From the stacks
The famous poet was far more than a recluse.
Here's Why He Still Matters.
Poet John Milton turns 405 today.
March 12, 1990
Just after Nelson Mandela's release from prison, John Carlin reflected on Mandela's political skills and the future of South Africa.
Except Thomas Hardy no English man of letters could have given by his death such historic importance to the year 1924 as Joseph Conrad. Born in 1857, a year after Bernard Shaw, Conrad began his literary career late, in 1895, with Almayer's Folly. This was the year of Stevenson's death, and of Hardy's virtual, and almost of Meredith's, retirement from fiction.
From TNR, November 1, 1980
The great Peter Kaplan's take on the 40th president's movies, published just before the 1980 election
A prominent historian on the politician behind the oratory
Tuesday marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. In this 2009 essay, historian Sean Wilentz argues that we have let Lincoln's feats of oratory—like the Gettysburg Address—overshadow his political achievements.
March 29, 1980
Doris Lessing died yesterday at 94. In 1980, Ursula Le Guin revewed Lessing's attempt to write a sceince fiction epic.
October 13, 1979
Doris Lessing takes risks, but does not play games. One does not turn to her books for humor or wit or playfulness, nor will one find in them any game playing in the sense of one-upping, faking, posturing. In her introductory remarks to Shikasta she states with characteristic straightforwardness what she sees as the modern novelist's debt to science fiction.
October 10, 1928: Lewis Mumford on Herman Melville's legacy
"Call me Ishmael," the first sentence in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, is one of the most recognized opening lines in American literature. It's ascendency into not just literary, but cultural notoriety, began 162 years today, with the first publication of Melville's story of the white whale.
According to Jed Perl's brutal 2009 assessment of Francis Bacon: Not very much.