This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 75th birthday to Jimi Hendrix, born November 27, 1942, in Seattle, WA. His first name actually was John, but his father, James, later changed it to match his own.

Jimmy enlisted in the army in 1961, serving with the 101st airborne “Screaming Eagles.” By 1965 he was a popular session guitarist playing for the leading black stars from Little Richard to Ike and Tina before becoming a headliner.

Alas, Jimi overdosed when he was only 27.

November 28, 1974: John Lennon joins Elton John on stage at Madison Square Garden at a Thanksgiving concert performing “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

It was Lennon’s last live appearance.

November 29, 2001: Guitars gently weep the world round as George Harrison succumbs to cancer. Shitty day.

Happy 350th birthday to Jonathan Swift, born November 30, 1667 in Dublin. Always fun to read, and considering how fucked up the world is he’s still relevant.

Happy birthday to Rex Stout, born in Noblesville, IN, December 1, 1886. Stout was wildly popular in his day, he sold well and was respected by fellow scribes—the Mystery Writers of America dubbed him a Grand Master in 1959, and he served as the Authors Guild president. Stout also was a tireless champion of authors’ rights.

December 2, 1922: Hadley Hemingway boards the train at the Gare de Lyon station in Paris. She is bound for Switzerland to meet her husband who has been away a month covering the Lausanne Peace Conference. There he befriended veteran journalist Lincoln Steffens who wanted to see more of Ernest’s writing prompting Hadley to pack all his manuscripts, including the carbon copies, into a small overnight bag.

Stowing her bags and settling into the seat, she thinks a bottle of water would make the ride more comfortable. A kiosk selling Evian is visible through the train’s window—it will take only a moment to purchase the water and return to her seat. She pushes the bags a little deeper on the racks and exits the train. The few minutes she was absent was all the time needed by a thief who snatched the overnight bag. A year’s worth of her husband’s meticulous work gone in an instant.

Returning to the train, the sight of the empty space where the bag had been is a knife through her. She screeches for the conductor, but they search to no avail. Gone. Hours later she sees her husband’s beefy, smiling face on the platform as the train brakes to a stop with a whoosh of steam. Grabbing her belongings, she begins crying. She is sobbing uncontrollably when he embraces her asking what’s wrong. She tries to speak through choking sobs, and when she finally gasps out the words for a fragment of a second her husband is back on the Italian battlefield being blown to bits by a German mortar.

And that was the beginning of the end of that.

December 3, 1947: Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. The cast includes Karl Malden, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and a 23-year-old up-and-comer named Marlon Brando.

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.