It's official, No Time to Say Goodbye is now an Amazon Best seller...thank you all.
In 1962, six year old John Tuohy, his two brothers and two sisters entered Connecticut’s foster care system and were promptly split apart. Over the next ten years, John would live in more than ten foster homes, group homes and state schools, from his native Waterbury to Ansonia, New Haven, West Haven, Deep River and Hartford. In the end, a decade later, the state returned him to the same home and the same parents they had taken him from. As tragic as is funny compelling story will make you cry and laugh as you journey with this child to overcome the obstacles of the foster care system and find his dreams.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. He is the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.
HERE'S MY LATEST BOOK.....
This is a book of short stories taken from the things I saw and heard in my childhood in the factory town of Ansonia in southwestern Connecticut.
Most of these stories, or as true as I recall them because I witnessed these events many years ago through the eyes of child and are retold to you now with the pen and hindsight of an older man. The only exception is the story Beat Time which is based on the disappearance of Beat poet Lew Welch. Decades before I knew who Welch was, I was told that he had made his from California to New Haven, Connecticut, where was an alcoholic living in a mission. The notion fascinated me and I filed it away but never forgot it.
The collected stories are loosely modeled around Joyce’s novel, Dubliners (I also borrowed from the novels character and place names. Ivy Day, my character in “Local Orphan is Hero” is also the name of chapter in Dubliners, etc.) and like Joyce I wanted to write about my people, the people I knew as a child, the working class in small town America and I wanted to give a complete view of them as well. As a result the stories are about the divorced, Gays, black people, the working poor, the middle class, the lost and the found, the contented and the discontented.
Conversely many of the stories in this book are about starting life over again as a result of suicide (The Hanging Party, Small Town Tragedy, Beat Time) or from a near death experience (Anna Bell Lee and the Charge of the Light Brigade, A Brief Summer) and natural occurring death. (The Best Laid Plans, The Winter Years, Balanced and Serene)
With the exception of Jesus Loves Shaqunda, in each story there is a rebirth from the death. (Shaqunda is reported as having died of pneumonia in The Winter Years)
Sal, the desperate and depressed divorcee in Things Change, changes his life in Lunch Hour when asks the waitress for a date and she accepts. (Which we learn in Closing Time, the last story in the book) In The Arranged Time, Thisby is given the option of change and whether she takes it or, we don’t know. The death of Greta’s husband in A Matter of Time has led her to the diner and into the waiting arms of the outgoing and loveable Gabe.
Although the book is based on three sets of time (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the diner is opened in the early morning and closed at night, time stands still inside the Diner. The hour on the big clock on the wall never changes time and much like my memories of that place, everything remains the same.
AND NOW A WORD FROM EMERSON...
Wherever work is done victory is attained.
The god of victory is said to be One-handed but peace gives victory On both sides.
No matter how often you are defeated you are born to victory.
Men talk as if victory were something fortunate. Work is victory.
As there is a use in medicine for poisons so the world cannot move without rogues.
Excerpt from my book "When Capone’s Mob Murdered Touhy.”
“Ten Percent Tony"
"Tony Cermak was an example of the lowest type of machine politics that the corrupt political life of Chicago had yet produced. He was uncouth, gruff, insolent and inarticulate ... he could engage in no more intelligent discussion of the larger political issues of the day than he could of the Einstein theory of relativity. He appeared to take pride in his lack of polish."-Judge Lyle
Like Matt Kolb, Roger Touhy was a cautious man. He was not prone to mistakes or leaps injudgement, especially when it came to defying a man as dangerous as Al Capone. In fact, the only reason he would have entered a shooting war against Capone and his massive criminal organization was based on his absolute certainty that hewould win. That, and his little known agreement with Chicago's powerful mayor, Anton Cermak, made the bootlegger positive that he could pull Capone from his throne.
"Ten Percent" Tony Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, would lead the Touhys into a war with the Capone syndicate. Tony Cermak was, as Judge Lyle noted, "not a nice man." Instead he was an intim- idator and a bully with a violent temper, who would never walk away from a confrontation. He liked very few people and trusted no one. As his power grew, so did his paranoia. In the state house, as president of Cook County and later as mayor, Cermak used wiretaps, stolen mail, secret surveillance and informants to get intelligence on the weaknesses of his enemies.
Cermak was born on May 7, 1873 in a Bohemian village about fifty miles from Prague. The family immigrated to America in 1884, settling in a Chicago slum. In 1900, the Cermak family moved to Braidwood, in southern Illinois, where the elder Cermak worked as a coal miner. At age sixteen Tony returned to Chicago alone and saw his opportunity in the rough and tumble world of ethnic politics. He organized the Bohemian community into a powerful voting machine and before he was old enough to vote himself, Tony Cermak was a political power in the Windy City.
In addition to his unquenchable thirst for power, Cermak was also a greedy man who used his power and position to grow wealthy. While still a ward politician, he formed the United Societies, a high- sounding name for what was nothing more then a shakedown operation to collect money from the hundreds of pimps and saloon owners who worked along the notoriously wicked 22nd Street (which was later, oddly enough, renamed Cermak Road).
In 1902, at age twenty-six, Cermak went to the State Capitol as a member of the House of Representatives. He eventually worked his way up to Speaker of the House. This position allowed him, if he wished, to block every piece of banking reform legislation before the House. It was a position for which the state's bankers paid him richly. After three terms in the capitol, Cermak's net worth was more than one million dollars. By the time he became mayor of Chicago at age fifty-six, Tony Cermak, the nearly illiterate immigrant, boasted a net worth of seven million dollars, although he never had a job that paid him more then $12,000 a year.
In 1931, Cermak was the undisputed boss of the most powerful political machine in the country, and declared himself a candidate for Mayor of Chicago. The syndicate, sensing the federal government might step in to restore order to the streets of Chicago if the hopelessly corrupt "Big Bill" Thompson was re-elected, stood solidly behind Cermak's candidacy. Ten Percent Tony Cermak the syndicate figured, was one of them. They could live and prosper with Cermak at the helm. On election day, April 7, 1931, Cermak trounced Thompson by the largest margin ever recorded in a Chicago may- oral election. He promised the people of Chicago that he would rid their city of gangsters before the Century of Progress Exhibition opened at the World's Fair in the summer of 1933. But Cermak wouldn't rid Chicago of organized crime. Instead he would try to corral it, dominate it, and grow rich from it. All he had to do was give it another face, a plot the federal government had unknowingly aided by putting Capone in prison on a shaky tax charge. Capone's imprisonment left a void in Chicago's crime syndicate. Cermak intended to fill that void with Roger Touhy.
Touhy had told Saul Alinsky, a sociologist, writer and former member of the Joliet State Prison parole board, that in 1932 he entered a partnership with Cermak to run Chicago's underworld. The middle man in the deal was Teddy Newberry, a thug who at one time or another had been associated with every major gang in the city and acted as Cermak's bag man on the street.
In a meeting at the mayor's office, Cermak and Newberry urged Touhy to wage a war with Capone's mob. Roger was reluctant. A defensive position against the mob was one thing, but an all out war was entirely different. The syndicate could, Touhy pointed out, muster at least 500 gunmen in a few days. Cermak responded, 'You can have the entire police department."
Eventually, Roger agreed to go along, and Cermak sent word to his police commanders that the Touhys were to be cooperated with in the war against the syndicate.
Wars cost money. Before the shooting started Roger had to be positive that the cash he needed to support a street war was in place. Anton Cermak could help with that.
At 6:56 A.M., on December 6, 1932, Tommy Touhy led a gang of five masked men into the United States Post Office in the heart of Chicago's Loop. They overpowered the guard and stole $500,000 in securities and cash. The getaway was easy. Two hours earlier, Cermak called the police shift commander and ordered him to pull all of his men out of the area. A month later the Touhys, armed with machine guns, robbed a Minneapolis postal truck of $78,417 in bonds, cash, certificates and jewelry. Several days later they struck again, robbing a Colorado mail truck of $520,000 in cash.
During that time Cermak increased his raids on syndicate gambling dens. In one afternoon alone, Chicago police acting on Cermak's orders impounded 200 syndicate slot machines plus another 300 machines stored at Gottleib and Company warehouses. This was the same Gottleib that would later provide slots to mob-owned Las Vegas casinos. As soon as the police took the syndicate's machines, Touhy's men replaced them with their own one armed bandits. The moment a Mob handbook was closed Touhy's operators were moved in to fill the gap. As always, Cermak had an ulterior motive. The raids were a calculated move to cut the syndicate's cash flow in half so that they wouldn't have the funding to carry on a drawn out street war.
It didn't take the mob's leadership a long time to figure out they had been double-crossed by Cermak, who, along with Touhy, was now putting on the double squeeze. The quick solution for the syndicate was to kill Roger and Tommy Touhy. However killing them wouldn't prove easy, especially now that they were surrounded by a small army of enforcers including George "Baby Face" Nelson, a proven tough guy.
Still, the syndicate's bosses were determined to stop the flow of union treasuries to Touhy. To do that, they would have to send out a message; they had to throw a scare into the union bosses. It had to be loud and violent and it had to be someone close to Touhy.
Bill Rooney was just the right person.
William James Rooney was a labor goon who had done his first prison time back in 1907. In the years that followed Rooney would face dozens of arrests including one in 1910 for the suspected murder of Joseph Patrick Shea. Shea had been the business agent for the Chicago sheet metal workers' union, a local which Rooney was trying to muscle his way into. He was acquitted of the murder, even though he had shot Shea dead in the middle of the union hall in front of at least 150 witnesses. No one testified against him and Rooney was released to continue his takeover of the union. By 1928, he not only controlled the sheet metal workers', but the flat janitors' and the meat cutters' unions as well. Capone sent word that he wanted half of Rooney's labor empire. Rooney refused and Capone threatened his life. Unfazed, Rooney made his own threats and then started to move his operation and his family out to Des Plains to live under Touhy's protection.
On the night they killed him, Rooney was still moving his belongings from his home in Chicago to a rented house in Des Plains. His wife and two children had already driven to the country.
Rooney waited outside his home while his chauffeur sprinted down the street to retrieve his car from a rented garage about five minutes away. Draped in a heavy grey top coat and dress hat, Rooney paced back and forth on the lawn as a blue sedan pulled up to the curb. One of the men in the back seat, believed to be Paul Ricca, rolled down a window and said, "Hi Billy. "
When Rooney stepped up to the car and bent down to look inside, a shotgun appeared in the window and three blasts ripped into Rooney's head, chest and stomach. Remarkably, the blast didn't knock him down. Instead, Rooney grabbed the car as it sped away, but then slid slowly to his knees. He was dragged twenty-five feet before releasing his grip.
With Rooney dead, Red Barker and Murray Humpreys took over the sheet metal and the building service employees' union and looted its treasury.
Rooney's murder was one of the last bright moments for the syndicate. For the next two years, the Touhy-Cermak-Newberry combination pounded the mob mercilessly. In fact, within three days of Rooney's murder, the Touhys responded by killing Johnny Genaro, Capone's new acting chief of staff, and his driver, Joey Vince, by pulling up along the side of Genaro's car and drilling a dozen rounds of machine gun fire into both of them.
