home | blog | site map | reviews | bookstore traveler | book awards     24books.org
                                          dead book people 
   For years, our bookstores had a very low-key, semi-hidden display of works by authors who had just died. Our man, Michael, enjoyed putting the newest death displays up. So, why not continue that fine tradition online? So here we'll note the passing of people who have made their mark on the world of books.
   To complete the page's theme, I've put up photos from Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery.

         Need more death - Jump back to deaths in: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011

Radams  RICHARD ADAMS, Watership Down author, dies aged 96 Adams’ novel first published in 1972 became one of the bestselling children’s books of all time. A statement on the book’s official website said: “Richard’s much-loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10pm on Christmas Eve.”
   The novel, first published in 1972, became one of the bestselling children’s books of all time, selling tens of millions of copies. Adams did not begin writing until 1966, when he was 46 and working for the civil service. While on a car trip with his daughters, he began telling them a story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren. Watership Down author Richard Adams: I just can’t do humans Read more In an interview with the Guardian two years ago, the author recalled: “I had been put on the spot and I started off: ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.’ And I just took it on from there.” It was made into an animated film in 1978, and the following year the film’s theme song Bright Eyes, sung by Art Garfunkel, topped the UK charts for six weeks. The book, which critics have credited with redefining anthropomorphic fiction with its naturalistic depiction of the rabbits’ trials and adventures, won Adams both the Carnegie medal and the Guardian children’s prize.

ERB  E.R. BRAITHWAITE, a Guyanese author, diplomat and former Royal Air Force pilot whose book To Sir, With Love, a memoir of teaching in London’s deprived East End, was adapted into a hit 1967 film starring Sidney Poitier, died on Monday in Rockville, Md. He was 104. Mr. Braithwaite’s companion, Genevieve Ast, confirmed his death to The Associated Press. He had taught English at Howard University, in Washington, and lived in the area for many years. Mr. Braithwaite, who became a diplomat and represented Guyana at the United Nations and in Venezuela, wrote several books, many about racism in countries like South Africa and the United States, where he lived much of his life. But he is best known for “o Sir, With Love (1959).

hazzard  SHIRLEY HAZZARD, internationally acclaimed Australian author, dies in New York at 85. She wrote The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire, and won the Miles Franklin prize and the National Book award. According to a report in the New York Times, Hazzard’s death at her home in Manhattan followed a struggle with dementia.
   Hazzard’s first book, Cliffs of Fall, was a collection of stories published in 1963, when she was 32. Her first novel, The Evening of the Holiday, was published in 1966, and followed three years later by The Bay of Noon, which was shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker prize. Ten years later she published The Transit of Venus, her breakthrough novel which tracks the lives of two orphaned Australian-born sisters. Notes from a small island Shirley Hazzard grew up in Australia, spent the 1950s working for the UN in New York, and now lives and writes on Capri, where she began a long friendship with Graham Greene. 
   Shirley Hazzard spoke at the National Book awards in 2003, after winning the prize for fiction for The Great Fire. At the National Book award ceremony that year, the novelist Stephen King had been somewhat controversially presented the lifetime achievement award, and in his speech spoke out against the literary world for largely ignoring popular US fiction. In her own speech, Hazzard hit back, “I don’t regard literature, which [Stephen King] spoke of perhaps in a slightly pejorative way, I don’t regard it as a competition. It is so vast ... I don’t think giving us a reading list of those who are most read at this moment is much of a satisfaction,” she said. Hazzard also published five nonfiction books through her career, including two books critical of the United Nations (Defeat of an Ideal, 1973, and Countenance of Truth, 1990), a collection of essays about Italy co-written with her husband Francis Steegmuller (The Ancient Shore, 2008), a collection of the Boyer lectures she gave in 1984 (Coming of Age in Australia), and a memoir detailing her friendship with the author Graham Greene, titled Greene on Capri (2000).

WT   Internationally acclaimed author WILLIAM TREVOR, "whose mournful, sometimes darkly funny short stories and novels about the small struggles of unremarkable people placed him in the company of masters like V. S. Pritchett, W. Somerset Maugham and Chekhov," died November 20, the New York Times reported. He was 88. Irish by birth but a longtime resident of Britain, Trevor "placed his fiction squarely in the middle of ordinary life. His plots often unfolded in Irish or English villages whose inhabitants, most of them hanging on to the bottom rung of the lower middle class, waged unequal battle with capricious fate." His many books include William Trevor: The Collected Stories; Fools of Fortune; Love and Summer; After Rain; Felicia's Journey; Two Lives; and The News from Ireland. The Guardian noted that Trevor, who published "more than 15 novels and many more short stories, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize four times, most recently for The Story of Lucy Gault in 2002, the same year he was awarded an honorary knighthood for his services to literature. He also won the Whitbread prize three times." Irish author Roddy Doyle told the Irish Times: "The man--the work--was brilliant, elegant, surprising, reliable, precise, stark, often sad, sometimes funny, shocking and even frightening. His big houses were great; his small ones were wonderful too. The angst was bang-on, and so were all the other emotions and states. Every word mattered, every sentence was its own big house." John Banville said: "William Trevor was one of the great short-story writers, at his best the equal of Chekhov and Babel. But we should also celebrate his novels, in particular Mrs. Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel, an inexplicably neglected twentieth-century masterpiece. His prose style was so subtle as to seem hardly a style at all, and his sympathy for, an empathy with, life's wounded ones was sincere and affecting. His death is a heavy loss to Irish letters and to world literature." Kathryn Court, president and publisher, Penguin Books, commented: "William Trevor was a truly brilliant writer, and one of the most compassionate human beings I have worked with. He has left us a wonderful legacy."

