Flannery OConnor Forever Stamp

© 2015 USPS

A portrait of Southern fiction writer Flannery O’Connor is shown on the latest stamp in the U.S. Postal Service’s Literary Arts series. Along with her visage, the stamp—which is being issued tomorrow—features a background design of brightly-hued peacock feathers, a nod to a personal interest of the author.

Andalusia, Milledgeville. GA

The Georgia farmhouse where Flannery O’Connor spent her last years. Photo © Flannery O’Connor Andalusia Foundation.

After O’Connor moved to Andalusia Farm, her mother’s ancestral home in central Georgia, she devoted herself to two pastimes: writing and raising peacocks, swans, chickens, and other birds. She spent the last of her 39 years, before dying of complications from lupus, amid the property’s pastoral beauty, which inspired the settings for such stories as “A Circle in the Fire,” “Good Country People,” and “The Displaced Person.” Today visitors can tour the white farmhouse that was the hub of O’Connor’s world and which has been preserved exactly as it was in the 1960s when she was in residence.

© 2011 USPS

© 2011 USPS

The Literary Arts series began in 1979 with John Steinbeck on a 15 cent stamp. A new stamp has been issued nearly every year since then, ranging from literary giants like Mark Twain to lesser-known writers like Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos. Along with the stamp featuring Flannery O’Connor, the 2014 version with Ralph Ellison is still available for purchase.

utah-shakespeare-festival

Statue of Juliet, Utah Shakespeare Festival

 

Get thee to a playhouse. Shakespeare’s spirited romantic comedies and riveting tragedies are as popular today as they were 400 years ago when he entertained London theatergoers, proving the prediction of his friend and fellow playwright Ben Johnson: “He was not of an age, but for all time.”

Here are six atmospheric places across the U.S. to take in a Shakespeare production this summer. If none of them are in your neighborhood, check out the Shakespeare Resource Center’s extensive listing of Bard-related festivals and theater companies from Hawaii to New York’s Hudson Valley.

The Old Globe, San Diego, California
This regional theater company located in Balboa Park has three theaters, including one modeled on the famed, circular-shaped Old Globe in London. Like the original, it was destroyed by a fire and subsequently rebuilt. Staging of the Bard’s works, though, take place in the larger, open air Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. For those who want more information and insight, there is a lecture series on topics related to the featured plays.

The line-up: Twelfth Night (June 21-July 26), The Comedy of Errors (August 16-September 20)

Shakespeare in the Park, New York City
Watching the Bard’s dramas on sultry summer evenings in an open-air theater in Central Park is a ritual for New Yorkers. Scoring free tickets requires patience, but the payoff is worth the effort. Tickets are given out each performance day at 1 p.m., with some staking a spot in line as early as 6 a.m. when the park opens. Big spenders can obtain tickets in advance by making a donation to the Public Theatre ($200 per ticket).

The line-up: The Tempest (through July 5), Cymbeline (July 23-August23)

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon
Surrounded by towering peaks and lush pine forests, this Pacific Northwest town boasts one of the oldest and largest professional nonprofit theaters in the United States. Founded in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival stages an eight-and- a-half-month season of Shakespearean and other classic plays in three local venues, including an outdoor Elizabethan-style amphitheater.

The line-up:  Antony and Cleopatra (June 2-October 9), Much Ado About Nothing (through November 1), Pericles (through November 1)

American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, Virginia
Situated in the historic Shenandoah Valley is the American Shakespeare Center’s 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only full-sized re-creation of the indoor theater Shakespeare and his comrades built on part of London’s Blackfriars Monastery. Even more impressive? Performances are staged in the Elizabethan tradition with natural lighting, simple stage sets, and recycled costumes.

The line-up: Hamlet (through June 13), Much Ado About Nothing (through June 14), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (June 16-November 29), Antony and Cleopatra (June 17-November 27), The Winter’s Tale (July 8-November 28)

Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC
The world’s largest collection of printed works by William Shakespeare is housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library just a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol. In addition to putting on regular exhibitions, the Library is also home to the Folger Theatre, an intimate, Elizabethan-style venue where the current production is a twist on a popular Shakespeare work. Playwright Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead expands upon on the exploits of the two courtiers from Hamlet. The play runs through June 28.

Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, Utah
At this Shakespeare shrine in southern Utah, playgoers can experience some additional insights about the production they have come to see. This “surround experience” includes an opportunity for Bard enthusiasts to ask questions about the play at an Orientation before the curtain goes up. The next day they can take part in a Literary Seminar, joining scholars and other fans to discuss the featured play. Additional events and activities include Backstage Tours for a peek at props, costumes, and more.