Genero died immediately but Vince managed to live until the cops arrived. A patrolman lifted the hood's head out of a pool of blood and whispered "Who shot you? Who did this?"
For a man full of bullet holes on the threshold of death, Vince was remarkably lucid. He sat upright for a second and said '1 can't describe the men. I was too confused at the moment it happened...and I would never tell you anyway, you piece of shit. "
Then he fell back into the gutter and died.
A few days later, Roger Touhy, armed with a machine gun, walked into a meeting at the Teamsters Headquarters in Chicago. With him was his top enforcer, Willie Sharkey, and two other men. Each of them carried a machine gun and a pistol as they herded the union officials and lined them up against the wall. As more members entered the building for a special emergency meeting, they too were lined up against the wall until there were over one hundred members held hostage.
After two hours, Roger stood before the crowd and spoke.
"Listen up you mugs, we've come here today to clean the dago syndicate out of the Teamsters Union."
A cheer went up across the room from the membership. Roger looked over the faces in the hall and spotted a half dozen of Murray Humpreys' enforcers including Artie Barrett whom Touhy had known from the Valley. "We thought you were a right guy" he said to Barrett. 'What are you doing hanging around these rats for?"
'Well, hell, I gotta eat Rog, " Barrett said.
He let Barrett leave but pulled two of the syndicate's union leaders named Goldberg and Sass into an office and told them to call Murray Humpreys and tell him to come to the building as soon as he could. When they said they couldn't remember the number, Roger said, 'Well, get together and think it up or we'll give it to you right outside the door. None of you other mugs have to be afraid, we're after Klondike O'Donnell, Camel Humpreys and Jack White and we won't hurt anybody else."
Out of ignorance or fear Goldberg and Sass didn't place the call.
Roger rounded up his men and left the building at 11:30 in the morning, three full hours after they had arrived, taking Goldberg and Sass with him. His last words to the membership were, 'These two are going to get theirs. " Once again the membership exploded in cheers.
Sass and Goldberg were released two days later. They were not harmed or abused. "Actually," said Goldberg, "they treated us well. The food was excellent. The conversation was good."
Touhy's brazen daylight raid on the heart of the syndicate's union operation was a slap in the face for Red Barker and Murray Humpreys. The syndicate, less than several hundred in number, had ruled over Chicago's massive unions by fear and the threat of violence. Touhy's raid had temporarily taken away that edge and they needed to get it back.
Barker and Humpreys retaliated with a daylight drive-by shooting at Wall's Bar-B-Que and Rib. Wall's was a restaurant frequented by the Touhys because Roger had developed a friendship with a waitress, Peggy Carey. In the middle of a sun-filled Saturday afternoon, four carloads of syndicate gunmen sped by the restaurant while Roger and several of his men lounged around in the parking lot. They sprayed the lot and the restaurant with machine gun fire. The Touhys returned fire but remarkably, no one was injured in the melee.
In retaliation for the shooting the Touhys struck The Dells, a large syndicate speakeasy and casino operating just inside Touhy's territory. It was under the protection of a hood named Fred Pacelli, younger brother of future United States Congressman Bill Pacelli. Three of Roger's best men, Willie Sharkey, Roy Marshalk and George Wilke arrived at The Dells driving Roger Touhy's new Chrysler sedan. They walked into the casino, surrounded Pacelli and fired one round into his face and one into the small of his back. After the hood's girlfriend, Maryanne Bruce, tried to wrestle the pistol out of Marshalk's hand they fired a round into her head as well.
A few days later, the Touhys gunned down Red Barker. It was a damaging blow to the syndicate. Willie Sharkey, Roger's most reliable killer, had rented an apartment overlooking Barker's office and waited there patiently, perched in a window, with a water-cooled, tripod set machine gun. Sharkey killed Barker by firing thirty-six bullets into him in a matter of seconds as he walked down the street.
At almost exactly the same time across town, Touhy's gunners, dressed as Chicago police and riding in a borrowed police cruiser, killed a syndicate enforcer named "Fat Tony" Jerfitar, and his partner, Nicky Provenzano. The drive by shooting occurred as the two hoods sat in front of a store with their eyes closed, sun bathing their faces. They never knew what hit them.
Next, Touhy's gang killed a beer peddler named James J. Kenny. He was found in an alley dead, having had the back of his head blown off. A few weeks before the murder the Touhys had taken the unusual step of warning Kenny not to push the syndicate's booze inside their kingdom. He did it anyway, so they killed him.
Four days later an unknown hood, believed to be a professional killer imported from New York by Frank Nitti, was found dead on a Chicago sidewalk. His face was blown off by shotgun pellets. His frozen body was planted, literally, in a snow bank on a dead end street.
A week later, Joe Provenzo, a syndicate soldier, was killed when two men wearing police uniforms asked him his name. When he answered, they thanked him, shot him through the head and calmly walked away. Five minutes later and several blocks away, John Liberto, another Nitti hood, was shot in the head at close range by the same two men.
After that the syndicate took two more hard hits. At the crack of dawn Cermak was in his office, surrounded by his special squad and the Chicago chief of police, planning the day's raids against the mob's most lucrative casinos. Over the remainder of the morning, working on information provided by Roger Touhy and Teddy Newberry, twelve mob casinos were closed down. Sixteen Chicago detectives were demoted, reassigned or fired for allowing a rising syndicate hood named "Tough Tony" Capezio to operate in their districts. The loss of sixteen cops, all bought and paid for, hurt the syndicate badly, leaving them with very few officers on the take.
Cermak's pressure on the police department had scared most officers off the syndicate's pad, while the others waited on the sidelines to see who would come out on top in this war.
The next blow came when two of the syndicate's best gunners, Nicholas Maggio, and his partner in crime, Anthony Persico, were targeted in a retaliation killing for the murder of Bill Rooney. John Rooney, the business agent for the billposters' union and brother to Bill Rooney, ambushed and killed the two men on a back stretch of road deep inside Touhy's territory.
The syndicate was taking a pounding. Their ranks were already thinned from assaults by the federal government, not to mention the beating they were taking at the hands of the Touhy organization. To bolster their numbers the outfit's leaders recruited members of the 42s, a gang of crazy kids from an Italian neighborhood called the Patch. This same gang would produce the syndicate's next ruling body in the form of Sam Giancana, Marshal Ciafano, Teets Battaglia and others.
Reinforced with the 42s, the syndicate tracked down a top Touhy enforcer named Frank Schaeffler, once a contender for the world's light heavy-weight crown. They shot him as he entered an all-night speakeasy called The Advance.
The Touhy forces struck back by killing a major syndicate pimp named Nicky Renelli and in a separate incident gunning down Elmer Russel, a bouncer at a syndicate bar called the Alaskan Forum Road House.
The next mob hood to die was Maurice Barrett. He was shot through the head and arm, then dropped at the front door of a neighborhood hospital where he bled to death.
Three days later the Touhys lined up three of Nitti's men and shot them through the knees with machine guns after they tried to muscle into a meeting at the Chicago house painters' union.
The Touhys scored another big hit when they killed Danny Cain, the thirty-two-year-old president of the Chicago Coal Teamsters and brother-in-law of George Red Barker. Several men in a car followed Cain home as he left a nightclub. They pulled up alongside his car and drowned it in machine gun fire.
On a freezing Wednesday night, Willie O'Brien, a slugger employed by the Touhys, walked into a popular speakeasy called the Garage. There he was jumped by three men who tried to force him outside to the rear alley where a car was waiting. O'Brien managed to fight them all off until one of the men pulled a pistol and fired a shot into O'Brien's back. Unarmed, O'Brien was running toward the front door when another shot caught him in the leg and a third shot went into the palm of his right hand as he used it to cover his spine. A half an hour later O'Brien staggered into the waiting room of the Augustana hospital.
Officer Martin O'Malley, who grew up with Touhy and O'Brien in the Valley, arrived and interviewed the hood on his death bed.
'Who shot you Billy?"
"I known them. Known them for ten years, but I won't tell you who they are. "
"You're going to die Billy. Who killed you? I'll have your revenge."
O'Brien just shook his head and died.
Seven days later, the Touhys struck back. It was fifteen degrees below zero and snowing when a car pulled up to the curb. Several men in long coats climbed out, walked into a pool room and poured five shots into a syndicate hood named Fred Petilli who was leaning against a pool table, his back to the door. A few moments later the same car pulled up in front of The Garage nightclub where Jimmy O'Brien had been killed. A tall man, probably Basil Banghart, opened the front door to the club, tossed in a bomb and said "This is for Jimmy, you bastards!"
The bomb blew the place to bits but remarkably, no one was killed.
After that, Charlie O'Neill, a very young Touhy gunman, was kidnapped off the street, shot twice in the head and dumped in the middle of traffic on a busy intersection.
The Touhys responded by killing a labor goon named Nichols Razes. They shot him five times during a running gun battle in the Green Hut restaurant owned by Razes' brother. Charles McKenna, a Touhy labor enforcer and president of the truck painters' union, was shot in the arm during the gun battle. He was arrested for murder as he straggled down the street, murder weapon still in hand. He was held, booked and then released for "lack of evidence."
That same month, the syndicate tried to kidnap Roger Touhy's two sons as they waited for their mother to pick them up from school in Des Plains. Somebody had to pay for that and Roger chose Eddie Gambino, a dope peddler and union goon. They caught Gambino as he was about to step out of his car. Two gunmen, stepped up to the driver's window and opened fire. Before he bled to death, Gambino was able to pull his own pistol but dropped it before he could fire at his killers. One of the two killers, enraged at Gambino's defiance, stepped back over to the hood's blood-smeared face and fired at his temple.
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
Visit our Shakespeare Blog at the address below
HERE'S PLEASANT POEM FOR YOU TO ENJOY................
By Hayden Carruth
When I was forty-five I lay for hours
beside a pool, the green hazy
springtime water, and watched
the salamanders coupling, how they drifted lazily,
their little hands floating before them,
aimlessly in and out of the shadows, fifteen
or twenty of them, and suddenly two
would dart together and clasp
one another belly to belly
the way we do, tender and vigorous, and then
would let go and drift away
at peace, lazily,
in the green pool that was their world
and for a while was mine.
DON'T YOU JUST YOU LOVE POP ART?
Dotterel: (DOT-uhr-uhl) 1. Any of various plovers breeding in mountainous areas.2. Someone who is easily duped. From dote (to be weak-minded from old age), from Middle English doten (to be foolish) + -rel (diminutive or pejorative suffix), as in doggerel and wastrel. The metaphorical sense of the word derives from the apparently unsuspecting nature of the bird.
By Robert LeMeur
Cafe Vesuvio, 255 Columbus, San Francisco
Cafe Vesuvio sits near the corner of Columbus and Broadway and it is a staple of North Beach and San Francisco’s Beat generation. The ambience is trendy, academic, artistic and colorful. It has a wonderful wooden interior with windows reflecting the neon lights of the strip clubs on Broadway. There is a long bar that dominates the lower floor and a cramped upstairs seating that suspends you above the pedestrian traffic of Columbus.
