Friday, March 23, 2018

Notes For March 23rd, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On March 23rd, 1999, the famous American writer Thomas Harris delivered the completed manuscript for his classic fourth novel, Hannibal, to his publishers.

It was the third in a series of four novels featuring his most famous character - Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist, classical music enthusiast, wine connoisseur, and gourmet turned cannibalistic serial killer - who had been terrifying readers for nearly 20 years.

(Harris's classic debut novel, Black Sunday (1975), told the story of a psychotic Vietnam veteran who conspires with a terrorist group to bomb the Super Bowl. It was adapted as an acclaimed film in 1977, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Robert Shaw and Bruce Dern.)

Lecter made his debut in Red Dragon (1981), where he was called upon by Will Graham - the FBI agent who captured him - to help profile a new serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde, aka the Red Dragon.

The sequel, The Silence of the Lambs (1988) found Lecter called on again, this time by trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling, to help her gain insight into the mind of Buffalo Bill, aka Jame Gumb, a depraved serial killer who has abducted a Senator's daughter.

Although Red Dragon was filmed first in 1986 as Manhunter, (featuring British actor Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter) it would be the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 that made Hannibal Lecter a pop culture icon.

Stylishly directed by Jonathan Demme and featuring stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, and Ted Levine as Jame Gumb, the film swept the Academy Awards.

It became only the third movie in history to win all five major Oscars - Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), Best Director (Demme), Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

After the huge success of The Silence of the Lambs, fans were clamoring for a sequel. It took over ten years for Thomas Harris to deliver. Hannibal was the result.

In this novel, Lecter himself is Agent Starling's quarry, as he escaped from custody in The Silence of the Lambs. What Starling doesn't know is that someone else is hunting Lecter - Mason Verger, a victim of Lecter's who survived.

Verger, the wealthy heir to a meat packing empire, was a depraved, sadistic pedophile whose long list of victims included his own little sister, Margot. When his father established a Christian summer camp for children, Verger used it to prey on more young victims.

When he was finally caught and arrested, Verger avoided jail time because of his family's wealth and position. He was ordered to perform community service and receive therapy. His court appointed psychiatrist? Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

The good doctor's idea of therapy was to have Verger take hallucinogenic drugs, manipulate him into demonstrating his technique of autoerotic asphyxiation via hanging, then make him slash his own face to ribbons with a shard of broken glass and feed his mutilated flesh to his dogs.

Lecter then hanged Verger with his own noose, breaking his neck. Verger survived, but was left a quadriplegic with a horribly mangled face. He wants to catch Lecter before Agent Starling does and take revenge.

The revenge Verger has planned is a fate worse than death, and he has FBI officials on his payroll - including Starling's superior, Paul Krendler. Hannibal received mixed reviews due to its controversial ending, which I won't give away.

I will say that it does make sense after all that happens to Clarice Starling throughout the novel, and fits in well with the dark surrealism (and dark humor) of the story for a chilling, memorable coda.

I for one enjoyed Hannibal immensely. I believe it's the best book Harris has written so far, second only to The Silence of the Lambs. Horror master Stephen King, a big fan of the Hannibal Lecter series, proclaimed Hannibal, along with William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist (1971), to be the two greatest modern horror novels of all time.

Hannibal would be adapted as a feature film in 2001, with Anthony Hopkins returning as Lecter and Julianne Moore taking over the role of Clarice Starling.

Directed by Ridley Scott, it received mixed reviews from fans because the screenplay (written by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian) omitted a major character (Margot Verger) and changed the ending of the novel.

To placate fans, the screenwriters did include part of the novel's ending - the famous Grand Guignol scene where Dr. Lecter lobotomizes corrupt FBI official Paul Krendler and... well... serves him a most unusual gourmet dinner...

Unfortunately, the most shocking part of the novel's ending - the fate of Clarice Starling - was omitted from the screenplay, which featured a completely different outcome.

Thomas Harris followed Hannibal with a a fourth novel, a prequel called Hannibal Rising (2006), which was published seven years later and adapted as a feature film in 2007.

