Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 - May 28, 2014)
James Baldwin… said that “when you’re writing you’re trying to find out something you didn’t know.” When you write do you search for something that you didn’t know about yourself or about us?
Yes. When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.
More about the life and works of Maya Angelou
Gabriel García Márquez Dead: Nobel Prize-Winning Author Dies At 87 (TIME, New York Times)
Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez was the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), in addition to many other novels, short stories, and non-fiction works. In 1982 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature for “his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.” García Márquez, only the fourth of six Latin Americans to be awarded the literature prize since its inception in 1901, lamented: “they have taken into account the literature of the sub-continent and have awarded me as a way of awarding all of this literature.” In his acceptance speech, entitled “The Solitude of Latin America”, García Márquez addressed the postcolonial struggles of Latin American nations, and the willing embrace by European institutions of Latin American cultural expression but not its social realities:
Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions?
The Rhinegold & the Valkyrie (1910) cover and title pages illustrations by Arthur Rackham
November 24, 1859: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is published.
On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin brought into the mainstream the theory of evolution by natural selection with the publication of On the Origin of Species, which was the product of at least two decades of research and experimentation. In late 1831, HMS Beagle embarked on what would become a five-year survey voyage across the Atlantic and around the coasts of South America, with Charles Darwin aboard. Darwin served as the captain’s gentleman companion and the ship’s naturalist. Over the course of that five-year voyage between sea and land, Darwin collected samples and made observations, some of which would, upon his return to England, become the foundation for the basic theories promulgated in On the Origin of Species. During the period after his return from the Beagle voyage, Darwin continued to develop his theory and amass through independent research and experimentation a thorough body of evidence that would be included in his publication.
Darwin was not the first to suggest a theory of evolution, or the first to theorize a mechanism by which evolution might occur, or the first to propose natural selection as that basic mechanism (Alfred Russel Wallace independently conceived his own theory of evolution through natural selection). However, On the Origin of Species was widely read by the public, and Darwin, unlike many others of the time who proposed scientific theories that contradicted preexisting scientific notions, was already a respected and established figure in the scientific community of England. Still Darwin’s vague references to human evolution sparked much controversy and especially Biblical debate, although attempts to secularize science were underway and were likely aided by the debate over Darwin’s propositions. Within a few decades of his book’s publication, evolution - though not necessarily natural selection - was generally agreed upon by the scientific community to be a given.
September 24, 1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald is born.
That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.
August 4, 1792: Percy Bysshe Shelley is born.
Though he died before he reached the age of thirty, Percy Bysshe Shelley produced during his short life a substantial collection of poetry, dramas, and prose that, after his death, cemented his status as one of the great craftsmen of Romantic literature. Born in West Sussex, Shelley published his first work in 1810 - a Gothic novel entitled Zastrozzi; through the eponymous villain, he made clear his own atheistic worldview, which he expanded upon in his 1811 treatise “The Necessity of Atheism”. His first major poetic work, Queen Mab (1813), also addressed radical themes such as atheism and revolution; in addition, his political poem The Masque of Anarchy (1819) is considered an early statement on the principles of nonviolent resistance.
In 1816, Shelley married the daughter of a political philosopher he admired greatly, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft: the future Mary Shelley, herself an author (most famously of Frankenstein). He and Mary befriended the poet Lord Byron, another important figure of the Romantic movement, and Leigh Hunt, another author with connections in the literary circle that also included men like John Keats, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt. Unlike Byron, Shelley’s works were not enormously popular until after his death in 1822, and even then he remained most popular with particular groups: Pre-Raphaelites, socialists, and laborers. His popularity and reputation among the foremost literary critics fluctuated as time passed, but his literary output and political ideals were nevertheless highly influential.
His most famous works, apart from those already listed, include Ozymandias, Prometheus Unbound, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, Alastor, Adonais, The Cloud, and The Cenci.