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Last Words Spoken By Famous Authors

Goethe

Here are the last words spoken by some famous authors:

“How gratifying!” ~ Robert Browning

“The damned doctors have drenched me so that I can scarcely stand. I want to sleep now.” ~ Lord Byron

[As he jumped overboard:]: “Goodbye, everybody!” ~ Hart Crane

“A dying man can do nothing easy.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“More light!” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Well, I must arrange my pillows for another weary night! When will this end?” ~ Washington Irving

“Sister, you’re trying to keep me alive as an old curiosity, but I’m done, I’m finished, I’m going to die.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“I am dying as I’ve lived: beyond my means; this wallpaper is killing me; one of us has got to go.” ~ Oscar Wilde

From Strouf, Judie LH: Literature Lover’s Book of Lists: Serious Trivia for the Bibliophile; Prentice Hall; 1998.

Chekhov’s Gun

Anton Chekhov

According to Wikipedia, Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle that every element in a narrative be irreplaceable and that anything else be removed. From Chekhov:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Nice.

Ulysses Playing Cards

Ulysses Playing Cards

These Ulysses playing cards were published by Presage International in 1989. Here’s the description given on one of the spare cards:

The Vau-de-ville of James Joyce’s Ulysses encircles and condenses into a pictorial form the adventures of a single day, June 16, 1904. Each image is part of a puzzle in which past, present, future, naturalism, symbolism, reality, [and] hallucination are superimposed and interwoven.

Mock heroic exaggeration and pomposity explode into laughter through visions, fantasies, and internal monologues.

Hearts are emotional.

Clubs are physical.

Diamonds are spiritual.

Spades are symbolical.

R. Fanto created the drawings and divised the scheme based on many useful hints given by Richard Ellman, Joyce’s biographer.

I have a number of favorites, including Martello Tower, INRI-IHS, Pen, Crossed Mirror and Razor, and Joyce and Nora as the Jokers.

Literary Lapses

William Shakespeare

Sometimes even the best writers make mistakes. Here are a few.

Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe comes out of the water naked to board a ship, then fills his pockets with biscuits.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
According to the author, Dr. Watson suffered a war injury. In A Study in Scarlet the injury was to Watson’s shoulder, but in The Sign of Four, it has moved to his leg.

Carl Sandburg
In Abraham Lincoln–The Prairie Years, Sandburg has Lincoln’s mother singing a song that was not written until twenty-two years after her son’s death.

William Shakespeare
The bard wrote of a cannon in the reign of King John (cannons were unknown until about 150 years later); of clocks striking the hour in the days of Julius Caesar; and of printing in the days of King Henry II.

From Strouf, Judie LH: Literature Lover’s Book of Lists: Serious Trivia for the Bibliophile; Prentice Hall; 1998.

My James Joyce Shelf

James Joyce Shelf

Books currently on my James Joyce shelf:

  • Joyce Images (Cato and Vitiello)
  • Ulysses Annotated (Gifford)
  • James Joyce A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Writings (Fargnoli and Gillespie)
  • Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce’s Masterpiece (Kiberd)
  • James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition (Jackson and McGinley)
  • James Joyce Letters Vol I (Gilbert)
  • James Joyce Letters Vol II (Ellman)
  • James Joyce (Ellman)
  • Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Gifford)
  • Joyce’s Dublin: A Walking Guide to Ulysses (McCarthy and Rose)
  • Giacomo Joyce (James Joyce)
  • “Ulysses Map of Dublin” (Dublin Tourism Enterprises)
  • Ulysses (James Joyce)
  • Stephen Hero (James Joyce)
  • ReJoyce (Burgess)
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
  • Finnegans Wake (James Joyce)
  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (Campbell and Robinson)
  • James Joyce’s Ulysses (Gilbert)

My Top 10 Favorite Last Lines from Novels

Books

When Stephen Covey penned “Begin with the end in mind” as the second habit in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he wasn’t referring to novel writing, but it’s great advice nevertheless for anyone wishing to write a novel. Just as novelists must work and rework the first lines of their creations to engage readers from the start, so must novelists regard last lines in terms of importance—it’s been said that the opening lines sell the book, while the last line sells the next book. I’m nowhere near finishing my second novel, but I’ve had the end in mind for some time now, and I’ve been thinking a lot about last lines. In no particular order, here are my top 10 favorite last lines from novels:

“…you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”
Voltaire, Candide

“His father and grandfather could probably no more understand his state of mind than they could understand Chinese, but those who know him intimately do not know they they wish him greatly different from what he actually is.”
Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

“yes I said yes I will Yes.”
James Joyce, Ulysses

“L—d! said my mother, what is all this story about?— A COCK and a BULL, said Yorick—And one of the best of its kind I ever heard.”
Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

“Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining.”
Samuel Beckett, Molloy

“I shall feel proud and satisfied to have been the first author to enjoy the full fruit of his writings, as I desired, because my only desire has been to make men hate those false, absurd histories in books of chivalry, which thanks to the exploits of my real Don Quixote are even now tottering, and without any doubt will soon tumble to the ground. Farewell.”
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

“And I go home having lost her love. And write this book.”
Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans

Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Thomas Wolfe Memorial

A few years ago my family and I visited the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, one of the settings of Look Homeward, Angel, Wolfe’s first novel and one of my favorite novels. The following is from the pamphlet:

Thomas Wolfe was perhaps the most overtly autobiographical of this nation’s major novelists. His boyhood in the boardinghouse at 48 Spruce Street colored his work and influenced the rest of his life. His reminiscences were so frank and realistic that Look Homeward, Angel was banned from Asheville’s public library for more than seven years. Today Wolfe is celebrated as one of Asheville’s most famous citizens, and his boyhood home has become a part of the nation’s literary history.

The many exhibits at the visitor center included Wolfe’s hat and Majestic Cabinet Radio (shown below), the folding sofa bed on which slept Julia Wolfe slept while visiting Wolfe in New York City, a ceiling medallion cast by W. O. Wolfe (Wolfe’s father owned a tombstone shop)—even artifacts obtained on excavating the large house’s cistern.

Thomas Wolfe Radio

Also on display are items that Fred Wolfe recovered from the Chelsea Hotel at Wolfe’s death in 1938. These include Wolfe’s suit and the typewriter used by his typist as they worked on The Web and the Rock and You Can’t Go Home Again.

Thomas Wolfe Typewriter

After our tour of the Wolfe home, we stopped briefly at the historic Riverside Cemetery, where Wolfe and his family are buried. William Sydney Porter, also known as O. Henry, is also buried there. On a separate literary note, it was also in Asheville that Zelda Fitzgerald (who once stayed at Julia Wolfe’s boardinghouse) perished in a fire at a mental hospital.

Fictional Characters Bearing Their Creators’ Names

Sarah Crown posted an interesting bit in The Guardian’s books blog, “Is auto-fiction strictly a boys’ game?” The subject was the phenomenon of authors who insert a character bearing their name into their work. It turns out that a number of books—both new and not so new—have used this device, a fact that interested me greatly, as I used it in my novel, Pixels of Young Mueller. I have compiled this list of books from the article:

  • Jonathan Coe (The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim)
  • Damon Galgut (In a Strange Room)
  • Geoff Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi)
  • Will Self (Will Self Walking to Hollywood)
  • Michel Houellebecq (La Carte et le Territoire)
  • Alberto Manguel (All Men Are Liars)
  • Philip Roth (Operation Shylock)
  • Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated)
  • E. L. Doctorow (World’s Fair)
  • Frederick Exley (A Fan’s Notes)
  • Vladimir Nabokov (Pnin)
  • Amelie Nothomb (Une forme de vie)
  • Gertrude Stein (Autobiography of Alice B Toklas)

Readers familiar with my novel know that its main character, Klaus Mueller, creates a fictional character named Jerry Schwartz. I knew that I could not have been the first to do this, but I was not aware of any specific instances in which it had been done. Fortunately, Sarah Crown has come to the rescue, and while I don’t agree with her use of “auto-fiction” to describe the literary device itself, I applaud her efforts.

City Lights Bookstore

At City Lights Bookstore

It looks like another business trip to San Francisco later this year, and you know what that means—a visit to City Lights Bookstore. City Lights, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, was co-founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose A Coney Island of the Mind greatly influenced me in my early twenties. With any luck, I’ll run into Mr. Ferlinghetti himself.