Expanding on flashbacks that appeared in Hannibal, it told the dark and chilling story of how a frighteningly intelligent little Lithuanian boy named Hannibal Lecter grew up to be the gentleman ghoul we know and love.

In 2013, a Hannibal TV series premiered. Featuring the great Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the title role, the series was a prequel to Red Dragon, with Lecter helping FBI special agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) hunt bizarre and sadistic serial killers.

An unusual friendship develops between the two men, but soon it becomes apparent that Graham's pursuit of serial killers - using his uncanny ability to enter their depraved minds - poses a serious threat to his sanity.

What Will doesn't realize is that the main serial killer he's been pursuing, the Chesapeake Ripper, is really the brilliant psychiatrist who's been assisting him as a consultant - Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Stylishly gruesome and surreal, (and surprisingly graphic for network TV) the series, which ran for three seasons, was a hit with critics and viewers alike.

Quote Of The Day

"Problem solving is hunting. It is savage pleasure and we are born to it." - Thomas Harris

Vanguard Video

Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the 2001 feature film adaptation of Thomas Harris' 1999 novel, Hannibal. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Notes For March 22nd, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On March 22nd, 1947, the legendary American writer James Patterson was born in Newburgh, New York. He earned his Master's Degree from Vanderbilt University. In 1985, at the age of 38, Patterson retired from his successful advertising career to write full time.

Before he retired from advertising, Patterson had written three novels. His first, a mystery novel called The Thomas Berryman Number (1976), won him an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

His fifth novel, the first in a classic series of suspense thrillers, was a huge bestseller and established him as one of the greatest suspense novelists of all time.

Along Came a Spider (1993) introduced Patterson's most famous character, Alex Cross, an African-American homicide detective for the Washington, D.C. police. He's also a brilliant forensic psychologist.

The novel opens with Cross suddenly pulled off the case he's been working on - the bizarre and savage murder of two black prostitutes - and reassigned to investigate the kidnapping of two students from an exclusive private school.

Cross is angered at being pulled off his double murder case, and feels that the department cares more about rich white children that poor black women. What he doesn't know is that both cases are linked.

They are the work of Gary Soneji, a math teacher at the private school the children attended. After a standoff at a McDonald's restaurant, Soneji is captured, and Cross must figure out what he did with the children.

Using his skills as a psychologist, Cross hypnotizes Soneji several times and pieces together the horrifying truth. Soneji is a split personality. He is both Gary Murphy, a gentle teacher and loving family man, and Gary Soneji, a vicious, bloodthirsty psychopathic serial killer.

The kidnapping of the children was part of a ransom plot. In order to save the children, Cross must track down Soneji's partners in crime - a task that is complicated when Soneji escapes from prison. He wants to get to his partners - and the ransom money - before Cross does.

Along Came a Spider was adapted as a feature film in 2001, featuring Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross. Widely panned by critics, (and fans) it scored only 32% on the Tomatometer. Another film, Alex Cross (2012), was even more reviled by critics and scored just 12% on the Tomatometer.

There are twenty-three novels in the Alex Cross series so far; the 23rd, Alex Cross vs. The People, was released last year. Another of James Patterson's popular suspense novel series is the Women's Murder Club series.

The first Women's Murder Club novel, 1st To Die, was published in 2001. In it, San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer is called to the scene of a horrific crime - a young newlywed couple has been viciously murdered in their hotel room on their wedding night, the bride still in her wedding gown.

Lindsay's investigation is complicated by her personal problems - she suffers from severe depression and a life threatening blood disease. She could use a little help, and she's about to get some.

Covering the story of the crime is Cindy Thomas, a rookie investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Lindsay and Cindy form an unlikely friendship as Lindsay begins tracking down a brutal, twisted serial killer.

Soon, two new friends join in - city medical examiner Claire Washburn and Assistant District Attorney Jill Bernhardt. The four ladies decide to pool their talents and resources to catch the serial killer, and The Women's Murder Club is born. There are sixteen Women's Murder Club novels. The sixteenth, 16th Seduction, was published in 2017.

