Of Mice And Men To Be Banned In Idaho?

Hailed by the Nobel prize judges in 1962 for his realism and sympathetic humour, John Steinbeck is under attack. Parents in Idaho have branded “Of Mice and Men” “neither a quality story nor a page-turner” and asked for it to be removed from classrooms. A curriculum review committee in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho has recommended the 1937 novella should no longer be taught in classrooms, according to the Spokesman-Review, and that ninth-graders should study it “on a voluntary, small-group basis” only. For parent Mary Jo Finney, the use of words such as “bastard” and “God damn” makes it unsuitable for 14- or 15-year-old students. After counting more than 100 “profanities,” she expressed her shock to the Spokesman-Review that “teachers actually had the audacity to have students read these profanities out loud in class”.

Steinbeck’s story of the difficulties faced by migrant fieldworkers in the Great Depression is a fixture on high-school syllabuses in the US, the UK and beyond, but since 1953 has also become one of America’s most frequently-challenged books.

In the same week, one of the novels on the American Library Association’s most recent list of banned books, “The Kite Runner” by Afghan-born Khaled Hosseini, has come under attack in North Carolina. According to the Citizen-Times, a parent in Asheville complained about the global bestseller’s language and “adult themes”. “The description of the book the teacher included mentioned that there was a rape,” said Lisa Baldwin, “but not that it was the rape of a child and it was the homosexual rape of a child, which I felt was something parents needed to know.” Baldwin also objected that Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front” had been “removed from the curriculum without parents knowing about it”.

Hosseini’s 2003 book has been removed from classrooms until a committee at Ashville’s Reynolds High School has considered Baldwin’s complaint. It’s not yet clear if parents concerned by Hosseini’s depiction of war and chaos in Afghanistan will be reassured by Remarque’s evocation of the shock and horror of mechanised warfare in France.

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TS Eliot’s Home To Be Turned Into Writer Retreat

TS ELIOT’S HOME TO BE TURNED INTO WRITER RETREAT

T.S. Eliot, the Nobel Prize-winning author of “The Waste Land,” was born in St. Louis in 1888. He left the U.S. for England in his 20s and ultimately adopted British citizenship. Eliot, however, spent his formative childhood summers in a wood-shingled, seven-bedroom seaside house on Gloucester’s Eastern Point, built for his family in 1896. Last year, the heads of the T.S. Eliot Foundation, a British nonprofit, were surprised to learn the house was not only largely intact and beautifully restored, but up for sale. In December, they bought it for $1.3 million — and plan to turn it into a center and writers’ retreat. It will also be used as a location for symposia on Eliot or poetry; and as a learning center about poetry for schoolchildren. It is planned to be operational by mid-2016.

The acquisition comes as part of a small wave of events uncovering local influences on the Modernist poet. On April 6, an exhibition was unveiled at Harvard University, where Eliot attended college and graduate school. It celebrates the 100th anniversary of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” There is also the American release of “Young Eliot,” the first in a projected two-volume biography by Robert Crawford, which gives new attention to Eliot’s years in Gloucester and Cambridge.

Championed by Ezra Pound, Eliot published “Prufrock” in Poetry magazine when he was just 26 . Through “The Waste Land” and “Four Quartets,” he established a somber, lyrical style that mixed contemporary references into more formal, religiously inflected lines. He also wrote essays, plays in verse, and the playful rhyming poems of “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the basis for the musical “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

A few of Eliot’s works make direct reference to the North Shore. One poem in “Four Quartets” is “The Dry Salvages,” referring to a set of weather-blasted rocks off Rockport. His sequence “Landscapes” includes a stanza about Cape Ann. Still, even after a year at Milton Academy and college at Harvard, he never felt fully anchored in the region. “Eliot lived his life as a fish out of water,” said Carey Adina Karmel, the curator of the Harvard show. Though his father was a St. Louis brick manufacturer, they were descended from the same Boston clan that produced Harvard president Charles William Eliot. But Thomas Stearns Eliot found the association uncomfortable. He felt, as he wrote in 1928, like “a New Englander in the South West, and a South Westerner in New England.” Eventually he would leave both places for good. He stayed in England, marrying two British women in succession, abandoning his native Unitarianism for the Anglican Church, and taking British citizenship.

