Tag Archives: Author

Why Few Of Us Are “Normal” Human Beings (And That’s A Good Thing!)

According To Writer Donald Henderson Clarke, Normal Human Beings Are A Rare Breed

Man of the world bookDonald Henderson Clarke (1887-1958) enjoyed telling a good story. Clarke was able to accomplish that as a successful reporter for many New York newspapers including The New York World, New York Times, and the New York American. After his newspaper stint from 1907 through the 1920s, Clarke began writing books and screenplays which made him a tidy sum.

Born to a wealthy New England family, Clarke lived the life of a bon vivant, but always held a fascination for the underbelly of life. Besides writing about the famous and newsworthy, Clarke spent quite a bit of time with bootleggers, gangsters and prostitutes. Out of nowhere in his autobiography, Man of the World: Recollections of an Irreverent Reporter, 1951, Vanguard Press, Clarke makes an astute observation about the human condition.

64 years after this was written, this timeless description of normalcy and humanity still strikes a strong chord. Clarke’s quirky style comprises the longest run-on sentence I’ve read by a journalist, but I’ll forgive him the run-on, because he is right on the mark.

Good, normal human beings are a rarity, and we all should be thankful for that. They are dull, monotonously successful, exasperatingly even-keeled, always in good health. Of course, they should not be called normal.

Most human beings suffer from anxieties, worries, fears, suppressed desires, regrets for past sins, secret yearnings for future sins, aches, pains, toothaches, flat feet, ingrowing toe nails, body odors, hair in the wrong places, too little hair in the right places; they are too short or too tall or too plump or too lean; they wish they were married, wish they were unmarried, wish they could have a successful careers, are bored silly with successful careers, wish they had children, wish their children would hurry up and get married, wish their children would never marry, are afraid of hell, are afraid of the dark, are afraid of poverty, wish their noses were different, wish they were in society, are bored with society, wish they could know actors and actresses, wish they could get away from actors and actresses, shoot and poison their husbands, shoot and cut the throats of their wives, make love to the cook, make love to the chauffeur, talk virtue and think of vice, howl because Rossellini and Bergman have a baby without benefit of clergy – and wish they could be Bergmans or Rossellinis.

The average human being is full of imperfections which make him-her interesting. When the imperfections lead to explosions small or large, it makes the kind of news I like – the sort of news that reveals the human being for what he is – mortal and finite but clinging desperately to the idea that he is immortal and infinite; possessing nothing, no matter if he has millions of dollars, but soothing his fears with the false idea that he has possessions.

He is suddenly gone. Nothing is more ridiculous than the carcass left behind, unless it be the strangely patterned bits of cloth and leather with which he or she concealed that carcass from view. The discarded garments of one suddenly dead look tiny and silly.

Where did the spirit flit? Even several Christians will not give you the same answer. It depends on the particular belief of the particular Christian. Mohammedans will tell you Paradise, where warriors will have a bevy of houris to amuse them. Other religions, whose followers outnumber Christians, will give you other answers.

No human being ever went wherever it is and came back to tell about it in plain, everyday language. That would be one big, important, serious newspaper story I would like to cover.

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Part 2 – An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman Talks About: Dating, Restaurants, High School in The Bronx, The Advertising World, Getting Published and Having His Books Adapted To Film

We continue our interview with Avery Corman, author of the new book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (Barricade Books) 2014, and his story of growing up in the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s.

Divided into 5 parts the first two parts of the interview can be seen here.

In part 3 Avery Corman discusses dating, blind dates, sex, going to the movies, the differences between eating out and restaurants, dessert havens like Krum’s, Addie Vallins and Jahn’s and the coming of television.

Part 4 Avery Corman recalls his high school years at DeWitt Clinton High School and his decision to go to New York University. Upon graduating Continue reading

An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman, Author of Kramer vs. Kramer, Talks About His Latest Book: My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir

My Old Neighborhood RememberedThe neighborhood is the Bronx. The time is World War II and the post war years. And the writer is Avery Corman. His newest book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (2014) Barricade Books, is his first non-fiction book and is filled with wonderful recollections of growing up.

After graduating college Corman was working on the fringes of advertising and with the encouragement of a friend, Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns; I’m Not Rappaport; etc), he took a stab at writing a book. That effort was published as Oh God! A Novel (1971). After that hurdle Corman never looked back and he became a full-time novelist. Oh God! was eventually made into a very popular movie in 1977 starring George Burns and John Denver.

