Bookish News of the Day

On this date, in 1953 – James D. Watson and Francis Crick announce to friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA; the formal announcement takes place on April 25 following publication in April’s Nature (pub. April 2). (Rosalind Franklin also deserves big credit for her work on this discovery, but is often omitted.)

Welcome to your Bookish News of the Day!


Born on this Day

1812 – Bertold Auerbach, German poet & author
1894 – Ben Hecht, American playwright
1895 – Marcel Pagnol, French writer
1909 – Stephen Spender, English poet &
1929 – John Montague, Irish poet
1930 – Bruse Dawe, Australian poet
1970 – Daniel Handler, American writer

Died on This Day

1869 – Alphonse de Lamartine, French writer & Poet
1916 – Henry James, American writer
1967 – Henry Luce, American publisher
2004 – Carmen Laforet, Spanish author


RIP, Jan Bernstain

Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan wrote and illustrated the Berenstain Bears books that have charmed preschoolers and their parents for 50 years, has died. She was 88.

Berenstain, a longtime resident of Solebury in southeastern Pennsylvania, suffered a severe stroke on Thursday and died Friday without regaining consciousness, her son Mike Berenstain said.


Anna Karenina for the Big Screen

Now, I love me some Anna Karenina…but I have had some concerns since it was announced that Kiera Knightly would be playing Anna. Yesterday, still shots from the filming were shared.


The Paris Review at 200!

The April edition of The Paris Review will be the publication’s 200th issue! And it looks to be huge!


John Steinbeck

One of John Steinbeck’s diaries is available for online viewing from The Morgan Library & Museum. This diary was kept by Steinbeck during the writing of The Grapes of Wrath.


Tips for Writers, From Writers

Many readers are writers. All writers are readers! Here, Time Soak has compiled a list of 105 tips for writers, taken from some of the best known writers of all time.


Minimalist Fairy Tale Posters

Now, I am not one to crave the olden days or hang onto thoughts that childhood was better…but these posters are so cool and – if i had a kid – I would actually consider buying one or two for their room.


Poem of the Day

I Think Continually

by Stephen Spender

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun they travelled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.


Sir Stephen Harold Spender (born on this day in 1909) was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work. He was appointed the seventeenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the United States Library of Congress in 1965.

A biography of Spender was published in 1999.


Word of the Day

pettifog \ PET-ee-fog \ , verb;

1. To bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters.
2. To carry on a petty, shifty, or unethical law business.
3. To practice chicanery of any sort.


Marius, my boy, you are a baron, you are rich, don’t pettifog , I beg of you.
— Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Naturally, the wonderful tubers Brillat-Savarin dug up and dished out lacked the penultimate refinements of washing and cooking, but it would’ve been gauche to pettifog.
— Elizabeth Gundy, The Disappearance of Gregory Pluckrose


Pettifog comes from the Middle Dutch word voeger meaning one who arranges things and the word petty meaning insignificant.


And Finally….

Writing is hard work!

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Leo Tolstoy; he was found dead at Astapovo train station in 1910. Tolstoy had finally decided to leave his family, at the age of 82, to begin the life of a wandering ascetic, however, he had only been away from home for a few days when he succumbed to pneumonia. Tolstoy had long been considered radical in his beliefs – pacifism and spiritual anarchy, for example. In fact, his ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Tolstoy, years earlier, also sought to reject his inherited and earned wealth, including the renunciation of the copyrights on his earlier works. His origins, as a member of the aristocratic Tolstoy family, a privileged and noble station in Russia, came to offer sharp contrast to the non-violent and spiritual anarchist of his latter days. This conversion was brought about by two trips around Europe in 1857 and 1860–61, a period when many liberal-leaning Russian aristocrats escaped the stifling political repression of home.

Considered Russia’s greatest novelist and, perhaps, even, the world’s, his contemporary, Fyodor Dostoevsky, paid Tolstoy a high compliment, proclaiming him “The greatest of all living novelists”. Heady praise indeed, coming from a man who is also a brilliant novelist. It is difficult to argue with Dostoevsky’s assessment, though. In an article today, Slate calls Tolstoy “Russia’s thunderous prophet” One of my favourite books (perhaps my most favourite, though I have yet to read War and Peace – which will be remedied in January when I begin reading it) is Anna Karenina. It is considered the apex of realist fiction and while dismissed by Russian critics, upon publication, as a “trifling romance of high life” , Fyodor Dostoevsky (again! ) declared it to be “flawless as a work of art”. His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired “the flawless magic of Tolstoy’s style”, and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as “the best ever written”. The novel enjoyed a surge in popularity as demonstrated by poll of 125 contemporary authors by J. Peder Zane, published in 2007 in The Top Ten, which declared that Anna Karenina is the “greatest novel ever written”.

Anna Karenina is a novel of love, betrayal, and death and is a stunning work of genius. The life of unhappily married, beautiful, passionate Anna Karenina, and her love affair with the dashing Count Vronsky, is contrasted with the courtship and marriage of Levin and Kitty and Levin’s search for the truth about life, God, and himself. More than a story about the joys and sorrows of human relationships, Anna Karenina brings 19th-century upper-class Russia to life, and intelligently discusses a plethora of social issues that are still very relevant to the modern world.

I recommend this book very highly. The edition I would select is the version with translation work by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.They have become celebrities in the world of Russian translation and have worked on fifteen other novels as well. In speaking of their work on War and Peace, Orlando Figes, eminent Russian historian stated: ” The English-speaking world is indebted to these two magnificent translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, for revealing more of its hidden riches than any who have tried to translate the book before.” (We will, for the sake of this post, ignore the tiny brouhaha Figes found himself caught up in earlier this year, shall we?)

So, if you haven’t indulged in and of Tolstoy’s work, why not? Yes his two most famous novels are big and could be seen as intimidating, but the stories with are pure magic and should be savoured by readers everywhere.