Thursday, January 31, 2013

TCR Story of the Month for January: Always the Same by Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich
The Committee Room is proud to present "Always the Same" by Phillippe Diederich as TCR Story of the Month for January.

"Always the Same" is a short, simply told and powerful story of a boy's childhood moving on despite great loss.

Phillippe Diederich was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His non-fiction has been published in Traveler’s Tales Anthology, Cuba, Cigar Aficionado, Miami New Times and The Dallas Morning News.

His short fiction has been published in Quarterly West, High Desert Journal, among others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The manuscript to his novel, Sofrito, was recently under option by Fox International. He is the author of Communism and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (2011), an eBook that includes forty black and white photographs of Cuban Harley-Davidson bikers in Havana.

Monday, January 28, 2013

TCR Literary Journals Series: aaduna

The Committee Room is pleased to continue its TCR Literary Journals Series with a look at aaduna, an independent, exclusively online publication founded in 2010 and based in the historic central New York community of Auburn.

Aaduna takes its name from the phrase "aaduna si dofa rey" meaning "the world is huge" in the Wolof language spoken in Senegal, Mauritania, and The Gambia. The use of lower case letters in aaduna's name reflects a sense of humility which seeks to serve, strengthen and empower. Its logo, which can be seen as a single face or as two side portraits, is based on a Southeast Asian woodcarving and represents the idea that the world's people may be distinct but ultimately share a common and universal humanity. The joined hands in the logo refer to aaduna's spirit of collegiality and teamwork.

With a stated mission that includes uncovering new and emerging talent, especially people of color, aaduna works toward building relationships with the writers and artists whose work it presents and provides ongoing support and promotion. High among aaduna's objectives is to narrow the distance between the audience and the creative person.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bestsellers List Revisited: Holiday Season 1952-53 (part 2): Tallulah Tells Her Story

First edition, 1952
The Committee Room continues its look back at the holiday season bestsellers of sixty years ago. TCR's last posting discussed East of Eden by John Steinbeck which was number one on the New York Times bestselling fiction list. We turn now to non-fiction. At the top of the Times list was My Autobiography by the legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead.

Published by Harper and Brothers, Bankhead's My Autobiography settled into the number one spot in October 1952 and stayed there through the Christmas and New Year's 1953 season. Other titles in the non-fiction top ten at this time were The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson, which had been on the list for over a year, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

At the time of My Autobiography's release, Bankhead was fifty years old and experiencing a career boost as one of the hosts of The All Star Revue, a highly touted television variety show, on NBC. She had moved to television after two years of hosting The Big Show, a prestigious NBC radio variety program. Bankhead's gift for witty repartee was used to good advantage in variety show introductions though guests on the programs often approached her with trepidation, knowing her unpredictability.

Paperback, 1953
According to biographer Denis Brian, Bankhead began tape recording her life story in the summer of 1951 at her Bedford Village, New York home. The transcribed tapes of Bankhead's anecdotal, name-dropping (often of personalities now forgotten) and selectively revealing reminiscences were organized and edited by leading show business press agent Richard Maney. At the opening of My Autobiography Bankhead offers a "Citation to Richard Maney for Conduct Above and Beyond the Call of Duty" but doesn't specify what he did.

Born in Alabama in 1902, Bankhead won a beauty contest as a teenager which led to an acting career. In the early 1920s, after a few small roles in the New York theater, she got a part in a British stage production. In London she quickly gained notoriety for her flamboyant, eager to shock behavior off-stage as much as for her acting in plays such as Sidney Howard's They Knew What They Wanted.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bestsellers List Revisited -- Holiday Season 1952 (part 1) Steinbeck the Postmodernist

First edition, 1952
The Committee Room looks back sixty holiday seasons to Christmas 1952/New Year's 1953 when John Steinbeck's East of Eden headed the New York Times list of bestselling fiction.

Other titles in the fiction top ten were The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize winning Navy court martial story which by this point had been in the top ten for nearly two years; Giant, a tale of Texas cattle and oil fortunes, by Edna Ferber; The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain, an updating of the Holy Grail legend; and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.  

Steinbeck considered East of Eden his most ambitious and important novel. In November 1951, after completing a full year of arduous work on East of Eden Steinbeck wrote to a friend -- "In my book just finished I have put all the things I have wanted to write all my life. This is 'the book.'  If it is not good I have fooled myself all the the time...Having done this I can do anything I want. Always I had this book waiting to be written."

First paperback edition, 1954
Dedicated by Steinbeck to his two young sons, Thomas and John IV, East of Eden is a sprawling saga of two California families -- the Hamiltons, closely based on Steinbeck's mother's family, and the fictional Trasks -- that spans the decades from the Civil War through World War I. Published by Viking in September 1952, East of Eden received mixed reviews. Few critics considered it superior to Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, the 1939 bestseller about Oklahoma migrants to California which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

In December 1952, Steinbeck wrote -- "I guess I just don't bring out the best in critics. Maybe I've been around too long. The tradition is that writers of English die young. Maybe that outrages them. The pleasant thing is that people go right on reading the books."