Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on August 22, 1920.
He was the third son of Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and Esther Marie Moberg Bradbury. Bradbury's early childhood in Waukegan was characterized by his loving extended family. In Bradbury's works of fiction, 1920s Waukegan becomes "Greentown," Illinois. In 1934, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California. Bradbury attended Los Angeles High School.
As his high school years progressed, Bradbury grew serious about becoming a writer. Bradbury's formal education ended with his high school graduation in 1938. In 1945 his short story "The Big Black and White Game" was selected for Best American Short Stories. That same year, Bradbury traveled through Mexico to collect Indian masks for the Los Angeles County Museum. That same year also marked the publication of Bradbury's first collection of short stories, entitled Dark Carnival. Bradbury's reputation as a leading science fiction writer was finally established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950.
Bradbury's work has won innumerable honors and awards, including the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award (1954), the Aviation-Space Writer's Association Award for Best Space Article in an American Magazine (1967), the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America.
Perhaps Bradbury's most unusual honor came from the Apollo astronaut who named Dandelion Crater after Bradbury's novel, Dandelion Wine. Over the decades, there have also been many attempts to adapt Bradbury's stories for television. Ray Bradbury Theater ran from 1986 until 1992 and allowed the author to produce televised versions of his own stories. Even while working on TV series, novels, short stories, screenplays and radio dramas, Bradbury continues to publish collections of his plays, poems and essays.
Born to Cornelius and Edwina Dakin Williams on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams was amply prepared for writing about society¹s outcasts. More than a half century has passed since critics and theater-goers recognized Williams as an important American playwright, whose plays fellow dramaturge David Mamet calls "the greatest dramatic poetry in the American language" (qtd. in Griffin 13). Williams's repertoire includes some 30 full-length plays, numerous short plays, two volumes of poetry, and five volumes of essays and short stories. (For a complete listing of Williams's published work, go to the "Tennessee Williams Links" page on this web site and, from there, to the Ole Miss web site.) In the course of his career, Williams accumulated four New York Drama Critics Awards; three Donaldson Awards; a Tony Award for his 1951 screenplay, The Rose Tattoo; a New York Film Critics Award for the 1953 film screenplay, A Streetcar Named Desire; the Brandeis University Creative Arts Award (1965); a Medal of Honor from the National Arts Club (1975); the $11,000 Commonwealth Award (1981); and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University (1982). The conflicts between sexuality, society, and Christianity, so much a part of Williams's drama, played themselves out in his life as well. Having spent almost all of his life as a wanderer--a sexual and religious outcast--Williams died on February 23, 1983. Although, like Faulkner, Williams spent much of his adult life in New York, his work focuses on the Southern experience.
In his writing and in his role in public life, Miller articulates his profound political and moral convictions. Dealing as it did with highly charged current events, the play received unfavorable reviews and Miller was cold-shouldered by many colleagues. When the political situation shifted, Death of a Salesman went on to become Miller's most celebrated and most produced play, which he directed at the People's Art Theatre in Beijing in 1983. Miller considers the common man "as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were." Miller lifts Willy's illusions and failures, his anguish and his family relationships, to the scale of a tragic hero. Arthur Asher Miller, the son of a women's clothing company owner, was born in 1915 in New York City. Miller's writing has earned him a lifetime of honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, seven Tony Awards, two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Obie, an Olivier, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish prize. Throughout his life and work, Miller has remained socially engaged and has written with conscience, clarity, and compassion. Miller's work is infused with his sense of responsibility to humanity and to his audience.