The line-up: King Lear (June 27-September 4), The Taming of the Shrew (June 25-September 5), Henry IV Part Two (June 26-September 5), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (September 24-October 31)

[Photo: EverywhereOnce.com]

 

715_873_Hardy's+Cottage+-+front+exterior+view+-+NT+Jim+Tampin_thumb_460x0Dorset’s rustic landscapes form the backdrop for the latest cinematic adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, which hits theatres May 1.

Hardy set many of his tales of love and tragedy amidst the grassy hills and bucolic farms of Dorset, dubbing the area South Wessex. Much has remained unchanged into the present day and a new leaflet put together by the Hardy society links the places where the writer lived with the villages that he wrote about and other sites of interest, including the church where his heart is buried.

Start your journey at Hardy’s Cottage, the thatched-roof dwelling built by the writer’s great-grandfather. Hardy was born in the cottage and lived there for 34 years, penning portions of Far from the Madding Crowd in his second floor bedroom.

He later lived at Max Gate, a turreted Victorian villa which he designed himself. His first wife, Emma, found the house cold and uninviting, a state of affairs reflected in the gradual disintegration of their marriage and her retreat to the second story. 111_366_from+picnik_thumb_460x0,0

Other area visitor attractions include the Dorset County Museum, which boasts the largest Hardy collection in the world, and Athelhampton House and Gardens, which Hardy regularly visited.

Download the leaflet and follow the Hardy Trail.

Monroeville Courthouse Interior

Harper Lee has been making headlines with the news that a novel she wrote in the mid-1950s has been rediscovered and will be published this summer. In Go Set a Watchman, a grown-up Scout Finch returns to her southern hometown, Maycomb, twenty years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird unfold. What better place to celebrate this literary milestone than by visiting Monroeville, Alabama, Lee’s hometown and the model for Maycomb. Surrounded by cotton fields and red clay roads, this tiny town has been designated as the “Literary Capital of Alabama.”

– Monroeville residents weren’t impressed when To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, believing that the world would have little interest in their local happenings. Despite the book garnering a Pulitzer Prize, it took a visit from popular actor Gregory Peck—who starred as Atticus Finch in the film version—to convince them that Monroeville was officially on the map.

– Monroeville is home to one of the most famous courtrooms in the world. Time has stood still at the Old Monroe County Courthouse, where Lee used to watch her lawyer father practice his profession and later used it as the setting for one of the most important scenes in To Kill a Mockingbird. An exact replica of the courtroom was re-created on a Hollywood sound stage.

– Order in the court is restored annually. Every spring an all-local acting troupe known as the Mockingbird Players stages a two-act play based on Lee’s novel, with the second part taking place in the famed courtroom. Audience members are part of the play, acting as trial spectators by taking a seat in the courtroom’s main floor—or in the balcony like Dill, Scout, and her brother, Jem, do in the story. (Be sure to plan ahead. The play sells out fast.)

– Harper Lee isn’t the only famous writer from Monroeville. Truman Capote was the inspiration for Dill, Scout’s scrappy sidekick. Or so Capote liked to tell it. Now a museum, the Courthouse has an exhibit highlighting his childhood in Monroeville, where he spent much of his first ten years living with relatives, and how it influenced his fiction.

–  Fictional Atticus Finch is recognized by the Alabama Bar Association. As the first of its Legal Milestones monuments, the organization donated a bronze plaque, located on the courthouse’s south lawn, in tribute to the “Lawyer-Hero.”

– Jane Austen’s novels inspired Harper Lee. In an interview Lee gave soon after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, she revealed that her aim as a writer was to emulate Austen by chronicling the “rich social pattern” of small-town Southern life.

[Photo © Monroe County Heritage Museums]

The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (100 years)

221b Bake Street, London, Sherlock Homes Museum

Sherlock Holmes’ famous flat, 221b Baker Street, London

In the fourth and final novel starring Sherlock Holmes, a coded message warning of imminent danger is delivered to his London flat and hastily sends him crime-solving in the countryside. Visitors to the fictional sleuth’s Victorian-era quarters at 221bBaker Street—once shared with roommate and detecting partner Dr. Watson—can be forgiven for thinking he might reappear there at any moment. The rooms he “rented” have been vividly re-created just as they’re described in “A Study in Scarlet” and other tales. On display at the Sherlock Holmes Museum are the detective’s most prized possessions, including his deerstalker cap and the Persian slipper where he stored his tobacco.

