Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Notes For September 19th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On September 19th, 2000, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the classic, Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the famous American writer Michael Chabon, was published.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay opens in 1939. Josef "Joe" Kavalier, a 19-year-old Jewish Czech refugee, arrives in New York City to live with his seventeen year old cousin, Sammy Klayman.

Joe is a talented artist, Sammy an aspiring writer. Both have an interest in magic and connections to the legendary magician Harry Houdini, whose real name was Ehrich Weiss. Sammy's father used to be a vaudeville strongman called the Mighty Molecule.

When Joe gets a job as an illustrator for a novelty company, the job takes him in a different direction: the company wants to get into the comic book business after the huge success of Superman ushered in the golden age of comics.

Joe and Sammy, who has taken the pen name Sammy Clay, form a team where Sammy writes adventure stories and Joe illustrates them. The pair creates an antifascist superhero called The Escapist, and the company they work for reluctantly agrees to publish their comics.

The Escapist becomes a hit, but the cousins' contract only pays them a minimal royalty. They are slow to realize that they're being screwed because they're both caught up in personal problems.

While Joe is desperate to get his family out of Nazi-occupied Prague, Sammy grapples with his sexual identity, struggling to come to terms with the fact that he might be gay. Meanwhile, Joe falls in love with a bohemian artist named Rosa Saks.

Distraught over his failure to save his family from the Nazis, Joe runs off to join the Navy. Instead of fighting the Nazis, he is stationed at a remote naval base in Antarctica. He doesn't know that he left Rosa pregnant with his child.

After the war ends, Joe is discharged from the Navy and returns to New York, but is unable to face Rosa and Sammy, so he hides out in the Empire State Building. Meanwhile, Sammy married Rosa to save her from scandal.

When Sammy's not helping Rosa raise their son Tommy, he's involved in a gay affair with actor Tracy Bacon, who plays his superhero, The Escapist, on the radio. The two men go to a dinner party with their gay friends and other couples, and the party is raided.

Local police and two off-duty FBI agents round up everyone except for Sammy and another man who managed to hide under the table. The FBI agents ultimately catch them and offer them their freedom in exchange for sexual favors.

After that close call, Sammy concentrates on helping Rosa raise Tommy and trying to appear as a traditional family, but they can't hide their secrets from the precocious boy who loves them both.

Tommy is reunited with his long lost father Joe at the Empire State Building and takes magic lessons from him. The boy determines to reunite the legendary team of Kavalier & Clay, and he does.

Happy to see each other again, the cousins decide to make their comeback in comics. Joe moves in with Sammy, Rosa, and Tommy, and just when it seems like their lives are finally getting back on track, Sammy is publicly outed - on television.

That's just a threadbare outline of this epic novel, which won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel was supposed to be adapted as a feature film, but the project keeps slipping through the Hollywood cracks.

A screenplay was completed in 2002 and an excerpt from it was published in Entertainment Weekly, but the film never got past the pre-production stage. Two years later, Michael Chabon pronounced the project dead.

Then, in 2005, director Stephen Daldry announced that he was going to make the film. With Tobey Maguire and Jamie Bell cast as Sammy and Joe, and Natalie Portman as Rosa, it seemed a done deal.

This time, the film didn't even get to pre-production. In April of 2007, Chabon said that the project "just completely went south for studio-politics kinds of reasons that I'm not privy to... right now, as far as I know, there's not a lot going on."

In an interview conducted in December of 2011, Stephen Daldry stated that he hadn't given up on adapting The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and was looking to adapt the novel as a TV miniseries, preferably for HBO.

Quote Of The Day

"You need three things to become a successful novelist: talent, luck and discipline. Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two." - Michael Chabon

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Michael Chabon discussing his classic novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay at the Dominican University of California in 2010. Enjoy!

Monday, September 18, 2017

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Bob White

My novel, Fear, a Tony Petrocelli mystery, is finally published and available at my local library, and at Amazon. Doing a mini-book launch today. This wouldn't have been possible without the great crits I received from the group at IWW-Novels.

Wayne Scheer

My story, "A Soft Place to Land," is up at Everyday Fiction. My poem, "A Bad Father," has been accepted at Leaves of Ink for a December issue.

David Russell

Thanks to one of our fine members, my book, Waiting For Messiah has been published on Smashwords. I want to thank each and all of you for your words of support during the past several months, especially during the last month.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Notes For September 15th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On September 15th, 1890, the legendary English writer Agatha Christie was born. She was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in Torquay, Devon, England. Her mother was the daughter of a British Army captain, her father an American stockbroker.

