Sunday, December 18, 2011

Give an Author this Holiday - Action Dolls?

As featured this week on NPR's quiz show Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, Uneek Dolls gives Etsy shoppers a chance to give their favorite author for the holidays. As a homemade doll.
    The craft shop stocks nearly 40 writer dolls, including Mark Twain (source of Soul of a People's title), WPA enthusiast John Steinbeck, and Carson McCullers (good friend of Richard Wright, whose glowing review of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter appeared soon after his own novel Native Son had been a smash).
    In the limerick clue, the show's own writers joked the dolls might not fulfill every child's dreams of dancing sugar plums: I'll be watching toy-making elves a bit tighter/ Plath and Kafka won't make Christmas brighter/ I'll have to recall this strange line of dolls/ What kid wants to play with a writer?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Griots for a Global Village

This year marks the 100th birthday of Romare Bearden, and yesterday's article by Holland Cotter (with a slideshow) noted several ongoing celebrations of his work. Bringing together several themes in this blog, Cotter's article is titled "Griot for a Global Village." Bearden's visual storytelling adapts rhythms and motifs from traditional forms and makes them new, as did several other Harlem artists of the 1930s. Jacob Lawrence spoke of the interwoven fabric of visual and narrative art that emerged in that period, when he explored writing and Ralph Ellison studied sculpture.
    Bearden's Foundation shows the broad sweep of that vision in his case, and how it continues to influence the way we see stories. There you find the statement about his influence by the griot of American 20th century theater, August Wilson: "What I saw was Black life presented on its own terms, on a grand and epic scale, with all its richness and fullness."

Blurb is a Verb: Your Book Trailer as Calling Card: A Success Story

Guest post on Sarah Pinneo's helpful book publicity blog.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WPA Stories Caught the Quiet Before Pearl Harbor

On the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it's hard to imagine a time when that name didn't sound shadowed by a surprise strike. But just two years before the 1941 attack, family members spoke sunnily of their loved ones stationed in the faraway port in the South Pacific.
    The WPA life histories, lost in storehouses for decades, are now safe and searchable on the Library of Congress website.
   "By a strange coincidence, this boy, the pride of my life, is a soldier of Uncle Sam," Eliza Brady of Fernandina Florida says of her son Anthony. She tells WPA writer Rose Shepherd proudly that he "is Lieutenant-Commander of the aerial squadron in Pearl Harbor at Honolulu, Hawaii."
    Ernest Gerber, a Swiss-American farmer in Marietta Georgia, recalled his stint in Pearl Harbor during an earlier world war. "
    "In September 1917 they sent me to the hospital at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii," he told A.G. Barie. "I was assigned to repair room and ward duties," but he spent his off-duty hours exploring the island with photography, often by boat. He told his interviewer of a rare surprise during his stay:
   "A man who was preparing material for a book embracing a story concerning the eruption of a volcano had come to the island for inspiration, and he asked me if I would be willing to take a party to Launa Los. I had been planning a trip there myself so we got a party together and sailed over. One of the men was a camera man for Fox Films." As they approached the volcano from the beach, "suddenly it seemed as if the earth itself was about to go to pieces. After a short sharp rumble a mass of smoke and fire shot up into the air hundreds of feet and a stream of lava rushed through an opening in the crater walls... This was the eruption of 1918, which furnished headlines for the newspapers, and stories for some of the magazines."