In 2005, James Patterson began a new series of novels in a new genre - young adult fantasy. The series was called Maximum Ride and the first book, The Angel Experiment, introduced the heroine, Maximum "Max" Ride.

14-year-old Max is the leader of The Flock, a group of children ages 6-14 who are winged human-bird hybrids (98% human, 2% bird) created by genetic engineering. In addition to being able to fly, the Flock possesses other powers.

The Flock, which also includes Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel, are on the run from the scientists who created them. The scientists have dispatched superhuman assassins called Erasers to kill off The Flock in order to keep their creations a secret.

A feature film adaptation of The Angel Experiment, titled Maximum Ride, was released last year. The film is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and is streaming on Netflix.

In addition to his series novels, James Patterson has written many stand-alone novels. Most of his novels are huge bestsellers. In recent years, he has outsold Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dan Brown - combined. One in 17 hardcover novels sold in the United States is by James Patterson.

Patterson's philanthropic endeavors are geared toward promoting literacy. In 2005, he established the James Patterson Page Turner Awards, which awarded nearly a million dollars a year to schools, institutions, companies, and individuals who encourage people to read.

In 2008, Patterson put the Page Turner Awards on hold and began a new initiative,, which is for parents, teachers, librarians, and others who want to encourage children to read. The site helps them find the best books for kids and provides information such as lesson plans for teachers and social networking.

Quote Of The Day

"When I write I pretend I'm telling a story to someone in the room and I don't want them to get up until I'm finished." - James Patterson

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a recent interview of James Patterson at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Notes For March 21st, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On March 21st, 1556, the famous English writer and cleric Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake. Cranmer, a leader of the English Reformation and the Archbishop of Canterbury, was part of the Oxford Martyrs - three men who were executed by order of Queen Mary I.

The other two Oxford Martyrs were Hugh Latimer, the Bishop of Worcester, and Nicholas Ridley, the Bishop of Rochester. They had all run afoul of the heresy laws of Queen Mary I.

Mary I, England's notorious Catholic monarch, would be known as "Bloody Mary" for executing over 300 Protestant clerics and reformers during her five-year reign.

Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was Queen Mary's most prized target, for he had championed William Tyndale's English language Bible, which was deemed heretical by the Vatican, as it had declared the Latin Bible to be the true Bible.

Cranmer had also been partly responsible for the Church of England's break with the Holy See by building a case for the divorce of Mary's father, King Henry VIII, from her mother, Catherine of Aragon.

Worst of all, Cranmer had written and compiled the first two editions of The Book of Common Prayer which contained not just prayers but also the complete liturgy of the Anglican Church. This was the ultimate violation of Queen Mary's heresy laws.

The Queen had not originally intended to execute Cranmer; she had a different plan for him which she hoped would result in a huge propaganda coup against the Anglican Church.

First, Cranmer was forced to watch his friends Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley be tried, convicted, and executed by burning right after the verdicts were delivered.

Then, Cranmer himself was tried for heresy and treason. He appealed to Rome to be tried by a papal court instead of the Queen's secular court. His appeal was denied.

After his conviction, he was sent to prison to await execution. He was offered a commutation of his death sentence if he would recant his Protestant faith in writing.

Thomas Cranmer would write not one, not two, but four recantations during the two years he spent in prison. The authorities believed that his fourth recantation was most likely genuine.

He was released to the custody of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. While living at the Dean's house, Cranmer was counselled by a Dominican friar, Juan de Villagarcia.

Although Cranmer had in writing pledged his loyalty to the English monarchy and recognized the Pope's authority as head of the Church, he had conceded little in the matter of Protestant versus Catholic doctrine, so he was returned to prison.

Two days after a writ for Cranmer's execution was issued, he wrote a fifth recantation which was deemed genuine. He was a broken old man so desperate to save his life that he wrote a sweeping confession.

In his detailed catalog of his sins against the Catholic Church, Cranmer begged for mercy, but Queen Mary would have none. She ordered his execution to take place, though he was told that he could make one final, public recantation to plead for his life. So he wrote one.

