Authors Who Met Cute and Not So Cute

Those of us who love literature also love to hear about encounters between literary greats — whether those encounters were short or long or in-between.

Author interactions can be mutually beneficial, stir competition, result in enmity, develop into lifelong friendships, be memorable, be awkward, be inconsequential, or various other things.

Let’s start with two situations involving Mark Twain: He was in the audience when Charles Dickens did an 1868 reading in New York City, and he later lived next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe for 18 years in Hartford, Conn.

Until an estrangement, Dickens was good friends with novelist Wilkie Collins — who collaborated on stories with Dickens, wrote for the older author’s publications, and participated in Dickens’ amateur theatricals. Collins’ brother even married one of Dickens’ daughters.

Like Dickens, Henry James was in contact with various iconic authors. He and Edith Wharton shared a close friendship, and, as a young man, the American-born James made sure to visit George Eliot — the English novelist he greatly admired. Meanwhile, Eliot and the aforementioned Stowe corresponded by mail many times across the Atlantic.

Another encounter involved Charlotte Bronte, a William Thackeray fan who visited the Vanity Fair author in London after Jane Eyre made her famous. Bronte, so intelligent and passionate in her writings, was less adept socially; Thackeray’s daughter Anne reported that Charlotte’s shyness and quietness made the evening a dud.

Two other iconic 19th-century authors, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, were friends for a while — with the former dedicating Moby-Dick to the latter. Earlier in the 1800s, American writers James Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving separately met Sir Walter Scott in Europe — with Irving and Scott developing a years-long friendship.

Over in France, Gustave Flaubert of Madame Bovary fame knew Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Russian author Ivan Turgenev, and other novelists.

Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy met in Russia, and Boris Pasternak as a kid knew Tolstoy because the father of the future Doctor Zhivago author illustrated some of Tolstoy’s books.

Moving back to English authors, Aldous Huxley briefly taught George Orwell (then Eric Blair) at Eton — an interaction between two men who would write literature’s two most famous dystopian novels: Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Also, it’s well known that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were close pals for many years.

Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were also pals — collaborating on a play called Mule Bone that wasn’t staged in their lifetimes because they had a falling out.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were friends, too, and The Great Gatsby may have helped inspire Hemingway to write a famous novel of his own: The Sun Also Rises. But their relationship mostly cooled later on.

Hemingway and James Joyce were acquainted with each other, and the former was a big fan of the latter’s work.

James Baldwin and Toni Morrison were friends, starting when Morrison worked as a book editor — and she would write a memorable New York Times eulogy to Baldwin after his 1987 death. Earlier, Baldwin and Richard Wright also had a good relationship until Baldwin, in a published essay, criticized some aspects of Wright’s Native Son.

Speaking of criticizing a fellow writer, Mary McCarthy during a 1980 TV appearance slammed Lillian Hellman (“every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the'”) — and Hellman retaliated by filing a massive lawsuit. The two authors had met here and there before 1980.

On a more positive note, Carson McCullers and Isak Dinesen were mutual admirers — which inspired McCullers to host a 1959 luncheon for Dinesen that included guests Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe (who had a strong interest in literature).

Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood pals in Alabama, with the Dill character in To Kill a Mockingbird partly based on Capote and Lee helping Capote research In Cold Blood. Their friendship soured after Capote didn’t give Lee enough credit for that research assistance.

Then there are authors who of course know/knew each other from being related by blood or marriage. They include — to name just a few — the Bronte sisters, the sisters A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble, father and son Kingsley Amis and Martin Amis, father and son Andre Dubus II and Andre Dubus III, spouses Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin and their daughter Mary Shelley (whose husband was poet Percy Bysshe Shelley), and Stephen King and Tabitha King and their author sons Owen King and Joe Hill. Also, Daphne du Maurier was the granddaughter of George du Maurier (whose Trilby novel gave the world the term “Svengali”), but she was born 11 years after George died.

Who are other past or present authors related by blood or marriage? Other unrelated authors who encountered each other in some way? Any information or anecdotes you’d like to offer about those encounters — or about author encounters I mentioned in my post?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

Symbols in Literature’s Orchestra

A brief note before this week’s column begins: Since I started “Dave Astor on Literature” four months ago (on July 14), the blog has received 10,303 page views and 3,319 comments. Thank you, everyone!

Those of you who’ve seen the iconic Citizen Kane movie know how important a symbolic object can be to a story. The same can be said for novels.

A symbolic object — or something like a recurring theme, a repeated word or phrase, etc. — can make a novel more interesting and evocative, and impress readers with the author’s artistry.

