This week in Literature and Arts

Happy birthday to Kurt Vonnegut, born in Indianapolis, IN, November 11, 1922. His simple yet all-encompassing “so it goes” might be the most poignant commentary on current events.

November 14, 1851: Moby Dick is published in America after debuting in Britain several months earlier. The book mostly was panned by critics (like Ahab, they found the narrative didn’t have a leg to stand on—NyukX3!), but in the ensuing now 165 years, controversy has arisen over whether those who lambasted the work at the time actually had read it or simply cribbed from British reviews.

If the critics indeed based their opinions on previous criticisms without reading the book it’s all the more sad because Moby Dick‘s financial failure in large part lead to Melville’s demise as an author, forcing him to find employment inspecting ship cargoes at South Street and other locales around New York harbor.

Since the novel’s renaissance in the 1920s, oceans of ink have been spilled on it’s true meaning, blah, blah, blah, and while the symbolism is there, books like it and Ulysses tend to be so over-dissected that their intrinsic beauty becomes a casualty, and instead of being read with great joy, people become afraid and avoid them. Silly. Moby Dick is enchanting. Read it!

Happy birthday to Georgia O’Keeffe, born in Sun Prairie, WI, November 15, 1887. Though generally accepted as the mother of American modern art, wearing that scowl on her craggy face she would have made a great nun—Sister Mary Gator Face, Third Panzer Division, whack your ass with that ruler if you don’t have your math homework!

Happy 75th birthday to New York’s own Martin Scorsese, born in Queens November 17, 1942. He could sit at the table with any of the great Golden Age directors. Glad he got the gangster film with De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci into production.  Attaboy, Marty!

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.