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Here are seven author birthdays for this week.
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In This Week’s Author Birthdays
Anton Chekhov – January 29
On this day, January 29, in 1860, writer and dramatist Anton Chekhov was born in Taganrog, Russia. Although a medical doctor by profession, he asserted, “Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress.” His medical work, however, did bring him into contact with many layers of society, which gave him grist for his literary works.
Four of his plays (The Seagull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard) are considered modern masterpieces, and the new techniques he brought to his short stories, including stream-of-consciousness prose and a lack of moral finality, innovated the works of many writers who followed in his footsteps. He died from tuberculosis in 1904, at age 44.
Barbara Tuchman – January 30
On this day, January 30, in 1912, historian and writer Barbara Tuchman was born in New York City. She won the Pulitzer twice for General Non-Fiction; first in 1963 for The Guns of August (chronicling the first month of World War I) and again in 1972 for Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–45. Her seminal work on the Middle Ages, A Distant Mirror, won the National Book Award in History in 1980.
From her writings came “Tuchman’s Law” – the notion that disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems when viewed solely from the historical record. She died of complications from a stroke in 1989; she was 77.
Zane Grey – January 31
On this day, January 31, in 1872, Zane Grey was born in Zanesville, Ohio (a town founded by his great-great uncle). As a young man, he dreamed of playing professional baseball (he attended college on a baseball scholarship), but ended up as a practicing dentist who wrote to overcome boredom. He became a mythmaker of the Old West, and one of the best known storytellers of the American frontier with over 90 books to his credit.
He was one of the first millionaire authors; over 100 movies have been made from his works (including ones based on his character, the Lone Ranger) and Zane Grey Theatre ran on CBS for five years, from 1956 to 1961. He died of heart failure in 1939, at age 67.
Langston Hughes – February 1
On this day, February 1, in 1902, Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. He is most often associated with New York City and is considered one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, but he grew up in the Midwest, raised by a grandmother who taught him the black American oral tradition and instilled in him a lasting sense of racial pride.
Although he experienced prejudice throughout his life, he wrote of the black experience as one of struggle, yes, but also joy and music and laughter, and he downplayed other black writers and poets who expressed anger or resentment with their heritage. He died at age 65, from complications following surgery for prostate cancer.
James Joyce – February 2
On this day, February 2, in 1882, James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland. Author of such classics as Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, he is considered one of the most influential novelists of modern times. Although he lived abroad for most of his adult life, it was Dublin about which he wrote.
Eldest of 12 children in a family that knew wealth but slid into poverty, he would later be known for his use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, his complex and avant-garde style, and a pushing of the boundaries of the explicit that brought about rulings on censorship and obscenity. He died in Zurich at age 59, following surgery for a perforated ulcer.
Victor LaValle – February 3
On this day, February 3, in 1972, Victor LaValle was born in New York City. Raised by a single mother who emigrated from Uganda, he is the author of a short-story collection and five novels, so far. His 2017 fantasy-horror novella The Ballad of Black Tom won the British Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award for best novella, and his novel The Changeling won the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award and the Locas Award in 2018.
His graphic novel Destroyer––a modern retelling of Frankenstein which follows an African-American descendant of Dr. Frankenstein, her only son who was killed in a police encounter, and the monster from the original novel––won a 2019 Bram Stoker Award. Today, Victor turns 52.
Ben Lerner – February 4
On this day, February 4, in 1979, Ben Lerner was born in Topeka, Kansas. A poet, novelist, essayist, critic and teacher, he has been the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundations, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His essays, art criticism, and literary criticism have appeared in Harper’s, The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker, among other publications.
On a personal note, LitStack contributor Sharon Browning considers his 2014 novel 10:04 one of the most beautifully written modern novels she has ever read! Today, he turns 45.
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