I thought about this last week while reading Anne Lamott’s Blue Shoe, in which a footwear knickknack among her late father’s possessions helps stir Mattie Ryder to learn more about him. There’s even a line in the novel about “waiting for the other shoe to drop” — which refers to discovering the father’s sordid history and also to what might happen to Mattie, a divorced woman dealing with two stressed kids, her abrasive/physically declining mother, and a friendship with an unhappily married guy she grows to love.

The title of Morag Joss’ psychological thriller Half-Broken Things also has a double-edged meaning — describing inanimate objects as well as the emotionally damaged humans secretly living in a mansion that’s not theirs (the owner is away).

Two things are referenced, too, in The Lacuna‘s title: gaps (lacunae) in the telling of the novel’s story and an actual watery gap that’s crucial to the plot. Barbara Kingsolver’s book is about a gay man who works for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera before carving out a fiction-writing career and then falling victim to Joe McCarthy — that symbol of right-wing political intolerance.

Speaking of water, some novels contain recurring images of that ubiquitous liquid. In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, for instance, protagonist Edna Pontellier is at first fearful of water, then grows to love it, and then…well, I won’t give the ending away. In George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, there are eerie parallels between a canal scene (involving the kindly Daniel Deronda and the despairing Mirah Lapidoth) and a later boat scene (involving the beleaguered Gwendolen Harleth and her abusive husband Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt).

Moving to another form of transportation, a car plays an outsized role in Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance — as a symbol of freedom, or perhaps a symbol of being boxed in. Jim Nashe drives all over the country in that car, loses it in a gambling situation, and then gets to ride it one more time, only to…

Speaking of freedom, that word is used a number of times — sincerely and ironically — in the novel Freedom. Jonathan Franzen’s book looks at that particular “F word” from all kinds of angles and via a number of 21st-century-American characters.

Another novel with one word that helps tie things together is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. “Solitude” not only appears in the title but is repeated many times in the book, and refers to the isolated town of Macondo as well as the situations of various characters.

Or a novel can contain a repeated phrase rather than just one word — as with the fatalistic “So it goes” refrain that famously appears in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

Sometimes symbolism comes from the initials of character names. Examples include Jim Casy, the Jesus Christ figure in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath; Martin Eden, the semi-autobiographical “me” in Jack London’s Martin Eden; and Undine Spragg, who embodies crass U.S. materialism in Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country.

A name symbolizing the better side of America is possessed by Americus, the beloved young daughter of Novalee Nation in Billie Letts’ Where the Heart Is (a heartwarming book I also read last week). Novalee finds friendship and an extended “family” in Oklahoma after being abandoned, while pregnant with Americus, by her boyfriend during a car trip from Tennessee to California.

Then there’s the “Gogol” first name that The Namesake‘s Indian-American son is stuck with — a moniker that evokes the absurdity of life as well as the often-absurdist Russian author Nikolai Gogol admired by the father in Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel.

Or how about an animal symbolizing a person, as is the case with experimented-on Algernon the mouse being the critter counterpart to experimented-on Charlie the mentally challenged man in Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon.

In literary works, what are your favorite symbolic objects, recurring themes, repeated words or phrases, and other things of that nature?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

All’s Well That Ends Well — Except When It Doesn’t

What makes a good ending to a novel? What makes a not so good ending? And when I say “ending” I mean a book’s last few chapters, or last chapter, or last page, or last paragraph, or even last line.

A novel’s conclusion is often what we remember most, so it’s obviously crucial to a work of fiction. If the ending isn’t satisfying and true to the novel, an excellent book becomes, well, almost excellent.

I’ll discuss this topic by citing specific novels and why their conclusions are or aren’t great — starting with those that end in a satisfying way. And I’ll try to avoid spoilers!

When one thinks of fine fiction finales, the first novel that often comes to mind is The Great Gatsby and its immortal last line: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” You don’t need me to explain why F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sentence works — it’s evocative, it says a lot about the human condition, and it’s written like a dream.

Among many other memorable last lines are “He loved Big Brother” (George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four), “Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?” (Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man), and of course “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” (Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities).

Moving away from last lines per se, another novel with a very satisfying conclusion is To Kill a Mockingbird. At first glance, it would seem that the 1960 book should end with the dramatic trial that features Atticus Finch trying against all odds to get innocent black man Tom Robinson acquitted by a racist white jury. But a lot happens after that — some of it hopeful and of a cosmic-justice nature. Perhaps Harper Lee was trying to show that change, while often glacially slow, was coming in the United States.

Staying in the American South, the final chapters of John Kennedy Toole’s New Orleans-set A Confederacy of Dunces (which I read for the first time last week) are also satisfying in the way they depict major life changes happening to the various eccentric characters — who by then have pretty much morphed into individuals rather than hilarious stereotypes.

For The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck knew exactly what his closing scene would be before writing the novel that led up to it. Rose of Sharon’s encounter with a starving man mixes heartbreak and humanity in an astonishing way.