The greats of the Beat generation including Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy came through in their heyday. The tradition is alive – writers, poets and chess players all practice their craft there. Among the bachelors of North Beach it is a favorite place for first dates. The mellow lighting, cocktail menu, the seats over-looking north beach … it is perfect. Come here to write stories during the day then take a date here at night to begin your own life story.
by Al Sullivan
Although famous in literary circles for his close association with Beat Generation poets such as Allan Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and others, poet Herschel Silverman was also known for years as the owner of Herschel's Beehive Candy Store on Avenue A in Bayonne.
``The Beehive'' was across the street from Bayonne High School. Students frequented his store after school. Wearing his usual blue apron, Silverman greeted them with grins and talked about jazz. His store radio always played the music.
Along with wife Laura, daughter Elaine, and son Jack, Silverman worked seven days a week from dawn to dusk, selling lunch, newspapers, and coffee. In his "spare time," he wrote and published his verses.
At night, after the floors were swept and counters cleaned, Silverman sometimes settled down to discuss literature with friends, and to write. Despite his busy schedule, he managed to publish numerous chapbooks of verse as well as work the reading circuit.
Occasionally, he even wrote about the kids, such as one of his sadder poems, "I'll weep for you," about Stanley Kopcinski, a Bayonne High student who came to his store regularly before enlisting in the United States Marines. Kopcinski was the first Bayonne resident to be killed in Vietnam.
Silverman published hundreds of poems in literary journals, including Long Shot (based in Hoboken), Alpha Beat, and the Journal of New Jersey Poets’ 20th Anniversary Issue, Kerouac Connection. He was also editor of BEEHIVE Magazine of Contemporary Poetry and Scrap Paper Review.
Into his 90s, Silverman performed in scores of venues, including The Poetry Project/St. Mark's Church (New York City), The New England Poetry Festival, and Berkeley Divinity School of Yale University. He appeared at several events in Hoboken and attended local readings of other poets.
He has more than 20 collections of poetry, including those at the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin and the Library of the University of Chicago. His work has been translated into German and Japanese.
Silverman published his first book, "The Krishna Poems," in 1970. His 1997 book, "Sparrow in the Supermarket," was chosen by the Small Press Review as its summer pick.
In 1999, Silverman was included in "The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry," along with other greats such as Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Amiri Baraka, and William Carlos Williams.
He was very fond of BHS and his ability to communicate with kids. He supported their sports teams, giving them pep talks and posting reports of their wins on his walls, along with the schedule of their games, attending as many as he could. The school was also very fond of him, naming him consultant for the Bayonne High School Poetry Club, where he established the Bruno Tarzia Memorial Award.
A huge influence on local poets
Over the years, Silverman has appeared in many venues; in 2014 at the Hoboken Museum.
A recipient of the New Jersey Council of Arts Fellowship in Poetry, Silverman is considered one of the last of the Beat Poets.
He had a huge influence on the local art scene, especially on writers connected with Long Shot magazine in Hoboken, many of whom helped honor Silverman at the Bowery Poetry Club in 2010.
Though Silverman’s grandparents emigrated from Russia in 1880, he was born in California, orphaned by age 7, and brought back east from San Diego by train in the company of an aunt and uncle to be raised in Jersey City, where his grandparents had originally settled.
Though Silverman’s grandparents emigrated from Russia in 1880, he was born in California, orphaned by age 7, and brought back east from San Diego by train in the company of an aunt and uncle to be raised in Jersey City, where his grandparents had originally settled.
He said he was inspired to write by a teacher in grammar school and by reading books.
He read library books religiously, and the sports pages of local newspapers. A big New York Yankees fan, he wrote a poem to Joe DiMaggio, sent it to Mel Allen, the Yankees announcer at the time, and received a nice letter back.
"Joe wasn't just a great batter, but he had a great arm, too, and he could fly around the bases when he got a hit," Silverman said. "I listened to all the games on the radio.”
While he wanted to continue his writing career after he got out of the navy, he knew he had to make a living. With little time to write, he began to condense his language, developing a style that he later realized was a kind of free verse, though he’d encountered the more conventional styles of writers like Robert Frost and Marianne Moore.
Thought he would become a journalist
In high school, Silverman took courses in journalism and creative writing, and had a fiction story published in the yearbook.
“I thought I was going to become a journalist,” he told the Bayonne Community News during a 1985 interview.
While in the navy, he wrote letters and short stories, eventually becoming the company correspondent for a navy newsletter.
He married Laura after the war ended. This appeared to steer him toward a practical career as a store keep. Laura died in 1988, a few years after his retirement.
Corso described Silverman as “our neo-wizard flowing with goodies, always with a smile, always protecting the good life.”
Silverman connected with Corso and other Beat poets after reading a story about Ginsberg in the New York Times in 1957.
“I wrote to him and told him I was a poet and owned a candy store in Bayonne,” Silverman said. “I invited him to come see me.”
Ginsberg wrote back, putting off the visit to Bayonne until he got back from a trip to Europe. But he didn’t keep that promise until more than two decades later.
Ginsberg visited Silverman's store in May, 1979, after reading William Carlos Williams’s Day in Paterson. Silverman and Ginsberg drove to Bayonne together.
"When we passed St. Henry's Church, Allen was very impressed," Silverman recalled.
When they got to the candy store, bundles of newspapers waited to be carried in, a chore Silverman usually did himself, but on this day, two of the great poets of the Beat Generation carried them into the store together. He remembers Ginsberg looking at pictures of Bayonne on the walls of the store.
In a poem, Ginsberg later called Silverman "a candy store emperor who dreams of telling the truth."
A house of courtship where the Jazz Age's most storied lovers got their start
Published in a 1929 issue of the New Yorker, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Short Autobiography," chronicles life in a way most appropriate to the inventor of the Jazz Age: as a series of cocktails. According to this "autobiography," the Big Easy's famous "sazzarac (sic) cocktail " is the main event of 1919, "brought up from New Orleans to Montgomery to celebrate an important occasion." And in 1919, Fitzgerald certianly had cause for celebration.
After This Side of Paradise had been given the green light by Charles Scribner's Sons for publication, Fitzgerald visited Montgomery, home of the feisty Zelda Sayre, whose romantic interest Fitzgerald renewed by promise of his novel's success.
In mid-January of 1920, while editing proofs of his soon-to-be-hit, the flapper-scribe rented a room at 2900 Prytania, then a cheap boarding house in New Orleans' Garden District. Though Fitzgerald resided at 2900 Prytania for less than a month, locals like to claim him as one of their own – an affection likely born of their shared love of booze and jazz.
This Side of Paradise was published shortly after Fitzgerald's departure from New Orleans. Celebrity secured, Fitzgerald and Sayre resumed their engagement, embarking on a tumultuous love affair whose beginning coincided with that of the Jazz Age.
Now a private home, Fitzgerald's quarters would have overlooked beautiful Lafayette Cemetery, just a wafting distance from New Orleans' famous old eatery, Commander's Palace. Visitors to the Garden District can still gaze up at the windows of this former boarding house, where Sazerac-fueled visions of new love and a dawning Jazz Age once danced in the eyes of America's greatest novelists.
That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong. F. Scott Fitzgerald
• John Shakespeare was said 'a wealthy alderman who fell on hard times'
• But that theory has been discredited by research from David Fallow
• Studied financial records and court documents from Stratford-upon-Avon
• He believes that William's father was actually involved in illegal wool trade
By GEMMA MULLIN FOR MAILONLINE
It has long been thought that William Shakespeare's story was a true life rags-to-riches tale.
But now new research has revealed that it is in fact a myth and his father was a successful wool trade businessman.
John Shakespeare was said to be a wealthy glover and leather worker who fell on hard times and went bankrupt for reasons that historians have so far been unable to uncover.
It was thought that this left his son to make his own way in life and establish himself as a poet and actor, where he made his wealth in the theatres of London.
But former financier David Fallow, who has been studying the Shakespeare family's fortunes for years by analysing financial records, has made new claims about the playwright.
His research suggests that John Shakespeare in fact never went bankrupt but was in fact dealing in an illicit wool trade and making more money than ever, The Observer reports.
Fallow says it was this that prompted Shakespeare to leave Stratford-upon-Avon for London in 1585 to act as the family's business representative, rather than to start a career in theatre.
He believes this could explain his activities during the seven 'lost years' - the same length of time to undertake a traditional apprenticeship - after that move when he almost disappears from records.
Fallow studied financial records, including wool markets, the value of exports from regional ports, statistics on the rise of trade in the capital and court documents from Stratford-upon-Avon.
The businessman believes these details have previously been overlooked by literary scholars who have struggled to understand the figures.
'John Shakespeare was a national-level wool dealer, and legal research, coupled to analysis of the wool market, proves this. The Shakespeare family never fell into poverty,' he said.
He also claims that the family's wealth did not just from William's theatrical work alone and John Shakespeare was able to buy acres of land as well as a house with up to 30 rooms.
His research also suggests John Shakespeare was putting his property in the hands of friends and family as a bid to outwit the taxman.
Fallow's work caught the interest of leading scholars, Stanley Wells and Paul Edmonson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who commissioned him to write a chapter for a book marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, next year.
The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography, which will be published by Cambridge University Press next month, features contributions from some of the world's leading writers.Wells said: 'Fallow builds a considerable argument on the idea that [John Shakespeare] withdrew not because he was poor, not because his fortunes declined – as has regularly been assumed – but because he had an alternative way of earning money, which was a bit shady.'
By Atlas Obscura
Nestled within the lovely expanse of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, is a little plot that is full of the graves of a staggering number of famous authors.
Author's Ridge is a scenic little corner of the large cemetery and is the final resting place of a laundry list of legendary authors and transcendentalists who once lived in the city of Concord. During the 19th century, Concord became a hot bed of forward-thinking transcendentalists who were eager to usher in a new age in American history. Many of the followers of the social movement would go on to pen some of the most indelible works of literature in the American canon. From Henry David Thoreau's natural reflections in Walden to the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, their progressive ideals would help shape the direction of national thought.
Then, of course, they died.
The list of names of famous authors who died while living in Concord is impressive. There are Thoreau and Emerson, but also Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and her family, and William Ellery Channing, all interred near one another.
Author's Ridge is a popular pilgrimage site for lovers of literature. Literary explorers routinely leave pens, poems, and little notes around the graves of their favorite authors. As it turns out, the transcendentalists’ greatest achievement may have been to leave a mark on American literature that transcends even their death.
EDITED BY: Martin, Dylan
The largest oak in England is said to have been the hideout of Robin Hood and his Merry Men
Luxuriously spreading its crooked limbs out over the small clearing it calls its own, the massive Major Oak of Sherwood Forest has long been a celebrity arbor that was said to have harbored Robin Hood and his gang, and winning the honor of England's Tree of the Year.
Dating back as far as 1,000 years, the famous tree is not exactly the most picturesque plant, but its sheer size has long captured the imaginations of onlookers. The gnarled trunk of the thing is around 33 feet around, spreading its branches out over an area almost 100 feet across. Due to a fungal infection, the interior of the Major Oak is mainly hollow, which undoubtedly led to the proliferation of the tale that Robin Hood used the tree as a secret base during his adventures.
