Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) rose to fame in New York city writing for "Vanity Fair" and "The New Yorker". She and colleagues founded the Algonquin Round Table, a daily lunch exchange of jokes and opinions. She was a talented author, essayist and poet, well known, and sometimes punished, for an irreverent wit.
She co-wrote, "A Star is Born", and earned two Academy Award nominations in Hollywood, but was blacklisted because of her famously biting remarks. She died at 73, leaving her estate to Martin Luther King. Parker's ashes sat in a filing cabinet for years, which she may have found both wryly humourous and fittingly tragic.
2. A prophet?
Answer: Khalil Gibran
Jubran Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and painter (1883-1931) moved to New York city and lived there in a one room apartment, taken care of by his sister and later a benefactor-editor who likely contributed significantly to his work. "The Prophet" (1923) is translated into more than 50 languages, with sales consistently near that of Shakespeare. Gibran wrote 15 other works and left hundreds of paintings. Like many great authors his profound literary vision and his day-to-day life bear little resemblance.
He did consider himself a prophet, yet died at 48 of alcoholism.
"...let there be spaces in your togetherness. Let the dance between you..."
Answer: Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), born in Romania, suffered in Nazi concentration camps as a teen, and lost most of his family there. After the war he studied several languages, taught, translated, married, wrote, and moved to New York city, which remained his home for the rest of his life.
He spent decades advocating for human rights and dignity wherever these were violated. He wrote 57 books, including the haunting and beautifully written "Night", about his death camp experiences.
4. Bluest eyes
Answer: Toni Morrison
Born in Ohio in 1931 Toni Morrison attended Cornell in upper New York state,
embarking on a track which led her to become the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993). Morrison also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012) and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1988). A professor at Princeton, Morrison was nonetheless controversial, with "The Bluest Eye" challenged and banned a great many times, owing in specific to the described rape of a child, but also its uncomfortable story of a little black girl facing racism and incest.
5. Rip Van Winkle
Answer: Washington Irving
In "Rip Van Winkle" (1819) a lazy man falls asleep for 20 years in New York's "bewitching" Catskill Mountains. Washington Irving (1783-1859) may have heard the legend from local Senaca Native Americans, or overseas, as like his, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820) versions are found in many cultures.
The town of Sleepy Hollow sits north of New York city, an area that seems to draw the bold and gifted among us, many of these buried in the local cemetery, like Irving. Irving was an author, political diplomat, and also friend to several US presidents and Charles Dickens.
He was mentor to Poe. The term Gotham for New York city, knickerbockers, and the notion St. Nick flies overhead at Christmas, are Irving inventions.
6. Beat Generation
Answer: Jack Kerouac
Jean-Louis Kerouac (1922-1969) was born in Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents, and spoke only French fluently until his teens. He moved to New York city to attend Columbia University on a football scholarship but an injury--and constant arguing with the coach--forced him out.
He met and then lived with the genius poet Allen Ginsberg, author William S. Burroughs ("Naked Lunch") and author Joan Vollmer--they started the Beat Generation. Kerouac invented the term meaning the poor with no prospects, beat down.
The Beatnik goal was free expression of Self. Kerouac is known for, "On the Road", but he wrote about poverty, spiritually, drugs, and his dead older brother ("Visions of Gerard"), too. At age 47 Kerouac died of complications due to heavy drinking.
Answer: Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton (1942-2008) grew up on Long Island, and was published in "The New York Times" at just 14. He earned a medical degree from Harvard, but never practised. A "gentle soul" Crichton created thriller stories about the complexities and failures of technology and medicine.
He could produce a novel in weeks, such as "The Andromeda Strain", "Jurassic Park", "Coma" and "Westworld". Crichton married five times, had 2 kids, and died of cancer at age 66. He wrote nearly thirty novels and non-fiction works, and produced popular film and television dramas. Three novels were posthumously published, including one in 2017, "Dragon Teeth".
8. O Captain
Answer: Walt Whitman
Known worldwide for "Leaves of Grass" (1855), the "poet of democracy" Walt Whitman was born on Long Island in 1819. He published poetry in the "New-York Mirror" as a teen, then worked for various New York newspapers until "O Captain! My Captain!" solidified his acceptance. During the civil war he walked a distance to the fight in search of his brother whom he feared hurt or dead. Whitman was so appalled by the conditions he witnessed, he left New York forever, served as a volunteer nurse in the war, then settled in New Jersey.
He was often criticized in the USA, but counted among his supporters Emerson, Thoreau, and Oscar Wilde. Like many US artists he had a stronger following in Europe than at home. He died in 1892.
Answer: James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), lived most of his life in upper New York state in Cooperstown, founded by his wealthy parents. Cooper spent time at sea, and in Europe, writing successfully about both. His most famous works though, "The Leatherstocking Tales" and "Last of the Mohicans" (1826), were about early American life, the frontier and Native Americans. Cooper believed the USA should create its own literature and arts culture, distinct from Europe.
Although highly lauded in his day, some called him "dull", Mark Twain said Cooper's writing was one offense after another, and Native Americans decry his depiction of them.
His female characters fare very poorly. Still he was among the first to attempt to include more fair and realistic African, African-American and Indian characters in a novel.
10. Meatpacker Jungle
Answer: Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) moved to New York city when he was ten, worked as a writer in his teens, and haphazardly attended Columbia University. He had both wealthy and poor family relations so he grew up familiar with both, upset at the inequities. One of the "muck-rakers" who brought corruption and injustice to light, Sinclair once spent weeks undercover in a Chicago meatpacking plant, documenting alarming conditions which he published as, "The Jungle".
He wrote many other books about social and economic conditions, and industrial and political greed.
He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1943.