But Eliot loved the house in Gloucester, to which the family returned each summer. “When I come home after the war I should like to be able to go straight to Gloucester,” he wrote to his mother from London in 1917.

Dana Hawkes, an expert on animation art and entertainment memorabilia for the British auction house Bonhams, sold the house to the foundation after living there for 16 years. She and her husband, the late Jerry Weist (a comics expert and the founder of the Million Year Picnic store in Harvard Square), fell in love with the house even before they knew about the Eliot history.

The house was much unchanged since Eliot’s day, but it was “a wreck,” Hawkes said. “We just wanted to take the original bones and clean it up.” Today, it has a modern kitchen and bathrooms, but you can see traces of the wealthy Victorian family with seven children that built it for seaside comfort, with imposing brick fireplaces and spacious closets. Hawkes said they found the word “Harvard” and a skull and crossbones painted in the attic — perhaps dating from the days of the Eliots.

After her husband’s death in 2011, Hawkes decided to sell the house. A representative of the T.S. Eliot Foundation commented, “We were moved by the idea of using Eliot’s money to buy back the house his father had built in 1896 — and moved also by the irony of Eliot’s money buying back the house of parents who had doubted his decision to stay in England and become a poet.”

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Recently Discovered Letter Sheds Light On Hemingway’s Finca In Cuba

The mystery of whether Ernest Hemingway’s widow volunteered or was coerced into leaving their Cuban house to the nation has come a step closer to being solved, with the discovery of a letter in which she states that her late husband “would be pleased” that Finca Vigía be “given to the people of Cuba … as a centre for opportunities for wider education and research”.

Hemingway lived on the 19th-century Cuban farm for 21 years, between 1939 and 1961, writing his masterpieces “The Old Man and the Sea” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” there, as well as posthumously published works including “A Moveable Feast” and “Islands in the Stream.” The property became a museum in 1962, but it has been unclear whether this was following the wishes of Mary Hemingway, his fourth wife, or at the insistence of the Cuban government, with differing accounts from different parties.

The newly discovered letter, dated 25 August 1961, sees Mary Hemingway specifically donate the Finca Vigía to the Cuban people. “…Whereas – my husband, Ernest Hemingway, was for twenty-five years a friend of the Pueblo of Cuba … he never took part in the politics of Cuba … he never sold any possessions of his, except his words, having given away cars, guns, books and his Nobel prize medal to the Virgen del Cobre,” she wrote to her husband’s friend Roberto Herrera.

“I believe that he would be pleased that his property … in Cuba be given to the people of Cuba … as a center for opportunities for wider education and research, to be maintained in his memory. With this document, as the only heir of Ernest’s estate, I hereby give to the people of Cuba this
property, in the hope that they will learn and profit from, and enjoy it, as much as Ernest and I did.”

The letter was found among the papers of Herrera. “Ernest Hemingway had committed suicide in Ketchum less than two months earlier. However, at some point shortly thereafter, Mary backtracked and stated that after Hemingway’s suicide, the Cuban government contacted her and announced it intended to expropriate the house, along with all real property in Cuba. These documents show that Mary did indeed intend to donate the home to the Cuban people,” said the auction house. The handwritten note was snapped up on Wednesday for $1,100, a price well below the estimate of $2,000-$3,000.

Valerie Hemingway – who was Ernest’s secretary before marrying his youngest son, whom she met at the author’s funeral – went to Finca Vigía with Mary shortly after Hemingway’s death to sort through his papers. She said via email that “what is being auctioned is a draft of a memo Mary intended to give to [Fidel] Castro that Roberto Herrera was going to translate. As far as I can remember Mary never actually sent the memo; she gave the draft to Roberto afterwards.”

Her own memoir, “Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways,” sees Valerie write that Mary “genuinely wanted to see her husband’s memory endure by creating a shrine of the home he loved and dedicating it to the Cuban people, among whom he had lived for more than a third of his life.”
But Naomi Wood, author of the novel “Mrs Hemingway,” said Mary Hemingway’s own memoir suggests the situation was not quite as straightforward. “The question is whether the Hemingway house was ‘donated’ by Mary, or coerced from her, or extracted from her via diplomacy,” she said.