Moby-Dick‘s intense ending works superbly because of Herman Melville’s mighty prose and the foreshadowing in the novel that seems to augur nothing but that ending.

The same can be said for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, in which the ultimate fate of the town of Macondo seems as inevitable as the wind.

Jane Eyre has a conclusion that’s both tragic and romantic, and one can think of almost no other way Charlotte Bronte could have resolved the dilemmas of her two main protagonists while making them equal to each other and trusting of each other.

Henry James ends The American with the burning of a document and the reaction of the person who prematurely tossed it into the fireplace. A priceless moment.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (which I reread this month) and Jack London’s Martin Eden have similar conclusions that are shocking yet make total sense in the context of how the troubled protagonists are feeling in those novels.

There are also novels that tell disparate stories that don’t “come together” until the finish. When the meshing is done skillfully — as in Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer — there’s a “wow” factor.

L.M. Montgomery’s final Anne of Green Gables chapters mix death, self-sacrifice inspired by gratitude, and the blossoming of a relationship in a fashion that’s not only very moving but sets the stage for the sequels to come. Making a novel sequel-ready is one way to create an effective ending.

Speaking of multiple-book properties, the last installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series nears its conclusion with the riveting Battle of Hogwarts and final Harry/Voldemort standoff, but is followed by a clunky epilogue about the main characters’ future lives.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy almost ends with epic warfare and the ultra-dramatic scene at Mount Doom, but stretches the story a bit too long as Frodo and others return to “civilian” life.

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is exquisite until the late appearance of Tom Sawyer turns things farcical when a more serious approach is warranted.

Mentioning Henry James again, The Europeans is an absorbing novel that abruptly ends with nearly everything summed up in too neat a bow.

Then there are mostly sunny books with sad conclusions that don’t seem right, and mostly sad books with sunny conclusions that also don’t seem right. The House of the Seven Gables has one of those scenarios (I’m trying to avoid a spoiler here) that reportedly happened when Nathaniel Hawthorne was persuaded to change the ending.

Of course, some novels have happy endings that are logical and organic to the story — and what’s not to like about that? But many of the best novels are too true to the troubled nature of human existence to offer happy-ending wish fulfillment. We may not like those depressing finales, but they often feel realistic and not insulting to our intelligence.

What are your favorite novels with conclusions that are satisfying or not so satisfying? What makes those endings work or not work? And do you agree or disagree with my takes on the novel finales I discussed?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also in the middle of writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

Young at Art: Some 20-Something Authors Write Classics

Authors need to be in their 30s or older before they have enough life experience and writing know-how to pen a dazzling and challenging novel. Right?

Usually, but not always. Sometimes, authors bring the precocious to the prose while still in their 20s. Many authors have written good novels in their 20s, but how many have written great ones?

I thought about that while recently reading The Luminaries, the 2013 novel published just before author Eleanor Catton turned 28. It was already surprising that her first book (The Rehearsal) came out five years earlier, but her Booker Prize-winning second novel is exceptionally mature, complex, riveting, and long (830 pages) for a work written at such a young age. Also, The Luminaries is set during New Zealand’s 1860s gold rush and has a mostly male cast, so Catton’s sprawling book required lots of research and imaginative leaping. (But I should note that her part-mystery novel could have been about 200 pages shorter, and its concluding “flashback” chapters are not quite as satisfying as what comes before.)

A number of young 19th-century authors wrote classics, too. For instance, the 1818-born Emily Bronte saw her highly original Wuthering Heights novel published in 1847, and her 1820-born sister Anne — after warming up with 1847’s straightforward Agnes Grey — broke feminist ground with 1848’s formidable, compelling The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The often-secluded nature of the Bronte sisters’ lives lent itself to lots of intense writing time — with another participant of course being Charlotte Bronte, who was in her early 30s when Jane Eyre rocketed to fame.

The 19th century was also a time of much less distraction (obviously no computers, social media, blogs, TV, movies, radio, etc.), so aspiring young authors could more easily concentrate on writing.

Mary Shelley hadn’t even turned 22 when Frankenstein was published in 1818. It didn’t hurt the development of Shelley’s literary genius that she was the daughter of writers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin as well as the wife of renowned poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. (The influence of Wollstonecraft — who wrote the novel Mary: A Fiction before age 30 — on her daughter was not direct; she unfortunately died just days after giving birth.) Before turning 30 herself, the 1797-born Mary Shelley went on to write three more novels — including the imaginative, apocalyptic The Last Man (1826).

Back in the 18th century, Goethe became famous for The Sorrows of Young Werther at age 25.

