to the Royal Society of London in 1825.

1795 – Elizabeth Pope Whately, English writer who wrote and edited fictional, religious, and educational works, both for adults and children; little of her writing appeared under her own name, some of it carrying the byline of her husband, the Archbishop Richard Whately.

1821 – Tristão Gonçalves de Alencar (later Araripe), Brazilian writer, judge, politician, and magistrate.

1839 – Anna “Annie” Brassey (Baroness Brassey, née Allnutt), English adventurer and travel writer whose bestselling memoir, A Voyage in the Sunbeam, our Home on the Ocean for Eleven Months describes a voyage she made around the world with friends and family; it was only one of many trips she made to far-flung destinations and wrote about. She was also an accomplished photographer; her 70 albums filled with photographs and artifacts from her voyages are said to exemplify the best of historical travel albums.

1844 – Adèle Wilhelmina Weman, Finnish writer, journalist, poet, playwright, educator, and children’s author who wrote in Swedish under the pen names Parus Ater, Inga Storm, and Zakarias. She was a pioneer in youth education and in the development of youth associations.

1949 – Francisco Bauzá, Uruguayan writer, journalist, essayist, political writer, historian, literary historian, politician, and diplomat.

1849 – James Whitcomb Riley, American writer and poet whose 1885 poem “Little Orphant Annie” was the basis for the later character.

1855 – Louis Léon Théodore Gosselin, French writer, historian, and playwright who wrote under the pen name G. Lenotre; he wrote articles for the leading publications of his day, and produced numerous works dealing with the French Revolution, especially the Reign of Terror, constructed from his research into primary documents of the era.

1864 – Ellen Wright Blackwell, English writer, botanist, and photographer who made a lasting impact on the field of botany in New Zealand. She coauthored the groundbreaking book, Plants of New Zealand, which is now a classic and was the first popular, well-illustrated, and authoritatively written account of New Zealand plants; the book is also notable in that it attempts to integrate aspects of New Zealand culture (including Maori culture) into a botanical framework.

1867 – Irvine Garland Penn, African-American journalist, educator, and lay leader in the Methodist Episcopal church; he was the author of The Afro-American Press and Its Editors, and one of several coauthors (some of the others were Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells) of The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbia Exposition.

1873 – Clementine Sophie Krämer (née Cahnmann), German writer of poetry, novellas, and short stories who was also an activist in the German Jewish community; she was killed in 1942 in a Nazi concentration camp.

1873 – Josep Esteve i Seguí, Spanish Catalan folklorist and pharmacist who published traditional songs and proverbs, as well as articles about the geography and folklore of his region.

1878 – Mikhail Andreyevich Osorgin (real last name Ilyin), Russian writer, journalist, and essayist.

1883 – Racho Stoyanov Genov-Dufev, Bulgarian writer, playwright, and translator.

1893 – Alice Dalgliesh, three-time Newbery Medal-winning Trinidad-born American author of children’s historical fiction.

1900 – Ganti Jogi Somayaji, Indian writer, poet, linguist, and teacher who was a scholar in Sanskrit, Telugu, English and other languages.

1907 – Helen MacInnes, Scottish-American author of espionage novels.

1909 – Anni Blomqvist, award-winning Finnish novelist, short-story writer, autobiographer, and nonfiction author; much of her work, both fiction and nonfiction, deals with the difficult lives of people on her native Åland Islands.

1914 – Mihailo Lalic, Montenegrin and Serbian writer and journalist.

1914 – Armonía Liropeya Etchepare Locino (sometimes referred to as Armonía Etchepare de Henestrosa, or by her pseudonym Armonía Somer), Uruguayan novelist, short-story writer, feminist, and pedagogue who was a member of the literary movement Generación del 45.

1915 – Margarita Aliger, Ukrainian Soviet writer, poet, translator, linguist, and journalist.

1922 – Reina Prinsen Geerligs, East Indies-born Dutch writer and poet who became a member of the Dutch Resistance during World War II; she was executed in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at age 21.

1922 – William Zinsser, American writer, editor and journalist, many of whose books deal with the craft of writing.

1928 – Sohrab Sepehri, Iranian poet, writer, and painter who is considered one of the top five Iranian poets of the modern era.

1928 – Lorna Wing, award-winning British psychiatrist and author who made significant contributions to research on autism and introduced the idea of the autism “spectrum”; she was also the mother of a daughter with autism.

1933 – Ajith Thilakasena, Sri Lankan Sinhala short-story writer who is known for his unconventional use of language.

1934 – Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones; also known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka), African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays, and music criticism.

1935 – Thomas Keneally, award-winning Australian writer whose book Schindler’s Ark was adapted into the film Schindler’s List.

1939 – Clive James, Australian-born British literary critic, poet, lyricist, novelist, and memoirist, and television personality.

1942- José Ensch, award-winning Luxembourgian poet and professor; she wrote in French.

1943 – Nasr Abu Zayd, Egyptian writer, theologian, philosopher, university teacher, and Muslim reformer.

1946 – Anita Shreve, award-winning bestselling American author, magazine writer, and editor.

1948 – Diane Ackerman, American author, poet, and naturalist best known for her work A Natural History of the Senses.

1951 – Natsuo Kirino (pen name of Mariko Hashioka), Japanese author of detective novels.

1953 – Robab Moheb, Iranian and Swedish poet, author, translator, and short-story writer.

1955 – Wu Jiaxiang, Chinese scholar, nonfiction writer, and public intellectual.

1958 – Mulenga Kapwepwe, Zambian author and playwright who co-founded the Zambian Women’s History Museum; she is also known for building libraries in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to give children more access to education.

1960 – Kevin Boyle, National Book Award-winning American historian and author.

1961 – Hanaa Al-Ramli, Jordanian and Palestinian writer, researcher, lecturer, engineer, and activist in Information technology and Internet culture.

1964 – Sharmila Rege, award-winning Indian sociologist, professor, feminist scholar, and author of Writing Caste, Writing Gender whose work was considered pivotal in opening up dialogue in India on questions of class, caste, religion, gender, and sexuality; her focus on alternative history writing gave new life to the local and oral traditions of knowledge and cultural practice by bringing them into public attention through translation projects that built archives of national memory.

1964 – Dan Savage, American author, columnist, and media pundit who writes an advice column about relationships.

1965 – Paula McLain, American novelist, poet, and memoirist who is best known for her novel The Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage.

1966 – Sherman Alexie, American author, short-story writer, poet, and filmmaker whose work focuses on his experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation.

1979 – Muhammad Aladdin (also known as Alaa Eddin), award-winning Egyptian novelist, short-story writer, and scriptwriter who is often described as “an innovator in the Arabic literature.”

1980 – Andreea Iacob, Romanian theater director and playwright.

Immersed in Van Gogh

On Monday, I attended Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. The first part was an electronic museum about his life and works. Then came the immersion room, a large room with images projected on all four walls and the floor, with a scattering of benches, chairs, and pillows in the middle of the room, so we could make ourselves comfortable and take it all in. Some of it is about Vincent’s life, and some is just being immersed in the artwork. It’s accompanied by music, and an actor reading excerpts of the artist’s letters.

It’s hard to convey in a two-dimensional medium, and I have many more photos and videos to share, but for now, here’s a brief video.