Today's Page: August 28th
Andrei Platonov, Jack Vance, and William Stafford are the acclaimed authors who were born or died on a day like this.
Andrei Platonovich Klimentov was the pen name of Andrei Platonovich Klimentov , a Soviet author whose works anticipate existentialism. He was born on a day like this in 1899 in the outskirts of Voronezh in the central black earth region. In the wake of the 1917 revolutions, Platonov became very active in a variety of pursuits. He sought to advance his technical education first with preparatory courses and then at the Voronezh Polytechnic Institute where he studied electrical technology. At the same time, he wrote prolifically for a variety of local periodicals, especially the paper of the local railway workers' union, Zheleznyi put' (Railroad). The range of his writings in these years was extraordinary. From 1918 through 1921, his most intensive as a writer, he published dozens of poems (and a collection of verses that appeared in 1922), several stories, and, most of all, hundreds of articles and essays. Platonov's productive energy and intellectual precocity is most visible in the remarkable range of topics he confidently wrote about: literature, art, cultural life, science, philosophy, religion, education, politics, the civil war, foreign relations, economics, technology, famine, land reclamation, and more. It was not unusual, especially in 1920, to see two or three pieces by him, on quite different subjects, appear in the press every day for several days running. In 1925 he published a book about the Black Sea Revolt of 1905. This was the same year that Sergei Eisenstein's film The Battleship Potemkin was made. Platonov's book was an official publication of the Bolshevik Party. When he did return to writing in 1926, however, he began to create works that indicated to a number of critics and readers the appearance of a major and original literary voice. Moving to Moscow in 1927, he became, for the first time, a professional writer. He mainly wrote fiction but also worked in the editorial departments of a number of leading magazines. He produced his two major works, the novels "Chevengur" and "The Foundation Pit", between 1926 and 1930, overlapping slightly with the beginning of the first Five-Year Plan in 1928. These works, with their implicit criticism of the system, drew much official criticism, and although a chapter of "Chevengur" appeared in a magazine, neither were published in full. Other short stories which did appear contributed even more to the decline of his reputation. He passed away on January 5, 1951. Although he was relatively unknown at the time of his death, his influence on later Russian writers has been considerable. Some of his work was published or reprinted during the 1960s' Khrushchev Thaw. Because of his political writings, perceived anti-totalitarian stance, and early death of tuberculosis, some English-speaking commentators have called him "the Russian George Orwell".
John Holbrook Vance is an American mystery, fantasy and science fiction author. He was born on a day like this in 1916 in San Francisco, California. Since his first published story, "The World-Thinker" (in Thrilling Wonder Stories) in 1945, Vance has written over sixty books. His work has been published in three categories: science fiction, fantasy and mystery. Among Vance's earliest published work is a set of fantasy stories written while he served in the merchant marine during the war. They appeared in 1950, several years after Vance had started publishing science fiction in the pulp magazines, under the title "The Dying Earth". Vance wrote many science fiction short stories in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, which were published in magazines. Of his novels written during this period, a few were science fiction, but most were mysteries. Few were published at the time, but Vance continued to write mysteries into the early 1970s. In total, he wrote 15 novels outside of science fiction and fantasy. Most of his work has been published under the name Jack Vance. He has also written 11 mystery novels as John Holbrook Vance and three as Ellery Queen, and has once each used pseudonyms Alan Wade, Peter Held, John van See, and Jay Kavanse. Among his awards are: Hugo Awards, in 1963 for "The Dragon Masters", in 1967 for "The Last Castle", and in 2010 for his memoir "This is Me, Jack Vance!"; a Nebula Award in 1966, also for "The Last Castle"; the Jupiter Award in 1975; the World Fantasy Award in 1984 for life achievement and in 1990 for "Lyonesse: Madouc"; an Edgar (the mystery equivalent of the Nebula) for the best first mystery novel in 1961 for "The Man in the Cage"; in 1992, he was Guest of Honor at the WorldCon in Orlando, Florida; and in 1997 he was named a SFWA Grand Master. He is a 2001 inductee into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. A 2009 profile in the New York Times Magazine described Vance as "one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices."
William Edgar Stafford was an American poet and pacifist. One striking feature of his career is its late start. Stafford was forty-eight years old when his first major collection of poetry was published, "Traveling Through the Dark", which won the 1963 National Book Award for Poetry. The title poem is one of his best known works. Stafford had a quiet daily ritual of writing and his writing focuses on the ordinary. The gentle quotidian style of his poetry has been compared to Robert Frost. His poems are typically short, focusing on the earthy, accessible details appropriate to a specific locality. He kept a daily journal for 50 years, and composed nearly 22,000 poems, of which roughly 3,000 were published. In 1970, he was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position that is now known as Poet Laureate. In 1975, he was named Poet Laureate of Oregon. In 1980, he retired from Lewis and Clark College but continued to travel extensively and give public readings of his poetry. In 1992, he won the Western States Book Award for lifetime achievement in poetry. Stafford passed away on a day like this in 1993, aged 79.
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