Some of Corman’s other acclaimed novels include The Bust-Out King (1977), The Old Neighborhood (1980); 50 (1987); Prized Possessions (1991); The Boyfriend from Hell (2006) and his most famous work, Kramer vs. Kramer (1977) which was adapted into a movie in 1979 and was the winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Avery Corman’s success must partially stem from his middle-class upbringing in the Fordham section of the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s, where he admits he was not the best student when it came to math and science, but did well in the humanities and was surrounded by a loving, extended family.

My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir is more a series of vignettes rather than a straight autobiography and that style comes off well. Corman shares his memories of childhood during World War II up until he becomes a successful author in the late 1960’s. He paints beautiful word pictures, sometimes tinged with sadness, of growing up in a wondrous place that no longer exists. Most of the stories offer short bursts of family life, games, food, education, sports and all the things that contributed to making the Bronx a special place to grow up in.

Corman’s stories resonate with a tender glow of friendships, family and the feeling that neighborhoods were once really neighborhoods, where the familiarity of rituals, people and places were ingrained in the surroundings.

Here are parts one and two of an exclusive interview with Avery Corman.

Part I, Avery Corman talks about what made the Bronx a special place during the war. His unique living situation and school life.

In part II Corman Continue reading

The Devil’s Dictionary – Giving Words New Meanings

25 Definitions From The Devil’s Dictionary By Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce ph - Topham _ Cordon PressAmbrose Bierce (1842-1913?) was the cynic’s cynic. A writer and reporter of immense talent, Bierce served in the Union army during the American Civil War and was seriously wounded in the head. Bierce’s most famous work is the short war story “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.”

Satiric and biting in his verse, Bierce first published The Cynic’s Word Book in 1906 which contained uninhibited definitions of words from A-L. The second half of the work containing words from M-Z was published as The Devil’s Dictionary in 1911, which was the title Bierce preferred. It has been in print now for over 100 years and many of it’s tongue-in-cheek definitions are still quoted today. It is now in the public domain, so the book is available online for free and worth reading.

Bierce travelled to Mexico in 1913 to witness the Mexican Civil War and vanished without a trace.

Here are 25 of the best definitions from The Devil’s Dictionary:

APOLOGIZE, v.i.  To lay the foundation for a future offence.
BELLADONNA, n.  In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly
poison.  A striking example of the essential identity of the two
tongues.
CAPITAL, n.  The seat of misgovernment.  That which provides the 
fire, the pot, the dinner, the table and the knife and fork for
the anarchist; the part of the repast that himself supplies is
the disgrace before meat.
CHRISTIAN, n.  One who believes that the New Testament is a 
divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of 
of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so  
far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
DIPLOMACY, n.  The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
FAITH, n.  Belief without evidence in what is told by one who
speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
FRIENDLESS, adj.  Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of 
fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
HAPPINESS, n.  An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating
the misery of another. Continue reading 

Part 5 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #5 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

As we complete our look at New York City books from 80+ years ago, some of these dust jackets incorporate photography into their covers which the other dust jackets we have featured do not. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj Portrait of New YorkPortrait Of New York by Felix Riesenberg & Alexander Alland, New York: Macmillan, 1939 dj illustrator, Alexander Alland

Felix Riesnberg (1879-1939) was a civil engineer and master mariner. He was a polar explorer and wrote numerous books with nautical themes. Portrait of New York ventures among the populace and is an accurate description of the city and its people.

Alexander Alland (1902-1989) was a master photographer and the book shows a small sample of his immense talents. Continue reading

Part 4 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #4 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

Continuing our look at the those great New York City books from 80 years ago, here are more great dust jacket covers. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj Hacking New YorkHacking New York by Robert Hazard, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930 dj illustrator, unknown

The first book of its kind – anecdotes of a New York taxi driver. Even back then the meter could be rigged and Hazard explains how it was done. The dust jacket is gorgeous and unfortunately the artist is unattributed. Continue reading

Part 3 Even More Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #3 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

We continue with our look at vintage books about New York City with great dust jackets. (click here to read part 1 and here to read part 2)

Starting with a look at an all-time classic of deco design, New York Nights. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York NightsNew York Nights by Stephen Graham, New York: George H. Doran, 1927, dj illustrator, Kurt Wiese

A native of Scotland, author Stephen Graham (1884-1975) goes on a tour of  jazz age nightclubs, speakeasies and cabarets. Graham provides the grittier side of life in an up to the minute description of prohibition New York neighborhoods, establishments and people.