During World War I, Agatha worked as a hospital nurse. She liked nursing, calling it "one of the most rewarding professions that anyone can follow." After the war, she worked as a pharmacist - a position that would prove helpful to her future writing career, as many murders in her books are committed by poisoning.

Although their courtship was rocky, on Christmas Eve, 1914, Agatha married her boyfriend, Archibald Christie, a pilot for the Royal Flying Corps, which, along with the Royal Air Naval Service, would later be merged and renamed the Royal Air Force.

Agatha bore him one child, a daughter, Rosalind, who would found the Agatha Christie Society and serve as its president until her death.

In 1920, Agatha Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair At Styles. Set in World War I England in a country manor called Styles Court, the novel introduced one of Christie's most famous characters - the brilliant Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.

Narrated by Poirot's lieutenant, Arthur Hastings, the story tells of a case where Poirot is called to investigate the mysterious poisoning of wealthy widow Emily Cavendish. The book is filled with a half-dozen suspects, red herrings, and surprise plot twists.

Christie's debut novel introduced her distinctive style of detective fiction to the world. It was a big hit with critics and readers alike. Christie would write 33 novels and 51 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot.

The public loved Poirot, though Christie described him as a "detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep." Yet, she refused to kill him off. She believed it was her duty to write what her readers liked, and what they liked was Poirot.

In her 1927 short story, The Tuesday Night Club, Agatha Christie introduced another detective character, one that would become just as beloved as Hercule Poirot. Her name was Jane Marple, and she was an elderly British spinster and amateur detective.

When she wasn't knitting or weeding her garden, Miss Marple was using her brilliant mind and keen understanding of human nature to solve crimes. Christie's first full-length Miss Marple novel, The Murder At The Vicarage, was published in 1930.

In the village of St. Mary Mead, Colonel Protheroe is so hated that even the local vicar once said that killing him would be a public service. He's soon found murdered in the vicar's study.

Two different people confess to killing Protheroe, so Miss Marple sets out to solve the crime and uncover the real killer. The Murder At The Vicarage would be the first of twelve Miss Marple crime novels.

In late 1926, Agatha Christie's life would imitate her fiction. Her husband, Archie, told her that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. After a nasty fight on December 3rd, Archie took off to spend the weekend with his mistress in Surrey.

Agatha also took off, leaving a note for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Instead, she mysteriously vanished. Her disappearance led to a public outcry; a massive manhunt took place and her husband was suspected of killing her.

Eleven days after she vanished, Agatha Christie was found at a hotel in Yorkshire, where she had checked in as Mrs. Teresa Neele. She gave no account of her disappearance. Two doctors diagnosed her with amnesia.

Some believe that she suffered a nervous breakdown, but at the time, most of the British public believed that Christie's disappearance was a staged publicity stunt. Others suspected she'd hatched an elaborate plot of revenge on her husband for the affair.

The couple was later divorced. In 1930, Christie married her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, whom she met at a dig. It was a happy marriage that lasted until Christie's death in 1976 at the age of 85.

In her lifetime, Agatha Christie wrote over 80 detective novels, as well as several romances under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. She was also a playwright, and wrote over a dozen plays.

Her play The Mousetrap (1952), an adaptation of her classic 1948 short story Three Blind Mice, which opened in London on November 25th, 1952, is still running after more than 24,000 performances - a record for the longest initial run of a play.

Of course, Agatha Christie will always be known as the grand dame of crime fiction. Her novels and short stories, which have been adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television, have sold approximately four billion copies combined - the only book to outsell hers is the Bible.

Quote Of The Day

"Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth. The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it." - Agatha Christie

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Agatha Christie's classic mystery novel, The Clocks. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Notes For September 14th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On September 14th, 1814, the famous American poet Francis Scott Key wrote his most famous poem Defence of Fort McHenry, which would be renamed The Star-Spangled Banner and become the United States' national anthem.

Earlier unofficial national anthems included My Country, 'Tis of Thee, the lyrics of which, ironically, had been set to the music of the British national anthem, God Save the Queen.

The story of Francis Scott Key's poem begins with the War of 1812, which took place from 1812-1815. On September 3rd, 1814, Key and lawyer-publisher John Stuart Skinner set sail on the HMS Minden on a mission.

Their mission, approved by then President James Madison, was to exchange prisoners with the British, who were about to attack Baltimore after violently sacking Washington DC.