Unfortunately the reality of the tree is a bit less harrowing. Given the age of the tree, researchers have found that it is unlikely that it would have been big enough to have the hollows that whichever historical rogue inspired Robin Hood would have used. In addition, the efforts to preserve the massive relic have resulted in most of the hollows being inaccessible as they were filled with concrete at some point to provide a bit more structure. Although a number of changes have been made to keep the tree alive, it was still voted England's Tree of the Year in 2014.
The long, twisted limbs of the slow-growing tree have been supported by wooden stilts since Victorian times, and the Major Oak continues to live and grow. Since the weight of visitors to the site began compacting the soil and threatening the tree, a fence has ben erected around it, but once a year during an acorn festival, wannabe rogues can still approach the Major Oak and dream of its potential as a woodland hideout.
By JOHN O’CONNOR
In 1898, the year before Ernest Hemingway was born, his parents bought 200 feet of frontage on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan, out in the backlands of Petoskey, a coastal resort town. The Hemingways were fresh off a luxury steamship from Oak Park, Ill., looking to chuck the suburban grind for the seasonal joys of lake country. For $400 they soon had a 20- by 40-foot clapboard cottage built that was short on nearly every amenity except peace and quiet. It wasn’t pioneer life — they had brought along a maid — but the surrounding woods were populated by Ojibwe Indians, black bears, lumberjacks and bootleggers. Most crucially for “Ernie,” who would eventually pack all this stuff into his fiction, the fishing was extraordinary.
“Absolutely the best trout fishing in the country. No exaggeration,” he later wrote to a friend about the Petoskey area, perhaps exaggerating a tad but hitting on an essential truth of summer in the Michigan boonies: “It’s a great place to laze around and swim and fish when you want to. And the best place in the world to do nothing. It is beautiful country … And nobody knows about it but us.”
Ernest Hemingway, who was born in Illinois, spent boyhood summers in northern Michigan, hunting and fishing.
By all accounts, northern Michigan had a seismic effect on Ernest Hemingway and his future work. He spent his first 21 summers there, fishing, hunting, drinking and chasing girls. It was a place where men lived hard and lean, ran trotlines and considered bilge water a beverage. “Good stuff for essays,” he wrote in a 1916 journal entry, recording fishing trip details he would later channel into Nick Adams stories. “Old Couple on Boardman,” he wrote, referring to a river. “Mancelona-Indian girl, Bear Creek … tough talking lumberjack, young Indian girl, kills self and girl.”
It’s an odd juxtaposition to think of Hemingway, years later, sipping espresso in Paris cafes while writing about Nick Adams — a semi-autobiographical stand-in for the author’s own manly wanderings in the Michigan wilds. Take the famous Adams story “Big Two-Hearted River”: “Holding the rod far out toward the uprooted tree and sloshing backward in the current,” he wrote, “Nick worked the trout, plunging, the rod bending alive, out of the danger of the weeds into the open river.”
Many of those 25-odd Adams stories — including extraordinary nuggets like “The End of Something” and “The Last Good Country” — as well as his first published novel, “The Torrents of Spring,” are set in and around Petoskey. And Michigan pops up again and again in later works such as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “A Moveable Feast,” to name a few.
Yet even Hemingway fans might draw a blank on his Michigan connection. Havana, Key West, Ketchum, Paris, Pamplona — these locales tend to conjure vintage Papa: a kerchiefed, bloated, rum-drunk Nobel laureate. Petoskey? Not so much. The gatekeepers of Hemingway’s legend have largely ignored the place. As a native Michigander, I feel I can pose the question: Perhaps northern Michigan, despite its inexhaustible beauty, isn’t that sexy?
But if you want to understand the writer, you have to start here. Michigan-era Hemingway is threshold Hemingway — young and raw, before the fame and subcutaneous padding and 16-daiquiri lunches. It’s where he experimented in delinquency, learned to cast a fly rod, stepped unmoored into the wilderness and first tinkered with a prose style that would one day make him famous.
Despite having grown up three hours south of Petoskey and having fished many of the local waters that Hemingway did, I couldn’t recall ever setting foot in the town. Nowadays I live out East and rarely find my way back home. And so, in June, I finally made it to Michigan, intent on tracing Hemingway’s boyhood orbit and seeing the country where Nick Adams came of age.
Driving up the east coast of Lake Michigan to Glen Arbor, I cut across the pinkie of Michigan’s mitten to Traverse City, then bent north, chugging through terraced farmland dusted with pollen and yacht-filled beach towns jammed with fudge shops and lighthouses and broad, sugary dunes sliding into the water. In Petoskey, which sits on a bluff overlooking Little Traverse Bay, a warm breeze swept off the lake and wheeled and skidded through the streets.
Petoskey is the kind of place where, at least in summer, everyone seems to be wearing tank tops and eating ice cream. The year-round population count, 6,000, is the same as it was in Hemingway’s day, and in some ways, little has changed. My hotel, Stafford’s Perry, even hosted the great man for a night in 1919. There is a photo from that time of a teenage Hemingway, corncob pipe in his mouth, holding three good-size trout. Taken right after he returned from Italy, where he had been wounded during World War I, it captures a cataclysmic moment in American literature. You can’t quite tell from his goony smile, but Hemingway was gathering himself, nurturing a different kind of wound, one that would soon find expression in his fiction.
In the morning I drove out to Walloon Lake, 10 miles south of town. The water, a pure cerulean, seemed to have been piped in from Bermuda. I took off my shoes and waded in.
Walloon ranked low among Hemingway’s hallowed fishing spots, as it fell within his mother’s jurisdiction; the two maintained testy relations for much of their lives. He preferred Horton Bay on nearby Lake Charlevoix and trout streams like the Black, Pigeon and Sturgeon rivers near Vanderbilt. (He was late for his first wedding, in Horton Bay, because the fishing on the Sturgeon was so good.)
Probably the river most people associate with Hemingway is the Two-Hearted in the Upper Peninsula, thanks to “Big Two-Hearted River.” An archetype of minimalism, the story depicts Adams as a veteran wrestling with the trauma of war while trout fishing in deepest Michigan. It’s tough to fathom it today, but in 1925, these staccato lines were the literary equivalent of a knife fight: “It had been a hard trip. He was very tired. That was done. He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing could touch him.”
Of course, no true fisherman would give up his spot so easily. Except for a spring steelhead run, the fishing on the Two-Hearted has never been great. Hemingway liked the name for its metaphorical resonance. A section of the Fox River, near the town of Seney, was his actual model for the story.
I kept my distance from the Hemingway cottage, called Windemere, which is still in the family — a Hemingway nephew, Ernie Mainland, summers there — and not open to the public. Over the years this has produced some confusion, with Mr. Mainland occasionally emerging from his bathroom to find strangers — convinced they had discovered an unlisted Hemingway museum — riffling through his belongings.
“People have taken divots out of the lawn,” said Michael R. Federspiel, a professor of history at Central Michigan University and the author of the coffee table book “Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan.” “It’s literally sacred ground.”
Mr. Federspiel and I were drinking iced teas at the City Park Grill, a former Hemingway haunt in Petoskey. I sat on the second stool from the left end of the bar, Hemingway’s favorite perch — or so some would have you believe; others contend it was the third seat, or maybe the fourth. Regardless, I could see Papa holding court here, tossing back whiskeys while placing wagers on the bare-knuckle boxing matches out back. Or perhaps not: Mr. Federspiel reminded me that Hemingway’s days at the City Park Grill overlapped with Prohibition, when the hardest thing on tap, at least officially, was lemonade.
“Many people wouldn’t recognize the Hemingway from up here,” he said, pointing above the bar to a reproduction of Yousuf Karsh’s iconic 1957 photo of Papa in which the author, wearing a turtleneck sweater, very much resembles a longshoreman about to take a swing at you. “Exhibit A. It’s the drunken Hemingway, the four-times married, loutish guy he was at the end of his life,” Mr. Federspiel lamented. “The Hemingway we had here was a thoughtful, observant young man.”
A few blocks away, at 602 State Street, was the old Eva Potter’s boardinghouse — today a private home — where Hemingway rented a room in the fall of 1919 and where, Mr. Federspiel said, the budding writer was tinkering with a fresh approach.
“Nick Adams wasn’t born there,” he said, adding that it wasn’t until Paris in the ’20s that Hemingway tacked a Michigan map to his wall and mined his early life for fiction. “But it was the genesis of that tight, concise, impressionistic style. Northern Michigan was his first Eden, and it got seared into his emotions. From that came great stories.”
The village of Horton Bay, which zips by in a flash on County Road 56, was a major fixture of Hemingway’s adolescence. At pains to escape his mother, he often walked the four miles from Walloon to fish and swim there. Horton Bay makes cameos in several stories, including “Summer People,” “Up in Michigan” and “Wedding Day.” Hemingway was a regular at the Horton Bay General Store, now in its 140th year, and at the Pinehurst and Shangri-La cottages, where his 1921 wedding reception was held (Shangri-La is now a vacation rental).
Halfway down Lake Street, before I reached the bay, I found the spring from “Summer People” in which Nick Adams imagines soaking his war wounds. It was just as Hemingway describes it:
“The water came up in a tile sunk beside the road, lipping over the cracked edge of the tile and flowing away through the close-growing mint into the swamp,” he wrote. “Nick thought, I wish I could put all of myself in there. I bet that would fix me.”
Lots of people dislike Hemingway for some pretty good reasons, like machine-gunning mako sharks from his boat or the ugly vein of misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism that litters his fiction and personal correspondence. But the man burned relentlessly from one end of his life to the other, trying to tap into something we all feel in danger of losing, whether it’s the vitality of youth, the security of a childhood home, or simply our memories of a vanished world. So much of his early work has a special poetry to it — a song of summer, you might say — that is in every way alive to youth’s inevitable, sad decline.
Except for a single night in 1947, when Hemingway passed through Michigan on his way out West, he never saw Petoskey again after his Horton Bay wedding. The thinking from scholars is he didn’t want to ruin his memory of a place he loved so much. With him, intimacy increased with distance. I can relate. Sometimes the impulse is to keep things encased in glass, to cling to the memories that are your starting point. “The Last Good Country,” another Nick Adams ramble through Petoskey’s outback, was a story Hemingway worked on right up until his death in 1961.
“This is about the last good country there is left,” Nick tells his younger sister in the story as they flee into the woods, dodging a pair of surly game wardens. The quiet dark of the trees puts them in mind of religion. “That’s why they build cathedrals to be like this,” Nick says, echoing a sentiment that saturates the author’s writing on the region. It’s a perfect example of how, in an important way, Hemingway spent his whole life returning to northern Michigan.
The Best Paperbacks of All Time Chosen by You
Paperbacks offer us a world where we can do things we’d never imagine, meet people who are larger than life and experience events that will change our perspective on life forever. A good paperback reels you in and keeps you gripped until the last page, but a great paperback stays with you long after you’ve put that book down.
Every reader has experienced a book like that, and we like to think that every reader is searching for the next book to leave an impression like that on them. And so we took to Facebook and Twitter to ask our followers for the paperbacks that made an impact on them, the ones that they’re constantly recommending to friends - the best paperbacks of all time.
