We are pleased to introduce a new column on No Shelf Required: This Week in Literature and Arts. The idea is simple: each week, writer (and photographer) Michael Rogers (with a long history of book reviewing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week. It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain. Enjoy this week’s (slightly late) compilation (and do follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook).—Ed.
November 21, 1931: Universal Studios releases “Frankenstein.” A star is born.
Happy birthday to Voltaire, born Francois-Marie Arouet in Paris November 21, 1694. He wrote “Candide” in only three days. THREE FUCKING DAYS!
November 22, 1955: After a hefty dinner and enjoying the fights at Hollywood Legion Stadium with friends, Shemp Howard, 60, dies of a massive coronary while riding in the back of a cab. Shemp had dropped a one-liner cracking up pals Al Winston and Al Silverman and was lighting a cigar (he was a heavy smoker off screen) when he slumped over without making a sound.
That’s the official account and no doubt 100% accurate, but, frankly, it’s boring. How much better would it be if after cracking up his buds and contentedly puffing away on a fresh Havana Shemp suddenly went “eeb…eeb…eeb…ebee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee!” and THEN dropped dead! Come on, it’s a thousand times better!
November 22, 1968: The Beatles release the “White Album.”
Happy birthday to Harpo Marx, born in New York City on November 23, 1888. The second of eventually five children, his parents named him Adolph, but he never liked it and changed to Arthur in his 20s.
If you’re a fan but have never read any of Harpo’s memoirs (“Harpo Speaks,” etc.) they’re very charming.
November 23, 1942: “Casablanca” opens. The beautiful friendship.
November 25, 1970: Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima disembowels himself after he and his followers took over a government building where he then stood on the balcony and delivered a speech about restoring the emperor or some such nonsense to whoever would listen. Those who did laughed at him. After he cut his own guts out, Mishima’s follower made several attempts to lob off his noggin but they failed.
He’s an excellent writer, but there’s always someone in his books sticking a knife into his own gizzard to save his honor, so it seems fitting that he went out this way himself. The root of his discontent was his belief that society had gone to hell. Get your swords out, folks!