“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin
The first flakes have hit the ground and are (gulp) staying. The sun and its radiating heat has dipped and we head inside, more or less. Perchance to read. But what? November has been the source of many good writers, and many good reads. Predictably an eclectic bunch, here are just a few names to consider as you head to your personal library down the hall, or the public library down the street:
Bram Stoker born November 8 in 1847:
Born in Ireland, Stoker, after becoming the business manager of a London theatre, started writing fantastic stories, one of which became the horror “invasion lit” classic Dracula, the vampiric story emanating out of a weird Transylvanian castle. Attributed to Stoker: “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”
Neil Gaiman born November 10 in 1960:
The prolific British writer lives close by in Minnesota. His genres include comics, graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy short stories and novels. Titles include American Gods, Coraline, Stardust, The Sandman and his 2013 offering The Ocean at the End of the Lane. He has said: “Picking five favourite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to use.” He’s got a point.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky born November 11 in 1821: The great Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist and journalist explored the human condition in troubled 19th century Russia. His notable works included Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Notes from Underground and The Brothers Karamazov. He once said: “The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” Did you know that his use of multiple voices became an important milestone in the development of the novel?
Robert Louis Stevenson born November 13 in 1950: The great Scottish writer, poet, and playwright got the idea for Treasure Island while colouring an imaginary map with his step-son during a rainy summer holiday. Even more imaginative was his perceptive psychological exploration of our shadow side in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Portuguese playwright, novelist and short story writer, not to mention Nobel Prize winner, José Saramago was born November 16 in 1922: His writings include the psychological fiction title Blindness, later turned into a wonderful movie of the same name. He once said: “A human being is a being who is constantly ‘under construction,’ but also, in a parallel fashion, always in a state of constant destruction.” I like the complexity of that.
Margaret Atwood born November 18 in 1939:
She of course has written more than a few notable works of fiction, including her recent MaddAddam novel, which concludes the dystopian trilogy which began with Oryx and Crake and then The Year of the Flood. A revealing Atwood quote I like: “Every utopia – let’s just stick with the literary ones – faces the same problem: What do you do with the people who don’t fit in?”
George Eliot (aka Mary Anne Evans) born November 22 in 1819: The English novelist adopted her pseudonym when she published an early short story. Her novels include Middlemarch, Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss. An Eliot quote to remember when times are tough: “Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.”
Arundhati Roy born November 24 in 1961:
She wrote about how small things in life affect people’s behaviour in this story about twins: The God of Small Things. She said in another work: “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
C.S. Lewis born November 29 in 1898:
The Christian apologist is probably best known for his imaginative fiction, The Space Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia. Who can forget Aslan the Lion: “Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) born November 30 in 1835: Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and many short stories. Unfortunately he was not a fan of my favourite pastime. His infamous remark: “Golf is a a good walk spoiled.” I take offence!
Other November literary birthdays include Albert Camus, Margaret Mitchell, Isaac Singer, Carl Sagan, Andre Gide, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Kurt Vonnegut.