Today's Page: August 1st
Herman Melville, Anne Hébert, David Gemmell, and James Gleick are the acclaimed authors who were born or died on a day like this.
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He was born on a day like this in 1819 in New York City. Melville's roving disposition and a desire to support himself independently of family assistance led him to seek work as a surveyor on the Erie Canal. This effort failed, and his brother helped him get a job as a "boy" (a green hand) on a New York ship bound for Liverpool. He made the voyage, and returned on the same ship. "Redburn: His First Voyage"(1849) is partly based on his experiences of this journey. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, "Typee", becoming a bestseller), and after a fast-blooming literary success in the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and never recovered during his lifetime. When he died in 1891, he was almost completely forgotten. It was not until the "Melville Revival" in the early 20th century that his work won recognition, especially "Moby-Dick", his best known novel, which was hailed as one of the literary masterpieces of both American and world literature. He was the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America.
Anne Hébert, born on a day like this in 1916, was a Canadian author and poet. She began writing poems and stories at a young age, and "found her work being published in a variety of periodicals by the time she was in her early twenties". "Les Songes en Équilibre"(1942) was Hébert's first collection of poems published. It got good reviews and won her the Prix David. No Quebec publisher would publish her 1945 collection of stories, "Le Torrent". It was finally published in 1950 at the expense of Roger Lemelin. Again, she could not find a publisher for her second book of poetry, "The Tomb of Kings", and had to publish it at her own expense. Her last novel "Un Habit de lumière" was published in 1998. She won Canada's top literary honor, the Governor General's Award, three times, twice for fiction and once for poetry.
David Andrew Gemmell was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. He was born on a day like this in 1948 in west London. David Gemmell. A former journalist and newspaper editor, Gemmell had his first work of fiction published in 1984. He went on to write over thirty novels. Best known for his debut, "Legend", Gemmell's works display violence, yet also explore themes of honour, loyalty and redemption. With over one million copies sold, his work continues to sell worldwide. Originally intending to be a historical novelist, Gemmell was intrigued by events which ended badly for the protagonists. Citing the Battle of the Alamo and the grisly fate of William Wallace as influences, he said that had he written about the 13th century Scottish revolutionary, he would have found a way in which he was ultimately victorious despite the odds, eventually realising this kind of storytelling would be more palatable in a fantasy setting. Gemmell's work typically deals with themes of honour and loyalty, advancing age, lost causes and the possibility of redemption for even the most corrupt (he was interested in the "true nature" of heroes, considering most to be unreliably so). "The Legend of Deathwalker"(1996), "Hero in the Shadows"(2000), and "The Swords of Night and Day"(2004) are some of his other works.
James Gleick, born on a day like this in 1954 in New York City, is an American author, journalist and biographer. His first book, "Chaos: Making a New Science", chronicled the development of chaos theory and made the Butterfly Effect a household phrase. Three of his books have been Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists. They have been translated into more than twenty languages. "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood" and "Nature's Chaos" are some of his other works.
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