The results are in, and we received a phenomenal number of votes, including everything from books that ignited your love for reading, to controversial books that changed your view of the world, to beautifully written stories that lingered in your imagination. We’ve counted up the votes and below we have your top 100 paperbacks of all time. Take a look to see if your favourite made the top 100, and browse for the next book that could make an impact on you.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Atticus Finch is one of the best loved characters in literature, having fought for the rights of a black man who had been accused of raping a white woman during the Great Depression. To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by his 6 year old daughter Scout Finch, raising questions around race and justice.
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
Based around a young girl living with an adoptive family in Nazi Germany, this is a story of love, freedom, power and the strength found in words, set against the hate of the Nazi regime. Markus Zusak has also offered an unusual take on mortality by using Death to narrate his tale.
The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
Enduringly popular across generations, it’s no wonder that The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the bestselling novels ever written. Set within the same stunningly ambitious world as The Hobbit, Frodo Baggins’ quest to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mordor is an incredible epic fantasy.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Mr Darcy’s rude first impression leaves Lizzie with a prejudice about his character, and so begins their feisty back-and-forth relationship. This couple has been a source of romantic inspiration for many writers of love stories to follow.
The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
Lead character Holden Caulfield has become a symbol of teenage angst and rebellion for many readers, mourning the loss of childhood during the lonely and alienating transition into and exploration of adulthood.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
Following orphan Harry as he not only discovers that he is a wizard but that his past is bound with one of the darkest wizards the world has ever known, this coming-of-age fantasy adventure has bewitched a generation of readers.
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Although offering a poignant portrait of the turbulent military events of Afghanistan, The Kite Runner is also praised for its heartfelt story of parents and children, with family themes that cross cultures.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Presenting a snapshot of the Jazz Age of the Roaring Twenties, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic is filled with decadence and extravagance. The young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby’s obsessive love for Daisy Buchanan is a gripping tale.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
The heroine of Rebecca finds herself in a strange home with a husband she barely knows after naively marrying Maxim de Winter, who is still consumed with love for his deceased first wife Rebecca. Love and jealousy play their part in our heroine’s life as she struggles to find her identity.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl helped fuel our obsession with domestic noir books, as the story of Amy and Nick’s toxic marriage unfolded in the pages. Dark, suspenseful and gripping, Gone Girl had us all asking how well do we really know the people we love.
The Fault in our Stars – John Green
John Green’s doomed lovers Hazel and Augustus captured and then broke the hearts of millions of readers, with their intense but short time together, offering a new perspective on both cancer and love.
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
Birdsong is a heartbreaking wartime tale with poignant influences from classic war poetry. The story features Stephen Wraysford at different points in his life, straying before and after World War 1.
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Popular on school reading lists, this dystopian novel explores human nature and social structure as a group of stranded British boys descend into savagery in their attempts to survive.
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Yann Martel’s story of a shipwrecked boy and tiger at sea for 227 days is layered in deeper meaning, raising questions around truth and what we choose to believe. Barack Obama has described the book as “elegant proof of God”.
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Katniss Everdeen’s fight for survival in the Hunger Games – a cruel game where 2 participants from nine districts must fight to the death – is action-packed and full of twists that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.
Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
After a road accident leaves Will Traynor quadriplegic, his mum hires Louisa to provide him with some company and help him become more communicative. Louisa is able to help Will and in turn she finds comfort in his friendship, but is it enough to turn their lives around and find happiness?
One Day – David Nicholls
Each St Swithin’s Day for 20 years, David Nicholls gives us a glimpse into the lives of Emma and Dexter as they fulfil ambitions, experience failure and continue a friendship that frustratingly toes the line of romance while life and chance stops them from taking that step.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
15 year old Christopher describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties”. As he investigates the gruesome death of his neighbour’s dog, we learn more about Christopher’s struggles with society’s expectations.
1984 – George Orwell
Set in a dystopian version of 1984, George Orwell’s classic novel foretold a world completely under the control of Big Brother, where independent thinking is not allowed. Our protagonist Winston Smith works in propaganda, but secretly dreams of rebelling against the government and its constant surveillance.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Often thought of as a novel ahead of its time, Jane Eyre is a great love story of the 19th century, as Jane proves herself to be equal in spirit and wit to her employer Mr Rochester, the pair fall in love despite her lower status. But love is never simple and there are many secrets that threaten to keep them apart.
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones is narrated by teenage Susie, a young girl who has been brutally murdered and raped on her way home. An unusual premise, Susie watches her friends and family grieve from heaven as they deal with losing her in individual ways.
A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
With over 1000 named characters, the A Song of Ice and Fire series offers an ambitiously diverse world filled with power struggles, violence, danger and questionable morals. Prepare to have all your expectations challenged in A Game of Thrones.
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Addressing the role of women within Afghan society, A Thousand Splendid Suns is the thought-provoking novel from the author of The Kite Runner. Two women from different generations find their lives thrown together when Laila is forced to accept a marriage proposal from Mariam’s husband Rasheed.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams’ comedy science fiction has a huge following of fans that love to read and re-read Arthur and Ford’s adventures across the universe. We’re still trying to work out what 42 could mean…
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
Including six stories that take us from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas explores the theme of universality and human oneness. Each of the stories relate to the others in some way and are concluded in the final tale.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
Stieg Larsson’s action-packed thriller is the first book in the Millennium series, following troubled but gifted computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and the publisher of Swedish political magazine Millennium Mikael Blomkvist.
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The phrase catch 22 originated from Joseph Heller’s satirical novel about a US army squadron who were caught between maintaining their sanity and fulfilling their duty. Airmen mentally unfit to fly were not obligated to fly, but could not be excused from duty – hence the phrase ‘catch 22’.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Cathy and Heathcliffe’s love seems destined not to be as their different statuses keep them from getting married. Tortured by their inability to fulfil their true love, this 19th century classic is a cruel and tragic romance.
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
The tale of a young girl sold as a servant to a renowned geisha house, Memoirs of a Geisha paints a vivid picture of Japan through the early 20th century with the story of a young girl’s fight to become a geisha.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
Set in Greece during World War Two, Louis de Bernieres’ classic depicts the German and Italian occupation of the island Cephallonia. Contrasting the brutal horror of war with stories of family love, romance, lust and friendship, this book demonstrates the devastation of war.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
An intimate picture of adolescent life, The Perks of Being a Wallflower covers everything from sexuality and friendships to drugs and body image. Written as a number of anonymous letters, this novel has an honest, confessional feel that makes Charlie so relatable.
The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton
Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree is loved by generations of children with its exciting and vivid story of the ever-changing worlds at the top of the faraway tree. Jo, Bessie and Fanny explore the lands at the top of the tree, along with the various friends who live in tree itself.
Plain Truth – Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult’s bestseller is set within an Amish community as the discovery of a dead infant shakes the inhabitants. Top defence lawyer Ellie Hathaway gets involved in the case as more details about the death come to light and a young unmarried Amish girl stands accused.
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
Detailing an elaborate conspiracy theory in the history of Christianity, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu investigate the murder of Sophie’s grandfather and the symbolic meaning of the crime scene, whilst escaping the police and uncovering a historic mystery along the way.
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Henry suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes him to involuntarily travel through time, resulting in an unpredictable and unconventional relationship with his wife Clare. A wonderful and unforgettable romance.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt’s debut reverses the ‘whodunnit’ story to a ‘whydunnit’ format, introducing us to the murder of a fellow student and friend of lead character Richard from the beginning. The events leading up to the murder and the impact it has is slowly revealed to us throughout the book.
Room – Emma Donoghue
A tragic take on a kidnapping case, Room is told from the perspective of a 5 year old boy whose mother has been kidnapped and held in a single room. 5 year old Jack has only known life in the room and his narration is skewed by his limited knowledge of the world.
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Charles Dicken’s classic tale of 19th century London is full of rich characters that have become icons in popular culture. Following the personal growth of orphan Pip, wealth, poverty and love are all important themes within this story.
Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
Scarlett’s obsession with winning the love of Ashley Wilkes dictates everything she does. And even when she meets Rhett, she can’t see far enough past her pursuit of Ashley to realise that there could be more to their friendship.
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
A vivid depiction of Bombay life, Shantaram is thought to be influenced by author Gregory David Roberts’ own experiences. The book follows a convicted bank robber/drug addict who escapes prison and runs away to India.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Set in a dystopian future where a totalitarian government rules and women have been stripped of their rights dependant on their class, Margaret Atwood’s story is told by handmaid Offred who has been separated from her family to be kept for reproduction.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Narrated by Chief – a patient in a psychiatric hospital – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest mostly revolves around the rebellious actions of McMurphy, a patient who faked insanity to serve his prison sentence in hospital and who is in a constant power struggle with the nurses.
The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
Financial journalist Becky Bloomwood might spend her time advising others how to spend their money, but in her spare time she has an obsession with shopping that is quickly getting out of control. With spiralling debts and lies, it’ll take a miracle to get Becky out of trouble.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
A fantasy fairytale set near Victorian London, the Circus of Dreams appears and leaves without warning and is only open from sunset to sunrise. Featuring magical wonders such as a vertical cloud maze and a blooming garden made of ice; it’s truly a circus like no other.
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins enjoys the quiet home comforts of life in his Hobbit hole in the Shire and doesn’t care much for adventure. That is until he is thrown into a quest to rid Smaug the dragon and help a group of dwarves claim back their treasure.
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
When Kate is diagnosed with leukaemia as a child, her parents decide to have Anna, a ‘saviour sister’ who could donate parts that Kate might need. But when Anna turns 13 and is expected to donate a kidney to Kate, she sues her parents for medical emancipation in an attempt to gain control of her own body.
Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian
Michelle Magorian’s world war two novel tells the story of William – an abused boy living in London who is evacuated to live with reclusive Mister Tom during the Blitz. The two gradually form a friendship and William is given the love and affection that his abusive mother denied him.
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Set during the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men is a story of friendship between migrant ranch workers Lennie and George. Searching for work and opportunity together, the pair strive for a better life but circumstance is not always on their side.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Set in the 1960’s, The Help is told from the perspective of two African-American maids and a white woman, Skeeter. After learning more about the horrendous experiences African-American maids suffer, Skeeter decides to write a book – putting herself and the maids willing to speak to her in danger.
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Kenneth Grahame’s beloved 1908 novel follows the charming adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad on the riverside and Wild Wood. As Toad’s behaviour becomes more and more reckless, the animals find themselves in even more hijinks, including a fight for Toad Hall with the weasels.
Girl Online – Zoe Sugg
Zoe Sugg’s – or Zoella’s – debut novel Girl Online caused a huge amount of excitement in 2014 with her story about a young blogger who finds love in New York. Zoella has earned a huge number of fans online as a video blogger herself.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
Generations of children love the story of Narnia, filled with mythical creatures and ruled by the White Witch. Four children find a secret entrance to Narnia in the back of an old wardrobe, and escape into its fantasy world with friends and danger around every corner.
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Rude and spoilt little girl Mary is sent to live with her uncle in England after her family is killed by cholera. Although unhappy at first, Mary is soon told about the secret garden that was closed up after her uncle’s wife died there in an accident, and finds there are many more secrets to uncover in her new home.
