Archives for category: Authors’ Birthdays


April 24, 2014 marks the 109th anniversary of the birth of multi-hyphenate Robert Penn Warren — a poet-novelist-essayist-editor-critic — the only person to win a Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and poetry, and likely the most decorated American author of all time.

Warren (1905-1989) received the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for his novel All the King’s Men and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 and 1979. From 1944-1945, Warren served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His other honors and awards include Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980), MacArthur Fellowship (1981), designation as first U.S. Poet Laureate (1986), and National Medal of Arts (1987).

PHOTO: Robert Penn Warren working on the revisions of a book in a barn near his home (April 1956 by Leonard McCombe, Time/Life, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED).

Let’s celebrate this remarkable writer’s birthday with one of his most beautiful poems.

by Robert Penn Warren

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse. I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

It was the season before the elderberry blooms,
Therefore they were going north.

The sound was passing northward.


Happy 450th birthday to William Shakespeare, born April 23, 1564. (Interesting fact: Shakespeare also died on April 23 — in 1616, at age 52.) To honor the esteemed author, here are some of his most eloquent lines…

from The Merchant of Venice (1597)

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice…

IMAGE: “William Shakespeare” by Wingsdomain Art and Photography. Prints available at


When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you.” KEITH RICHARDS 

Happy Dec. 18th birthday to Keith Richards — a bibliophile whose his first career choice was to become a librarian, according to his his memoir Life (2011), available at

Photo: Keith Richards relaxing in his home library.


Novelists…our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.” KURT VONNEGUT


He reached the end of Vine Street and began the climb into Pinyon Canyon. Night had started to fall. The edges of the trees burned with a pale violet light and their centers gradually turned from deep purple to black. The same violet piping, like a Neon tube, outlined the top of the ugly, hump-backed hills and they were almost beautiful.” Excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

October 17, 2013 marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of Nathanael West, author of the 1939 novel The Day of the Locusta biting depiction of Hollywood, the movie business, and life in Los Angeles.

West, like his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, was working as a screenwriter in 1940 — the year that marked the end to both men’s lives. Fitzgerald dropped dead of a heart attack at age 44 on December 21, 1940 at an apartment in near Sunset and LaCienega. West and his wife died the following day in an auto accident — when some believe they were on their way to a memorial service for Fitzgerald. During his four years in Los Angeles, West wrote over a dozen screenplays.

Photo: Tobysx70, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find more work here.

Image“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)

October 16, 2013 marks the 159th anniversary of the birth of Irish author and legendary wit Oscar Wilde —  playwright, novelist, poet, essayist, journalist, and children’s book author.

Today, Wilde is most often cited for his pithy remarks, including:

  • There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. 
  • Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
  • I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.
  • Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.
  • A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me.
  • The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.
  • Only the shallow know themselves. 


On September 25, 2013, we celebrated Shel Silverstein’s birthday — but neglected to mention that date was the 116th anniversary of the birth of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner. We will make up for that oversight with some Faulkner posts today.

In 1956, THE PARIS REVIEW, published a rare interview with William Faulkner, where the great author discusses his craft and the books he loves. Below is an excerpt from the interview conducted by Jean Stein.

INTERVIEWER: Do you read your contemporaries?

FAULKNER: No, the books I read are the ones I knew and loved when I was a young man and to which I return as you do to old friends: the Old Testament, Dickens, Conrad, Cervantes, Don QuixoteI read that every year, as some do the Bible. Flaubert, Balzac—he created an intact world of his own, a bloodstream running through twenty books—Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Shakespeare. I read Melville occasionally and, of the poets,Marlowe, Campion, Jonson, Herrick, Donne, Keats, and Shelley. I still read Housman. I’ve read these books so often that I don’t always begin at page one and read on to the end. I just read one scene, or about one character, just as you’d meet and talk to a friend for a few minutes.


FAULKNER: Everybody talked about Freud when I lived in New Orleans, but I have never read him. Neither did Shakespeare. I doubt if Melville did either, and I’m sure Moby Dick didn’t.

INTERVIEWER: Do you ever read mystery stories?

FAULKNER: I read Simenon because he reminds me something of Chekhov.

INTERVIEWER: What about your favorite characters?

FAULKNER: My favorite characters are Sarah Gamp—a cruel, ruthless woman, a drunkard, opportunist, unreliable, most of her character was bad, but at least it was character; Mrs. Harris, Falstaff, Prince Hal, Don Quixote, and Sancho of course. Lady Macbeth I always admire. And Bottom, Ophelia, and Mercutio—both he and Mrs. Gamp coped with life, didn’t ask any favors, never whined. Huck Finn, of course, and Jim.

Read the PARIS REVIEW interview at this link.


On September 26, 2013, we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of author T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) — essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and one of the twentieth century’s major poets.


In 1915, three years after launching Poetry MagazineHarriet Monroe published “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by the then-unknown T.S. Eliot — the poet’s first publication outside of a university press. (Cover of Vol. VI, No. III, June 1915, Poetry Magazine pictured at left.)

In Brittanica, critic Allen Tate commented on Monroe’s vision and acumen as an editor by calling Eliot’s poem, “…the first masterpiece of ‘modernism’ in English…Nothing like the first three lines of ‘Prufrock’ had previously appeared in English poetry…It represented a [radical] break with the immediate past…” 

Let us celebrate T.S. Eliot’s 125th birthday by featuring the opening passage of ”The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Find the entire poem here. Listen to T.S. Eliot read the poem at

Let us go then, you and I, 
When the evening is spread out against the sky 
Like a patient etherized upon a table; 
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, 
The muttering retreats 
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels 
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: 
Streets that follow like a tedious argument 
Of insidious intent 
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .                              
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” 
Let us go and make our visit. 

In the room the women come and go 
Talking of Michelangelo. 

by Shel Silverstein
So what if nobody came?
I’ll have ALL the ice cream and tea,
And I’ll laugh with myself,
And I’ll dance with myself,
And I’ll sing, “Happy Birthday to me!”

On Sept. 25th we celebrate the birthday of the multi-gifted Shel Silverstein (1930-1999).

Drawing: “Happy Birthday to me!” by Shel Silverstein, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



On September 24, 1896, the great American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald made his earthly debut in the house pictured above, located at 481 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota. Fitzgerald’s father named him Francis Scott Key in honor of his distant cousin who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner.” Fitzgerald is pictured at left in 1897, bundled up for the Minnesota weather, with his birthplace in the background.

In 2004, Friends of Libraries USA declared Fitzgerald’s birthplace a National Literary Landmark — one of only a few such designations in the United States.