If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

July Interviews

7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets

Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Kaye George's second novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Deadly Sweet Tooth, was released on June 2. Look for the interview here on June 10.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Herman Melville

Twenty years or so ago, my three sisters, a brother-in-law, and I became interested in the transcendental writers of New England: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott and some others who may not have been a transcendentalist, but were of that era in New England. We had all visited the areas in which they lived including Walden’s Pond, Emerson’s and the Alcott’s homes, and the cemeteries with their graves. We read and discussed their books.
However, I don’t remember us reading Melville. But when I took a class in literature of writers in the 1800’s, we were assigned Billy Budd, I think. I know I read it. It was a few years later that I read his most well-known book, Moby Dick. Yes, I read the whole thing mostly on an air flight to California and back to visit my daughter.

I decided to research Herman Melville for a blog when Garrison Keillor mentioned him on “Writer’s Almanac,” the anniversary of the day he was born, August 1, 1819. I became interested when Keillor mentioned that Moby Dick was a commercial failure with mixed reviews. All the following information is a much abbreviated version from Wikipedia on Herman Mellville. I would strongly recommend you go to Wikipedia and read his whole life story there. He was a fascinating man.

“Herman Melville was the third child of a merchant in French dry goods in New York City. His formal education ended when his father died in 1832 leaving the family in financial straits. For a short period, Melville became a school teacher before he took to the sea as a sailor on a merchant ship in 1839. In 1840 he signed aboard the whaler Acushnet for his first whaling voyage, but jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands.

After further adventures, he returned to Boston in 1844. His first book Typee (1845), a highly romanticized account of his life among Polynesians, became such a best-seller that he worked up a sequel Omoo (1847). These successes encouraged him to marry Elizabeth Shaw, of a prominent Boston family, but were hard to sustain.  His first novel not based on his own experiences, Mardi (1849), is a sea narrative that develops into a philosophical allegory, but was not well received. Redburn (1849), a story of life on a merchant ship, and his 1850 expose of harsh life aboard a Man of War and White Jacket yielded warmer reviews, but not financial security.

In August 1850, Melville moved his growing family to Arrowhead, a farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he established a profound but short-lived friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he dedicated Moby Dick. As I mentioned above, Moby Dick didn’t earn much money and was published to mixed reviews.

Melville’s career as a popular author effectively ended with the cool reception of Pierre (1852), in part a satirical portrait of the literary scene. His Revolutionary War novel Israel Potter appeared in 1855.

From 1853 to 1856, Melville published short fiction in magazines, most notably “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1853), “The Encantadas” (1854) and “Benito Cereno” (1855). These and three other stories were collected in 1856 as The Piazza Tales. In 1857, he voyaged to England, where he reunited with Hawthorne for the first time since 1852, and then went on to tour the Near East. The Confidence Man (1857) was the last prose work he published during his lifetime. He moved to New York to take a position as Customs Inspector and turned to poetry. Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866) was his poetic reflection on the moral questions of the Civil War. In 1867 his oldest child, Malcolm, died at home from a self-inflicted gunshot. Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land, a metaphysical epic, appeared in 1876. In 1886, his second son, Stanwix, died and Melville retired.

During his last years, he privately published two volumes of poetry, left one volume unpublished, and returned to prose of the sea: the novella Billy Budd, left unfinished at his death, was published in 1924.

A slight reviving interest in Melville’s work was cut short with his death from cardiovascular disease in 1891. However, the centennial of his birth in 1919 became the starting point of the “Melville Revival.” Critics discovered his work, scholars explored his life, his major novels and stories have become world classics, and his poetry has gradually attracted respect.”

So if we hang in there long enough as writers, maybe our work will reach some acclaim even if we’ve been long dead.

I’m Sorry Ishmael
-  Gloria Alden
                                                I’m sorry, Ishmael, the editor said
                                                                as he looked at me and shook his head,
                                                                I know you worked hard on your memoir,
                                                                but there’d be many changes I’d require.

                                                                I feel the characters are too weird.
                                                                Queequeg, he mentioned as he stroked his beard.
                                                                Captain Ahab’s an infidel from hell
                                                                so Christians and fair ladies he’d repel.

                                                                And the name Moby Dick for a whale?
                                                                Seems Killer Fish would fit better the tale.
                                                                There’s too much written about sea and ship,
                                                                all superfluous description I would skip.

                                                                There’s much that’s unbelievable to me.
                                                                Fedallah long hidden in hold, you see?
                                                                The cabin boy Pip and Ahab both insane?
                                                                It’s too incongruous to entertain.