GN  GLORIA NAYLOR, the award-winning novelist who authored "The Women of Brewster Place," died Sept. 28, 2016, according to multiple news sources including Ebony Magazine. She was 66. Ebony Magazine confirmed Naylor's death in a telephone call with her sister, Bernice Harrison, who said the author had a heart attack and could not be resuscitated. Naylor had been visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands at the time of her death. Naylor was born Jan. 25, 1950, in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. A voracious reader as a child, she received a bachelor's degree in English at the City University of New York in 1981 and a master's in African-American studies from Yale University two years later. The Women of Brewster Place, Naylor's 1982 debut novel, was highly acclaimed. It won the National Book Award in 1982 in the first novel category. The book examines the lives of seven women, including their romantic loves, in an urban setting. The novel was turned into a 1989 miniseries by the talk show host, actress, and media businesswoman Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Productions studio. The cast included Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, and Robin Givens.
   Naylor credited her literary success to her mother in her National Book Award acceptance speech. "Realizing that I was a painfully shy child, she gave me my first diary and told me to write my feelings down in there," Naylor said. "Over the years, that diary was followed by reams and reams of paper that eventually culminated into The Women of Brewster Place. And I wrote that book as a tribute to her and other black women who, in spite of the very limited personal circumstances, somehow manage to hold a fierce belief in the limitless possibilities of the human spirit." Naylor's other books included Linden Hills, Mama Day, and Bailey's Café.


kin Canadian author W.P. KINSELLA, whose book Shoeless Joe became the film Field of Dreams, has died aged 81.
   In the 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, a farmer hears a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond in his corn fields. When he does, Shoeless Joe Jackson and other baseball players of yesteryear come to play. It became the blueprint for the 1989 Oscar-nominated movie, which starred Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta.
   Key turns of phrases in Kinsella’s book “If you build it, they will come” and “Go the distance” have taken their place in literature’s lexicon and among Hollywood’s most memorable movie lines.
   Kinsella, a bona fide baseball junkie, loved the movie and said he had tears in his eyes when he first saw it. In 2011 the Canadian baseball Hall of Fame awarded him the Jack Graney Award for a significant contribution to the game of baseball in Canada. “I wrote it 30 years ago, and the fact that people are still discovering it makes me proud. It looks like it will stand the test of time,” Kinsella said at the time. Scott Crawford, director of operations at the Canadian hall, said he was saddened to learn of the author’s death. “His work has touched the lives of thousands of baseball fans across Canada and around the world,” Crawford said in a statement. “His most famous book was the classic Shoeless Joe, which inspired one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams.” Kinsella brought back to life Moonlight Graham, who played one major league baseball game but never got to bat. The author noticed Graham’s name while thumbing through the Baseball Encyclopedia he had received as a Christmas gift from his father-in-law. “I found this entry for Moonlight Graham. How could anyone come up with that nickname? He played one game but did not get to bat. I was intrigued, and I made a note that I intended to write something about him,” Kinsella said in 2005 on the 100th anniversary of the only game Graham played in the majors. Much of Kinsella’s work touched on baseball. He published almost 30 books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry and won the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honors.
   William Patrick Kinsella was born in Edmonton, Alberta. His father John had played minor league baseball, and the young Kinsella fell for the game playing with friends on sandlots in Edmonton.
   He began writing as a child, winning a YMCA contest at age 14.
   Kinsella took writing courses at the University of Victoria in 1970, receiving his bachelor of arts in creative writing in 1974. In 1978 he earned a master of fine arts in English through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. He had been an English professor at the University of Calgary.
   Vancouver Writer’s Festival founder Alma Lee said Kinsella was a private man with a passion for baseball. “He was a dedicated story-teller, performer, curmudgeon, an irascible and difficult man,” Swayze said in a statement. “His fiction has made people laugh, cry, and think for decades and will do so for decades to come.”
   Kinsella was married three times. He is survived by two daughters, who the literary agency says cared for him in his final years, and several grandchildren. Kinsella has asked there be no memorial service.

(info from AP)

It was an assisted death, under the provisions of Bill C-14 in Canada.

   On Sept. 7, Mr. Kinsella, who had lived with diabetes for years, sent Prof. Steele an e-mail saying he wouldn’t be coming out of the hospital; that he probably had about a month to live, and urging him to send any outstanding questions he had for his biography. Last week, Prof. Steele received another e-mail, informing him that Mr. Kinsella was “scheduled to leave the earth Friday morning.”

