The magazine The Cosmopolitanwas founded in 1886. Printed below the masthead on page 1 was the quotation “From every man according to his ability: to every one according to his needs.” William Randolph Hearst purchased the magazine in 1905 and I wonder whether he dropped the quotation – Marx and Hearst seem unlikely bedfellows. Helen Gurley Brown became chief editor in 1965 and, as Cosmopolitan, transformed the magazine into a worldwide success aimed specifically at a female audience. I wonder how the quotation might have read under her leadership.
Delighted to discover that in South Carolina a bakery, when asked to put on a student’s graduation cake, below a congratulatory message, the words Magna cum Laude refused to do so. Guess which word the bakery refused to ice?
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
Mary Shelley’s works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.
Mary Shelley’s last years were blighted by illness. From 1839, she suffered from headaches and bouts of paralysis in parts of her body, which sometimes prevented her from reading and writing. In January 1851 she travelled to France to take the famous health-giving waters at La Roche-Posy. During her stay she decided to take a trip Montmorillon to spend a little time visiting the bookshops in the Cité de l’Ecrit. She was pleased to find copies of both Frankenstein and the poetry of her deceased husband Percy Bysshe Shelley on sale at The Glass Key. Unfortunately it was here that she died of a suspected brain tumour on 1 February 1851. She was fifty-three years old.
Albert Camus,born on7 November 1913, was a French philosopher, author, and journalist. His views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism. He wrote in his essay The Rebel that his whole life was devoted to opposing the philosophy of nihilism while still delving deeply into individual freedom. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957– the second youngest person ever to win (after Rudyard Kipling)
Camus was born in French Algeria to a Pied-Noir family and studied at the University of Algiers, from which he graduated in 1936. Camus had a passion for football and was goalkeeper for the Racing Universitaire d’Alger. He contracted tuberculosis at the age of 17 which effectively ended his involvement with the sport.
Camus is probably best known for his novel L’Etranger (translated sometimes as The Outsider and sometimes The Stranger.) first published in 1942. Other novels include The Plague (1947) and The Fall (1956). His philosophical works include The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) and The Rebel (1951).
In 1960 whilst on tour with his publisher Michel Gallimard Camus visited the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon where he was pleased to discover the owner of The Glass Key bookshop was a great fan of his work. After leaving Montmorillon Camus was killed in a car crash on 4 January 1960 – he was 46 years old.
Samuel Barclay Beckett, born13 April 1906, was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, poet, and literary translator who lived in Paris for most of his adult life. He wrote in both English and French.
Beckett’s work offers a bleak, tragiomic outlook on human existence, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour, and became increasingly minimalist in his later career. He is considered one of the last modernist writers, and one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin called the “Theatre of the Absurd“.
Beckett was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature
In 1989 Beckett visited the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon. Whilst waiting for his friend Godot outside The Glass Key bookshop Beckett’s emphysema finally conquered his indomitable spirit and he died. He was then buried with his longtime companion Suzanne in the Cimitière du Montparnasse in Paris where they share a simple granite gravestone that follows Beckett’s directive that it should be “any colour, so long as it’s grey.”
Dorothy L. Sayers was born on 13 June 1893. She was a renowned English crime writer and poet. She was also a student of classical and modern languages.
She is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between the First and Second World Wars that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, which remain popular to this day. However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy to be her best work.
On holiday in France Sayers visited Montmorillon where she admired the Cité de l’Ecrit, but was apoplectic when she discovered a bookshop named after a novel by Dashiell Hammett – The Glass Key – and no bookshop named after any of her novels. This visit may well have brought on the coronary thrombosis from which she died on 17 December 1957.
Kenneth Elton Kesey was born on 17 September 1935. He was an American novelist, essayist, and major figure in the counterculture of the 1960s. He considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s.
Kesey was born in Colorado, and grew up in Springfield, Oregon. He graduatedfrom the University of Oregon in 1957. He began writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1960. The novel was an immediate commercial and critical success when published two years later. During this period Kesey participated in government studies involving hallucinogenic drugs to supplement his income.
Following the publication of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he moved to nearby La Honda, California, and began hosting happenings with former colleagues from Stanford, miscellaneous bohemian and literary figures (most notably Neal Cassady), and other friends collectively known as the Merry Pranksters; these parties, known as Acid Tests, integrated the consumption of LSD with multimedia performances.
In1964 his novel Sometimes a Great Notion was published. An epic account of the vicissitudes of an Oregon logging family was a commercial success that polarized critics and readers upon its release, although Kesey regarded the novel as his magnum opus.[
In 1965, following an arrest for marijuana possession and subsequent faked suicide, Kesey was imprisoned for five months. Shortly thereafter, he returned home and settled in Pleasant Hill, Oregon, where he maintained a secluded, family-oriented lifestyle for the rest of his life.
In 2001 Kesey made a trip to France and visited Montmorillon in a search for the famous cuckoo that nests close to the banks of the river Gartempe. After a friendly visit to The Glass Key bookshop in the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon Kesey went in search of the nest, but unfortunately fell into the river and drowned. Not such a great notion then.