The most significant events in the history of books on the 23rd of October
1844: Robert Bridges is born. He would be Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1913 until his death in 1930, and his Testament of Beauty would be popular towards the end of his life, but he is now best remembered as the man who got the poems of his friend Gerard Manley Hopkins into print.
1872: Théophile Gautier dies. An important influence on the quatrain poems of both Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, this French poet was one of the first true artistic bohemians.
1939: Zane Grey dies. A hugely popular writer of Westerns in the early twentieth century, Grey was President Eisenhower’s favourite writer and at one point he was the bestselling novelist in the US, being outsold by the Bible alone. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) remains his most popular book.
1942: Michael Crichton is born. A hugely bestselling novelist during the last few decades of the twentieth century, he wrote Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Disclosure, The Andromeda Strain, and numerous other novels which were turned into (mostly successful) films. Crichton also had a fascinating career, which included creating the successful TV medical drama ER and directing the first ever film to use CGI.
1942: On the same day as Crichton, in 1942, Douglas Dunn is born. Dunn is a Scottish poet perhaps best known for his 1985 Elegies, a moving sequence of poems about the death of his wife. In the 1970s Dunn worked with Philip Larkin in the library at the University of Hull.
1950: ‘The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest’, T. S. Eliot told Time magazine in an interview published on this day. ‘You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down.’ This was two years after Eliot had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, in November 1948.
1958: The Smurfs make their debut in Spirou magazine.
1958: Also on this day in 1958, Boris Pasternak is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature; a few days later the Russian government forces him to decline it
2001: Josh Kirby, the illustrator for Terry Pratchett’s novels, dies. His real first name was Ronald, but he acquired the nickname ‘Josh’ at art school. His depictions of the characters and scene from Pratchett’s Discworld series were hugely popular with readers. You can see some of his artwork here. Terry Pratchett said: ‘I only invented the Discworld. Josh created it.’ (More great quotations from the late, great Sir Terry here.)
Image: Zane Grey, via Wikimedia Commons.
I think ‘Timeline’ is one of Crichton’s best books. It combines historical fiction with sci-fi (my two favourite genres.