ED EDWARD ALBEE widely considered the foremost American playwright of his generation, whose psychologically astute and piercing dramas explored the contentiousness of intimacy, the gap between self-delusion and truth and the roiling desperation beneath the facade of contemporary life," died September 16, the New York Times reported. He was 88. His honors included a pair of Tony Awards for best play as well as three Pulitzer Prizes.
   In 1959, Albee "introduced himself suddenly and with a bang" with his first produced play, The Zoo Story, which opened in Berlin on a double bill with Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape. "When the play came to the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village the next year, it helped propel the blossoming theater movement that became known as Off Broadway," the Times noted.
   Albee's Broadway debut came with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1962, which was also adapted into an award-winning film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. During his career, Albee created about 30 works, including A Delicate Balance, All Over, Tiny Alice, Seascape, Three Tall Women, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, and Me Myself & I.
   "All of my plays are about people missing the boat, closing down too young, coming to the end of their lives with regret at things not done, as opposed to things done," he told the Times in 1991. "I find most people spend too much time living as if they're never going to die."

ew   ELIE WIESEL, "the Auschwitz survivor who became an eloquent witness for the six million Jews slaughtered in World War II and who, more than anyone else, seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world's conscience," died Saturday, the New York Times reported. He was 87. Wiesel, who wrote several dozen books and in 1986 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, "was defined not so much by the work he did as by the gaping void he filled.... [B]y the sheer force of his personality and his gift for the haunting phrase, Mr. Wiesel, who had been liberated from Buchenwald as a 16-year-old with the indelible tattoo A-7713 on his arm, gradually exhumed the Holocaust from the burial ground of the history books." Night, the 1960 English translation of his autobiographical account of the horrors he witnessed in the camps as a teenage boy, has sold more than 10 million copies, "three million of them after Oprah Winfrey picked it for her book club in 2006 and traveled with Mr. Wiesel to Auschwitz," the Times wrote, adding that it was followed by novels, books of essays and reportage, two plays and even two cantatas--"an average of a book a year, 60 books by his own count in 2015." His Night Trilogy includes Dawn and Day. President Obama, who visited the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp with Wiesel in 2009, said Saturday: 'He raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms. He implored each of us, as nations and as human beings, to do the same, to see ourselves in each other and to make real that pledge of 'never again.' "

(from Shelf Awareness)

alvin  ALVIN TOFFLER, author of Future Shock, dies aged 87 Toffler was one of the world’s most famous futurists who foresaw how digital technology would transform the world Alvin Toffler forecast the spread of email and the rise of the internet, and popularized the term ‘information overload’. He was a guru of the post-industrial age whose books anticipated the transformation brought about by the rise of digital technology. Toffler died in his sleep at his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, on Monday. One of the world’s most famous futurists, Toffler co-wrote many books with his largely uncredited wife, Heidi, who survives him. In Time magazine, Michael Krantz wrote that with their 1970 blockbuster Future Shock, the husband-and-wife team “blasted the infant profession into the mainstream and set the standard by which all subsequent would-be futurists have been measured”.
   “Future shock”, a term he first used in a 1965 magazine article, was how Toffler defined the growing feeling of anxiety brought on by the bewildering and ever-accelerating pace at which life was changing. His book combined an understanding tone and page-turning urgency, as he diagnosed contemporary trends and headlines – from war protests to the rising divorce rate – as symptoms of a historical cycle that was overturning every facet of life. He wrote: “We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots religion, nation, community, family, or profession are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust.”

herr  MICHAEL HERR, whose 1977 book Dispatches was "a glaringly intense, personal account of being a correspondent in Vietnam that is widely viewed as one of the most visceral and persuasive depictions of the unearthly experience of war," died June 23, the New York Times reported. He was 76. Herr also contributed the narration to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and with the director Stanley Kubrick and Gustav Hasford wrote the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket, adapted from Hasford's novel The Short-Timers. Herr's memoir Kubrick chronicles his long friendship and collaboration with the filmmaker. Novelist Richard Ford, who was a friend of Herr, said Dispatches "gave an emotional, verbal and aural account of the war for a whole generation--of which I am a member--particularly for those who didn't go. His nose was right in the middle of it, and he wrote exactly what it was like to be in that place and to be that young." Claudia Herr, an editor at Penguin Random House, said that although her father was extremely proud of Dispatches, "he came to resent his celebrity, especially when reporters or television producers wanted him to relive his time in Vietnam," the Times wrote. "Among other things, a retrospective light shining on him struck him as disrespectful to the men he wrote about. He gave few interviews. In the last years of his life, he became a serious devotee of Buddhism and no longer wrote, his daughter said."

jim  JIM HARRISON (James Thomas Harrison) was born on Dec. 11, 1937, in Grayling, in northern Michigan, the son of Winfield Harrison and the former Norma Walgren; he was reared in Reed City, 90 miles away.

Winfield Harrison, a county agricultural agent, passed on to his son a love of books as well as more pragmatic endowments that would be useful in life and in literature. (“When you sit in a bar,” the elder Mr. Harrison counseled, “never curl your feet under the rungs of a bar stool in case you’re sucker punched.”)