The Metamorphoses by Franz Kafka (100 years)

Franz Kafka Museum, Prague (photo: prague.eu)

Franz Kafka Museum, Prague (photo: prague.eu)

The strange story of a man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a large, insect-like creature was one of only a few of Franz Kafka’s works published during his lifetime. Before his death from tuberculosis at age 41, the relatively unknown author implored a friend, Max Brod, to burn his diaries, manuscripts, and letters unread. Instead Brod overrode the directive and published three of Kafka’s unfinished novels, including The Trial and The Castle. Today, Prague’s Franz Kafka Museum continues the work of Brod and others who refused to let the writer fade into anonymity. Some not-to-miss items are the last known photo of Kafka and the final letter he wrote to his parents the day before he died. w

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (150 years)

Alice in Wonderland Window Oxford

Stained glass window in the Great Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford, UK

The original manuscript of Carroll’s beloved book is usually on display in the rare treasures gallery at the British Library in London. Soon Alice admirers in the U.S. will have a chance to view the manuscript, the centerpiece of exhibits at the Morgan Library in New York City (June 26-October 11) and the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia (October 14-March 27, 2016). Across the pond, in Oxford, Carroll was a mathematician at Christ Church College, where the dean’s daughters, Alice and Edith Liddell, inspired the storytelling that eventually led to his famed book. Inside the college’s Great Hall is a stained glass window featuring images of the fictional Alice and the characters she encounters underground. For more places with Carroll connections, check out Culture 24’s article “Alice in Wonderland: On the Trail of Lewis Carroll.”

Emma by Jane Austen (200 years)

The English cottage where Jane Austen conjured up the escapades of Emma Woodhouse.

The English cottage where Jane Austen conjured up the escapades of Emma Woodhouse.

The sparkling satire Emma flowed from Jane Austen’s pen in a 17th century cottage in Chawton, England. Prior to moving into the abode, located on her wealthy brother’s country estate, in 1809, none of her work had been published. Her time in Chawton proved prolific. In addition to Emma, the novelist turned out Mansfield Park and Persuasion and revised Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The writing table where she worked is on display in the cottage, now Jane Austen’s House Museum. Emma-related events are taking place throughout the year, leading up to the anniversary tie-in in December.

Don Quixote, Part II by Miguel Cervantes (400 years)

Don Quixote's "giants" in the Spanish countryside.

Don Quixote’s “giants” in the Spanish countryside.

On a hillside in Campo de Criptana, Spain, witness the spectacles put on by the famous windmills that Don Quixote valiantly battled after mistaking them for giants. The comic misadventures of the chivalry-obsessed knight errant and his faithful squire, Sancho Pancho, were enormously popular with 17th century readers. Miguel Cervantes is believed to have begun writing what is considered the first modern novel while imprisoned in a cave underneath the Casa de Medrano, some 60 miles south of where the windmills turn. He had the misfortune of being imprisoned at least twice for irregularities in his accounts while working his day job as a tax collector.

Hemingway House

Or there will be soon. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West is developing an app that allows users virtual access to the property.

The sun-drenched island was supposed to be a brief stopover for Hemingway after he left Paris in 1928. Instead he found himself drawn to Key West’s rough-and-tumble charm, and it became his first home on U.S. soil after spending most of his adult life abroad. Three years later he moved into a two-story Spanish colonial-style house, today the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum.

It’s one of our favorite literary sites, a delight for both bibliophiles and cat lovers. The museum’s app offers details about Hemingway’s days in Key West and an overview of his books, poems, and short stories. It also has a tour through the grounds, the house, and the studio where the writer penned his semi-autobiographical novel A Farewell to Arms and other works.

Marlene Deitrich

The best part: the app introduces Marlene Dietrich (in the photo above hanging out in Hemingway’s bedroom) and the other cats who have the run of the place. Legend has it that a ship’s captain once gave Hemingway a six-toed cat, and the 50 or so felines that live on the property today are its descendants.

The app is available in eight languages. You can sign up on the museum’s website if you’d like to receive an email notification when it’s released.

Strawberry HillIt’s not often that Joni and I are able to explore literary sites together since we’re usually on different continents. But during a recent stay with her in London, bookish activities were on our itinerary.

First we perused the British Library’s wonderfully informative and atmospheric exhibit “Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination,” inspired by the 250th anniversary of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. The eerie tale is credited as being the first Gothic novel, and the exhibit opens with a section on the book and its creator. When we learned that Walpole conjured up The Castle of Otranto at Strawberry Hill, a Gothic-style house in a London suburb, we headed out to see it the next day.