                                                                But what most stretches my imagination
                                                                is you surviving on Queequeg’s coffin
                                                                when the Pequod’s destroyed, all lost but you.
                                                                Now tell me, Ishmael, that can’t really be true.

                                                                I know you’ve worked long on this manuscript
                                                                and you hate to see any of your words stripped,
                                                                but unless you follow my advice I foretell,
                                                                nary a book my dear friend will you ever sell.
I wrote the above poem for one of the Ohio Poetry Day contests that wanted a poem from the point of view of some character in fiction or someone connected with the character in some way. I didn’t place, but out of many entries from around the country, I did win an honorable mention.

What do you think?  Do you think our work might become more popular with our death or die with us? Does it matter?


Kait said...

Writing as a legacy. Interesting concept. I think it can definitely happen today. Already has--writers like JK Rowling and Mitch Albom most likely qualify, although I've seen both on the deep discount shelves at Barnes & Noble. To be a legacy writer arguably seems to require one of two things--a ground breaking concept (Rowling) or a strong theme that permeates every book (Albom). If a writer with either of those things captures the public imagination, then the possibility exists for a post death legacy. There may be others two whose themes won't become popular until after they die because of what it says about the time they wrote in. Sinclair Lewis and Melville both come to mind in that category.

Will my books live on after I'm gone? Doubtful. They are written to entertain. No deep moral value and certainly no ground breaking concept. That does not mean they are light fluff, Death by Blue Water has human smuggling for a subplot. Merely that they are written for the here and now.

Jim Jackson said...

Better to be satisfied with readers while you are alive than to await fame after your death. Better yet, enjoy the writing process and the rest doesn’t really matter.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Kait, what an interesting comment. I agree that the writers you mention will probably live on. I read Sinclair Lewis in college and I still remember his work after all these years. John Steinbeck is another one and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. William Faulkner is another one. I read most if not all of his book, but the one that I've never forgotten is As I Lay
Dying, another book that I'd like to read again. I think many of Barbara Kingsolver's books will live on, too, especially The Poisonwood Bible.

Like you, I don't see mine living on and on although I also have sub plots, and your book Death by Blue Water, even though I read it several years ago, I still remember it vividly.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, that is so right. I enjoy creating new plots and books and the writing process. I even enjoy the editing, and just as much the praise I get from some readers about my books. At my recent 60th class reunion with the picnic at my house the next day, one of my classmates said they'd read the first three of my books and thought I was a very good writer. If she had bought the two after the first, it must mean she meant what she said. It's words like that that add the icing to the cake - excuse the cliche. :-)

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I write to entertain, with a social justice theme. In addition to "what happens next" my readers realize the situation or complication could happen to them. How will the protagonist cope? And how would they cope?

Great summary of Melville's life and work. My high school edition of Moby Dick is till on my bookshelf.

Shari Randall said...

Loved your poem, Gloria!
I read Moby Dick in high school and then read it with my book club last year. What a difference a few decades makes. Most of my book club friends enjoyed it. We just skipped the whaling stuff, and if you do, you'll find a story that is, yes, mystical and impenetrable at times, but also surprisingly funny and exciting in others. Now I can appreciate why it fascinates scholars and why it's lived on.

KM Rockwood said...

Interesting and informative.

I love your poem!

Gloria Alden said...

Margaret, that's mostly why I write, too, and I include a social justice theme, too. When I went to high school, the only two books we read were Ivanho one year and Romeo and Juliet
the next year. I've since regretted that my English classes never covered more literature and was mostly about grammar.

Thank you, Shari. My book clubs often include at least one classic novel a year, however, I have a feeling none of them would enjoy Moby Dick both because of its length and the whaling stuff. If I submit it as one of the books to read, I suppose I could tell them to skip the whaling parts if they choose to. I don't think I did.

Thank you, KM. I had fun writing it. I just wish I could find more time to write poetry.

Warren Bull said...

I don't expect to be read after I die. It's hard enough to get readers now.

Grace Topping said...

I spent a career writing user manuals for computer applications--most of which now occupies space in a landfill. With any luck, some of it was recycled and used for something else. That's why I now enjoy writing fiction--if I ever get published--with the idea that some of it may live on after I'm gone--even if only in a used book store. I don't need or expect fame and fortune. Although it would be nice.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I don't expect it, either.

Grace, at least you got paid for those user manuals even though they soon get out of date.
Like you, I enjoy writing fiction, too, and if they only end up in used book stores, that's okay, too. Like you I don't need or even want fame and fortune. I've often thought if I won a lot of money in a lottery - that is if I bought lottery tickets - how much it would create problems in my life because I wouldn't feel safe like I do now with thieves thinking I'm rich,
although it would be nice to be able to give family members and friends money when they needed it or fix some things up with my house.