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Told from troubled and isolated teenager Frank’s perspective, The Wasp Factory explores themes of death, religion and violence. Although mostly well received, Iain Banks’ gruesome depictions created some controversy upon release.
The Green Mile – Stephen King
Told from the first-person narrative of death row block supervisor Paul Edgecombe, The Green Mile introduces us to a variety of characters on death row, including convicted rapist and murderer John Coffrey who is soon revealed to have unusual healing powers.
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
After following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole, Alice finds herself in a mysterious and illogical fantasy world with a host of peculiar and sometimes magical creatures. Her adventures include attending the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and a game of croquet with the Queen of Hearts.
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The most famous vampire in literature, Count Dracula was first described in this 19th century Gothic horror. In this story, Dracula leaves Transylvania in search of new blood, where he is confronted in England by Professor Van Helsing.
The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett
The first book in the Discworld series, Terry Pratchett’s fantasy story follows incompetent wizard Rincewind and naive tourist Twoflower as they travel across the disc. Including dragons, tree-nymphs and Gods who play the inhabitants of Discworld like a board game.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
This classic 19th century tale explores the ups and downs of a family – including sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy – who live in poverty. Featuring friends, drama and sisterly love, this is a Christmas story that celebrates family over money.
Paper Towns – John Green
John Green’s hugely popular story follows Quentin who worriedly searches for his childhood neighbour/crush Margo after she disappears. Q finds a number of clues that he thinks Margo has left behind to help him find her, and so the hunt begins.
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Color Purple focuses upon the suffering of African-American women in South America during the 1930’s. Told from the perspective of poor and uneducated Celie, a 14 year girl who is being abused at home, we meet a variety of characters with different experiences of poverty and suffering.
I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes
Terry Hayes’ action-packed debut takes us around the globe with vivid and memorable characters, and an ambitious plot that leap off the page. Pilgrim’s pursuit to solve the perfect crime will have you reading up into the night.
Killing Floor – Lee Child
Drifter Jack Reacher answers to no one after finding himself outside of the system, but in Killing Floor he must fight to prove his innocence after being arrested for murder. Lee Child’s series based around his rogue lead character is incredibly popular with thriller readers.
Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James
E. L. James’ erotic romance has been one of the most talked-about books of the 21st century, telling the story of innocent literature student Ana and successful but troubled entrepreneur Christian Grey.
P.S: I Love You – Cecelia Ahern
Withdrawn and grief-stricken, Holly struggles to cope with the death of her husband Gerry following his brain tumour, but when a number of letters from Gerry arrive, each ending with “P.S: I Love You”, Holly finds the courage to start enjoying life again.
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
Written by the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, I Capture the Castle is a funny story of romance and family based around the eccentric Mortmain family. The book is structured as youngest daughter Cassandra’s journal as she discusses love, life and family.
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
Identical twins Cath and Wren come as a pair, but now that they’re heading off to university things are about to change. While Wren explores the party scene and lets her hair down, Cath keeps herself to herself. But what will happen when she opens herself up to new experiences.
Matilda – Roald Dahl
Children of all ages love the story of Matilda, a child prodigy who loves to read despite her neglectful and television-obsessed family. Matilda taps into her brain’s extraordinary power of telekinesis to teach the horrible adults in her life a lesson.
Twilight – Stephenie Meyer
Stephenie Meyer’s vampire romance is perhaps one of the best-known fantasy romance books around. Bella Swan’s dangerous relationship with vampire Edward Cullen opens up a world of vampires, werewolves and powers she didn’t know she had.
Jamaica Inn – Daphne Du Maurier
Set in 1820’s Cornwall, Mary is sent to live with her aunt and her husband at Jamaica Inn. Life at Jamaica Inn is grim for Mary, but she soon learns that she is in more danger than she first thought, as she discovers more about a group of murderous wreckers who have been stealing cargo from ships
Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Tess of the d’Urbervilles is best known for its challenging exploration of sexual morals of Victorian England. Tess claims kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles to escape poverty, but soon finds herself exposed to the expectations of women in love and society.
Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
Based around a group of drug users in Scotland, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting has achieved cult status for its gritty narrative and unforgettable characters. Both the book and film adaptation have received fantastic critical acclaim.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
65 year old Harold Fry’s journey to visit terminally ill old friend Queenie allows him to reflect on the successes and mistakes of his life. Although he sets out to see Queenie in her final moments, he soon realises that his 627 mile walk serves more purpose than that.
I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh
A tragic accident has the police searching for a hit-and-run driver involved in the death of a little boy in Bristol. But as we learn more about the aftermath of the incident, more begins to unravel about the events that led to Jacob’s death.
We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
Eva tells her story through a number of letters to her presumably estranged husband Frank. In her letters she reflects upon her relationship with their son Kevin up until the point he committed a massacre at his school.
Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Set in Victorian England, headstrong and feisty Bathsheba Everdene makes quite an impression after taking up a position as a farmer at Weatherbury. She finds herself courted by three very different men who each complicate her life in some way.
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Nobel prize winner John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel Grapes of Wrath follows a poor family during the Great Depression as they set out for California with thousands of other Okies looking for a better future.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Described as an elaborate metaphor for the events leading up to the Russian Revolution and the Stain era, a group of farm animals revolt against their farmer. The aftermath of this and the power struggle between their leaders causes the animals to wonder if they’re any better off than they were before.
The Stand – Stephen King
Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic horror The Stand explores the possibility of a worldwide pandemic, as a weaponized strain of influenza is accidently unleashed on the world. As 99.4% of humans are killed, society breaks down into violence and lawlessness and small pockets of survivors try to find various solutions.
A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
Dealing with notions of fate and spirituality, this is the story of best friends John and Owen who grow up in a small town together in the 1950’s and 60’s. As a child Owen develops a strong sense of purpose to carry out God’s will and eventually knows how and when he will die.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthopist – Robert Tressell
Based on his own personal experiences in Hastings, Robert Tressell captures the changing political views of the working class in England as socialism grew in popularity and the Labour Party came into being.
Before I go to Sleep – S. J. Watson
S. J. Watson’s psychological thriller about Christine Lucas – a lady suffering from amnesia and starting each day with no idea who she is – received fantastic praise upon release. As Christine slowly tries to rebuild her identity through her own journal entries, we learn that something is amiss.
The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
Ken Follett’s historical novel is set in the fictional town of Kingsbridge in the middle of the 12th century. Depicting the anarchy that followed the loss of the only male heir to the throne during the sinking of the White Ship, The Pillars of the Earth captures the uncertainty of the time.
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
First published in 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude was one of the first books of the literary Latin American Boom of the 60’s. Interpreting Columbian history through 7 generations of the Buendía family, we gain an insight into some of Columbia’s key historic events.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
Based in an alternative 19th century England where magic exists, Susanna Clarke introduces us to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel – two great magicians who couldn’t be more different. Friendship, reason and madness are all called into question in this fantastically imaginative story.
The Island – Victoria Hislop
Victoria Hislop’s heartbreaking historical novel follows 25 year old Alexis as she investigates her family’s hidden past and the tragic history of Spinalonga island which was once used as a leper colony in the 20th century.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Based around young shepherd Santiago’s journey to Egypt after a recurring dream of finding treasure there, The Alchemist explores the idea of accomplishment. In the story the Alchemist suggests that people are easily distracted by treasure when searching for accomplishment.
Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman
Philip Pullman’s spectacular world where humans are accompanied by daemons – animals that look after them and hold their human’s souls – has entranced children around the world. In this first book of the series, Lyra travels to the Arctic to look for her missing friend.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
After Eddie is killed while trying to save a little girl from being crushed, he is sent to heaven and meets 5 people who were significant in his life. Among these are his old captain from fighting in WW2 and a child who died as a consequence of Eddie’s actions. Eddie learns a number of lessons about life.
Flowers in The Attic – Virginia Andrews
When the Dollangager family’s father dies, they’re left with extensive debt. Their mother moves them to her wealthy estranged parent’s house but it soon becomes apparent that their new grandparents are abusive and slowly the children begin to lose the protection of their mother.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
A heart-breaking story of the incomprehensible tragedy of the Nazi concentration camps told through the naive and innocent eyes of a 9 year old boy. Bruno lives in a big house next door to ‘out-with’ where his father works. At the camp fence he meets a boy wearing striped pyjamas and the two become friends.
A Town Like Alice -Nevil Shute
After meeting as prisoners of war during World War 2, Jean emigrates to Australia to be with Joe. There she tries to build a new life in a small outback community, attempting to replicate Alice Springs with her inheritance money.
Watership Down – Richard Adams
The tale of a group of rabbits who narrowly escape the destruction of their warren, this classic children’s adventure story follows the rabbits as they search for a safe place to live and try to re-build their lives in a new warren.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl’s imaginative story of five children who find golden tickets in their chocolate bars and are allowed to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory has been a children’s favourite for generation after generation.
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
Set in the early 1800’s, the story follows Edmond Dantès who escapes from prison after being falsely imprisoned and embarks on getting his revenge. Justice, mercy, innocence, guilt, loyalty and selfishness all play a part in this story.
The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas Sparks’ heart breaking romance is told by an elderly man in a nursing home. In his story young lovers Allie and Noah enjoy a fiery summer romance before the different classes of their families forces them apart. They’re emotionally reunited 14 years later and have a second chance at love.
My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell
Naturalist Gerald Durrell’s autobiographical account of the years he lived on the island of Corfu as a child offers a funny and rich description of the nature, animals and eccentric characters that he lived with.
The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
Detailing an attack on Earth by the Martians, H. G. Wells’ famous novel caused widespread panic in the 1930’s when a radio reading of his story caused listeners to believe that a genuine alien attack was under way.
War Horse – Michael Morpurgo
This emotional story follows the experiences of a horse bought by the Army during World War One. Spending time with various people affected by the war, including soldiers of various armies, War Horse paints a broad picture of the horrors of World War One.
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
A dystopian sci-fi novel in which clones are made of the human population to be harvested for vital organs, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is an eye-opening look at life and mortality.
Diary of a Lunatic
By Leo Tolstoy
This morning I underwent a medical examination in the government council room. The opinions of the doctors were divided. They argued among themselves and came at last to the conclusion that I was not mad. But this was due to the fact that I tried hard during the examination not to give myself away. I was afraid of being sent to the lunatic asylum, where I would not be able to go on with the mad undertaking I have on my hands. They pronounced me subject to fits of excitement, and something else, too, but nevertheless of sound mind. The doctor prescribed a certain treatment, and assured me that by following his directions my trouble would completely disappear. Imagine, all that torments me disappearing completely! Oh, there is nothing I would not give to be free from my trouble. The suffering is too great!
I am going to tell explicitly how I came to undergo that examination; how I went mad, and how my madness was revealed to the outside world.
Up to the age of thirty-five I lived like the rest of the world, and nobody had noticed any peculiarities in me. Only in my early childhood, before I was ten, I had occasionally been in a mental state similar to the present one, and then only at intervals, whereas now I am continually conscious of it.
I remember going to bed one evening, when I was a child of five or six. Nurse Euprasia, a tall, lean woman in a brown dress, with a double chin, was undressing me, and was just lifting me up to put me into bed.
