Archives for posts with tag: author birthdays

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” FRANZ KAFKA

Illustration: “Neuschwanstein” (1987) by Andy Warhol.

ABOUT THE ARTWORK: Andy Warhol based this silkscreen on a tourism poster of the 19th century Neo-romanticist Neuschwanstein castle in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The Neuschwanstein has appeared in many films and served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Today marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of Franz Kafka, born on July 3, 1883 in Prague (Bohemia, Austria-Hungary). In a piece of unplanned symmetry, the Charles Bukowski poem we posted yesterday (“I Like Your Books”) ends with the line, “let ’em go back to Kafka.” So, yes, today we are going back to Kafka and will post a variety of quotes from the great author — and he had much to say about books and writing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883 –  June 3, 1924) was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. His major works include The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and The Castle. A lawyer by training, Kafka worked in an insurance company and wrote short stories in his spare time — but only a few of his works were published during his lifetime. Kafka’s unfinished manuscripts were published posthumously, mostly by his friend Max Brod, who ignored Kafka’s wish to destroy the material. Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the writers influenced by Kafka’s work; the term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe surreal situations such as those in his writing. (Read more at

Artwork: Franz Kafka by Andy Warhol (1980)

by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons 
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

…”Advice to Myself” is found in Louise Erdrich’s poetry collection Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

PHOTO: Louise Erdrich photographed by Paul Emmel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Louise Erdrich, born on June 7, 1954, is an American author of novels, poetry, and children’s books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a band of the Anishinaabe (also known as Ojibwa and Chippewa). In 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In November 2012, she received the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Round HouseShe is also the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis that focuses on Native American literature and the Native community in the Twin Cities.

Wishing Louise Erdrich — one of our favorite novelists — a very happy June 7th birthday! 



Poet Joan Jobe Smith forwarded yesterday’s post — where we wished Carolyn Cassady a happy 90th birthday — to the grand lady herself, and received this reply (excerpt):

Many thanks to one and all. I did have a delightful day …The house looks like a funeral parlor with all the flowers…life goes on at 90 and gratitude for health. XXCC

Thanks for your note, Carolyn. Wishing you many more happy, healthy years! 

Photo: Carolyn Cassady in the early 1950s with Jack Kerouac and her daughter Cathleen



April 28, 2013 marks the 90th birthday of Carolyn Cassady — the accomplished and gifted woman associated with Beat writers Neal Cassady (one-time husband), Jack Kerouac (friend and lover), and Allen Ginsberg (friend and confidante). She wrote about these iconic figures and much more in her 1990 memoir OFF THE ROAD (available at

Carolyn showed artistic gifts from her early years — at age 12, joining a theater troupe in Nashville, where she won awards for her set designs. She received a scholarship to Bennington College (Vermont) — studying with choreographer Martha Graham, philosopher Erich Fromm, and poet Theodore Roethke — and earned a B.A. in drama in 1944. After graduation, she served as an occupational therapist for the U.S. Army, then moved to Denver in 1946 to study for her master’s degree at the University of Denver while working as a teaching assistant at the Denver Art Museum.

Fate intervened in 1947, when she met future husband Neal Cassady and his friends Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. While dating Cassady, Carolyn learned he was still married to his first wife, so she moved to California to pursue work as a costume designer in the movie business. Before starting the job, it became clear she was expecting a little Cassady — and decided to reconcile with Neal. They had three children together — and, in all, spent 16  tumultuous off-again-on-again years with each other, divorcing in 1963.

In 1983, Carolyn moved to England and has continued to work as an artist and writer. So, wherever you are today, Carolyn, your friends in America — especially Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss — wish you a very happy birthday. (Thanks, Joan, for suggesting this post.)


“I know some things when I start. I know, let’s say, that the play is going to be a 1970s or a 1930s play, and it’s going to be about a piano, but that’s it. I slowly discover who the characters are as I go along.” AUGUST WILSON (1945-2005)

For writers who make it up as they go along (and I plead guilty), August Wilson‘s comment about his working method makes us feel…well, okay about not knowing where we’re going when we start.


Born on April 27, 1945, Wilson grew up poor in Pittsburgh, dropped out of high school at 16, and educated himself at the Carnegie Library while working a series of menial jobs. In 1965, at age 20, he purchased a used typewriter for 10 dollars and started to compose poetry. A few years later, in 1968, he cofounded the Black Horizon Theatre and began to write and produce plays — starting with Recycling. Wilson went on to author many plays — including the Pulitzer Prize winning Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990). One of the all-time great American playwrights — with a career that spanned nearly 40 years — Wilson’s work continues to inspire and promote discussion. He passed away at age 60 in 2005, and has been the recipient of many posthumous tributes — including a theater in the New York City Broadway Theater District named in his honor.


“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”  JOAN DIDION

Many years ago, after reading Joan Didion‘s account of her migraine headaches, I wrote her a letter in care of her publisher, offering some remedies for the affliction. (For decades, I, too, was a sufferer). She wrote back on beautiful “Joan Dunne” stationery thanking me for my letter and wishing me a Happy New Year.

I’m thrilled to see that Ms. Didion is still writing (at age 78) — and, as always, writing clear, beautiful prose.  She reads from her most recent book, Blue Nights (2011), at this link.

Happy birthday!


“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” STEPHEN KING, Salem’s Lot

On this day in 1947, Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine. From his first novel, Carrie (1974) to his upcoming Doctor Sleep — a sequel to The Shining scheduled for a 2013 release — King has written over 80 novels and short story collections, releasing about two books per year during a nearly 40-year writing career.


For his dedication to his craft and love of books and writing, Stephen King is a true inspiration. Happy birthday, Stephen!


In honor of George Orwell’s June 25th birthday, let’s revisit his powerful 6 RULES OF GOOD WRITING*:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

* From Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”

Orwell’s two masterpieces, 1984 and Animal Farm have sold more copies than any other two books by a 20th Century author.

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”  GEORGE ORWELL