Key was intent on rescuing his friend, Dr. William Beanes - the popular and elderly town doctor of Upper Marlboro, Maryland - who was a prisoner of the British. So, four days later, they boarded the HMS Tonnant to speak with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane.

The British initially refused to release Beanes, because he had allegedly aided in the arrest of British soldiers. They changed their minds when Key showed them letters written by British prisoners praising the doctor for his kind treatment of them.

Unfortunately, while discussing the prisoner exchange during dinner on the British ship, Key and Skinner also heard British officers discuss the upcoming attack on Baltimore, so they were held captive until after the battle.

On September 13th, from a sloop behind the British fleet, Francis Scott Key watched the British attack Fort McHenry. Throughout the day and into the night, the fort was bombarded with over 1,500 bombs, rockets, and cannon balls. Fortunately, the Baltimore fort was well prepared for such an attack.

Key noticed the huge 30'x42' American flag atop the fort, flying like a beacon of defiance and courage throughout the attack. Using the only piece of paper he had - the back side of a letter that was in his pocket - Key began writing a poem about the battle. Later that night, when it became too dark for the British to see, they stopped firing on the fort.

When they went to sleep, Key and the other Americans aboard the British ships had no idea whether or not their enemies had won the battle. The next morning, Key noticed that the huge American flag was still perched atop Fort McHenry and flying proudly.

The British had been defeated. Key was released, and later that day at the Indian Queen Hotel, he completed his poem, The Defence of Fort McHenry.

Five days later, Key's patriotic poem was printed and circulated throughout Baltimore, with the author's instructions that the poem be sung to the music of the popular English drinking song, Anacreon in Heaven, also known as The Anacreontic Song.

Singing Key's poem to this particular song was supposedly the idea of Key's brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson. The poem and its musical accompaniment were then published as The Star-Spangled Banner by Thomas Carr of Baltimore's Carr Music Store.

The first public performance of The Star-Spangled Banner took place in October of 1814, when it was sung by actor Ferdinand Durang at Captain McCauley's Tavern.

The song's popularity surged throughout the 19th century; it was often played at public events - especially during Independence Day festivities. It was first performed before a major league baseball game in 1897 in Philadelphia.

Despite the popularity of The Star-Spangled Banner, it would not become the United States' official national anthem until 117 years after it was written.

Although then Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy signed an order in 1897 making The Star-Spangled Banner the official song to be played when raising the flag, it did not become the official national anthem.

It became the official United States national anthem on March 3rd, 1931, when then President Herbert Hoover signed a law making it so. Before then, the United States had no official national anthem.

Though Francis Scott Key's entire 4-verse poem had been published as The Star-Spangled Banner, only the first verse is traditionally sung as the United States' national anthem.

Quote Of The Day

"Then, in that hour of deliverance, my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?" - Francis Scott Key

Vanguard Video

Today's video features actress-comedienne Roseanne Barr's highly controversial - and very funny - performance of The Star-Spangled Banner at a Chicago Cubs baseball game on July 25th, 1990. Also included is a clip of Madonna defending Roseanne's performance. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Notes For September 13th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On September 13th, 1916, the legendary English writer Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff, Wales. He and his three sisters were the children of Norwegian immigrants who spoke Norwegian at home and English in public.

They named their son after Roald Amundsen, the famous Norwegian explorer who had become a national hero at the time. He was the first explorer to discover the South Pole and reach the North Pole.

When Roald Dahl was three years old, he lost first his seven-year-old sister Astri to appendicitis, then his father to pneumonia. His mother considered moving her children back to Norway. She changed her mind because her husband had wanted the children to be educated in British schools, which he believed were the best.

Roald began his education at The Cathedral School in his hometown of Llandaff. When he was eight years old, he and four of his classmates planted a dead mouse in a jar of hard candies at a sweet shop.

The kids considered the proprietress, Mrs. Pratchett, to be a "mean and loathsome" old woman and wanted to teach her a lesson. Unfortunately, they were caught and caned by their headmaster.

From there, Roald transferred to St. Peter's, a boarding school in Weston-super-Mare, England. He hated the school, but he never told his mother in the weekly letters he wrote to her. He knew that the school screened students' mail and prohibited any complaints to their parents.

In 1929, Roald, then thirteen, began attending Repton School in Derbyshire. It was there that he had a life changing experience; one of his friends was savagely beaten by the school's headmaster.

When the headmaster, Geoffrey Fisher, was later ordained Archbishop of Canterbury, Roald lost what little respect he had for religion and began to doubt the existence of God.