Then, the day before his execution, while on the pulpit at University Church to make his final recantation, Thomas Cranmer changed his mind and decided to go out in a blaze of glory - literally.

Instead of delivering a final, ultimate recantation of his Protestant faith, he renounced all of his previous recantations, blasted the Catholic Church, and denounced the Pope.

Cranmer was seized, removed from the pulpit, taken to the place where Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were burned at the stake before him, and executed. He put his right hand, which he used to write his recantations, into the fire before it consumed the rest of his body.

Ironically, two years later, Queen Mary I died of influenza at the age of 42. Her successor and half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I, would restore the Anglican Church to power, repeal the heresy laws, and broker a historic settlement between the Anglican and Catholic Churches.

An adapted version of Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer would be designated the new Anglican Church's official liturgy.

The burning of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley would inspire the legendary American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury to write his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953).

The hero, Guy Montag, resists the government's attempts to force him to recant his belief that books shouldn't be burned. Bradbury quotes Latimer's last words to Ridley before their execution:

Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.

Quote Of The Day

"I have sinned, in that I signed with my hand what I did not believe with my heart. When the flames are lit, this hand shall be the first to burn." - Thomas Cranmer, his last words

Vanguard Video

Today's video features the final speech given by Thomas Cranmer before his execution. Note: you'll want to expand this video to full screen. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Notes For March 20th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On March 20th, 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the classic novel by the legendary American writer Harriet Beecher Stowe, was published. Like most novels of the time, it first appeared in a serialized version. It was published by The National Era, an abolitionist magazine.

The author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and her husband, Calvin Stowe, were both ferocious abolitionists and dedicated their home to the Underground Railroad - the famous secret network of safe houses for fugitive slaves traveling en route to free states.

In 1850, Congress, bowing to pressure from the South, tried to tighten the screws on the Underground Railroad by passing the Fugitive Slave Act, which made it illegal for people - even those living in free states - to assist fugitive slaves.

The law also compelled local law enforcement to arrest fugitive slaves and provide assistance to the vicious bounty hunters privately hired to track runaway slaves.

The free states reacted with outrage to the Fugitive Slave Act, which resulted in gross abuses. Many openly defied it. Several free states passed laws granting personal liberties, including the right to a fair trial, to fugitive slaves.

Wisconsin's state Supreme Court declared the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional. The law failed to disrupt the Underground Railroad; by the time it was passed, the network had become far more efficient. Afterward, it grew as the unjust law inspired scores of moderate abolitionists to become passionate activists.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was written as a response to the Fugitive Slave Act - to educate people about the horrors of slavery. The novel told the unforgettable story of a kind and noble slave whose faith and spirit cannot be broken by the evils of slavery.

The novel opens on a Kentucky farm owned by Arthur and Emily Shelby, who like to think that they're kind to their slaves. However, when he needs money, Arthur has no problem selling two of his slaves without regard to where they might end up.

The slaves are Uncle Tom, a wise and compassionate middle-aged man, and Harry, the son of Emily's maid, Eliza. The Shelbys' son George, who looked upon Uncle Tom as a friend and mentor, hates to see him go.

Uncle Tom and Harry are sold to a slave trader and shipped by riverboat down the Mississippi. While on the boat, Uncle Tom strikes up a friendship with Eva, a little white girl. When she falls into the river, he saves her life.

Her grateful father, Augustine St. Clare, buys Uncle Tom from the slave trader and takes him to his home in New Orleans. There, the friendship between Uncle Tom and Eva deepens. Sadly, Eva becomes severely ill and dies - but not before sharing her vision of heaven.

Moved by how much Uncle Tom meant to Eva, her father vows to help him become a free man. His racist cousin Ophelia is moved to reject her prejudice against blacks. Unfortunately, Augustine St. Clare is killed at a tavern, and his wife reneges on his promise to help Uncle Tom.

She sells him at auction to Simon Legree, who owns a plantation in Louisiana. Legree is an evil, perverse, sadistic racist who tortures his male slaves and sexually abuses the women. When Uncle Tom refuses to follow Legree's order to whip another slave, Legree beats him savagely.