Lorraine Hansberry was born in Chicago as the daughter of a prominent real-estate broker, Carl Hansberry, and the niece of William Leo Hansberry (1894-1965), a Howard University professor of African history in D.C. William Leo Hansberry taught at Howard University ultil 1959 after rejecting employment offers from Atlanta University and the Honorable Marcus Garvey. Hansberry's parents were intellectuals and activists. Hansberry's interest in Africa began at an early age. In 1953 Hansberry married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish literature student and songwriter, whom she had met on a picket line protesting discrimination at New York University. The working title of A Raisin in the Sun was originally 'The Crystal Stair' after a line in a poem by Langston Hughes. The play gained a huge success although the producer, Phil Rose, had never produced a play, and large investors were not interested in it. In New York, it ran 530 performances. Sidney Poitier played the role of Walter Lee. A Raisin in the Sun. - The play is a "living-room" drama, set in southside Chicago. Walter Lee, a black chauffeur, dreams of a better life. Hansberry's success was shadowed by accusations that her family were slumlords on Chicago's South Side. Hansberry had also marital problems and she and Nemiroff divorced in 1964. Hansberry wrote it to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War. Hansberry's next produced play, THE SIGN IN SIDNEY BRUSTEIN'S WINDOW (1964), was set in the New York City neighborhood of Greenwich Village, where she had long made her home. This time the protagonist was a Jewish intellectual; the play had only one black character. The play had only modest success on Broadway. By the time it opened, Hansberry spent much time in hospitals, often needing a wheelchair to get to and from rehearsals. Lorraine Hansberry died of cancer on January 12, 1965.
ZORA NEALE HURSTON
BIRTHDATE: Jan. 7, 1891? EDUCATION: Graduated from Morgan Academy (high school division of Morgan College (now Morgan State University) in 1918. FAMILY BACKGROUND: Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter. DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: A novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston was the prototypical authority on black culture from the Harlem Renaissance. Zora Neale Hurston pursued this objective by combining literature with anthropology. After several years of anthropological research financed through grants and fellowships, Zora Neale Hurston's first novel Jonah's Gourd Vine was published in 1934 to critical success. In 1935, her book Mules and Men, which investigated voodoo practices in black communities in Florida and New Orleans, also brought her kudos. Zora Neale Hurston was a utopian, who held that black Americans could attain sovereignty from white American society and all its bigotry, as proven by her hometown of Eatonville. Never in her works did she address the issue of racism of whites toward blacks, and as this became a nascent theme among black writers in the post World War II ear of civil rights, Hurston's literary influence faded. PLACE OF DEATH: Fort Pierce, Fla.
The dominant influences on F. Scott Fitzgerald were aspiration, literature, Princeton, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, and alcohol. Fitzgerald’s given names indicate his parents’ pride in his father’s ancestry. As a member of the Princeton Class of 1917, Fitzgerald neglected his studies for his literary apprenticeship. In June 1918 Fitzgerald was assigned to Camp Sheridan, near Montgomery, Alabama. Unwilling to wait while Fitzgerald succeeded in the advertisement business and unwilling to live on his small salary, Zelda Sayre broke their engagement. Fitzgerald quit his job in July 1919 and returned to St. Paul to rewrite his novel as This Side of Paradise. In the fall-winter of 1919 Fitzgerald commenced his career as a writer of stories for the mass-circulation magazines. Working through agent Harold Ober, Fitzgerald interrupted work on his novels to write moneymaking popular fiction for the rest of his life. The Saturday Evening Post became Fitzgerald’s best story market, and he was regarded as a “Post writer.” Fitzgerald endeavored to earn a solid literary reputation, but his playboy image impeded the proper assessment of his work. When Zelda Fitzgerald became pregnant they took their first trip to Europe in 1921 and then settled in St. Paul for the birth of their only child, Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald, who was born in October 1921. The distractions of Great Neck and New York prevented Fitzgerald from making progress on his third novel. Zelda Fitzgerald regularly got “tight,” but she was not an alcoholic. Literary opinion makers were reluctant to accord Fitzgerald full marks as a serious craftsman. Fitzgerald’s clear, lyrical, colorful, witty style evoked the emotions associated with time and place. When critics objected to Fitzgerald’s concern with love and success, his response was: “But, my God! The chief theme of Fitzgerald’s work is aspiration to the idealism he regarded as defining American character. Fitzgerald made little progress on his fourth novel, and during these years Zelda Fitzgerald’s unconventional behavior became increasingly eccentric. Fitzgerald was not among the highest-paid writers of his time; his novels earned comparatively little, and most of his income came from 160 magazine stories. Zelda Fitzgerald perished at a fire in Highland Hospital in 1948. F. Scott Fitzgerald died believing himself a failure.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain", was born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835 to a Tennessee country merchant, John Marshall Clemens (August 11, 1798 – March 24, 1847), and Jane Lampton Clemens (June 18, 1803 – October 27, 1890).In March 1847, when Twain was 11, his father died of pneumonia. At 22, Twain returned to Missouri. While training, Samuel convinced his younger brother Henry to work with him.  