Today is Wednesday, March 28, 2018. It’s the birthday of Nobel Prize-winning writer Mario Vargas Llosa. It’s also the birthday of writers Iris Chang, Maxim Gorky, and Lauren Weisberger. Our poem for today is “The Banjo Player,” by Fenton Johnson. Thank you for reading, and sharing, Bidwell Hollow. Remember you can like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Mario Vargas Llosa
The Swedish Academy awarded Mario Vargas Llosa (affiliate link) the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature for, “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.”
Indeed, much of Vargas Llosa’s work explores the inner workings of his native Peru, from its culture to its military.
His first novel, “The City and the Dogs,” published in 1963. It describes cadets fighting for survival at the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Peru. Vargas Llosa attended the academy as a teenager.
Vargas Llosa followed this up with “The Green House” in 1966. It’s set in two parts of Peru and spans much of the 20th century’s first half. The novel covers the savagery and corruption of Peruvian life.
Vargas Llosa was born today in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936. And though much of his early writing was about Peru, he spent time living in Paris, London, the U.S., and Spain.
He returned to Lima, Peru, in 1974. And in 1990 he lost a runoff election to become Peru’s President.
Instead, in 1993, Vargas Llosa became a citizen of Spain, where he remains today.
Growing up, Iris Chang (affiliate link) heard about what Japanese troops did to the people of Nanking during the second Sino-Japanese War. Chang’s grandparents escaped the Chinese city shortly before the Japanese arrived. They settled in the U.S.
As an adult, Chang couldn’t find much to read about what happened in Nanking, now called Nanjing.
So Chang researched what occurred there when Japanese troops entered the city in December 1937.
Chang’s book about the atrocities, “The Rape of Nanking,” published in 1997. It was the first nonfiction account of what happened in Nanking. The book became a New York Times bestseller, remaining on the list for several months.
Other nonfiction books by Change are “Thread of the Silkworm” and “The Chinese in America. A Narrative History.
Chang was born today in 1968 in Princeton, NJ. She passed away in 2004.
Lauren Weisberger (affiliate link) only lasted ten months working for Anna Wintour at Vogue.
But she left with enough material from which she could write a New York Times bestseller.
The novel inspired by her time working for Wintour came out in 2003.
Titled, “The Devil Wears Prada,” the book stayed on the Times’ bestsellers list for a year. It became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.
Weisberger is prone to writing bestsellers. Her first four novels were all top-ten New York Times bestsellers.
Weisberger’s sixth book, “Revenge Wears Prada,” debuted at number two on the list when it released in 2013.
Weisberger was born today in Scranton, PA, in 1977.
Her next novel, “When Life Gives You Lululemons,” is scheduled for release this June.
Maxim Gorky (affiliate link) was born Alexei Maximovich Peshkov today in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia in 1868.
Orphaned at nine, Gorky had a terrible early start to life. By the 1890s, though, he was writing for newspapers. His first story, “Makar Chudra,” published in 1892.
Gorky became famous across Russia. But his writing became political, attracting the negative attention of Russia’s Tsarist government.
Gorky fled to Capri. There he wrote a book about the revolutionary movement taking hold in Russia. Soviets loved the novel, titled “The Mother.”
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, though, Gorky was critical of the communists. He received a hand-written warning from Vladimir Lenin.
But over time, Gorky made up with the Soviet Union. He accepted Joseph Stalin’s invitation to return to Russia in 1932, where he died in 1936.
“The Banjo Player”
There is music in me, the music of a peasant people.
I wander through the levee, picking my banjo and singing my songs of the cabin and the field. At
the Last Chance Saloon I am as welcome as the violets in March; there is always food and
drink for me there, and the dimes of those who love honest music. Behind the railroad tracks
the little children clap their hands and love me as they love Kris Kringle.
But I fear that I am a failure. Last night a woman called me a troubadour. What is a troubadour?
– Fenton Johnson (1888-1958), Public Domain