When Jim was 7, as he recounted in a memoir, “Off to the Side” (2002), a neighborhood girl ended a quarrel by thrusting a broken bottle into his face, permanently blinding his left eye. For years afterward, he sought solace alone in the woods.

Harrison was a robust, barrel-chested man who loved hunting, fishing, drinking and eating. His voracious appetite for life, and its many earthly pleasures, impressed nearly as much as his celebrated body of work. Tributes to the author recalled his passion for food (he once ate 144 oysters, just to see if he could); for booze (one summer, he personally tested 38 varieties of Côtes du Rhône); for cocaine (he once stuck a straw in a big Bufferin bottle of great coke. We didn't even bother doing lines"); and for women (he was married to his late wife Linda for more than five decades, but wasn’t shy about talking publicly about his many affairs).

“[He] smokes so much that even when he is not smoking it still seems like he is smoking,” writer Tom Bissell quipped in Outside magazine in 2011.

He also found solace in fiction — his father had turned him on to Faulkner, which became a lifelong passion — and by the time Jim was a teenager, he was determined to be a writer. His father encouraged him, buying him a typewriter for about $15.

When Jim Harrison was in his early 20s, his father and his 19-year-old sister, Judith, were killed on a hunting trip, when their car was struck by a drunken driver. Jim had also been invited but had vacillated before choosing not to go.

The decision probably saved his life. But in delaying the start of the trip, which put his father and sister on the road at precisely the wrong moment, he felt he had caused their deaths.

Mr. Harrison earned a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Michigan State University, where his classmates included the future novelist Thomas McGuane, followed by a master’s in the field there. In the mid-1960s, he taught briefly at the State University of New York at Stony Brook before turning his back on academe for the writing life.

It was a life of real poverty at first. His first three works of fiction — “Wolf” was followed by the novels “A Good Day to Die” (1973) and “Farmer” (1976) — were well reviewed but not hugely successful commercially. There was no security in poetry.

By then a husband and father, Mr. Harrison was earning barely $10,000 a year. He considered suicide.

With the publication in 1979 of Mr. Harrison’s fourth volume of fiction, “Legends of the Fall,” he found his métier in the novella — and with it the commercial success that had long eluded him.

   here are some of Jim's quotes that jumped out at me

“If you’ve known a lot of actresses and models,” he once confided with characteristic plain-spokenness to a rapt audience at a literary gathering, “you return to waitresses because at least they smell like food.”

Harrison once nastily described Hemmingway's work as a "woodstove that didn't give off much heat."

Nature is slow, Harrison says. "That's how I saw so much—because I was out there all the time."

small BLUE Harrison's themes of nature, drink, food, culture, literature, and sexually longing filled his work and I was a constant reader of his work. Vicky and I had a chance to meet him when he spoke at UC Davis many years ago. If anyone is a kick, Jim surely was. I can still see him standing in front of the crowd of fans gathered that night, covering a huge range of subjects, as he amused and entertained us all. He had a manner where he would often groan and rub his face and head constantly, and then he would pull his shirt down in front, to cover a rather large belly attempting to expose itself. By the time we saw him, we were both hooked on his writing, be it fiction, novellas, poetry, memoir, or his other nonfiction writings on food and travel. His was an active mind, and though he is gone, his writing is with us forever. Thanks Jim, it was an honor to get to know you. - John

anitaANITA BROOKNER, a British author of lean, elegiac and stylistically polished novels who was once labeled the “mistress of gloom” for her depiction of bleak and disappointed lives, usually of women, died on Thursday. She was 87.
   Her death was reported Tuesday in The Times of London, which said she had led “a life of solitude in the middle of London.” It gave no other details.
   The daughter of well-off Jewish immigrants from Poland, Ms. Brookner grew up in London surrounded by relatives and acquaintances whom she called “transplanted and fragile people, an unhappy brood.”
   That sense of an unfulfilled world carried over into her career as a novelist, which she started in her 50s, when she had already distinguished herself as an accomplished art historian. Her fiction soon found acclaim, leading to a Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, for her fourth novel, Hotel du Lac, published in 1984.

patPAT CONROY, whose works include The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, died Friday evening, March 4, 2016, of pancreatic cancer, according to his publisher. He was 70.
   The South Carolina native was known for his candid and "down-home" writing style, which drew upon his rough childhood experiences as a military brat with a domineering father.

budBUD COLLINS was the ultimate colorful character in the world of tennis. His clothing was always impressive and it kept to the same heights as the writing in his books, his decades of sports writing, and his fantastic work in tennis broadcasting. For a small man, he was a giant in the sport of tennis. During the huge expansion of the sport in the 1970s, it was Bud that made so much of the action fun, while he educated us all. My favorite book of his was Bud Collins' Modern Encyclopedia of Tennis. It's sad to think there won't be another Bud, but what an original character he was. He was a kick! - John
small BLUE