As a teenager, Roald Dahl developed passions for photography and literature. His English teachers didn't think much of him; one of them wrote "I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended."

Being tall and well-built for his age, Roald excelled at sports, playing for his school's fives and squash (English racquet sports) teams and its soccer team.

After graduating school in 1934, the 18-year-old Roald Dahl took a job with the Shell Petroleum Company, which sent him to Tanzania. He and the other Shell employees lived at the luxurious Shell House near Dar-es-Salaam, but when World War II broke out in 1939, he joined the Royal Air Force.

Roald became a fighter pilot for the RAF, flying daring combat missions over Africa. In September of 1940, after refueling in Libya, he was supposed to fly to his squadron's airstrip, located 30 miles South of Mersa Matruh, Egypt.

Unable to find the airstrip and running low on fuel, Roald was forced to make an emergency landing in a desert. Unfortunately, the undercarriage of his plane clipped a boulder and he crashed.

Despite sustaining a fractured skull and a shattered nose, Roald managed to crawl away from the flaming wreckage of his plane. He regained consciousness while being treated in Mersa Matruh and found that he was temporarily blinded.

He was taken to an RAF hospital in Alexandria for further treatment. The RAF investigated the crash and found that Roald had been given the wrong coordinates for the airstrip, which sent him instead to a no man's land between Allied and Italian lines.

Amazingly, by February of 1941, Road Dahl had completely recovered from his injuries, regained his eyesight, and was deemed fit to resume his flying duties. This time, he flew combat missions across the Mediterranean.

In April, he saw action in the Battle of Athens, where he and several other RAF pilots shot down over 20 German planes. Though he would be promoted to officer, he was ultimately relieved of duty after he'd begun suffering chronic severe headaches that sometimes caused him to black out.

Roald continued to serve during World War II. His work for the British Information Service introduced him to espionage; he acted as an information courier for British Security Coordination, a division of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service.

Ian Fleming, legendary author of the classic James Bond spy thriller novels, was a fellow agent. Dahl would later write the screenplay for the 1967 feature film adaptation of Fleming's James Bond novel You Only Live Twice.

It was during the war that Road Dahl's first published short story appeared. Inspired after meeting fellow writer C.S. Forster, Dahl wrote A Piece of Cake, a short story based on his adventures as a World War II flying ace.

The story was published by the Saturday Evening Post in August of 1942. They paid Dahl $1,000 for it, which was a huge amount at the time - the equivalent of $13,000 in today's money.

Through he did write occasionally for adults, Roald Dahl was best known as a children's writer who delighted his young readers with his wit, imagination, dark humor, and taste for the macabre.

The Gremlins, his first children's book, was published in 1943. It was based on RAF folklore about mischievous little creatures with a fetish for sabotaging planes.

Dahl had children of his own - five in fact - with his wife, the famous American actress Patricia Neal, whom he married in 1953. In December of 1960, his son Theo, then four months old, was severely injured when his baby carriage was hit by a taxicab.

Theo suffered from hydrocephalus (a buildup of water on the brain) for a time, so Dahl co-invented the "Wade-Dahl Till," a cerebral shunt used to drain the excess water, alleviating the patient's pain and preventing brain damage.

Two years later, in 1962, when Dahl lost his seven-year-old daughter Olivia to measles-related encephalitis, he became an early, vocal proponent of immunization.

After the war ended, Roald Dahl began writing and publishing collections of short stories, mostly for adults. In 1961, he returned to children's writing with his classic novel, James and the Giant Peach.

In it, four-year-old James finds his life turned upside down when his parents are devoured by a rhinoceros that escaped from the zoo. James is sent to live with his repulsive aunts Spiker and Sponge, who abuse him verbally and physically and imprison him in their home.

James meets a strange little man who gives him a sack containing the ingredients for a magic potion that can bring happiness and great adventure, but the boy accidentally spills these ingredients - and the water he was supposed to add to them - onto the barren peach tree outside his aunts' home.

The tree begins to blossom and it grows a giant peach the size of a house. James' evil aunts make money off the peach, but one night, James ventures inside the giant peach and befriends the insects and other creatures who live there. They had been waiting for him, so they could all escape together...

Due to its macabre nature and frightening scenes, James and the Giant Peach still raises the ire of disgruntled parents and pressure groups in America. The American Library Association ranked it #56 on their list of the 100 most banned or challenged books.