“In her memoir, ‘How It Was,’ she uses the words ‘acquisition’ and ‘appropriation’, which suggests the takeover of Hemingway’s property was done with some unwillingness on her part, rather than a donation as the auctioned letter suggests. Though the auctioned letter suggests a donation, her memoir suggests bullying, though Castro does it in the most gentlemanly fashion, even asking her: ‘Why don’t you stay here with us in Cuba?’”

Mary Hemingway recounts a telephone conversation from the time in “How it Was,” in which she says to a Cuban official that “I’m not sure if I wish to give you our Finca. Perhaps your government would give me permission to go down to remove our personal papers.” She was advised, she writes, “to take the chance of recovering Ernest’s manuscripts, if nothing more. By this time United States citizens were prohibited journeys to Cuba, but the US immigration authorities in Miami gave me the exit and re-entry permits.”

The author’s widow would bring back crates of papers on a shrimp boat travelling from Havana to Tampa. “Mary also recounts her negotiations with Castro to remove a few paintings back to the US: including a Paul Klee and Juan Gris,” said Wood. “She also manages to remove Hemingway’s wax-sealed manuscripts they’d found at the Banco Nacional. Mary’s cargo left on a shrimp boat back to Tampa, which was the last to have any clearance papers from the US. More importantly for scholars than the nature of the deal for the Finca Vigía donation or appropriation was the fact that she managed to get those manuscripts out.”

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Nobel Prize Winner’s Works To Be Available In US

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER’S WORKS TO BE AVAILABLE IN US

When Patrick Modiano won the Nobel prize in October, just three of the French author’s works were available in the U.S. In a year or so, 13 will be in print. The award has spurred publishers to rush out new English translations and dust off old ones that had long been out of print.

Among them are Mr. Modiano’s most recent novel, a best seller in France, which Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will release in the U.S. in late 2015, as well as a memoir, “Pedigree,” to be published in the fall by Yale University Press.

Modiano, a publicity-shy Paris resident, has written more than 20 novels, which often play with the idea of memory and its fallibility. Before winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, the 69-year-old writer had been translated into 36 languages.

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Nobel Prize Winner Speaks About The Future Of The Novel

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER SPEAKS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE NOVEL

Patrick Modiano, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, has stated that tomorrow’s novelists “will safeguard the succession of literature just as every generation has done since Homer”.

Modiano, whose prize was awarded for his evocations of the past, for “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the Nazi occupation”, did say in his Nobel lecture that “unfortunately I do not think that the remembrance of things past can be done any longer with Marcel Proust’s power and candidness”.

“Today, I get the sense that memory is much less sure of itself, engaged as it is in a constant struggle against amnesia and oblivion. This layer, this mass of oblivion that obscures everything, means we can only pick up fragments of the past, disconnected traces, fleeting and almost ungraspable human destinies,” said Modiano. “Yet it has to be the vocation of the novelist, when faced with this large blank page of oblivion, to make a few faded words visible again, like lost icebergs adrift on the surface of the ocean.”

Modiano expressed a certain nostalgia for the world of the 19th-century novelists such as Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, saying that “in those days, time passed more slowly than today, and this slowness suited the work of the novelist because it allowed him to marshal his energy and his attention”.

“Time has speeded up since then and moves forward in fits and starts,” he said, “explaining the difference between the towering literary edifices of the past, with their cathedral-like architectures, and the disjointed and fragmented works of today.”

Modiano feels his own generation of writers is a “transitional one”. He spoke of his curiosity about how future generations, “born with the internet, mobile phones, emails and tweets, will express through literature this world in which everyone is permanently ‘connected’ and where ‘social networks’ are eating into that part of intimacy and secrecy that was still our own domain until quite recently – the secrecy that gave depth to individuals and could become a major theme in a novel”.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

Nobel Prize Winner Speaks About The Future Of The Novel

Patrick Modiano, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, has stated that tomorrow’s novelists “will safeguard the succession of literature just as every generation has done since Homer”.