"I will get into bed myself," I said, preparing to step over the net at the bedside.
"Lie down, Fedinka. You see, Mitinka is already lying quite still," she said, pointing with her head to my brother in his bed.
I jumped into my bed still holding nurse's hand in mine. Then I let it go, stretched my legs under the blanket and wrapped myself up. I felt so nice and warm! I grew silent all of a sudden and began thinking: "I love nurse, nurse loves me and Mitinka, I love Mitinka too, and he loves me and nurse. And nurse loves Taras; I love Taras too, and so does Mitinka. And Taras loves me and nurse. And mother loves me and nurse, nurse loves mother and me and father; everybody loves everybody, and everybody is happy."
Suddenly the housekeeper rushed in and began to shout in an angry voice something about a sugar basin she could not find. Nurse got cross and said she did not take it. I felt frightened; it was all so strange. A cold horror came over me, and I hid myself under the blanket. But I felt no better in the darkness under the blanket. I thought of a boy who had got a thrashing one day in my presence - of his screams, and of the cruel face of Foka when he was beating the boy.
"Then you won't do it any more; you won't!" he repeated and went on beating.
"I won't," said the boy; and Foka kept on repeating over and over, "You won't, you won't!" and did not cease to strike the boy.
That was when my madness came over me for the first time. I burst into sobs, and they could not quiet me for a long while. The tears and despair of that day were the first signs of my present trouble.
I well remember the second time my madness seized me. It was when aunt was telling us about Christ. She told His story and got up to leave the room. But we held her back: "Tell us more about Jesus Christ!" we said.
"I must go," she replied.
"No, tell us more, please!" Mitinka insisted, and she repeated all she had said before. She told us how they crucified Him, how they beat and martyred Him, and how He went on praying and did not blame them.
"Auntie, why did they torture Him?"
"They were wicked."
"But wasn't he God?"
"Be still - it is nine o'clock, don't you hear the clock striking?"
"Why did they beat Him? He had forgiven them. Then why did they hit Him? Did it hurt Him? Auntie, did it hurt?"
"Be quiet, I say. I am going to the dining-room to have tea now."
"But perhaps it never happened, perhaps He was not beaten by them?"
"I am going."
"No, Auntie, don't go!..." And again my madness took possession of me. I sobbed and sobbed, and began knocking my head against the wall.
Such had been the fits of my madness in my childhood. But after I was fourteen, from the time the instincts of sex awoke and I began to give way to vice, my madness seemed to have passed, and I was a boy like other boys. Just as happens with all of us who are brought up on rich, over-abundant food, and are spoiled and made effeminate, because we never do any physical work, and are surrounded by all possible temptations, which excite our sensual nature when in the company of other children similarly spoiled, so I had been taught vice by other boys of my age and I indulged in it. As time passed other vices came to take the place of the first. I began to know women, and so I went on living, up to the time I was thirty-five, looking out for all kinds of pleasures and enjoying them. I had a perfectly sound mind then, and never a sign of madness. Those twenty years of my normal life passed without leaving any special record on my memory, and now it is only with a great effort of mind and with utter disgust, that I can concentrate my thoughts upon that time.
Like all the boys of my set, who were of sound mind, I entered school, passed on to the university and went through a course of law studies. Then I entered the State service for a short time, married, and settled down in the country, educating - if our way of bringing up children can be called educating - my children, looking after the land, and filling the post of a Justice of the Peace.
It was when I had been married ten years that one of those attacks of madness I suffered from in my childhood made its appearance again. My wife and I had saved up money from her inheritance and from some Government bonds of mine which I had sold, and we decided that with that money we would buy another estate. I was naturally keen to increase our fortune, and to do it in the shrewdest way, better than any one else would manage it. I went about inquiring what estates were to be sold, and used to read all the advertisements in the papers. What I wanted was to buy an estate, the produce or timber of which would cover the cost of purchase, and then I would have the estate practically for nothing. I was looking out for a fool who did not understand business, and there came a day when I thought I had found one. An estate with large forests attached to it was to be sold in the Pensa Government. To judge by the information I had received the proprietor of that estate was exactly the imbecile I wanted, and I might expect the forests to cover the price asked for the whole estate. I got my things ready and was soon on my way to the estate I wished to inspect.
We had first to go by train (I had taken my man-servant with me), then by coach, with relays of horses at the various stations. The journey was very pleasant, and my servant, a good-natured youth, liked it as much as I did. We enjoyed the new surroundings and the new people, and having now only about two hundred miles more to drive, we decided to go on without stopping, except to change horses at the stations. Night came on and we were still driving. I had been dozing, but presently I awoke, seized with a sudden fear. As often happens in such a case, I was so excited that I was thoroughly awake and it seemed as if sleep were gone for ever. "Why am I driving? Where am I going?" I suddenly asked myself. It was not that I disliked the idea of buying an estate at a bargain, but it seemed at that moment so senseless to journey to such a far away place, and I had a feeling as if I were going to die there, away from home. I was overcome with terror.
My servant Sergius awoke, and I took advantage of the fact to talk to him. I began to remark upon the scenery around us; he had also a good deal to say, of the people at home, of the pleasure of the journey, and it seemed strange to me that he could talk so gaily. He appeared so pleased with everything and in such good spirits, whereas I was annoyed with it all. Still, I felt more at ease when I was talking with him. Along with my feelings of restlessness and my secret horror, however, I was fatigued as well, and longed to break the journey somewhere. It seemed to me my uneasiness would cease if I could only enter a room, have tea, and, what I desired most of all, sleep.
We were approaching the town Arzamas.
"Don't you think we had better stop here and have a rest?"
"Why not? It's an excellent idea."
"How far are we from the town?" I asked the driver.
"Another seven miles."
The driver was a quiet, silent man. He was driving rather slowly and wearily.
We drove on. I was silent, but I felt better, looking forward to a rest and hoping to feel the better for it. We drove on and on in the darkness, and the seven miles seemed to have no end. At last we reached the town. It was sound asleep at that early hour. First came the small houses, piercing the darkness, and as we passed them, the noise of our jingling bells and the trotting of our horses sounded louder. In a few places the houses were large and white, but I did not feel less dejected for seeing them. I was waiting for the station, and the samovar, and longed to lie down and rest.
At last we approached a house with pillars in front of it. The house was white, but it seemed to me very melancholy. I felt even frightened at its aspect and stepped slowly out of the carriage. Sergius was busying himself with our luggage, taking what we needed for the night, running about and stepping heavily on the doorsteps. The sound of his brisk tread increased my weariness. I walked in and came into a small passage. A man received us; he had a large spot on his cheek and that spot filled me with horror. He asked us into a room which was just an ordinary room. My uneasiness was growing.
"Could we have a room to rest in?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, I have a very nice bedroom at your disposal. A square room, newly whitewashed."
The fact of the little room being square was - I remember it so well - most painful to me. It had one window with a red curtain, a table of birchwood and a sofa with a curved back and arms. Sergius boiled the water in the samovar and made the tea. I put a pillow on the sofa in the meantime and lay down. I was not asleep; I heard Sergius busy with the samovar and urging me to have tea. I was afraid to get up from the sofa, afraid of driving away sleep; and just to be sitting in that room seemed awful. I did not get up, but fell into a sort of doze. When I started up out of it, nobody was in the room and it was quite dark. I woke up with the very same sensation I had the first time and knew sleep was gone. "Why am I here? Where am I going? Just as I am I must be for ever. Neither the Pensa nor any other estate will add to or take anything away from me. As for me, I am unbearably weary of myself. I want to go to sleep, to forget - and I cannot, I cannot get rid of self."
I went out into the passage. Sergius was sleeping there on a narrow bench, his hand hanging down beside it. He was sleeping soundly, and the man with the spot on his cheek was also asleep. I thought, by going out of the room, to get away from what was tormenting me. But it followed me and made everything seem dark and dreary. My feeling of horror, instead of leaving me, was increasing.
"What nonsense!" I said to myself. "Why am I so dejected? What am I afraid of?" "You are afraid of me" - I heard the voice of Death - "I am here."
I shuddered. Yes, - Death! Death will come, it will come and it ought not to come. Even in facing actual death I would certainly not feel anything of what I felt now. Then it would be simply fear, whereas now it was more than that. I was actually seeing, feeling the approach of death, and along with it I felt that death ought not to exist.
My entire being was conscious of the necessity of the right to live, and at the same time of the inevitability of dying. This inner conflict was causing me unbearable pain. I tried to shake off the horror; I found a half-burnt candle in a brass candlestick and lighted it. The candle with its red flame burnt down until it was not much taller than the low candlestick. The same thing seemed to be repeated over and over: nothing lasts, life is not, all is death - but death ought not to exist. I tried to turn my thoughts to what had interested me before, to the estate I was to buy and to my wife. Far from being a relief, these seemed nothing to me now. To feel my life doomed to be taken from me was a terror shutting out any other thought. "I must try to sleep," I decided. I went to bed, but the next instant I jumped up, seized with horror. A sickness overcame me, a spiritual sickness not unlike the physical uneasiness preceding actual illness - but in the spirit, not in the body. A terrible fear similar to the fear of death, when mingled with the recollections of my past life, developed into a horror as if life were departing. Life and death were flowing into one another. An unknown power was trying to tear my soul into pieces, but could not bend it. Once more I went out into the passage to look at the two men asleep; once more I tried to go to sleep. The horror was always the same - now red, now white and square. Something was tearing within but could not be torn apart. A torturing sensation! An arid hatred deprived me of every spark of kindly feeling. Just a dull and steady hatred against myself and against that which had created me. What did create me? God? We say God.... "What if I tried to pray?" I suddenly thought. I had not said a prayer for more than twenty years and I had no religious sentiment, although just for formality's sake I fasted and partook of the communion every year. I began saying prayers; "God, forgive me," "Our Father," "Our Lady," I was composing new prayers, crossing myself, bowing to the earth, looking around me all the while for fear I might be discovered in my devotional attitude. The prayers seemed to divert my thoughts from the previous terror, but it was more the fear of being seen by somebody that did it. I went to bed again. but the moment I shut my eyes the very same feeling of terror made me jump up. I could not stand it any longer. I called the hotel servant, roused Sergius from his sleep, ordered him to harness the horses to the carriage and we were soon driving on once more. The open air and the drive made me feel much better. But I realised that something new had come into my soul, and had poisoned the life I had lived up to that hour.
We reached our destination in the evening. The whole day long I remained struggling with despair, and finally conquered it; but a horror remained in the depth of my soul. It was as if a misfortune had happened to me, and although I was able to forget it for a while, it remained at the bottom of my soul, and I was entirely dominated by it.
The manager of the estate, an old man, received us in a very friendly manner, though not exactly with great joy; he was sorry that the estate was to be sold. The clean little rooms with upholstered furniture, a new, shining samovar on the tea-table, nice large cups, honey served with the tea, - everything was pleasant to see. I began questioning him about the estate without any interest, as if I were repeating a lesson learned long ago and nearly forgotten. It was so uninteresting. But that night I was able to go to sleep without feeling miserable. I thought this was due to having said my prayers again before going to bed.
