Did You Know . . . ?

In 1927, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle selected his 12 favorite Sherlock Holmes short stories (note that he did not include any of his four novels) for Strand Magazine.  His favorite is listed first.

  1. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
  2. “The Redheaded League”
  3. “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
  4. “The Final Problem”
  5. “A Scandal in Bohemia”
  6. “The Adventure of the Empty House”
  7. “The Five Orange Pips”
  8. “The Adventure of the Second Stain”
  9. “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”
  10. “The Adventure of the Priory School”
  11. “The Musgrave Ritual”
  12. “The Reigate Squires”

Later, he added seven more.  Again, his favorite is listed first.

  1. “Silver Blaze”
  2. “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”
  3. “The Crooked Man”
  4. “The Man with the Twisted Lip”
  5. “The Greek Interpreter”
  6. “The Resident Patient”
  7. “The Naval Treaty”

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Do you like to write down the most memorable ideas you run across in your reading?  If so, you’re in good company.  Many people have done the same thing, including Thomas Jefferson, and Anne Frank while she and her family were hiding from the Nazis.  In fact, the document in which those ideas are recorded has its own name.  It’s called a “commonplace book.”

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In either 1915 or 1919 (accounts vary) author Edgar Rice Burroughs bought 550 acres of land just outside Los Angeles.  There he built a large home which he called the Tarzana Ranch, naming it after his jungle hero creation, Tarzan.  Later he subdivided the land into home sites.  That was the birth of Tarzana, California which is now part of Los Angeles.

_ _ _

If you ever go to Santa Catalina Island, about 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, you may be surprised to see bison roaming free all over the island.  Bison are not indigenous to the island, but were brought there in 1925 for the filming of The Vanishing American a silent western movie based on the novel of the same name by Zane Grey.  (Grey had a getaway home on the island.  His former home is now the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel.)  Due to budget problems, the bison were left on the island, and have thrived there.

Avalon, Santa Catalina’s largest town, got its name from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Idylls of the King” which is about the legend of King Arthur.

_ _ _

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) was not written by Toklas.  It was written by her companion and lover Gertrude Stein, and was mostly about Stein, not Toklas.  But, Alice didn’t mind.  She considered Stein to be a genius, and spent their years together doing everything she could to make Stein’s life pleasant, and to further her career.

_ _ _

Author Thomas Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow, Mason & Dixon and Inherent Vice) is a recluse who has not been seen or photographed in years – most photos of him are from his high school and college days.  There are only a few recordings of his voice, and no one seems to know where he lives.  Amazingly, he made cameo “appearances” on the animated series The Simpsons twice in 2004.  You hear his voice, but the cartoon image is of a man with a paper bag over his head.

_ _ _

The Elements of Style, also known as Strunk & White, is the writing style manual for anyone writing in English.  It was written originally by William Strunk, Jr. and published in 1918.  Strunk died in 1946, so when Macmillan and Company wanted a revised edition in 1959 E. B White (who is probably best known as the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little) was asked to update Strunk’s book.  It is fitting that White was chosen since he had been Strunk’s pupil in a writing class at Cornell University back in 1919.  White expanded and modernized Strunk’s work, and it sold about two million copies during its first year of publication.

_ _ _

In her extended essay, A Room of One’s Own, (1929) author Virginia Woolf said that in order to be successful authors, women must have an independent income of at least 500 British pounds a year, and a room of their own where they can write.  She claims that Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in the parlor of the house where she lived, and hid the manuscript whenever anyone entered the room – using a creaking hinge on a door to alert her when someone was about to enter.  According to Woolf, Austen and other female authors like the Bronte sisters did not have the luxury of editing their manuscripts openly and sharing their work with others.  As a matter of fact when Pride and Prejudice and other works by women were published, they were published anonymously or male pseudonyms were used by the authors.

_ _ _

All Quiet on the Western Front was written by a German named Erich Maria Remarque.  His name was not originally spelled Remarque, but rather Remark.  He changed it when the Nazis accused him of being a Jew because they noticed that his surname spelled backward was Kramer, a name they considered to be Jewish.  All of his works, including his 1929 classic All Quiet on the Western Front, were burned on May 10, 1933 as part of the Nazi campaign to purge Germany of books they considered un-German.  Remarque soon moved to Switzerland and then to the United States in 1939.  In 1943 his sister, who had remained in Germany with her husband and children, was arrested, put on trial, and found guilty of “undermining morale” because she had the audacity to say that the war was lost.  The judge told her, “Your brother is, unfortunately, beyond our reach — you, however, will not escape us.”  She was beheaded on December 16, 1943.  Remarque died in Switzerland in 1970 at the age of 72.

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Pansy O’Hara was almost the protagonist of Tomorrow is Another Day.  Pansy was Margaret Mitchell’s choice at one time for the name of the heroine of what finally became Gone with the Wind.  Mitchell was killed when she was hit by a car in Atlanta in 1949.

Vivien Leigh, Scarlet O’Hara in the movie, was born in India, and raised in England.  Strangely, she won her greatest acclaim for her portrayals of Southern belles in the movies Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.

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The G-String Murders, a novel written in 1941 by legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee was the basis for the 1943 film Lady of Burlesque starring Barbara Stanwyck.  It was one of two novels written by Lee, and is still in print.

_ _ _

“Codex” is a Latin word that means “block of wood.”  Since scrolls were difficult to handle, and tended to get mixed up, the Romans decided to put sheets of papyrus between two blocks of wood, make holes through the wood and the papyrus, and binding it all together with leather strips.  That’s how the first books were born.

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