Author Archive

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot

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October 17, 1975. Salem’s Lot, King’s second novel is published. The story chronicles what happens in the titular, fictional hamlet in Maine when a centuries-old incubus named Kurt Barlow moves into a long-vacant mansion that the locals consider haunted.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Toni Cade Bambara’s Gorilla, My Love

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On September 28, 1972, Bambara publishes her first collection of short stories, Gorilla, My Love, chronicling the lives and perspectives of African American characters in both urban and rural settings. A New York Times reviewer praises the stories in the debut collection as “tough, violent, funny, and frantically relevant.”

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

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In September of 1954, two hundred and fifty years after castaway Alexander Selkirk gazed upon his own desert island, William Golding publishes Lord of the Flies about a group of British schoolboys stranded on a tropical island.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End

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Arthur Clarke’s Childhood’s End establishes the amateur astronomer as a major name in the last days of the golden age of science fiction. Clarke is “equally at home in the outer galaxies and the troubled psyche of modern man,” states a review in the New York Times.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”

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James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” is published in the summer 1957 edition of the New York City literature magazine, Partisan Review. The story’s narrator is a high school teacher from Harlem struggling to reconcile his relationship with his younger brother, Sonny, a jazz pianist hooked on heroin.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”

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In June of 1939, William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning” is published in Harper's Magazine, marking the first appearance of the fictional Snopes family of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Eleven years later, Faulkner accepts the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find

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These narratives depict a South struggling for identity in the middle years of the twentieth century, peopled with crooked Bible salesmen, earnest preachers, escaped convicts, one-armed grifters, and wayward souls seeking salvation, or at least satisfaction.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”

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Alexie’s short story is first published in the New Yorker on April 21. The story’s protagonist is Jackson Jackson, a member of the Spokane tribe and a homeless alcoholic, who tracks his twenty-four-hour mission to redeem his grandmother’s stolen powwow regalia from a Seattle pawn shop.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

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Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, published March 31, 1969, follows anti-hero Billy Pilgrim, inspired by Edward Crone Jr., as he survives the Battle of the Bulge, German internment, and the Dresden firebombing, finally settling into a comfortable life as an optometrist in upstate New York.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”

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The sickly and nightmare-plagued Lovecraft shows an inclination toward the sciences as a child, but his passion for literature emerges in his early adulthood. At thirty-seven, the master of cosmic horror publishes his genre-defining story “The Call of Cthulhu” in the February 1928 issue of the pulp magazine Weird