harperHARPER LEE, the author of the iconic To Kill a Mockingbird--one of the most beloved works of American literature--and the more recent Go Set a Watchman, died on Friday in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. She was 89.
   Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird became an immediate bestseller, won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into what has become a classic movie. The book was been a steady seller since it was published--most American students read it at least once in school--and has sold more than 40 million copies.
    Set in the 1930s in a small town like Lee's hometown, the story is a coming of age-Southern gothic tale dealing with pervasive racism, inequality and legal injustice from the point of view of a young girl, Scout. The book is revered for its narrative style, its sense of humor, its vivid and eccentric characters. The plot involves a tragically common situation in the Deep South during the time: Scout's lawyer father, Atticus Finch, represents a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Most townspeople want to lynch the defendant and deeply resent Atticus's strong defense. Atticus's wisdom, integrity, high moral values and gentleness are a shining example for Scout and a signal of hope for readers. To Kill a Mockingbird's characters, including Scout's brother, Jem, and friend Dill (based on her real-life friend Truman Capote) are among the best known in the world. As one fan said over the weekend, "You can go to France and mention Boo Radley, and people will know who you mean."
   Lee was famously reclusive, declining interviews, uncomfortable with her fame and success. In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush for her contribution to literature, and she traveled to the White House for the honor.

ecoUMBERTO ECO, the Italian author of The Name of the Rose, died Feb. 19, 2016, of cancer, according to The Associated Press. He was 84.
   An intellectual and academic, Eco achieved the rare combination of acclaim and popularity with his breakout success, a medieval mystery novel, The Name of the Rose. The novel wove a detective story starring medieval monks with religious themes and an exploration of symbolism. The novel was an unexpected success and was translated into many languages, including English.
   His follow-up novel, Foucault’s Pendulum, about editors who amuse themselves with a fictional conspiracy theory about the Knights Templar was so dense with puzzles that it was published with an annotated guide. However, this did not stop it from becoming a success with his fans, whom he sometimes described as “masochists.”

lordLORD WEIDENFELD, publisher and founder of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, the British publisher, died earlier today at age 96.
   Weidenfeld and Nigel Nicolson founded Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1949. It was bought in 1991 by the Orion Publishing Group, which has been owned by Hachette since 1998.
   Weidenfeld remained active in the house until his death, telling the Bookseller in 2009: "I couldn't just be playing golf. I would go mad. I have five or six major projects on the go and I would like to see them out. I have a three-year plan, and if the chairman of the board upstairs gives me another three years, I think I will."
   Hachette UK CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson said today: "I first met George Weidenfeld in the 1980s and came to know him well and admire him enormously since that time. He was a brilliant publisher, a driving force in the careers of the many distinguished authors he published, taking a delight in ideas, and applying his boundless energy to the issues of the day. We will miss his wise counsel, his generosity, his brilliant publishing instinct and his great insight but there is consolation in the fact that he lived a long, wonderful and constructive life."
   Born in Vienna, Austria, Weidenfeld left for Britain after the Nazi takeover in 1938. He worked during the war for the BBC. Strikingly, last year he helped fund the rescue of 2,000 Syrian Christians from areas controlled by ISIS as a way of "repaying his debts," he said at the time. According to the Daily Mail, he wanted to thank British Quakers and other Christians who helped refugees like him fleeing from the Nazis.

ciscoFRANCISCO ALARCON saw life as a poem — a single, continuous verse. “He said he would never use a period until he died,” said his sister Esthela Alarcón. Each day added a line or stanza; only death would end it, her brother said.
   The L.A.-born Chicano poet and factory laborer who worked his way from adult school, East L.A. College and Cal State Long Beach to Stanford University died Friday of stomach cancer in his Davis home, still eschewing that final punctuation. He was 61.
   His death ended a prolific career as a bilingual poet, children's author and professor at UC Davis. Alarcón, once a finalist for California poet laureate, was known for his poetry about immigrants, love and the indigenous languages and traditions of Mexico, and also for bilingual books of children's verse, which he called “the best thing I've done in my life.”
   Children “can relate to poems because they are short and concrete,” he once told a reporter. Short, concrete, and what his sister called “to the point” poems were his specialty — “streets were no longer streets,” he wrote of the Los Angeles riots in 1992, “how easy hands became weapons.”

small BLUE P.S. - We held several events at our bookstores, for both adults and children, with Francisco, and it was always a joy to be around his wonderful spirit. He was a very special individual who lit up a room with his great smile, laugh and his words. John



 hmHENNING MANKELL, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for police procedurals, featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander, that were translated into a score of languages and sold by the millions throughout the world, died on Monday in Goteborg, Sweden. He was 67.
   The cause was cancer, said his literary agent Anneli Hoier. Last year, Mr. Mankell disclosed that doctors had found tumors in his neck and left lung.