Charles Dickens wrote five novels before age 30, including some memorable ones, but his more challenging classics would come later. The 1819-born Herman Melville had a similar career trajectory, writing four novels by 1849 but Moby-Dick and other immortal works after that. And W. Somerset Maugham wrote four novels in his 20s but none of them the books we most remember him by.

Stephen Crane penned The Red Badge of Courage and all his other works as a 20-something, of course, because he never reached 30. F. Scott Fitzgerald had two fairly good novels (This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned) out in his mid-20s before penning the masterful The Great Gatsby while still under 30. His contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, came out with The Sun Also Rises at age 27.

Moving further into the 20th century, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was released when author Carson McCullers was 23. Interestingly, that novel’s skillful interweaving of various characters’ lives made it the most complex of all the works she would write.

The flip side of this discussion is authors who didn’t write their debut novel until well on in years — with one of the most striking examples being Harriet Doerr’s Stones for Ibarra getting published when she was 74.

Your favorite authors who wrote great novels while still in their 20s? (You can include ones I mentioned. 🙂 ) Your favorite authors who wrote great novels as senior citizens? And, lastly, any thoughts on age as it relates to writing — including whether there’s an ideal time of life to pen a novel?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also in the middle of writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

Single Parents Can Be Singular Characters

A single parent in literature often draws our sympathy.

That person may be depressed about the death of a spouse, angry after a difficult divorce, worried about money, nervous about dating, and more. Amid all that, they’re raising a child or children — which can be wonderful, yet especially challenging and exhausting without a partner to help. Plenty of dramatic fodder for novels and other literary works!

As readers, we might also relate to single-parent protagonists if we’re current or former single parents ourselves (I was among that group). Also, readers in bad marriages or with ailing spouses know that solo parenthood could come their way — making fictional single parents possible models for real-life behavior to embrace or avoid.

Of course, how much sympathy we feel for fictional parents without partners partly depends on those characters’, well, character. Some of literature’s single moms and dads are quite unlikable.

But that’s not the case with Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which I recently reread. He’s tremendously admirable — as an attorney fighting racial injustice, and as a widowed father. Atticus’ legal and legislative work keeps him away from home fairly often, but his parenting is patient, affectionate, and at times firm but never harsh. Plus he made sure to have a competent “surrogate mother” (the housekeeper Calpurnia) for his kids Scout and Jem.

Then there are other kinds of injustice — as when Hester Prynne is ostracized in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter after her daughter Pearl is born out of wedlock. But like Atticus (who has an A in his name rather than on his clothes), Hester is a great parent and person.

There’s also the injustice of being unfairly detained in a mental institution — as happens to the loving, impoverished single mother Connie Ramos, whose daughter is taken away in Marge Piercy’s partly sci-fi Woman on the Edge of Time.

In a happier scenario, a vacationing single parent meets a charming younger man in Terry McMillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back. That woman is divorced investment analyst Stella Payne.

Moving back to the 19th century, we have Helen Lawrence Huntington — who, with her young son, flees abusive and alcoholic husband Arthur in Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Helen acted very courageously during a time when most women had little choice but to stay in rotten marriages.

Silas Marner, in the George Eliot novel named after him, unexpectedly becomes the adopted father of the girl Eppie. The miserly, melancholy Silas doesn’t initially seem like an ideal candidate to be a stellar single dad, but…

Eliot also created Lisbeth Bede, the mother in Adam Bede who’s eventually widowed. Lisbeth is likable, though perhaps a bit too “clingy” with her adult sons Adam and Seth.

Harder to categorize in terms of likability is the widowed mother who kicks out and disinherits her son in Herman Melville’s controversial Pierre, a critical and sales disaster when published but a rather fascinating novel. The mother had a pretty good reason for doing what she did, but…

James Fenimore Cooper featured more than one widowed father of daughters in his “Leatherstocking” novels, with those dads ranging from sympathetic to mixed in their behavior.

Jane Austen also created a mixed bag of a widower in her Emma novel (the friendly but hypochondriacal Henry Woodhouse) and a less-appealing widower in Persuasion (Anne Elliot’s vain, materialistic father Walter).

The Ida Mancuso character in Elsa Morante’s History doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but she’s too tired, scared, and bewildered to be a better single mother to her two sons as she grapples with all kinds of hardships in World War II Italy.

Of course, there are some single parents loathed by readers. One is the buffoonish and irresponsible Fyodor Karamazov, who’s a crummy father to the three titular siblings in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Also unsympathetic is the ambitious and violent Esteban Trueba, who becomes a widower in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. Negative in a more subtle way is the passive-aggressive Gilbert Osmond, father of Pansy in Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady.

Hmm…seems like I included more widowed than divorced parents in this post. There was certainly less divorce before our modern era, and thus less divorce in older fiction.

Who do you think are some of the most memorable single parents in literature?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also in the middle of writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.