Posted by: Mark | June 29, 2014

Book of Ages

I had wanted to post again from the Book of Questions but I can’t find my file. Instead, I’ll post a few things I learned from Eric Hanson’s A Book of Ages: An Eccentric Miscellany of Great and Offbeat Moments in the Lives of the Famous and Infamous, Ages 1 to 100:


At 21, in his senior year at Harvard, John Updike wrote a paper on Wallace Stevens, 1954. He was given a C+.

At 29, John Ruskin marries Euphemia Gray, 1848. They never consummate the marriage and she eventually has it annulled. Allegedly Ruskin is horrified at the sight of her pubic hair.

At 34, Dante Gabriel Rossetti buries many of his unpublished poems with his wife, 1862. Eight years late, after severe writer’s block, he digs them up and publishes them.

At 42, Raymond Chandler quits his job in the oil industry to write his first detective story, 1933.

At 43, William Golding publishes his first novel, the Lord of the Flies, 1954.

At 44, F. Scott Fitzgerald dies of a heart attack, 1940. In his last year, his royalties on all his work total $13.13, 72 copies.

At 46, Oscar Wilde dies in Paris, 1900. W.H. Auden said of him: “From the beginning Wilde performed his life and continued to do so even after fate had taken the plot out of his hands.”

At 46, William Faulkner is hired to adapt Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, the only film with two Nobel laureates to its credit

At 50, the Marquis de Sade publishes Justine, 1790. It is his first book

At 51, Raymond Chandler finishes The Big Sleep, his first novel, 1939

At 74, Alfred Tennyson is made a Lord by Queen Victoria, 1883. He is the first Englishman to be made so by writing. He was the last poet to sell as many books as the best-selling novelist


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