Twain was guilt-stricken over his brother's death and held himself responsible for the rest of his life.  Twain joined his brother, Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada, James W. Nye, and headed west.  Twain failed as a miner and found work at a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.Twain met Charles Langdon, who showed him a picture of his sister Olivia; Twain claimed to have fallen in love at first sight. Twain owned a stake in the Buffalo Express, and worked as an editor and writer. During his years in Hartford, Twain became friends with fellow author William Dean Howells. Twain made a second tour of Europe, described in the 1880 book A Tramp Abroad. In 1906, Twain began his autobiography in the North American Review. Twain outlived Jean and Susy. In 1909, Twain is quoted as saying: In the New York Journal, in 1897, Twain said "The report of my death was an exaggeration." Twain is buried in his wife's family plot in Elmira, New York.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts; his birthplace is preserved and open to the public. William's son and the author's great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, was one of the judges who oversaw the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne's uncle Robert Manning insisted, despite Hawthorne's protests, that the boy attend college. On the way to Bowdoin, at the stage stop in Portland, Hawthorne met future president Franklin Pierce and the two became fast friends. After three years of engagement, Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842, at a ceremony in the Peabody parlor.Like Hawthorne, Sophia was a reclusive person.  Sophia greatly admired her husband's work. Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne had three children. Hawthorne called her "my autumnal flower".
Hawthorne wrote a letter of protest to the Boston Daily Advertiser which was attacked by the Whigs and supported by the Democrats, making Hawthorne's dismissal a much-talked about event in New England. Hawthorne was appointed the corresponding secretary of the Salem Lyceum in 1848.  One of the first mass-produced books in America, The Scarlet Letter sold 2,500 volumes within ten days and earned Hawthorne $1,500 over 14 years  Melville had just read Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse, and his unsigned review of the collection, titled "Hawthorne and His Mosses", was printed in the Literary World on August 17 and August 24. Melville dedicated Moby-Dick (1851) to Hawthorne: "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne."  Longfellow wrote a tribute poem to Hawthorne, published in 1866, called "The Bells of Lynn".
February 1818 – February 20, 1895 Frederick Douglass was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in February 1818. He was named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. His mother, Harriet Bailey, was a slave on a plantation in Tuckahoe, Maryland. In Baltimore, he lived with Hugh and Sophia Auld. At his new home, Sophia Auld began to teach him to read. Douglass realized that there was power in learning to read. Douglass became determined to learn to read. In 1832, after Douglass Aaron Anthony died, he went to live with Thomas Auld on the Lloyd Plantation. This event gave Douglass spirit again. On September 3, 1838, he escaped from slavery. Shortly after his arrival, he married Anna Murray, a free black woman he had met in Baltimore. In 1841, Douglass began his life as a public figure and abolitionist. After hearing William Lloyd Garrison's anti-slavery speech, Douglass was inspired to tell his story. He spoke at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society annual convention about his experience as a slave. In 1845, he wrote about his life as a slave in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Douglass also became an advocate of women’s rights.
Irving has been called the father of the American short story. Washington Irving was born in New York City as the youngest of 11 children. According to a story, George Washington met Irving, named after him, and gave his blessing. In the years to come Irving would write one of his greatest works, THE LIFE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON (1855-59). In 1809 appeared Irving's comic history of the Dutch regime in New York, A HISTORY OF NEW YORK, by the imaginary 'Dietrich Knickerbocker', who was supposed to be an eccentric Dutch-American scholar. The name Knickerbocker was later used to identify the first American school of writers, the Knickerbocker Group, of which Irving was a leading figure. The stories were heavily influenced by the German folktales. In 1829-32 Irving was a secretary to the American Legation under Martin Van Buren. In 1832 Irving returned to New York to an enthusiastic welcome as the first American author to have achieved international fame. From 1836 to 1842 Irving lived at Sunnyside manor house, Tarrytown-on-Hudson. Between the years 1842-45 Irving was U.S. Ambassador in Spain. Irving spent the last years of his life in Tarrytown. Irving died in Tarrytown on November 28, 1859. Irving's major works were published in 1860-61 in 21 volumes. “Rip Van Winkle” entertains the people with tales of the old days and his encounter with the dwarfs. Irving also used other German folktales in his short stories, among them The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. "The headless horseman was often seen here. An old man who did not believe in ghosts told of meeting the headless horseman coming from his trip into the Hollow. This story popularized the image of the headless horseman, and formed the basis for an operetta by Douglas Moore, The Headless Horseman, with libretto by Stephen Vincent Benét. Tim Burton's film version from 1999 has darkened and partly changed the story.