The beating fails to break Uncle Tom's spirit or his faith in God. The sight of Uncle Tom reading his bible and comforting other slaves makes Legree's blood boil. He determines to break Uncle Tom and nearly succeeds, as the daily horrors of life on the plantation erode the slave's faith and hope.

Just when it seems that Uncle Tom will succumb to hopelessness, he has two visions - one of little Eva and one of Jesus himself. Moved by these visions, Uncle Tom vows to remain a faithful Christian until the day he dies.

He encourages two fellow slaves, Cassy and Emmeline, to run away. Later, when Simon Legree demands that Uncle Tom reveal their whereabouts, he refuses. A furious Legree orders his overseers to beat Uncle Tom to death.

As he lay dying, Uncle Tom forgives the overseers, which inspires them to repent. George Shelby arrives with money to buy Uncle Tom's freedom. Sadly, it's too late. Uncle Tom dies before he can become a free man.

George returns to his parents' farm in Kentucky and frees their slaves, telling them to always remember Uncle Tom's sacrifice and unshakable faith. That's actually just a bare outline of this classic epic novel.

The publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin caused a national uproar. In the North, it was regarded as the bible of abolitionism and inspired many closet abolitionists to come out and join in the fight against slavery.

In the South, the book was regarded as an outrage. It was called utterly false and slanderous - a criminal defamation of the South. Many Southern writers who supported slavery wrote literature dedicated to debunking Harriet Beecher Stowe's expose of the horrors of slavery.

Their writings, called "anti-Tom" literature, portrayed white Southerners as benevolent supervisors of blacks, who were depicted as a helpless, child-like people unable to survive without the direct supervision of their white masters.

To defend herself against the South's accusations of slander and defamation, Stowe wrote and published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853), a non-fiction book documenting the horrors of slavery that she both witnessed herself and researched, which inspired her to write Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The book included surprisingly graphic descriptions of the sexual abuse of female slaves, who, in addition to being molested or raped by their white masters and overseers, were also prostituted and forced to "mate" with male slaves to produce offspring that would fetch a good price on the auction block.

When Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared in book form in 1852, it was published in an initial press run of 5,000 copies. That year, it sold 300,000 copies. Its London edition sold 200,000 copies throughout the United Kingdom. It became a hit throughout Europe as well.

Ironically, by the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, the book was out of print in the United States, as Stowe's original publisher had gone out of business. She found another publisher, and when the book was republished in 1862, the demand for copies soared.

That same year, Harriet Beecher Stowe was invited to Washington D.C. to meet with President Abraham Lincoln, who supposedly said to her, "So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."

The novel would be adapted many times for the stage, screen, radio, and television. In the 20th century, Uncle Tom's Cabin courted a new controversy that continues to this day. African-American activists have accused the abolitionist novel of being racist itself, with racial stereotypes and epithets.

This, like the accusations of racism leveled against Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) comes from a failure to place the novel in its proper historical perspective and consider its overall message.

Quote Of The Day

"I did not write it. God wrote it. I merely did his dictation." - Harriet Beecher Stowe on her classic novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2018

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Eric Petersen

My review of Dominic, a suspense thriller by Mark Pryor, has been published by the Internet Review of Books.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Notes For March 16th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On March 16th, 1850, The Scarlet Letter, the classic novel by the legendary American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, was published in the United States.

The author, born in Salem, Massachusetts, changed the spelling of his name from Hathorne to Hawthorne to distance himself from the shameful acts of his relatives. His great-great-great grandfather, William Hathorne, was a magistrate infamous for his lack of compassion and extremely harsh sentences.

Hathorne's son John was even worse. John Hathorne served as a judge during the notorious Salem Witch Trials, where many innocent people were falsely accused of witchcraft, convicted in kangaroo courts, then tortured and executed.

John Hathorne was the only judge who refused to repent or express any regret for his contemptible actions during the Salem Witch Trials. His infamy would besmirch the Hathorne family name for generations.