    Mankell was "considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir writers who gained global prominence for novels that blended edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and strong social themes," the Times wrote.
   "Beloved by readers across the world, especially for his Kurt Wallander series, it was a privilege to have worked with a man of such talent and passion, and to have been his U.K. publisher for so many years," a spokesperson for Harvill Secker told the Guardian. "He was an inspiration not just as a writer, but as someone who always stood up for the rights of others. He will be so very sorely missed. The world is a sadder place for having lost such a charismatic and honorable man."
    Kenneth Branagh, who portrayed Wallander in a series of U.K. TV adaptations, said of Mankell: "I will miss his provocative intelligence and his great personal generosity."


jackieJACKIE COLLINS, the best-selling British-born author known for her vibrant novels about the extravagance and glamour of life in Hollywood, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. She was 77. The cause was breast cancer, her family said in a statement.
   Long before the emergence of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise, Ms. Collins dominated the publishing industry’s more lascivious corners. She wrote more than 30 books, many of them filled with explicit, unrestrained sexuality, and sold more than 500 million copies worldwide. Her first novel, “The World Is Full of Married Men,” was published in 1968. Australia and South Africa banned it because of its frank depiction of extramarital sex.
   Ms. Collins, the younger sister of the actress Joan Collins, wrote her books in longhand on either white printer paper or yellow legal pads, regularly churning out prodigious numbers of pages.

sacksOLIVER SACKS, the neurologist and acclaimed author who explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in best-selling case histories like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, using his patients’ disorders as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition, died of cancer on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 82.
   As a medical doctor and a writer, Dr. Sacks achieved a level of popular renown rare among scientists. More than a million copies of his books are in print in the United States, his work was adapted for film and stage, and he received about 10,000 letters a year. (“I invariably reply to people under 10, over 90 or in prison,” he once said.)

alanALAN CHEUSE, novelist, teacher and book reviewer and commentator on NPR, died on Friday. He was 75 and had been severely injured in a car crash earlier last month. Cheuse had worked more than 25 years at NPR, taught creative writing at George Mason University and wrote five novels. Mr. Cheuse’s books were not bestsellers, but he had millions of listeners on NPR, where he was a fixture since 1981. He reviewed an estimated 1,600 books for NPR and provided annual recommendations of summer and Christmas reading, as well as commentary on notable writers.

elE. L. DOCTOROW, a leading figure in contemporary American letters whose popular, critically admired and award-winning novels — including Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The March — situated fictional characters in recognizable historical contexts, among identifiable historical figures and often within unconventional narrative forms, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 84 and lived in Manhattan and Sag Harbor, N.Y. The cause was complications from lung cancer, his son, Richard, said. The author of a dozen novels, three volumes of short fiction and a stage drama, as well as essays and commentary on literature and politics, Mr. Doctorow was widely lauded for the originality, versatility and audacity of his imagination.

homer & langley   small BLUE P.S. - One of my favorite Doctorow book was Homer & Langley, which was one of those special books that I loved so much that after I finished it late one night, I then, immediately started rereading the book all over again. It was a great reread. - John

avinAVIN MARK DOMNITZ, the former American Booksellers Association CEO, died of cancer on June 27. He was 71. During his tenure as CEO of ABA, Domnitz oversaw the creation of Book Sense and BookSense.com (now IndieBound and IndieCommerce), as well as Winter Institute. Domnitz also filed several lawsuits to help independent booksellers get the same sales terms as the chains.
   Domnitz was a staunch believer in the importance of education for booksellers, and is known for his “2% Solution” seminars that helped many store owners gain a better understanding of their finances. He began conducting the seminars when he served as president of the ABA board, and continued to do so throughout his term as CEO.
   At the Celebration of Bookselling Lunch during this year’s BookExpo America, the ABA honored Domnitz’s many contributions to indie bookselling. Too ill to attend, his wife, Rita Domnitz, accepted a plaque thanking him for his years of service.
   “Avin Mark Domnitz’s life in bookselling was characterized by his belief in the transformative power of books, and of bookselling," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher at the celebration. Teicher added that Domnitz also believed "the best educational tools possible would help ensure that indie bookstores would be empowered to continue to reinvent and reinvigorate their businesses.”
   Domnitz began his career as a trial lawyer before turning to bookselling. He owned Dickens Books in Milwaukee, which became a part of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee, where he became a co-owner.

salterJAMES SALTER, "a writer who contemplated love, mortality and the lives of men of action in his novels and short stories and who built a quiet reputation as an extraordinary prose stylist," died Friday, the Washington Post reported, adding that he "was perhaps best known for a slim 1967 novel, A Sport and a Pastime." He was 90.
   Noting that he "wrote slowly, exactingly and, by almost every critics estimation, beautifully," the New York Times said that Michael Dirda once observed "he can, when he wants, break your heart with a sentence."
   For the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote: "The news, in its way unexpected, felt like one of those breath-stealing turns out of Light Years, his masterpiece, or All That Is, his final work. Both novels span decades, depicting fairly ordinary lives studded with such swipes of fate. Salter, though admired principally as a sculptor of sentences, may have been close to peerless (Alice Munro comes to mind, too) in his talent, and taste, for expressing the mercilessness of times passing."

