Mark Twain: Literary Critic?

April 19, 2010

One of the small pleasures enjoyed by bibliophiles who own their own libraries is the prerogrative of scribbling down one’s reactions in the margins of the books one’s bought. 

 And when the scribbler and the library owner  happens to be Mark Twain….

When Twain moved to Connecticut and discovered the town had no public library, he immediately alerted his rich pal Andrew Carnegie, chipped in some money of his own for Carnegie’s building fund, then donated much of his private library to stock the town’s new library.

An article in today’s New York Times brings to light some of what Twain scribbled into some of those books.  As was his won’t Twain pulls few punches with authors (including friends) who fell short of his high literary standards. Take a look.


Vincent van Gogh: Passionate Reader

January 19, 2010

Excerpt from a blogpost about a current exhibit of Van Gogh’s letters:

“Van Gogh’s letters reveals him to be passionate lover a books, a man equally enamoured with the art of the image and the art of the word. As a young man, Vincent van Gogh actually worked in a bookshop. Throughout his short life–he committed suicide at 37–he was a voracious reader. In the just over 900 letters of Van Gogh that still exist, over 150 authors are mentioned, and over 200 literary works. Van Gogh was fluent in French and English, as well as Dutch, and read widely in all three languages. French literary giant Emile Zola is mentioned 96 times in the letters, Victor Hugo is a close second with 62 references, and Honore de Balzac is brought up 35 times. English great Charles Dickens shows up 54 times, followed by George Eliot at 29, and William Shakespeare at 23.”

Read the entire Book Patrol blogpost  for more about van Gogh’s reading, and about the searchable online database of his letters (a website which we posted a link to a few months ago).