It was the shame and guilt that Nathaniel Hawtorne felt for the actions of his ancestors and his own contempt for Puritanism that moved him to write his greatest novel.

Set in a Puritan village in 17th century Boston, The Scarlet Letter told the story of Hester Prynne, a married woman whose much older husband had sent her ahead to America while he settled some business affairs.

He never came to join her in Boston and is presumed dead, lost at sea. In the meantime, the lonely Hester had an affair and became pregnant as a result.

The novel opens with Hester led from the town prison with her baby daughter Pearl in her arms and a piece of scarlet cloth in the shape of the capital letter A pinned to the breast of her dress - a penalty for her adultery.

The scarlet letter is a badge of shame that she must wear for all to see. Hester is led to the town scaffold, where she is forced to endure the verbal abuse of the town fathers. An elderly spectator asks what's going on, and a man in the crowd tells him.

The elderly spectator is actually Hester's missing husband, who is now a doctor living under the assumed name of Roger Chillingworth. He wants to take revenge on the man who seduced his wife. He reveals his true identity to Hester, but she won't reveal the identity of her lover.

Several years pass, and Pearl has become a willful and impish little girl. Hester supports herself and her daughter by working as a seamstress.

Still scorned by the community, they live in a small cottage on the outskirts of Boston. When town officials try to take Pearl away from her mother, the young, eloquent minister Arthur Dimmesdale intervenes to thwart their plans.

Dimmesdale appears to be dying, wasting away from a mysterious heart condition. Chillingworth takes him on as a patient, later moving in with him to provide round-the-clock medical care. The doctor believes that Dimmesdale's condition is psychosomatic, perhaps caused by guilt.

He begins to suspect that the minister is his wife's lover. One day, while Dimmesdale sleeps, Chillingworth discovers something that convinces him that his suspicions are correct - supposedly the capital letter A burned into the minister's chest.

Meanwhile, Hester Prynne's kindness, charity, and quiet humility finally earn her a reprieve from public scorn. When she and Pearl return home one night, they find Dimmesdale atop the town scaffold, trying to punish himself for his sins. They join him on the scaffold.

The three hold hands, and Pearl asks the minister to publicly acknowledge that she is his daughter. He refuses. A streaking meteor forms a dull letter A in the night sky. Dimmesdale believes it's the sign of adultery, but the townspeople think that it means "angel," as a prominent member of the community died that night.

When Chillingworth refuses to abandon his plan for revenge, Hester tells Dimmesdale that Chillingworth is really her missing husband. The lovers decide to flee with Pearl to Europe, where they can live as a family.

They both feel a great sense of release and relief. Hester removes her scarlet letter and lets down her hair. In one of the novel's most striking metaphors, sunlight immediately breaks through the clouds and trees to illuminate Hester's joyous release.

The day before their ship is to sail, Dimmesdale gives his most eloquent sermon ever. Hester finds out that her husband has learned of her plans and booked passage on her ship. When Dimmesdale leaves the church, he sees Hester and Pearl standing before the town scaffold.

Dimmesdale impulsively takes them to the top and publicly confesses to being Hester's lover and the father of her child, exposing the mark supposedly seared into his chest. Pearl kisses him. Relieved of his burden, Dimmesdale collapses and dies.

Frustrated over being denied his revenge, a bitter Chillingworth dies a year later, and Hester and Pearl leave Boston. Although she is not his daughter, Pearl inherits all of Chillingworth's money.

Many years later, Hester Prynne returns to her old cottage alone and resumes her charity work. She receives letters from Pearl, now married to a European aristocrat and with children of her own. The townspeople finally forgive Hester for her indiscretion, and she - and the other women in town - feel a strong sense of liberation.

The Scarlet Letter is rightfully considered one of the greatest works of 19th century literature, and is still widely read and appreciated. It would be adapted numerous times for the radio, stage, screen, and television.

