John Updike on Parenting, Agatha Christie in the Gossip Pages: First Mentions of Famous Authors in The Times

It felt solely becoming, throughout the Book Review’s 125th anniversary, to delve into the archives and showcase the finest, funniest, most shocking first mentions we may discover.


Theodore Dreiser

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The very first time Dreiser’s identify appeared in the paper was as a byline: He profiled the artist James H. Dolph in November 1897, three years earlier than the publication of Dreiser’s first novel, “Sister Carrie.” His literary presents had been evident in the piece, which started, “J.H. Dolph paints cats. It is by no means depreciative of the richer gifts of this extremely talented painter to say that he paints cats, for he paints dogs also.”


Edna Ferber

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“Miss Edna Ferber, who describes a girl reporter’s life in her new novel, ‘Dawn O’Hara,’ is herself a newspaperwoman,” Hildegarde Hawthorne wrote in the Book Review’s gossip column, “Among the Authors,” on April 29, 1911. “She commenced her journalistic career at 17 on a paper in the town of Appleton, Wis., working as a reporter. She has since declared that ‘a year of foreign travel and a whole course in college couldn’t have crammed half so much into my head as did the 18 months of small-town journalism.’”


T.S. Eliot

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“T.S. Eliot of St. Louis, a student in the Summer School of Magdeburg University, arrived in London today with a number of students from Freiburg and other German universities which have been closed on account of the war,” The Times reported on Aug. 27, 1914. Eliot advised the paper, “The German officials showed the students much consideration and helped us in every way, but traffic was interrupted by the military operations and there were few trains.” He added that he didn’t assume he’d be returning: “Conditions are too unsettled for the few foreign students whose countries are not fighting Germany.”


F. Scott Fitzgerald

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In 1916, whereas he was at Princeton, Fitzgerald co-wrote a play with Edmund Wilson. Since the school solely admitted males, males would usually play ladies’s roles in college productions. The Times featured a photograph of Fitzgerald in character for his function, calling him “the most lovely showgirl in the Princeton Triangle Club’s new musical play, ‘The Evil Eye.’


Agatha Christie

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In its gossipy Books and Authors column from Aug. eight, 1920, the Book Review reported, “An fascinating story is advised about how ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ by Agatha Christie, a detective novel introduced for Fall publication by the John Lane firm, got here to be written. The creator had by no means earlier than tried to put in writing a e-book, however made a wager that she may write a detective story in which the reader wouldn’t be capable of select the assassin, though having information of the identical clues as the detective. She was a minimum of profitable sufficient to have her work chosen by The London Times as a serial for its weekly version.”


Barbara Cartland

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The romance novelist got here to the consideration of The Times in November 1925. “It is difficult to guess what Barbara Cartland, a new playwright, who has been having a good deal of trouble with the censor, is driving at in ‘Blood Money,’ which opened on Monday night. Perhaps the censor’s excisions were responsible.”


Richard Wright

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He was singled out in a overview of “The New Caravan,” a big, annual assortment of new writing: “To continue with what seems immediately good there is a remarkably empathetic sketch by Richard Wright, a Negro born in 1909 in Mississippi, tactfully as well accurately written to display racial incompatibilities while naturally sympathetic with his own race. Mr. Wright has also done everything, ‘washed dishes, swept streets, dug ditches, portered, waited on tables, bus-boyed, bell-boyed, carried messages, off-barred in brick-yards, sold insurance, and clerked in the United States Post Office.’ … At present he is ‘busy with a novel’” — presumably “Native Son,” printed three years later.


Patricia Highsmith

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In 1939, the future novelist was talked about in an article a few “Greek Games” competitors between first- and second-year college students at Barnard: “A messenger, Joan Roth, rushed in to say that Persephone still lived and a rejoicing group danced in. Eight tumblers did tricks before the crowd to distract the still disconsolate Demeter. The student acrobats included Betty Crum, Alberta Albig, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Wolfson, Miriam Szafir, Elizabeth Crane, Claire Lawler and Miss Holden.”


Gwendolyn Brooks

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The author and poet was first talked about in a brief merchandise about the journal Portfolio in 1945: “We liked also David Daiches’ article ‘The Future of Ignorance’ (he feels that it is bright), and an excerpt from the novel ‘Babylon’ by René Crevel, translated by Kay Boyle; and an effective little story by Gwendolyn Brooks called ‘We’re the Only Colored People Here.’”


Ralph Ellison

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Times readers met Ellison in February 1950, two years earlier than the publication of “Invisible Man,” when he reviewed a novel known as “Stranger and Alone,” by J. Saunders Redding. Ellison wrote that Saunders “presents many aspects of Southern Negro middle-class life for the first time in fiction — its parties and its struggles, its bedroom manners and its social rituals, its health and its neuroses.”


Jack Kerouac

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In a publishing information column, “In and Out of Books,” Allen Ginsberg talked to Harvey Breit about his good friend Jack Kerouac, whose novel “On the Road” had simply been purchased by Viking. It was January 1957, and the two had been about to go to Paris. “We don’t worry about money,” Ginsberg mentioned, “‘We take a job, a stevedore job or something like that, rack up 300 bucks and then live on it and forget about the money. Don’t need any money. I’ve got the sleeping-bag, we all have them, and can flop in any park.”


John Updike

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Not lengthy earlier than his first novel, “The Poorhouse Fair,” was printed, Updike — already an acclaimed short-story author — was featured in a parenting article, “The Magic World of Words,” which mentioned the finest methods to spark a baby’s love for language. Updike, the father of toddlers, advised the paper in 1958, “When children are picking up words with rapidity, between 2 and 3, say, tell them the true word for something even if it is fairly abstruse and long. A long correct word is exciting for a child. Makes them laugh; my daughter never says ‘rhinoceros’ without laughing.”


Michael Crichton

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Crichton’s debut in The Times? A contract journey piece about Sunset Crater National Monument that, in accordance with his memoir, he offered to the paper as a teen. “Climbing Up a Cinder Cone,” which appeared on May 17, 1959, contained flashes of Crichton’s dry humor. “Starting from the ranger station at the base of Sunset Crater are two foot trails for visitors. One goes to the summit of the cinder cone and is recommended only if the climber has the time (an hour or more), the energy (in profusion) and a pair of old shoes (for wading through the deep layers of cinders).”


Isabel Allende

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Months earlier than Allende printed her first novel, “The House of the Spirits,” The Times took word of her in a publishing information column. “First novels often come and go without notice, but ‘The House of the Spirits’ has been an incredible success in Europe,” Edwin McDowell wrote on Dec. 7, 1974. He went on to notice that Allende, the niece of the slain Chilean president Salvador Allende Gossens, was drawing comparisons to Gabriel García Márquez.