Jack London was born in San Francisco. London's stepfather John London, whose surname he took, was a failed storekeeper. London's youth was marked by poverty. THE ROAD (1907), a collection of short stories, inspired later writers like John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac. Without having much formal education, London spent much time in public libraries reading fiction, philosophy, poetry, political science, and at the age of 19 gained admittance to the University of California in Berkeley. In 1901 London ran unsuccessfully on the Socialist party ticket for mayor of Oakland. London had early built his system of producing a daily quota of thousand words. London's first novel, THE SON OF THE WOLF, appeared in 1900. By 1904 Jack London was the author of 10 books. London produced this classic of investigative reporting in seven weeks. Among London's major works are The Sea-Wolf (1904), remembered from its Nietzschean hero, visionary fantasy The Iron Heel (1908), which became very popular in the Soviet Union, THE CRUISE OF THE SNARK (1911), a travel book from his journeys in South Pacific, and semi-autobiographical Martin Eden, London's most autobiographical novel. Brissenden, Eden's Faustian friend, was modelled on George Sterling, a minor romantic poet and London's close colleague. Eden gains success with his sea novel called Overdue. The book was considered by critics a failure, and London's literary reputation sank. Politically London had come far from his earlyn idealism. A few months before his death, London resigned from the Socialist Party. - "Jack London was never an original thinker. London's literary models were Kipling, Stevenson. In his later years London read the works of Carl Jung. Upton Sinclair has often been considered London's literary successor.
Herman Melville was born in New York City into an established merchant family. Through his mother's influence, biblical stories became a part of Melville's imagination from his early childhood. A bout of scarlet fever in 1826 left Melville with permanently weakened eyesight. In search of adventures, Melville shipped out in 1839 as a cabin boy on the whaler Acushnet. Typee, an account of Melville's stay with the cannibals, was first published in Britain, like most of his works. The narrator, a crew member of a whale ship, calls himself "Tom". In 1847 Melville married Elisabeth Shaw, daughter of the chief justice of Massachusetts. Melville had almost completed Moby-Dick when Hawthorne encouraged him to change it from a story full of details about whaling, into an allegorical novel. Inspired by the achievement of Hawthore, Melville wrote his masterpiece, Moby-Dick. Through the story Melville meditated questions about faith and the workings of God's intelligence. Ahab reveals to the crew that the purpose of the voyage is to hunt and kill the snow-white sperm whale, known as Moby-Dick, that had cost Ahab his leg on a previous voyage. The novel culminates when Moby-Dick charges the boat which sinks. Ahab is drowned, tied by the harpoon line his archenemy. Melville's masterwork was largely misunderstood and it sold only some 3,000 copies during his lifetime. Moby-Dick can be read as a thrilling sea story, an examination of the conflict between man and nature – the battle between Ahab and the whale is open to many interpretations.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), born in Oak Park, Illinois, started his career as a writer in a newspaper office in Kansas City at the age of seventeen. After the United States entered the First World War, he joined a volunteer ambulance unit in the Italian army. Serving at the front, he was wounded, was decorated by the Italian Government, and spent considerable time in hospitals. After his return to the United States, he became a reporter for Canadian and American newspapers and was soon sent back to Europe to cover such events as the Greek Revolution. During the twenties, Hemingway became a member of the group of expatriate Americans in Paris, which he described in his first important work, The Sun Also Rises (1926). Equally successful was A Farewell to Arms (1929), the study of an American ambulance officer's disillusionment in the war and his role as a deserter. Hemingway used his experiences as a reporter during the civil war in Spain as the background for his most ambitious novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Among his later works, the most outstanding is the short novel, The Old Man and the Sea (1952), the story of an old fisherman's journey, his long and lonely struggle with a fish and the sea, and his victory in defeat. Hemingway - himself a great sportsman - liked to portray soldiers, hunters, bullfighters - tough, at times primitive people whose courage and honesty are set against the brutal ways of modern society, and who in this confrontation lose hope and faith. His straightforward prose, his spare dialogue, and his predilection for understatement are particularly effective in his short stories, some of which are collected in Men Without Women (1927) and The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938). Hemingway died in Idaho in 1961.