Strawberry Hill “was built to please my own taste,” boasted Walpole. He took inspiration from Gothic cathedrals, incorporating features like vaulted arch doorways and rose windows into his abode, which in turn launched a literary tradition. It was in this atmospheric setting that Walpole first had the idea for The Castle of Otranto, awakening from a dream and imagining he saw a giant armored fist on the central staircase.

In addition to hosting royalty and other VIP guests at swank soirees, Walpole allowed members of the public entry into his domain. Only four literary travelers were allowed access on any given day, shown around by the writer’s housekeeper while he retreated elsewhere on the grounds. Walpole wanted a stroll through his abode to be a theatrical experience, with guests entering through a darkly lit foyer, ascending a gray stone staircase, and finally laying eyes on the flamboyant, crimson-and-gold gallery where he preferred to entertain.

We just made it for a self-guided tour of Walpole’s Gothic wonder before it closed for the season. Mark your calendars: Strawberry Hill reopens on March 1, 2015.

 

Transylvania's Bran Castle is a fitting döppelganger for the fictional Count Dracula's atmospheric abode.

Transylvania’s Bran Castle is a fitting döppelganger for the fictional Count Dracula’s atmospheric abode.

In conjunction with the exhibit “Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination,” the British Library in London is offering a lucky bibliophile the chance to head to Transylvania. The winner of this enticing expedition will delve into the history surrounding Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The five-day excursion includes the tour “Dracula: The True Story of Vlad the Impaler” and sightseeing outings with an English-speaking guide. (Click here for details on how to enter the competition.)

Dracula and other spine-tingling tales are the focus of “Terror and Wonder,” which traces the 250-year history of the Gothic genre. The wonderfully atmospheric exhibit begins by spotlighting Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the 1764 novel that created a sensation and is credited with kicking off the genre. From there the exhibit explores influential works that followed Walpole’s page-turner, like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and traces the Gothic influence into contemporary times. In addition, “Terror and Wonder” intriguingly illustrates how the Gothic tradition has extended beyond literature to film, art, music, fashion, and architecture.

Literary buffs will enjoy seeing handwritten drafts of Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Also included in the multi-media exhibit are film clips, posters, paintings, Alexander McQueen clothing, and some 200 other items, including a vampire slaying kit complete with holy water and a pistol for firing silver bullets. Because a great book really can make the imagination run wild.

“Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination” is on view through January 20, 2015.

 

[Photo © BL.uk]

Jaipur PalaceShakespeare and CompanyLafayette Square

For travelers who pack more page-turners than apparel when going on vacation, one of these guided, literary-themed getaways might be just the thing.

Passage to India / January 18-29

Foyles Bookshop is leading a trip to India with stops in Jaipur, Delhi, Samode, and Gurgaon. Notable events on the agenda are a tea tasting at the Full Circle Bookshop in Delhi, an invite to the private Authors Ball at the Jaipur Literature Festival, and a tete-a-tete with novelist Marcel Theroux. Tour participants receive a bounty of books, selected by Theroux, for pre-trip reading: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, and Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

Sultry Savannah / April 12-15
Bibliophiles can discuss Flannery O’Connor’s fiction in the atmospheric southern city where she was born in 1925. Offered by Classical Pursuits, the Mystery & Manners in Savannah excursion also includes a tour of O’Connor’s childhood home on Lafayette Square, one of 21 picturesque squares in this city distinctive for its antebellum architecture and abundant gardens.

Exploring Paris and Provence / September 7-16
A unique, ten-day tour from Adventures by the Book follows in the footsteps of author Susan Vreeland as she recreates the journey behind her novel Lisette’s List. Along with the chance to travel with Vreeland, some of the perks included in the tour price are a signed first edition of Lisette’s List and a welcome reception at the legendary Paris bookshop Shakespeare & Company.

 

 

[Photos: Jaipur Palace: © Foyles.co.uk; Shakespeare and Co. and Savannah, GA: © NovelDestinations.com]

 

beachnm[1]We loved reading this Flavorwire post about literary homes that are up for sale, among them Dracula’s castle in Romania and Norman Mailer’s beachfront pad in Providence, Rhode Island. Mailer and his fourth wife, Norris, lived there for more than 30 years, while he wrote prolifically in his third-floor study, boxed in the basement, and played poker in the dining room.

The author’s oldest son, film producer Michael Mailer, tells The Boston Globe they’re asking $4 million for the waterfront Provincetown house, which is “filled with great memories and great family times,” but the children live in New York and beyond so it’s not practical to keep it in the family.

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