The most famous feature film adaptations were the brilliant 1973 version directed by legendary German filmmaker Wim Wenders, and the dreadful 1995 Hollywood version starring Demi Moore as Hester Prynne, which took great liberties with the novel and was widely - and rightfully - panned by critics.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the greatest writers of his generation. His other great works include the novel The House of the Seven Gables (1851) and the short story collections Twice-Told Tales (1837) and Tanglewood Tales (1853). He died in 1864 at the age of 59.

Quote Of The Day

"It is beautiful, admirable, extraordinary; it has in the highest degree that merit which I have spoken of as the mark of Hawthorne's best things - an indefinable purity and lightness of conception... one can often return to it; it supports familiarity and has the inexhaustible charm and mystery of great works of art." - Henry James on Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, The Scarlet Letter.

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Notes For March 15th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On March 15th, 1956, My Fair Lady, the acclaimed hit musical based on the classic play Pygmalion by the legendary Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, opened on Broadway.

It premiered at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City. The production then moved to the Broadhurst Theatre, and finally, to the Broadway Theatre, where it closed in 1962 after 2,717 performances.

Set in Edwardian London, My Fair Lady told the story of Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics who meets a young flower seller named Eliza Dolittle when she tells off a young man named Freddy Eynsford-Hill for spilling her violets.

The ill-mannered Eliza speaks with an ear-torturing Cockney accent, her words filled with slang expressions and colloquialisms.

Professor Higgins makes a wager with his linguist friend Colonel Pickering, betting that Eliza could be taught to speak and act like a proper lady, after which, he will introduce her at the Embassy Ball. Pickering doesn't believe that he can make a lady out of such a vulgar girl.

Eliza moves into Higgins' house and begins taking lessons from him. Her father soon pays a visit, concerned that the Professor is compromising her virtue. Higgins buys him off with five pounds.

As Eliza's lessons progress, she grows frustrated and fantasizes about killing Higgins. But soon, the flower seller begins to bloom.

Eliza's first public presentation, at the Ascot Racecourse, proves successful, but then she suffers a relapse, returning to her Cockney vulgarity. This charms Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the young man she had met and scolded earlier. He falls in love with her.

Higgins continues with Eliza's lessons. She faces her final test at the Embassy Ball and passes with flying colors. Afterward, Colonel Pickering praises Higgins for his triumph in making a lady out of Eliza.

When she learns of their bet, she feels that Higgins used her and is now abandoning her. Their relationship ends in a huff when Higgins insults Eliza and she storms off. Soon, even Colonel Pickering becomes annoyed with Higgins, who has always been a self-absorbed misogynist.

When Eliza plans to marry Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Higgins realizes that he loves her, but can't bring himself to confess his true feelings to her. The musical ends on an ambiguous note, suggesting a possible reconciliation between Higgins and Eliza.

My Fair Lady became a huge hit, one of Broadway's most famous and popular musicals. It was written by the legendary team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe.

The original cast featured Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins, and a young, virtually unknown British actress named Julie Andrews as Eliza. The Original Cast Recording became the best selling album of 1957 and 1958.

George Bernard Shaw died in 1950; he never lived to see the Broadway musical adaptation of his play, Pygmalion. If he had, there wouldn't have been a musical for him to see.

In 1908, Shaw's classic play The Chocolate Soldier was adapted as an operetta, and he hated it so much that he vowed that none of his plays would ever be set to music again. He kept that vow for the rest of his life.

In 1964, eight years after the musical debuted on Broadway, My Fair Lady was adapted as a feature film, directed by George Cukor.

Rex Harrison reprised his role as Professor Higgins, but producer and studio boss Jack Warner decided to cast Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle instead of Julie Andrews.

This decision angered fans of the musical, but Warner was concerned that casting Andrews would be risky because she had no film experience. Then he found that Audrey Hepburn couldn't sing, so her vocals had to be dubbed by Marni Nixon.

But Julie Andrews got the last laugh - she gave an Oscar winning performance in the classic Disney movie musical Mary Poppins - beating Hepburn for the Academy Award!

Quote Of The Day

"All great truths begin as blasphemies." - George Bernard Shaw

Vanguard Video

Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the 1964 feature film adaptation of My Fair Lady. Enjoy!

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