William Faulkner (1897-1962), who came from an old southern family, grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. He joined the Canadian, and later the British, Royal Air Force during the First World War, studied for a while at the University of Mississippi, and temporarily worked for a New York bookstore and a New Orleans newspaper. Except for some trips to Europe and Asia, and a few brief stays in Hollywood as a scriptwriter, he worked on his novels and short stories on a farm in Oxford. In an attempt to create a saga of his own, Faulkner has invented a host of characters typical of the historical growth and subsequent decadence of the South. The human drama in Faulkner's novels is then built on the model of the actual, historical drama extending over almost a century and a half Each story and each novel contributes to the construction of a whole, which is the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County and its inhabitants. Their theme is the decay of the old South, as represented by the Sartoris and Compson families, and the emergence of ruthless and brash newcomers, the Snopeses. Theme and technique - the distortion of time through the use of the inner monologue are fused particularly successfully in The Sound and the Fury (1929), the downfall of the Compson family seen through the minds of several characters. The novel Sanctuary (1931) is about the degeneration of Temple Drake, a young girl from a distinguished southern family. Its sequel, Requiem For A Nun (1951), written partly as a drama, centered on the courtroom trial of a Negro woman who had once been a party to Temple Drake's debauchery. In Light in August (1932), prejudice is shown to be most destructive when it is internalized, as in Joe Christmas, who believes, though there is no proof of it, that one of his parents was a Negro. The theme of racial prejudice is brought up again in Absalom, Absalom! (1936), in which a young man is rejected by his father and brother because of his mixed blood. Faulkner's most outspoken moral evaluation of the relationship and the problems between Negroes and whites is to be found in Intruder In the Dust (1948). In 1940, Faulkner published the first volume of the Snopes trilogy, The Hamlet, to be followed by two volumes, The Town (1957) and The Mansion (1959), all of them tracing the rise of the insidious Snopes family to positions of power and wealth in the community. The reivers, his last - and most humorous - work, with great many similarities to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, appeared in 1962, the year of Faulkner's death.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968), born in Salinas, California, came from a family of moderate means. He worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated. In 1925 he went to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California. After publishing some novels and short stories, Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935), a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos. Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labour, but there is also a streak of worship of the soil in his books, which does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach. After the rough and earthy humour of Tortilla Flat, he moved on to more serious fiction, often aggressive in its social criticism, to In Dubious Battle (1936), which deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations. This was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937), the story of the imbecile giant Lennie, and a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers. Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. He died in New York City in 1968.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
Edgar Poe was born on the 19th of January, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was David Poe Jr. and his mother was Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe. Edgar had an elder brother named William Henry Leonard Poe and a younger sister named Rosalie Poe. Edgar went to live with John Allan who was a Scottish tobacco merchant living in Richmond, Virginia. As a mark of respect for his adoptive family, Edgar took the middle name of Allan and came to be known as Edgar Allan Poe. In 1815, the Allans along with Edgar traveled to England, where Edgar began to attend school. In 1829, Poe moved to Baltimore, Maryland to live with his widowed aunt Maria Clemm and his cousin Virginia Eliza Clemm. The same year, Poe’s foster mother, Francis Allan, passed away. So John Allan obtained a commission for Poe to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point. That same year Poe also published another volume of poems titled ‘Al Aaraaf Tamerlane and Minor Poems’. Poe joined West Point in 1830, but John Allan and he had not reconciled their differences, yet. John Allan finally disowned Poe. Edgar Allan Poe then released his third volume of poetry which was titled, simply ‘Poems, Second Edition’. In 1837, Edgar Allan Poe left the Southern Literary Messenger. In 1838 Poe published ‘The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym’ and it was widely reviewed. In 1839 he joined the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine as an assistant editor. In 1847, Virginia died from tuberculosis and left Poe a broken man. As in life, Poe dealt with demons even in his death.