(info from Shelf Awareness)


paulPAUL BACON, designer of many striking book covers, died on Monday. He was 91. Bacon designed more than 6,500 book covers. Among them were some of the most important and bestselling books of the last half of the 20th century: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth, The Power Broker by Robert Caro, Shogun by James Clavell, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, Jaws by Peter Benchley and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.
   The New York Times wrote: "He is widely credited with pioneering what is known in the industry as the 'Big Book Look'--typically a bold, minimalist design featuring prominent lettering and a small conceptual image. He did all of his designs, including the lettering, by hand."
   In an interview with Print magazine in 2002, the Times wrote, Bacon said he had learned to subordinate his own aesthetic impulses to convey the main concept of a book. "I always tell myself: 'You're not the star of the show. The author took three and a half years to write the goddamn thing and the publisher is spending a fortune on it, so just back off.' "

zinWILLIAM ZINSSER, a writer, editor and teacher whose book On Writing Well sold more than 1.5 million copies by employing his own literary craftsmanship to urge clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 92.
   Mr. Zinsser wrote 19 books, taught at Yale and elsewhere, was drama editor and movie critic for The New York Herald Tribune and executive editor of the Book-of-the-Month Club. But it was his role as an arbiter of good writing that resonated widely and deeply. On Writing Well, first published by Harper & Row in 1976, has gone through repeated editions, at least four of which were substantially revised to include subjects like new technologies (the word processor) and new demographic trends (more writers from other cultural traditions).


gunter grassGUNTER GRASS, the Nobel prize winning novelist playwright and poet, has died aged 87. No stranger to controversy, the writer, who was born in the Free City of Danzig – now Gdansk in Poland – also offered plenty of pithy opinion about life, work, art and society. Grass was admitted to hospital with an infection only a few days ago, and his secretary, Hilke Ohsoling, said his death had come as a surprise.
   Personally, Gunter Grass was a giant of a writer to me. Many times in my life, when money was so very tight, I always found a way to get my hands on the new Gunter Grass work. He moved and educated me. Within his book's covers I found a wondrous world for my mind to be. I have read many of his books, the following come to mind: The Flounder, The Tin Drum, Peeling the Onion, Crabwalk, From the Diary of a Snail, Two States - One Nation?, Headbirths: Or the Germans Are Dying Out, The Meeting at Telgte, Local Anaesthetic, The Rat, Dog Years, Cat and Mouse, My Century, The Box: Tales from the Darkroom. - John


Salman Rushdie
"This is very sad. A true giant, inspiration, and friend. Drum for him, little Oskar."

The Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk had warm personal memories: “Grass learned a lot from Rabelais and Celine and was influential in development of ‘magic realism’ and Marquez. He taught us to base the story on the inventiveness of the writer no matter how cruel, harsh and political the story is,” he said.

German president Joachim Gauck
led the tributes, offering his condolences to the writer’s widow Ute Grass. “Günter Grass moved, enthralled, and made the people of our country think with his literature and his art,” he said in a statement. “His literary work won him recognition early across the world, as witnessed not least by his Nobel prize.”

John Irving on a letter from Grass.

     Here are some my favorite quotes of his.

"The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open."

(I liked this one so much that it was on our bookstore's bookmarks and our line of literary buttons.- John)

"Art is uncompromising and life is full of compromises."
     - quoted by Arthur Miller in the Paris Review, 1966

"I’m always astonished by a forest. It makes me realize that the fantasy of nature is much larger than my own fantasy. I still have things to learn."
     - from a Guardian interview, 2010

"Memory likes to play hide-and-seek, to crawl away. It tends to hold forth, to dress up, often needlessly. Memory contradicts itself; pedant that it is, it will have its way."
     - from Peeling the Onion, 2006

"I was silent. Because so many others have kept silent, the temptation is great … to shift the blame onto the collective guilt, or to talk about oneself only figuratively in the third person: He was, saw, did, said, he kept silent … "
     - from Peeling the Onion, 2006

"No idea stays pure. Even the flowering of art isn’t pure. And the sun has spots. All geniuses menstruate. On sorrow floats laughter. In the heart of roaring lurks silence."
     - from Dog Years, 1963

"Art is so wonderfully irrational, exuberantly pointless, but necessary all the same. Pointless and yet necessary, that’s hard for a puritan to understand."
     - from a New Statesman and Society interview, 1990

edEDARDO GALEANO, who has died aged 74, was one of the great writers of Latin America; his unusual and idiosyncratic works served to illuminate the history and politics of the entire continent. Born in neglected Uruguay, he was a significant part of the “boom” generation of the 1960s, inspired by the Cuban revolution, that put Latin American fiction on the global map. Although Galeano wrote novels, he was a radical journalist by trade, a poet and an artist, and a brilliant editor. He was famous for pioneering a form of political essay built on his encyclopedic knowledge of Latin America’s past.
   One of Galeano’s early works, Open Veins of Latin America (1971), received an unexpected publicity boost in 2009 when Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, thrust a copy into the hands of the US president, Barack Obama, at a summit meeting in Trinidad. Obama read it, which was not altogether surprising, as an English version, subtitled Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, had been available on US campuses since 1973.

ivanIAN DOIG, who was known for his stories of the American West, has died. He was 75 and had battled multiple myeloma for eight years. Beginning with English Creek in 1984, he "wrote a number of novels set in fictional Two Medicine Country, Montana, based on the region where he came of age," the Los Angeles Times said. His other books included the memoir This House of Sky (1979), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Last Bus to Wisdom, which is scheduled to be published in August.
   Doig won the Wallace Stegner Award in 2007, the Western Literature Association's lifetime Distinguished Achievement award and "is the recipient of more awards from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association than any other writer," as the Montana Standard put it.
"Ivan was one of the greats," said Riverhead publisher Geoff Kloske. "We have lost a friend, a beloved author, a national treasure."