After that incident I resumed my ordinary life; but the apprehension that this horror would again come upon me was continual. I had to live my usual life without any respite, not giving way to my thoughts, just like a schoolboy who repeats by habit and without thinking the lesson learned by heart. That was the only way to avoid being seized again by the horror and the despair I had experienced in Arzamas.
I had returned home safe from my journey; I had not bought the estate - I had not enough money. My life at home seemed to be just as it had always been, save for my having taken to saying prayers and to going to church. But now, when I recollect that time, I see that I only imagined my life to be the same as before. The fact was I merely continued what I had previously started, and was running with the same speed on rails already laid; but I did not undertake anything new.
Even in those things which I had already taken in hand my interest had diminished. I was tired of everything, and was growing very religious. My wife noticed this, and was often vexed with me for it. No new fit of distress occurred while I was at home. But one day I had to go unexpectedly to Moscow, where a lawsuit was pending. In the train I entered into conversation with a land-owner from Kharkov. We were talking about the management of estates, about bank business, about the hotels in Moscow, and the theatres. We both decided to stop at the "Moscow Court," in the Miasnizkaia Street, and go that evening to the opera, to Faust. When we arrived I was shown into a small room, the heavy smell of the passage being still in my nostrils. the porter brought in my portmanteau, and the amid lighted the candle, the flame of which burned up brightly and then flickered, as it usually does. In the room next to mine I heard somebody coughing, probably an old man. The maid went out, and the porter asked whether I wished him to open my bag. In the meanwhile the candle flame had flared up, throwing its light on the blue wallpaper with yellow stripes, on the partition, on the shabby table, on the small sofa in the front of it, on the mirror hanging on the wall, and on the window. I saw what the small room was like, and suddenly felt the horror of the Arzamas night awakening within me.
"My God! Must I stay here for the night? How can I?" I thought. "Will you kindly unfasten my bag?" I said to the porter, to keep him longer in the room. "And now I'll dress quickly and go to the theatre," I said to myself.
When the bag had been untied I said to the porter, "Please tell the gentleman in Number 8 - the one who came with me - that I shall be ready presently, and ask him to wait for me."
The porter left, and I began to dress in haste, afraid to look at the walls. "But what nonsense!" I said to myself. "Why am I frightened like a child? I am not afraid of ghosts -" Ghosts! - to be afraid of ghosts is nothing to what I was afraid of! "But what is it? Absolutely nothing. I am only afraid of myself....Nonsense!"
I slipped into a cold, rough, starched shirt, stuck in the studs, put on evening dress and new boots, and went to call for the Kharkov landowner, who was ready. We started for the opera house. He stopped on the way to have his hair curled, while I went to a French hairdresser to have mine cut, where I talked a little to the Frenchwoman in the shop and bought a pair of gloves. Everything seemed all right. I had completely forgotten the oblong room in the hotel, and the walls.
I enjoyed the Faust performance very much, and when it was over my companion proposed that we should have supper. This was contrary to my habits; but just at that moment I remembered the walls in my room, and accepted.
We returned home after one. I had two glasses of wine - an unusual thing for me - in spite of which I was feeling quite at ease.
But the moment we entered the passage with the lowered lamp lighting it, the moment I was surrounded by the peculiar smell of the hotel. I felt a cold shudder of horror running down my back. But there was nothing to be done. I shook hands with my new friend, and stepped into my room.
I had a frightful night - much worse than the night at Arzamas; and it was not until dawn, when the old man in the next room was coughing again, that I fell asleep - and then not in my bed, but, after getting in and out of it many times, on the sofa.
I suffered the whole night unbearably. Once more my soul and my body were tearing themselves apart within me. the same thoughts came again: "I am living, I have lived up till now, I have the right to live; but all around me is death and destruction. Then why live? Why not die? Why not kill myself immediately? No; I could not. I am afraid. Is it better to wait for death to come when it will? No, that is even worse; and I am also afraid of that. Then, I must live. But what for? In order to die?" I could not get out of that circle. I took a book, and began reading. For a moment it made me forget my thoughts. But then the same questions and the same horror came again. I got into bed, lay down, and shut my eyes. That made the horror worse. God had created things as they are. But why? They say, "Don't ask; pray." Well, I did pray; I was praying now, just as I did at Arzamas. At that time I had prayed simply, like a child. now my prayers had a definite meaning: "If Thou exist, reveal Thy existence to me. To what end am I created? What am I?" I was bowing to the earth, repeating all the prayers I knew, composing new ones; and I was adding each time, "Reveal Thy existence to me!" I became quiet, waiting for an answer. But no answer came, as if there were nothing to answer. I was alone, alone with myself and was answering my own questions in place of him who would not answer. "What am I created for?" "To live in a future life," I answered. "Then why this uncertainty and torment? I cannot believe in future life. I did believe when I asked, but not with my whole soul. Now I cannot, I cannot! If Thou didst exist, Thou wouldst reveal it to me, to all men. But Thou dost not exist, and there is nothing true but distress." But I cannot accept that! I rebelled against it; I implored Him to reveal His existence to me. I did all that everybody does, but He did not reveal Himself to me. "Ask and it shall be given unto you," I remembered, and began to entreat; in doing so I felt no real comfort, but just surcease of despair. Perhaps it was not entreaty on my part, but only denial of Him. You retreat a step from Him, and He goes from you a mile. I did not believe in Him, and yet here I was entreating Him. But He did not reveal Himself. I was balancing my accounts with Him, and was blaming Him. I simply did not believe.
The next day I used all my endeavors to get through with my affairs somehow during the day, in order to be saved from another night in the hotel room. Although I had not finished everything, I left for home in the evening.
That night at Moscow brought a still greater change into my life, which had been changing ever since the night at Arzamas. I was now paying less attention to my affairs, and grew more and more indifferent to everything around me. my health was also getting bad. My wife urged me to consult a doctor. To her my continual talk about God and religion was a sign of ill-health, whereas I knew I was ill and weak, because of the unsolved questions of religion and of God.
I was trying not to let that question dominate my mind, and continued living amid the old unaltered conditions, filling up my time with incessant occupations. On Sundays and feast days I went to church; I even fasted as I had begun to do since my journey to Pensa, and did not cease to pray. I had no faith in my prayers, but somehow I kept the demand note in my possession instead of tearing it up, and was always presenting it for payment, although I was aware of the impossibility of getting paid. I did it just on the chance. I occupied my days, not with the management of the estate - I felt disgusted with all business because of the struggle it involved - but with the reading of papers, magazines, and novels, and with card-playing for small stakes. the only outlet for my energy was hunting. I had kept that up from habit, having been fond of this sport all my life.
One day in winter, a neighbor of mine came with his dogs to hunt wolves. Having arrived at the meeting place we put on snowshoes to walk over the snow and move rapidly along. The hunt was unsuccessful; the wolves contrived to escape through the stockade. As I became aware of that from a distance, I took the direction of the forest to follow the fresh track of a hare. This led me far away into a field. There I spied the hare, but he had disappeared before I could fire. I turned to go back, and had to pass a forest of huge trees. The snow was deep, the snowshoes were sinking in, and the branches were entangling me. The wood was getting thicker and thicker. I wondered where I was, for the snow had changed all the familiar places. Suddenly I realised that I had lost my way. How should I get home or reach the hunting party? Not a sound to guide me! I was tired and bathed in perspiration. If I stopped, I would probably freeze to death; if I walked on, my strength would forsake me. I shouted, but all was quiet, and no answer came. I turned in the opposite direction, which was wrong again, and looked round. Nothing but the wood on every hand. I could not tell which was east or west. I turned back again, but I could hardly move a step. I was frightened, and stopped. the horror I had experienced in Arzamas and in Moscow seized me again, only a hundred times greater. My heart was beating, my hands and feet were shaking. Am I to die here? I don't want to! Why death? What is death? I was about to ask again, to reproach God, when I suddenly felt I must not; I ought not. I had not the right to present any account to him; He had said all that was necessary, and the fault was wholly mine. I began to implore His forgiveness for I felt disgusted with myself. The horror, however, did not last long. I stood still one moment, plucked up courage, took the direction which seemed to be the right one, and was actually soon out of the wood. I had not been far from its edge when I lost my way. As I came out on the main road, my hands and feet were still shaking, and my heart was beating violently. But my soul was full of joy. I soon found my party, and we all returned home together. I was not quite happy but I knew there was a joy within me which I would understand later on; and that joy proved real. I went to my study to be alone and prayed remembering my sins, and asking for forgiveness. They did not seem to be numerous; but when I thought of what they were they were hateful to me.
Then I began to read the Scriptures. The Old Testament I found incomprehensible but enchanting, the New touching in its meekness. But my favorite reading was now the lives of the saints; they were consoling to me, affording example which seemed more and more possible to follow. Since that time I have grown even less interested in the management of affairs and in family matters. These things even became repulsive to me. Everything was wrong in my eyes. I did not quite realise why they were wrong, but I knew that the things of which my whole life had consisted, now counted for nothing. This was plainly revealed to me again on the occasion of the projected purchase of an estate, which was for sale in our neighborhood on very advantageous terms. I went to inspect it. Everything was very satisfactory, the more so because the peasants on that estate had no land of their own beyond their vegetable gardens. I grasped at once that in exchange for the right of using the landowner's pasture-grounds, they would do all the harvesting for him; and the information I was given proved that I was right. I saw how important that was, and was pleased, as it was in accordance with my old habits of thought. But on my way home I met an old woman who asked her way, and I entered into a conversation with her, during which she told me about her poverty. On returning home, when telling my wife about the advantages the estate afforded, all at once I felt ashamed and disgusted. I said I was not going to buy that estate, for its profits were based on the sufferings of the peasants. I was struck at that moment with the truth of what I was saying, the truth of the peasants having the same desire to live as ourselves, of their being our equals, our brethren, the children of the Father, as the Gospel says. But unexpectedly something which had been gnawing within me for a long time became loosened and was torn away, and something new seemed to be born instead.
My wife was vexed with me and abused me. But I was full of joy. This was the first sign of my madness. My utter madness began to show itself about a month later.
This began by my going to church; I was listening to the Mass with great attention and with a faithful heart, when I was suddenly given a wafer; after which everyone began to move forward to kiss the Cross, pushing each other on all sides. As I was leaving church, beggars were standing on the steps. It became instantly clear to me that this ought not to be, and in reality was not. But if this is not, then there is no death and no fear, and nothing is being torn asunder within me, and I am not afraid of any calamity which may come.
At that moment the full light of the truth was kindled in me, and I grew into what I am now. If all this horror does not necessarily exist around me, then it certainly does not exist within me. I distributed on the spot all the money I had among the beggars in the porch, and walked home instead of driving in my carriage as usual, and all the way I talked with the peasants.
HERE'S SOME NICE ART FOR YOU TO LOOK AT....ENJOY!
Laundress - Edgar Degas
Le Rimmel - Kees van Dongen
I LOVE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS FROM FILM
WHY THE WORLD NEEDS EDITORS.....................
THE ART OF PULP
THE ART OF WAR...............................
Photographs I’ve taken
The doors of Dublin