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Henry David Thoreau was a complex man of many talents who worked hard to shape his craft and his life, seeing little difference between them. Henry grew up very close to his older brother John, who taught school to help pay for Henry's tuition at Harvard. While there, Henry read a small book by his Concord neighbor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, and in a sense he never finished exploring its ideas -- although always definitely on his own terms, just as he explored everything! While at Walden, Thoreau did an incredible amount of reading and writing, yet he also spent much time "sauntering" in nature. Unfortunately, few people were interested in purchasing his book, so he spent the next nine years, surveying and making pencils at times but primarily writing and rewriting (creating seven full drafts) Walden before trying to publish it. Many readers mistake Henry's tone in Walden and other works, thinking he was a cranky hermit. Thoreau died of tuberculosis in 1862, at the age of 44. Many memorials were penned by his friends, including Emerson's eulogy and Louisa May Alcott's poem, "Thoreau's Flute."
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Perhaps the most powerful personal influence on him for years was his intellectual, eccentric, and death-obsessed Puritanical aunt, Mary Moody Emerson. Meanwhile, tragedy struck with the sudden death of his five-year old son Waldo in 1842, soon after the death of John Thoreau from lockjaw, and a darker, tougher strain appears in Emerson's writing, beginning with his memorializing poem, "Threnody." But Emerson pulled himself together to give a series of lectures in New York and in 1844 he had a new volume of essays prepared. He began planning a series of lectures on great men and publication of his poems in 1846, while speaking out against the annexation of Texas and reading deeply in texts of Persian and Indic wisdom. Through a career of 40 years, he gave about 1500 public lectures, traveling as far as California and Canada but generally staying in Massachusetts. In 1847 Emerson travelled to England, noticing in particular the industrialization and the chasm between upper and lower classes.
Emily Dickinson, regarded as one of America’s greatest poets, is also well known for her unusual life of self imposed social seclusion. Living a life of simplicity and seclusion, she yet wrote poetry of great power; questioning the nature of immortality and death, with at times an almost mantric quality. Emily Dickinson was born on 10th December, 1830, in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. As a young child, Emily proved to be a bright and conscientious student. Emily’s father was strict and keen to bring up his children in the proper way. Emily said of her father. In response, Emily was highly deferential to her father and other male figures of authority. Amongst other reasons, Emily could never accept the doctrine of “original sin”. Despite remaining true to her own convictions, Emily was left with a sense of exclusion from the established religion, and these sentiments inform much of her poetry. Emily was a bright conscientious student. Emily Dickinson’s later seclusion from society gives an impression of a life of austerity and simplicity. Emily was also well read, choosing writers such as; Emerson, Thoreau, Dickens, John Ruskin, and nineteenth- century poets like the Browning’s and the Bronte sisters. The poetry of Emerson was introduced to Emily by one of her brother’s friends, Benjamin Newton. The works of other poets, in particular Emerson, were important for Emily Dickinson in opening up spiritual ideas beyond the strict Calvinism. On returning home from college, Emily Dickinson learnt much of the domestic chores, helping her mother with cleaning, sewing and entertaining. Emily was said to be beautiful, with a soft voice and dark eyes. For a time, her father served in the House of Representatives, and on occasion Emily visited Washington. The 2 exchanged letters for many years, including responses to Emily’s request for spiritual guidance. Emily and her family, were particularly affected when friends of the family were killed in battle. Death of close friends was a significant feature of Emily’s life; many close to her were taken away. The Civil War years were also the most productive for Emily; in terms of quantity of poems, it appears Emily Dickinson was influenced imperceptibly by the atmosphere of War, even if it appeared somewhat distant to her. As well as writing over 1,700 poems, Emily was a prolific letter writer; these letters giving her the opportunity for contact with others, that in other respects she denied herself. Emily Dickinson died at the age of 55 from Bight’s disease, which is caused by kidney degeneration. Despite Emily’s seclusion and frail health, her poetry reveals that she did experience moments of great joy. Even critics of her poetry, who point to inconsistencies in style and form, cannot deny the inherent power of her poetry and this explains the enduring popularity and success of her poetry.
