We writers are a strange bunch indeed. It’s in the job description, to have an imagination more varied than anyone considers normal. Bedside’s who wants to be normal. It’s a dull life where nothing really happens. We need that little voice of insanity to pull us from the drool of everyday life and create worlds and characters that others latch onto and find a sense of self within. Yes, for a writer, weird isn’t an insult, but a badge of honour. But did you know these 7 weird facts about famous authors?
#01 James Joyce Loved Ireland So Much He Left, And Never Returned
James Joyce, famed for Ulysses and The Dubliners, was born in Dublin during the 1880s. His works are heavily cantered around the Irish capital and have inspired some of the greatest writers of our generation. Nabokov called Ulysses ‘brilliant.’ His work was so influential that Dublin still holds an annual celebration on 16th June known as Bloomsday. The significance of the date? Well, it’s the day the events in Ulysses takes place.
However, in 1904, Joyce went into a self-imposed exile in Trieste, now a part of modern Italy. He taught English but moved to Rome after becoming disillusioned with life. Joyce returned to Ireland a few years later to visit his father and to try and publish The Dubliners but then moved back to Trieste. Joyce returned to Dublin again to try and push through The Dubliner’s publications, but the trip proved pointless.
After 1912, at the age of thirty, James Joyce left Ireland for the last time and never came close to returning. Despite his father’s pleas, the closest he got to Dublin was London. Joyce died in Zurich in January 1941, a month before his 59th birthday. In 2019, Dublin City Council passed a motion to plan and a budget for his remains to be exhumed and returned to Ireland.
#02 Kafka Didn’t Want Any Of His 3 Published Novels Published
Franz Kafka was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist born in Prague. Considering many consider him one of the significant figures of 20th-century literature, few of his works were published or promoted during his lifetime. His limited publications were published in literary magazines, and he never saw much success from his novels, working as an insurance officer.
Today, his most well-known novels are Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle). The stories mostly follow characters in absurd predicaments and explore themes such as anxiety and isolation. His work was so influential, the English language has a term to describe characters in situations like the one his stories portray; Kafkaesque.
Kafka died at the age of 40 from tuberculosis in 1924. In his will, he left instructions for his friend, who also acted as his executor, to destroy all of his incomplete works. These include the three novels listed above, but fortunately, at least in terms of literature, Max Brod ignored his friends wish.
#03 It took Zadie Smith two years to write the first 20 pages of her novel, On Beauty
Zadie Smith captured my imagination with her brilliant writing and iconic characters featured in her debut novel White Teeth. However, this novel contains around 160,000 words, and I should feel grateful she found the time to finish it in time for me to read it and declare it one of, if not, the best books I’ve ever read.
Now, I’m not one to judge one of my favourite authors considering I’m about to celebrate the third anniversary of my novels humble beginnings (I’m still not sure if it’s finished), but two years and 20 pages later seem like slow progress for one of the 21st centuries greatest writers.
Zadie Smith said the first few pages of a novel are the hardest part to write, and she may have a point, considering she finished the rest of the book in five months. It still feels like a long time to spend writing a mere twenty pages. But what do I know, I can hope to reach her level of well-due success.
#04 F Scott Fitzgerald earned $4000 per short story.
You probably know his name best for the timeless American classic, The Great Gatsby, but he wrote four more novels, three novellas, and an array ofshort stories. In fact, he published 164 short stories in various magazines throughout his life. His bibliography brought him tremendous success and highlighted the excessive flamboyance of the great American Jazz age.
Two short stories, The Bridal Party, and Babylon Revisited earned Fitzgerald an eyewatering sum of $4000 on publication. To put that in perspective, you’ll be lucky to find a magazine willing to pay upwards of £50 for a short story in today’s money. But this was the 1920’s. Once that figure’s adjusted for inflation, the actual price looks more like $50,000. And they say writing doesn’t pay.
#05 One Of Shakespeare’s Relatives Was Imprisoned And Executed In The Tower Of London
I’ll assume everyone knows who the great bard is and skip the introduction of the man himself and his works. William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the most influential poets and playwrights in British literature. His stories have produced many stage plays, movies and TV series and the storylines have inspired a great deal more.
Shakespeare is one of the most known writers in all the world and is widely regarded as one of the Elizabethan eras finest. However, it’s unclear whether the Queen and the playwright ever met. There’s even debate over how intense their relationship was. Rumours continue to circulate around Shakespeare and Elizabeth, one also suggests the bard is the Monarchs illegitimate child.
But there may be a closer connection. On the 20th December 1583, a man named Edward Arden was hung, drawn and quartered for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. Arden’s father, William, was the second cousin of Mary Arden. Mary later changed her name when she married, and you might recognise her new name. Mary Shakespeare, the mother of the great William Shakespeare. What a family.
#06 Charles Dickens Helped Found “The Ghost Club.”
Another of England’s celebrated writers, Charles Dickens, also holds legacy unrivalled in world Literature. While Shakespeare gave us timeless stories, Dickens gave us timeless characters that transcend generations. Everyone knows of names such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Pip, Olivier Twist, Fagan, The Artful Dodger, David Copperfield, and Miss Havisham.
The term Dickensian describes writing similar to his, which usually included poverty-stricken characters and humorous, although despicable, characters. However, not lacking any quirky side hobbies, Charles Dickens help set up and open the still in Operation, Ghost Club.
The Ghost Club, as its name would suggest, is dedicated to the investigation of paranormal activity. Following Dicken’s death, the club dissolved. However, it would later be revised in the 1880s and would go on to count W.B Yates and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle amongst its members. It’s still active today and has a headquarters in Woodside, Croydon.
#07 Roald Dahl Was A Spy In World War Two
Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff during the first world war to Norwegian Parents. He wrote many books throughout life, mostly aimed at children and his bibliography includes many famous titles, including James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and my favourite, Matilda. His writing career never took off until he moved to America after the end of World War Two.
During the war, Roald Dahl, like most young men between the ages of 18 and 35 served in the United Kingdom Army. Roald Dahl joined the RAF and was a highly respected officer until he was invalided. After his injury, he moved to America.
However, the war story doesn’t end there, while in America, on special duties, he began collecting intelligence from North of the continent and sending it back to London. His primary assignment was gathering information in which would help Winston Churchill get along with Franklin D Roosevelt. Dahl also worked with Military officer, Ian Fleming, who would later publish the James Bond series.
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