Happy Birthday #54 to the Pulitzer prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee published on this day in 1960.
Garrison Keillor assessed the impact of To Kill A Mockingbird, “The novel has sold more than 30 million copies since it was published, and has been translated into 40 languages. In 1999, librarians named it their favorite 20th-century novel. It was also one of the most frequently challenged or banned books of the 20th century.”
To Kill A Mockingbird is finally available in eBook form.
After years of holding out, author Harper Lee agreed to the book’s digital publication back in April. The e-book and a new audio book narrated by Sissy Spacek (can you say, “perfect choice”?) Amazon is selling the title for $3.99 in the Kindle Store. Barnes & Noble has it for $8.99 in the Nook Store. Apple has the iBook available for $4.99. Source: GalleyCat
This is what 146 years old looks like!
On June 23 1868, the first typewriter was patented by Christopher Latham Sholes. It only had capital letters and it took up as much room as a large table. Typewriters were slow sellers at first, but Mark Twain bought one almost as soon as they came out, and in 1883 Twain sent the manuscript of his book Life on the Mississippi (1883) to his publisher in typed form, the first author ever to do so.
Source: The Writer’s Almanac
Typewriter Picture Source
Today is Dr. Seuss‘ birthday (books by this author). He was born Theodor Geisel, in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. His mother read bedtime stories to him every night. He’s the author of more than 60 children’s books, including Horton Hears a Who! (1954), One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), Hop on Pop (1963), Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975), The Butter
Battle Book (1984), and of course, The Cat in the Hat (1957) which uses just 220 different words. His first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which he said was inspired by the rhythms of a steamliner cruiser on which he rode.
Seuss was actually his mother’s maiden name and he took it as a pen name when writing for the Dartmouth campus magazine. Garrison Keillor writes interestingly of this time in Dr. Seuss’ life in The Writer’s Almanac. Keillor describes Seuss’ writing style as “rhyming anapestic meter, also called trisyllabic meter.”
“The meter is very alluring and catchy, and Seuss’s masterful use of it is a big part of why his books are so enjoyable to read. The meter is made up of two weak beats followed by a stressed syllable — da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM, as in “And today the Great Yertle, that Marvelous he / Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.”
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac
“Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast” ~Julius Caesar, on the crossing of the Rubicon, January 10, 49BC
According to Garrison Keillor in The Writer’s Almanac, “With Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, the Roman Republic was thrown into civil war. Eventually, Caesar defeated Pompey and his allies and emerged as the winner. As emperor, he made some radical changes in government. He decreased the power of the provinces, and centralized power in Rome. He eliminated much of the government’s debt, disbanded powerful guilds, and rewarded people for having children in an effort to increase Rome’s population. He set a term limit on governors, launched a huge rebuilding effort, established a police force, and modified the calendar. He made himself incredibly powerful and demanded that everyone revere him as part-deity. Because of Caesar, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” has entered popular culture, meaning ‘past the point of no return.'”
A Poem for the First Monday of the Year, perhaps for students to listen to at some point today:
by Mary Oliver
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
Listen to this poem read by Garrison Keillor (cue to 3:00)
From Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac:
December 9th is the birthday of one of the people who helped invent the modern computer: Grace Hopper, born in New York City (1906). She began tinkering around with machines when she was seven years old, dismantling several alarm clocks around the house to see how they worked.
She studied math and physics in college, and eventually earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale. When World War II broke out, and Hopper wanted to serve her country. Her father had been an admiral in the Navy, so she applied to a division of the Navy called WAVES, which stood for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. She was assigned to work on a machine that might help calculate the trajectory of bombs and rockets.
She learned how to program that early computing machine, and wrote the first instruction manual for its use. She went on to work on several more versions of the same machine. In 1952, Hopper noticed that most computer errors were the result of humans making mistakes in writing programs. So she attempted to solve that problem by writing a new computer language that used ordinary words instead of just numbers. It was one of the first computer languages, and the first designed to help ordinary people write computer programs, and she went on to help develop it into the computer language known as COBOL, or “Common Business-Oriented Language.”