Robert Frost (1874-1963) was born in San Francisco, California. His father William Frost, a journalist and an ardent Democrat, died when Frost was about eleven years old. The family lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, with Frost's paternal grandfather, William Prescott Frost, who gave his grandson a good schooling. In 1892 Frost graduated from a high school and attended Darthmouth College for a few months. Frost worked among others in a textile mill and taught Latin at his mother's school in Methuen, Massachusetts. In 1894 the New York Independent published Frost's poem 'My Butterfly' and he had five poems privately printed. Frost worked as a teacher and continued to write and publish his poems in magazines. In 1912 Frost sold his farm and took his wife and four young children to England. While in England Frost was deeply influenced by such English poets as Rupert Brooke. Frost taught later at Amherst College (1916-38) and Michigan universities. Frost's poems show deep appreciation of natural world and sensibility about the human aspirations. Frost also composed for her one of his finest love poems, 'A Witness Tree.' When the sun and the wind prevented him from reading his new poem, 'The Preface', Frost recited his old poem, 'The Gift Outright', from memory. Frost travelled in 1962 in the Soviet Union as a member of a goodwill group. In his poems Frost depicted the fields and farms of his surroundings, observing the details of rural life, which hide universal meaning.
Salinger's upbringing was not unlike that of Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye, the Glass children, and many of his other characters. Unlike the Glass family with its brood of seven children, Salinger had only an elder sister. Later, the young Salinger attended prep schools where he apparently found it difficult to adjust. Salinger contributed work to the school's literary magazine, served as literary editor of the yearbook during his senior year, participated in the chorus, and was active in drama club productions. In 1938 Salinger enrolled in Ursinus College at Collegeville, Pennsylvania. (Just like Mrs. Bowersox and Mr. Fitzgerald.) Despite Salinger's dislike of formal education, he attended Columbia University in 1939 and participated in a class on short story writing taught by Whit Burnett (1899–1973). After returning to the United States, Salinger's career as a writer of serious fiction took off. In 1951 Salinger's masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye landed at bookstores. It was not until Nine Stories, a collection of previously published short stories came out in 1953 that Salinger began to attract serious critical attention. Salinger did not publish another book until 1961, when his much anticipated Franny and Zooey appeared. This work consists of two long short stories, previously published in the New Yorker. In 1963 Salinger published another Glass family story sequence, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; and Seymour: An Introduction, again from two previously published New Yorker pieces. While Salinger's fictional characters have been endlessly analyzed and discussed, the author himself has remained a mystery. In his lawsuit, Salinger claimed copyright infringement on private matters Hamilton had discovered in the course of research. Paul Alexander's Salinger: A Biography, published on July 15, 1999, is the first full-length Salinger biography since Ian Hamilton's in 1988. Salinger has not made an effort to limit the release of the book, unlike the Hamilton biography.
After studying at Cornell University from 1940 to 1942, Kurt Vonnegut enlisted the U.S. Army. Vonnegut himself only escaped harm because he, along with other POWs, was working in an underground meat locker making vitamins. Soon after his return from the war, Kurt Vonnegut married his high school girlfriend, Jane Marie Cox. The narrator, Billy Pilgrim, is a young soldier who becomes a prisoner of war and works in an underground meat locker, not unlike Vonnegut, but with a notable exception. This exploration of the human condition mixed with the fantastical struck a cord with readers, giving Vonnegut his first best-selling novel. Vonnegut even made himself the subject of Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage (1981). Despite his success, Kurt Vonnegut wrestled with his own personal demons. Whatever challenges he faced personally, Vonnegut became a literary icon with a devoted following. Kurt Vonnegut chose to spend his later years working on nonfiction.
Writer, dancer, African-American activist. Born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou spent her difficult formative years moving back and forth between her mother's and grandmother's. Maya Angelou's five-volume autobiography commenced with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1970. In 1993, Angelou read On the Pulse of Morning at Bill Clinton's Presidential inauguration, a poem written at his request. In 2006, Angelou agreed to host a weekly radio show on XM Satellite Radio's Oprah & Friends channel.
