Robert Schnakenberg: "Secret Lives of Great Writers"

365 texts books

Goal of the day: 155 words. Written: 569.

"Early on the morning of February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath went up the stairs to the room where her children were sleeping and placed a plate of bread and butter and two cups of milk before them. Then went down to the kitchen. Covering the door and window with towels, she opened the oven, stuck her head in and turned on the gas. A few hours later, she was found dead."

- Page 253 of the book

One of the 43 stories in the book begins with this funny paragraph.

It's just a shame that this paragraph is probably one of the best in the entire book. I warn you right away - it is better not to expect literaryness in this summary of biographies. Like a bibliography (or at least some factual references). Instead, what you can expect are short stories, peculiarities and oddities of the authors' lives described in the style of Wikipedia or "Ji" magazine.

(It's not bad if you want to learn about 43 famous writers in one go, but you won't write a master's thesis from this book.)

Rating if you're not going to read on:

  • Interest of the topic(s): 9/10
  • Writing style and words: 4/10
  • Consistency of information: 6/10
  • Enjoy reading: 7/10
  • Overall: 5/10

My findings:

It turns out that…

a) Not only writers, but also poets are called writers, and they are famous for six reasons:

  1. Drunk;
  2. Smokers;
  3. Drug addicts;
  4. Unfaithful to their partners;
  5. Suicides;
  6. The first five options together;

b) Since I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't have a whore/madonna complex, I don't do drugs, and I'm not a very arrogant narcissist, I probably won't be able to become a famous writer.

c) Notable authors come from:

  1. USA;
  2. Great Britain (mostly London);
  3. of Paris;
  4. One or two from Russia (like Leo Tolstoy and Ayn Rand).

d) There are no notable writers from China, Africa, India, Japan or Australia. I never thought so, but it turns out…

e) A large number of famous writers wrote and lived nearby. There are many examples when some authors knew others well and actively influenced their work and life. For example Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stain or Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens. Maybe this is a sign that writers in Lithuania should also communicate more?

f) If you want to become a good writer, you have to do crazy things. For example, Oscar Wilde traveled to the wild west (USA) in 1882-1883 and communicated with cowboys or tried to hang the same woman as Bran Stoker (author of "Dracula"). Jack Kerouac went on a tour of North America in 1949 (and it became the basis of his book "On the Road"), and what about Hemingway, who participated in as many as five wars!

g) Women authors were no less eccentric than men. Emily Brontë liked to look at one point for hours through the window, Emily Dickinson almost never left the house plot in her life, and Virginia Woolf ended her life by filling her pockets with stones and deciding to swim in the river. Great.

h) James Joyce is said to have said "I ask only one thing of my readers, that they devote their whole lives to reading my works." And you know, I'll probably steal this quote. Dedicate a lifetime my books for reading! (Yes, it's an ad. Give me the euros.)

i) S. Eliot said "Immature poets imitate, mature ones steal, poor poets spoil what they take, good poets make it better." It seems to me that Pablo Picasso and N other characters said the same thing. How unoriginal.

j) The ancient Greek poet Virgil had tamed a housefly, which was the muse of his work. After Muse's death, he organized a funeral that would be worth about 1 million Euros in today's currency. An orchestra was hired for the memorial service and a tiny mausoleum was built for the fly's corpse. Seriously.

k) Lord Byron said before his death “Now I go to sleep. Good night". It's probably the best obituary I've ever heard, rivaling H.J. Welsh "Go Away". I'm healthy."

Advice and unsolicited opinions to the author:

  • Next time I would like more evidence, links and sources. At least one.
  • The shallow writing style was suffocating.
  • And wasn't, say, Sun Tzu an uninteresting author at all? Why are only the British and Americans described?

After reading effect: Not bad. I will open it again in the future. I put it on the shelf.

while reading

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