Amazingly, James and the Giant Peach was adapted by Disney as an animated feature film in 1996. As expected, the screenplay took great liberties with the story. Road Dahl followed it with another classic children's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).

In this surreal fantasy, reclusive candy maker Willy Wonka, owner of the world's largest chocolate factory, decides to hold a contest where five lucky children will win a tour of his factory. One of the winners turns out to be Charlie Bucket, a humble boy from a very poor family.

The other winners are Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat little glutton, spoiled, selfish rich girl Veruca Salt, television-addicted Mike Teavee, and Violet Beauregarde, a rude little girl who constantly chews gum.

As the children take their tour, they find Willy Wonka's chocolate factory staffed by small, pygmy like men called Oompa-Loompas. They explore the surreal workings of the factory, not knowing that Willy Wonka has a secret plan: he wants to retire and pass his factory on to one of the children.

The children's bad behavior eliminates them one by one from contention and results in a nasty twist of fate. Augustus falls into a chocolate river and is sucked into the works of a fudge making machine. Veruca is dumped into a garbage chute.

Mike is shrunk, then stretched tall by a taffy puller, and Violet is turned into a giant blueberry. Charlie Bucket, the child whom Willy Wonka liked the best, is the last one left and inherits the chocolate factory.

In 1971, a feature film adaptation, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released, starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Originally, Roald Dahl was supposed to write the screenplay, but he backed out of the project.

Dahl objected when the film's corporate sponsor, Breaker Confections, now known as The Wonka Candy Company, demanded extensive changes, including the promotion of its products within the film.

The title was changed to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl hated the film, which bombed at the box office, but has since become a beloved cult classic, thanks to its frequent showings on TV over the years. The film has also been released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

In 2005, a new feature film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released, directed by legendary filmmaker Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka.

This film was a huge hit, and grossed over $400 million worldwide. Roald Dahl would publish a sequel to his novel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, in 1972.

Dahl continued to write great children's novels, including The Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970) and The Witches (1983). In 1988, Dahl published one of his most beloved novels, Matilda.

Five-year-old Matilda Wormwood is a sweet-natured, super intelligent little girl who was born into an ignorant, sleazy family. Her father is a crooked used car salesman who cheats his customers. Neither of Matilda's parents have much use for her, and they place no value on education.

After selling a lemon of a car to Agatha Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School, Matilda's father arranges for her to attend the school. Matilda finds that Miss Trunchbull is a sadistic tyrant.

Trunchbull delights in meting out incredibly cruel punishments for the least offenses. However, Matilda's teacher, Miss Honey, is kindhearted. Impressed by Matilda's brilliance, Miss Honey befriends her.

When Matilda is blamed for an offense committed by a classmate, the evil Miss Trunchbull incites her to such an emotional frenzy that she unleashes telekinetic powers - the ability to move objects with her mind.

Miss Honey reveals to Matilda that Miss Trunchbull is actually her aunt. When her father died under suspicious circumstances, Miss Trunchbull took over his home and school and began abusing her the way she abuses the children.

Miss Honey is too frightened of her evil aunt to stand up to her tyranny, so Matilda decides to use her telekinetic powers to teach Miss Trunchbull a lesson she'll never forget.

Matilda was adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1996, produced, directed, and narrated by Danny DeVito, who also co-starred as Matilda's sleazy father, Harry Wormwood. Some disgruntled parents complained about the film's dark humor and violence.

In 2009, the Royal Shakespeare Company produced a big budget rock musical adaptation of Matilda for the London stage, with music and lyrics by Australian comedian-singer-actor Tim Minchin. The popular musical made its Broadway debut in 2013 and became a hit there as well.

Roald Dahl died in 1990 after a battle with myelodysplastic syndrome, a leukemia-like blood disease. He was 74 years old. His last children's novel, The Minipins, was published posthumously in 1991. His hometown in Wales renamed one of its landmarks The Roald Dahl Plass in his honor.

Quote Of The Day

"I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage." - Roald Dahl

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a rare radio interview with Roald Dahl. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Notes For September 12th, 2017

This Day In Literary History

On September 12th, 1846, the legendary English poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning eloped. They were forced to elope because Barrett's father disliked Browning and believed him to be a good-for-nothing looking to marry her for her money.

Elizabeth Barrett was born to a wealthy, aristocratic English family. The Barretts lived in a lavish 20-room mansion near Durham, England. A sickly child with weak lungs, Elizabeth was in chronically poor health and spent most of her time in her room.

