Did You Know . . . ?

Novelist and playwright William Saroyan (The Human Comedy and The Time of Your Life) and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian wrote the 1951 Rosemary Clooney hit “Come On-a My House.”  The music was based on an Armenian folk song (both men were Armenian-Americans).  Bagdasarian was also the creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks.  If you are old enough to remember Alvin and the Chipmunks, you will remember that David Seville was supposedly their creator.  “David Seville” was Bagdasarian’s stage name.

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Next time you’re at a party, challenge the others to come up with the shortest short story they can think of.  Then dazzle them with your brilliance by reciting Lydia Davis’ short story “Samuel Johnson Is Indignant” in its entirety.  Here is the complete short story: “Samuel Johnson is indignant: that Scotland has so few trees.”  Samuel Johnson Is Indignant is also the title of her 2002 short story collection.

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The planet Uranus has twenty seven known moons, many of which are named after characters from Shakespeare’s plays.  They include Titania, Oberon, and Puck (all from A Midsummer Night’s Dream); Cordelia (from King Lear); Ophelia (from Hamlet); Miranda (from The Tempest); Portia (from The Merchant of Venice); and Rosalind (from As You Like It).  Others are named after characters from Alexander Pope’s poem “The Rape of the Lock.”  They include Ariel, Umbriel, and Belinda.

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During the early part of 1933, the Nazis in many German cities burned books that they deemed “un-German in spirit.”  One of the books they burned was Almansor a play written in 1821 by the great German Jewish writer Heinrich Heine.  Prophetically, the play contained a line that well described what was to follow in Nazi Germany and the lands it controlled: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”

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F. Scott Fitzgerald was working on a novel, tentatively titled The Love of the Last Tycoon, when he died suddenly from a heart attack on December 21, 1940.  He had talked to his friend author Nathaniel West (The Day of the Locust) about the book, and had asked West to finish it if something happened to him.  West was unable to carry out Fitzgerald’s wishes, however, because he and his wife were killed in an automobile accident on December 22, 1940 – the day after Fitzgerald’s death.  Many critics agree that the unfinished Tycoon was better written than anything Fitzgerald had ever produced before including The Great Gatsby.

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Helen Bannerman, the author of Little Black Sambo (1899) was not the racist that many might think she was.  She was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1862, but spent many years of her adult life in India where her husband, William Bannerman, was a doctor in the Indian Medical Service.  She wrote a number of books about south Indian or Tamil (southeast Indian or northeast Sri Lankan) children, but none about African children.  Sambo is an Indian boy who encounters tigers – which are not native to Africa, but are native to India.

Bookcase 6

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