Modiano, whose prize was awarded for his evocations of the past, for “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the Nazi occupation”, did say in his Nobel lecture that “unfortunately I do not think that the remembrance of things past can be done any longer with Marcel Proust’s power and candidness”.

“Today, I get the sense that memory is much less sure of itself, engaged as it is in a constant struggle against amnesia and oblivion. This layer, this mass of oblivion that obscures everything, means we can only pick up fragments of the past, disconnected traces, fleeting and almost ungraspable human destinies,” said Modiano. “Yet it has to be the vocation of the novelist, when faced with this large blank page of oblivion, to make a few faded words visible again, like lost icebergs adrift on the surface of the ocean.”

Modiano expressed a certain nostalgia for the world of the 19th-century novelists such as Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, saying that “in those days, time passed more slowly than today, and this slowness suited the work of the novelist because it allowed him to marshal his energy and his attention”.

“Time has speeded up since then and moves forward in fits and starts,” he said, “explaining the difference between the towering literary edifices of the past, with their cathedral-like architectures, and the disjointed and fragmented works of today.”

Modiano feels his own generation of writers is a “transitional one”. He spoke of his curiosity about how future generations, “born with the internet, mobile phones, emails and tweets, will express through literature this world in which everyone is permanently ‘connected’ and where ‘social networks’ are eating into that part of intimacy and secrecy that was still our own domain until quite recently – the secrecy that gave depth to individuals and could become a major theme in a novel”.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

French Novelist Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

FRENCH NOVELIST WINS NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE

Patrick Modiano, whose works often explore the traumas of the Nazi occupation of France, won the 2014 Novel Prize in Literature. The Nobel, one of the world’s most financially generous awards, comes with a $1.1 million prize. The literature prize is given out for a lifetime of writing, rather than for a single work.

Modiano, who has published about 30 works, first rose to prominence in 1968 with his novel “La Place de l’Etoile.” Though his works are available in translation, and he is called the “Marcel Proust” of our time, he is not widely known outside of France. In his native country, Modiano is a revered writer whose books, often shorter than 200 pages, are read for their pithy and compact style.

ICELAND

The BBC reported recently that one in 10 Icelanders will publish a book at some point in their lives. Per capita, the island nation has more readers, writers, and books published than anywhere else on the planet.

So which contemporary Icelandic novels should you read? Icelanders suggest starting with INDEPENDENT PEOPLE by Nobel prize winner HALLDÓR LAXNESS; or GUNNLÖTH’S TALE by SVAVA JAKOBSDÓTTIR;  ANGELS OF THE UNIVERSE by EINAR MÁR GUDMUNDSSON Or any title by ARNALDUR INDRIDASON

For book tips from around the world, check my website bookreportradio.com, and tune into my show The Book Report.

THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET

THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET

The villa at the heart of one of the 20th century’s most famous works of literature, The Alexandria Quartet, might soon be demolished.

After fleeing Nazi-occupied Greece, and for much of World War 2, Lawrence Durrell, twice shortlisted for the Nobel prize, shared the top floor of Villa Ambron with his Alexandrian second wife, Eve Cohen – the inspiration for Justine. Durrell left Egypt after the war, and the Ambron family sold the house in 1996. Now the developer who owns it says it may soon make way for a high-rise apartment block.

For more on literary history, check my website bookreportradio.com. And tune into my show The Book Report.

AUTHORS Doris Lessing

AUTHORS

The literary world just lost a unique voice. Doris Lessing has died in London at age 94.

Lessing explored topics ranging from colonial Africa to dystopian Britain, from the mystery of being female to science fiction. She’s best known for her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook. When Lessing won the Nobel Literature prize in 2007, she responded: “Oh Christ! … I couldn’t care less.”

Lessing was born in Persia, then moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). At 19, she married her first husband, and had a son and a daughter. She abandoned that family and was drawn into a group of literary communists headed by Gottfried Lessing, who became her second husband. When she again became disillusioned, Lessing left her husband and moved to Britain, to become an important voice in our literary landscape.

For more on fascinating authors, tune into The Book Report.