When her beloved brother died in 1840, Elizabeth became even more of a recluse, but maintained a connection to the outside world via her extensive correspondence. She also took up writing poetry.

Elizabeth Barrett's first poetry collection, The Seraphim and Other Poems, was published in 1838. Her second collection, Poems by Elizabeth Barrett, appeared in 1844.

In addition to being a respected poet, Barrett also established herself as a literary critic. When most other critics trashed Dramatic Lyrics (1842), a poetry collection by an up and coming poet named Robert Browning, Barrett publicly defended it in a glowing review.

Touched by Elizabeth's praise, Robert Browning wrote to thank her. In his letter, he also asked to meet her in person. The reclusive Elizabeth Barrett turned him down at first, but he kept writing and begging to meet her. She finally relented.

When Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett met, it was love at first sight. They courted and determined to marry, but her father denied her permission. Browning came from a working class family and didn't have much money, so Elizabeth's father assumed he was after hers.

There was another reason that Elizabeth's father forbade her and his other children from ever marrying, and it had to do with the lineage of the Barretts, a wealthy, aristocratic family that came from a long line of plantation owners.

Elizabeth Barrett's grandfather, who owned sugar plantations and other businesses in the West Indies, was known for his humane treatment of his slaves. He was also known to take slave women as his mistresses.

Her father, Edward Barrett, believed that his father may have adopted the light skinned babies of his slave mistresses, and that he may have been one of them. Politically conservative and a virulent racist, Edward was repulsed by the idea that Negro blood may be running through his family's veins.

All of his children were white, but he feared that they might one day produce dark skinned offspring. That's the real reason he forbade them all from marrying under the threat of being disowned and disinherited.

The fiercely liberal Elizabeth Barrett didn't share her father's racism, and she wasn't about to let his ignorance and intolerance stand in the way of her marrying her true love.

So, on September 12th, 1846, a day when she was left home alone, she sneaked off to meet Robert Browning at St. Marylebone Parish Church. The couple was married, and Elizabeth kept it a secret, returning home for a week before fleeing with her husband.

For marrying without his permission, Elizabeth's father angrily disowned and disinherited her, but she still had her own money, which she'd earned from her writings. Her surviving brothers cut all ties with her.

The Brownings settled in Italy, where they lived for fifteen years and remained happily married. In 1849, after suffering four miscarriages, they had their first and only child, a son whom they nicknamed Pen. They continued their writing careers and published more classic poetry collections.

Although Robert Browning's works were overshadowed by his wife's at first - critics snidely referred to him as "Mrs. Browning's husband" - later, he began to receive the recognition he deserved.

Sadly, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning's great love affair would come to an end. Though she had regained her health at the time she gave birth to her son, nearly ten years later, her lungs grew weak again and began to fail.

In 1860, Elizabeth Barrett Browning published her last great poetry collection, Poems before Congress, a political work which resulted in British conservative magazines labeling her a fanatic. She had sided with Italy during the Second Italian War of Independence - and against England.

A year later, she died in her husband's arms at the age of 55. Robert Browning and his son would return to England after her death. Scholars speculate that her death was caused by both her chronic pulmonary issues and the opiates she used to relieve the pain.

Quote Of The Day

"What is art but life upon the larger scale, the higher. When, graduating up in a spiral line of still expanding and ascending gyres, it pushes toward the intense significance of all things, hungry for the infinite?" - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's classic poem, If Thou Must Love Me. Enjoy!

Monday, September 11, 2017

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Mel Jacob

Gumshoe Review:

Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova

The Bloody Black Flag (Spider John) by Steve Goble River's Edge by James P. Blaylock

Diane Diekman

Thanks to the Nfiction critters who helped me with this book review.

Wayne Scheer

My poem, "In the Time of Trump," is up at Here and Now. You can find it about five from the bottom.

Lynne Hinkey

My poem, "Clarity," has been published by Leaves of Ink. This is quite a pleasant surprise since poetry is a bit outside my norm and my comfort zone.

My review of David Finkel's "Thank You for Your Service" is up at the Internet Review of Books. This book packs an emotional wallop. I expect the movie, coming out in October, will do the same.

Thank you, Bob and Gary, for all your work administering the site, and especially to Bob who, even in the middle of a hurricane, sent me a message to let me know it was up! Stay safe, Bob!

Eric Petersen

My review of Betrayal At Iga - A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann, has been published by the Internet Review of Books.

Theresa A. Cancro

My haibun, "Occupational Hazard," has been published today (September 11, 2017) on The Other Bunny.

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