Toni Morrison, the first black woman to receive Nobel Prize in Literature, was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, U.S.A. While the children were growing up, he worked three jobs at the same time for almost 17 years. At home, Chloe heard many songs and tales of Southern black folklore. Chloe attended an integrated school. Toni Wofford graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a B.A. in English. After graduating, Toni was offered a job at Texas Southern University in Houston, where she taught introductory English. Unlike Howard University, where black culture was neglected or minimized, at Texas Southern they "always had Negro history week" and introduced to her the idea of black culture as a discipline rather than just personal family reminiscences. In 1957 she returned to Howard University as a member of faculty. At Howard she met and fell in love with a young Jamaican architect, Harold Morrison. In the fall of 1964 Morrison obtained a job with a textbook subsidiary of Random House in Syracuse, New York as an associate editor. From 1971-1972 Morrison was the associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Purchase while she continued working at Random House. Sula was published in 1973. This time she focused on strong black male characters. Song of Solomon was published in 1977. It won the National Book Critic's Circle Award and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. It was based on the true story of Emmett Till, a black teenager killed by racist whites in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. Morrison's next novel, Beloved, was influenced by a published story about a slave, Margaret Garner, who in 1851 escaped with her children to Ohio from her master in Kentucky. In 1987, Toni Morrison was named the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of Humanities at Princeton University. She became the first black woman writer to hold a named chair at an Ivy League University. The book was published in 1992. In 1993, Toni Morrison received the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the eighth woman and the first black woman to do so.
John Updike was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and spent his first years in nearby Shillington, a small town where his father was a high school science teacher. As an undergraduate, he wrote stories and drew cartoons for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine, serving as the magazine's president in his senior year. Updike and his wife spent the following year in England, where Updike studied at Oxford's Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. The first novel was well-received, and with support from the Guggenheim Fellowship, Updike undertook a more ambitious novel, Rabbit, Run. The novel introduced one of Updike's most memorable characters, the small-town athlete, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Updike's reputation as a leading author of his generation was established. In 1967, he joined the author Robert Penn Warren and other American writers in signing a letter urging Soviet writers to defend Jewish cultural institutions under attack by the Soviet government. In 1968, Updike's novel Couples created a national sensation with its portrayal of the complicated relationships among a set of young married couples in the suburbs. It remained on the best-seller lists for over a year and prompted a Time magazine cover story featuring Updike. In Bech: A Book (1970), Updike introduced a new protagonist, the imaginary novelist Henry Bech, who, like Rabbit Angstrom, was destined to reappear in Updike's fiction for many years. Rabbit Angstrom reappeared in Rabbit Redux (1971). Rabbit is Rich, published in 1981, received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1983 Updike's other alter ego, Harry Bech, reappeared in Bech is Back, and Updike was featured in a second Time magazine cover story, "Going Great at 50." To date he has published over 60 books, including novels, collections of short stories, poetry, drama, essays, memoirs and literary criticism.
Born in Eatonton Georgia, on February the 9th, 1944, just before the end of World War Two, Alice Malsenior Walker was the eighth of eight children to Minnie Tallulah Grant Walker and Winnie Lee Walker. In 1963, Walker left Spelman for Sarah Lawrence College, a place housing only a handful of African American people, most of them men. 1964 was the turning point for Ms. Alice Walker. Moving to New York City in November of the same year Walker worked for the welfare system. In searching for course material Walker came across the work of Zora Neale Hurston and the inspired Alice Laventhal began writing and has never stopped since. In 1973 she published In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women and her second book of poetry Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems. Soon after Walker was to split with her husband. She retained her maiden name, falling in love with fellow editor Robert Allen – of Black Scholar – and published Meridian to universal acclaim. Walker’s next project was another book of short stories: You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down, which only received a lukewarm response. Nothing however prepared the critics for Alice Walker’s Pulitizer Prize winning novel The Color Purple. The story chronicles the life of a black African American girl called Celie, growing up in the Deep South. The novel was later made into a feature-length motion picture, directed by Steven Spielberg and in turn shot Alice Walker to overnight literary success.