Author Profile: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Hemingway in later life
Ernest Hemingway in later life.

Born at the close of the 19th century, Hemingway embodied, for good or ill, a type of masculinity seldom encountered in the West today. He was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois, into a conservative middle-class family. His musician mother, Grace, endeavoured to teach him the cello, but his physician father, Clarence, seems to have been more influential, spending their family vacations teaching his son how to camp, hunt, fish, and generally love and thrive in the great outdoors. In high school he was involved in a number of sports, but also excelled in English and wrote for his school paper. Continue reading “Author Profile: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)”

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Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

 

Virginia Woolf 1902.jpg
Virginia Woolf 1902

Acknowledged along with James Joyce as one of the foremost Modernist writers, and by Simone de Beauvoir as one of the few female writers to have explored what she referred to as “the given” – the assumptions made about what a woman ‘is’ – Virginia Woolf is best-remembered today for a handful of her most prominent novels, but during her lifetime was also a noted essayist and critic.

 

She was born in London on the 25th of January 1882, into an upper middle class family with strong literary and artistic connections. Continue reading “Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)”

Author Profile: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

dostoyevsky-by-vasily-perov-1872
Dostoyevsky by Vasily Perov 1872

One of the greatest writers not only in Russia but in the world, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote books which reflect a deep appreciation of human psychology, a profound interest in philosophy, and a devout Christian faith. His plots at times seem rambling to the point of chaotic, and his cast of characters extensive, but the reader is never left in any doubt that the author has a point and intends to make it.

Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow on 11th November 1821, to Mikhail Dostoyevsky, a doctor estranged from his family, who had expected him to become a priest, and Maria Nechayeva, who came from a family of merchants. He was raised in the family home in the grounds of the Mariinsky Home for the Poor, where his father worked, an upbringing which was steeped from an early age in the Christian faith and the literature of Russia and Europe: Pushkin, Goethe, Cervantes, Walter Scott, and Homer all joined the Bible in expected family reading. He had a ‘delicate constitution’ but a determined attitude which would see him in good stead in later life. Continue reading “Author Profile: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)”

Author Profile: Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

Little House in the Big Woods first edition
First Edition of Little House in the Big Woods

Having owned, and read repeatedly, the entire ‘Little House’ series as a child, I was already aware that Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived the adventurous childhood of a true ‘pioneer girl’ (the original working title of her memoirs). However, unlike many authors of fictionalised accounts, Ingalls actually downplayed, or omitted entirely, some of the events of her childhood. Like the brother who died in infancy (a particular tragedy at a time when it was still considered important for a man to have a son: Laura had no other brothers), or the time a man in the town where her family was living got drunk and accidentally set himself on fire. Continue reading “Author Profile: Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)”

Author Profile: Enid Blyton (1897-1968)

Enid Blyton signatureOne of the most popular British 20th century children’s authors, Enid Blyton’s relationship with her own children was, to put it mildly, strained. Blyton was a prodigious author: Wikipedia lists a total of 762 published works written by Blyton. Continue reading “Author Profile: Enid Blyton (1897-1968)”

Author Profile: Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

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Me reading ‘Matilda’ on Christmas Day 1989

I can still remember hearing the news that Roald Dahl had died, because at the time I was the perfect age to be a fan of his work. Just a few months before I had seen him interviewed on children’s television show ‘Blue Peter’ and one of his last works, ‘Matilda’, had been a Christmas present the previous year. Continue reading “Author Profile: Roald Dahl (1916-1990)”

Author Profile: Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie

The uncontested ‘Queen of Crime’, Dame Agatha Christie is hailed as the best-selling novelist of all time, with her works ranked third behind the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare. Her most famous and beloved characters are the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple; many of her stories about these characters have been adapted for television. Continue reading “Author Profile: Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976)”

Author Profile: C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

narnia poster
Poster for the 2005 Disney adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, based on the book by C. S. Lewis.

If you’ve read my list of Six Christian Classics it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’m quite a fan of the work of Clive Staples (‘Jack’) Lewis, who is regarded by many Christians as the pre-eminent apologist of the twentieth century.

This great ‘man of letters’, who taught at both Oxford and Cambridge, was born in Belfast and raised in the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, but a series of events, which included the death of his mother from cancer in 1908, the influence of early twentieth century intellectualism, and his experiences as a Second Lieutenant in the trenches in World War One (beginning on his nineteenth birthday), led him to reject the faith of his childhood. Continue reading “Author Profile: C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)”

Author Profile: J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien, c.1972

Best remembered today for his beloved works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (‘Ronald’) was a WWI lieutenant, an Oxford professor, a close friend of fellow-author C. S. Lewis, and a teacher of the poet W. H. Auden. Continue reading “Author Profile: J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)”

Author Profile: William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Tonight I’m off to an open-air performance of Macbeth, so what better time to post a profile of its writer?

Shakespeare first folio
Engraving of Shakespeare from the First Folio.

Over the course of his career The Bard wrote or collaborated on over 30 plays (the usual count is 38, although the authorship of some is contested), 154 sonnets, two longer poems, and an uncertain number of other verses. His keen insight into human nature and the human condition meant that his plays never fell neatly into the Classical divisions of tragedy and comedy: quite apart from his historical plays, his tragedies almost invariably contain moments of comedy, while one frequently encounters moments of tragedy in his comedies. Perhaps because of this, his are the most performed plays in the world, translated into every major language; it is sometimes said that not a single day goes by without one of his plays being performed somewhere in the world. Continue reading “Author Profile: William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”