TTTOMAS TRANSTRÖMER, the Swedish poet, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2011, died in Stockholm on Thursday at the age of 83. He had lost the power of speech after a stroke in 1990, but continued to write poetry, and to play the piano with his left hand.
  For most of his life, he worked part-time as an industrial psychologist and the rest of the time as a poet.
His sparse output was highly praised from the moment his first collection, 17 Poems, appeared in 1954 and he was acknowledged as Sweden’s greatest living poet long before he won the Nobel. He was translated into more than 60 languages.
   He wrote in exceptionally pure, cold Swedish without frills. His descriptions of nature were as sparse and alive as a Japanese painting. In fact, in later life, he attempted to write haiku in Swedish.

TP TERRY PRATCHETT an award-winning British fantasy writer and creator of more than 70 books, including volumes in the long-running Discworld series, died on March 12 at his home following complications from a chest infection. He was 66.
   Pratchett spoke openly about his battle with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease with which he had been diagnosed in 2007, and for which he helped raise awareness and money. He continued writing as long as possible, and in 2012 when he lost his ability to type, he used voice-recognition software and technology to complete recent books as Raising Steam (2013), Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion, and So Far (2014).

PLPHILIP LEVINE, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose intimate portraits of blue-collar life were grounded in personal experience and political conscience, died on Saturday. He was 87.
Levine, the US poet laureate in 2011 and 2012, died at his home in Fresno, California, of pancreatic and liver cancer, his wife said on Sunday. A native of Detroit and son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Levine was profoundly shaped by his working-class childhood and years spent in jobs ranging from driving a truck to assembling parts at a Chevrolet plant. Although he taught in several colleges, he had little in common with the academic poets of his time. He was not abstract or insular or digressive. He consciously modeled himself after Walt Whitman as a poet of everyday experience and cosmic wonder, writing tactile, conversational poems about his childhood, living in Spain, marriage and parenting and poetry itself.

colCOLLEEN MCCULLOUGH, whose Thorn Birds was an international bestseller, died today at her home on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. She was 77.
While working as a research associate in the neurology department at Yale University, McCullough, an Australian, wrote The Thorn Birds. The family saga set in the Australian outback was an immediate worldwide hit when published in 1977 and was made into an equally popular TV miniseries that first aired in 1983. All told, The Thorn Birds sold 30 million copies and is "the highest-selling Australian book," according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Altogether McCullough wrote 25 novels. Her series set in ancient Rome was noted for its meticulous research; she also wrote a detective series set in the U.S. in the 1960s. Her final book, Bittersweet, was published in 2013.

rodROD MCKUEN, who has died aged 81, was, at his peak, a cultural phenomenon whose massive success as a songwriter and singer saw him become America’s most popular poet, dubbed The King of Kitsch by Newsweek magazine.
   His books of poetry were found both on middle American coffee tables and in the bedrooms of adolescents, reflecting their combination of dreamy romantic loneliness and uplifting platitudes. It was no coincidence that one of McKuen’s biggest hits was the title song for the animated Peanuts film A Boy Named Charlie Brown, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. A shrewd judge of passing styles and a hardworking promoter of his own work, McKuen produced 30 collections of poems and around 200 recordings of easy-listening music that sold in the millions. But it was his songwriting, covered by artists as varied as Frank Sinatra and Madonna, Dolly Parton and Chet Baker, Johnny Cash and Barbra Streisand, that made his fortune.
   McKuen was born in a charity hospital in Oakland, California; his mother had been abandoned by his father. His stepfather beat him regularly and he was sexually abused by relatives, which was even more damaging. “Physical injuries on the outside heal,” he said, “but those scars have never healed and I expect they never will.

robert stoneROBERT STONE was not a joiner. This may be what I admired about him most. During the 1950s, while living in Manhattan, he moved around the edges of the Beat scene (his wife, Janice, worked at the Seven Arts, a Times Square coffee shop and Beat hangout); by the early 1960s, he had relocated to Northern California, where he was part of a Stegner Fellow cohort at Stanford University that included Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry and Tillie Olsen — and one of the early acid pilgrims in Kesey’s circle, from which the Merry Pranksters would arise.
   And yet, for all that this signals a certain engagement, the novelist — who died Saturday at 77 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — spent much of the last half century standing willfully apart.

        Need more death - Jump back to deaths in: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011

mt view
One of our favorite Oakland places is the Mountain View Cemetery at he end of Piedmont Avenue. I've been a graveyard lover since I was a child visiting old New England resting places of all kinds. Mountain View is a grand place (over 200 acres) and we get out there at least once a month. It a wonderful place to take pictures, relax and reflect, and to bring a picnic and a good book. They give very interesting guided tours, the architecture is spectacular, and the grounds were designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted (of NYC's Central Park fame) and it all started back in 1863.

more on Mountain View Cemetery:
- livesofthedead.com

more on graveyards:
- association of graveyard rabbits  
me and my shadow
shadow of me & my camera

home | blog | site map | reviews | bookstore traveler | book awards | to the top