Kurt Wiese (1887-1974) illustrated over 300 books and later became an award-winning children’s book author. Besides the knockout jacket cover, Wiese drew all the illustrations contained in the book. This was the first American book he worked on. Continue reading

Part 2 More Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #2 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30’s

We continue our look at some great New York City books from the 1920’s and 1930’s with exceptional artwork on their dust jackets. (click here to read part 1)

We begin with graphics on a dust jacket worthy of a large size poster from the quintessential art deco New York book. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York Paul MorandNew York by Paul Morand and Joaquin Vaquero Palacios. New York: Henry Holt, 1930, dj illustrator, Joaquin Vaquero Palacios.

A witty description of New York, via French writer Paul Morand, (1888-1976) from four visits he made to New York, none longer than a month, from between 1925-1929. Morand later became a supporter of the French Vichy regime.

Joaquin Vaquero (1900-1998) as he is credited in the book without the Palacios surname, was a Spanish architect and painter. His paintings are held in museums across the globe. Continue reading

Part 1 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #1 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20’s & 30’s

From the 1920’s until the 1940’s, book publishers put out some phenomenal books about New York. They also hired talented artists to design the book’s dust jackets.

The eye-catching art deco graphics were meant to attract potential buyers. Unfortunately, most people who purchased books 80 years ago would discard the dust jacket once they brought the book home with them.

Because of that, many of these books from that time are very scarce in their original dust jacket.

This is the first part of a five part series looking at the dust jackets of books about New York City, the artists that created the work and the authors.

Below are some fine examples of New York City books from the golden era of publishing.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York By QuexNew York by Quex.  New York: David McKay, 1928, dj illustrator, Dixon (possibly Arthur A. Dixon)

Quex was the pseudonym of reporter George H.F. Nichols (1881-1933) of The Evening News of London. Nichols was at the time of his death one of the highest paid reporters in the world. Nichols was the originator of articles written in the form of “the diary of the man about town.” Quex’s observations about about New York are well worth reading.

The dust jacket is classic New York, but I am unsure about the attribution to Arthur Dixon, so we will leave biographical information out until someone can provide a conclusive identification on the artist.

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Helen Keller And Al Smith 1929

New York State Commission For The Blind Christmas Fundraiser 1929

Helen Keller Al Smith 1929

This news photograph reads:

Helen Keller “Sees” And “Hears” Al Smith — World Famous Blind Deaf-Mute Meets Ex-Governor For First Time At Sale Benefiting The Blind

New York City – Photo Shows: Helen Keller, remarkable and world-famous blind deaf-mute “seeing” and “hearing”former Gov. Alfred E. Smith, who is greeting her with his famous smile and a word of cheer at the annual Christmas sale for the benefit of the New York State Commission for the Blind. Witnesses at the meeting of the famous people said that Miss Keller’s words could be understood. – December 19, 1929

Helen Keller was deaf and blind from infancy. She was born in Alabama on June 27, 1880.  Early in her childhood Miss Anne Sullivan was employed to instruct her, and so well succeeded that by means of touch she was able to communicate knowledge of the world that was closed to her understanding through the usual senses.

Helen Keller’s sense of touch was so acute that she was capable of understanding the speech of another merely by the placing of her fingertips upon their throat. Through the aid of Miss Sullivan, Keller became a highly educated young woman, earning a degree at Radcliffe College. She would go on to write 12 books and many magazine articles. She devoted her life advocating for people with disabilities.

Keller’s childhood story and that of her teacher Anne Sullivan, was told quite dramatically in the Broadway smash The Miracle Worker which ran for 719 performances from 1959-1961. The show won five Tony awards in 1960 including Best Actress in a Leading Performance for Anne Bancroft.  The1962 movie version featured the Broadway stars reprising their roles; Patty Duke as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan. Each won an Academy Award for their performances; Bancroft for Best Actress and Duke for Best Supporting Actress.

Alfred E. Smith was born December 30, 1873 on the lower east side of New York. He was elected Governor of New York, 1919-1920 and again from 1923-1928. In 1928 he became the first Roman Catholic to run for President and was defeated soundly by Herbert Hoover.  After the election Smith became president of Empire State, Inc. the firm that built the Empire State Building.

Al Smith died on October 4, 1944. Helen Keller passed away June 1, 1968.