DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Jun 20 2011

Dick Wimmer’s Determination

by Greg H

Reading the obituaries.  I remember that my grandmother used to check the obits in our local paper before she would read anything else. I attributed the habit to senior citizens as a whole and, perhaps, to the attitude that if you checked the obituaries and didn’t find your name listed there, well, your day was going okay.  I have, however, begun checking the obituaries with more frequency myself.  True,  I am getting older now too and high school and college classmates have begun to turn up there a little more frequently.   What I have come to actually enjoy, though, is finding the stories of unique people whose tales should be shared.

One such story, as reported in the Los Angeles Times,  belongs to the late Dick Wimmer, a creative-writing teacher and author whose first novel, Irish Wine, was rejected 162 times by publishers and agents over a 25 year period before making it into print. There are many reports of literary classics that had to run a gauntlet of rejections before their qualities were recognized.  Gone With the Wind was turned down a reported 38 times before it was published;  but, I was unable to find any other author who’s tenacity rivals Mr. Wimmer’s.

Mr. Wimmer taught writing at a score or more of colleges in his lifetime and enjoyed some success as the editor of a couple of sports books.  As the rejection letters piled up for Irish Wine, he became determined that his novel, if ever published, would see print solely on its own literary merit and  not as some curiosity.  His faith in his work was eventually rewarded and  he even wrote two more novels that became part of the Irish Wine Trilogy.  So, did getting that first book published hasten the publication of the others?  Sort of.  The second of those, Boyne’s Lassie, was turned down only 83 times before being published.

The next time you’re wondering what you should read next, think about Dick Wimmer and his admirable spirit and determination. Then come to the library and check out Irish Wine. We still own one copy.

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Jan 29 2010

Too Many Goodbyes

by Lesley B

CatcherThis has been a sad month for the world of books and readers. We lost Robert Parker, mystery writer, on January 19. Howard Zinn, the people’s historian, died January 27 and yesterday came the news that  J.D. Salinger, reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye, has died at the age of 91. According to their obituaries, Parker and Zinn were writing up to the very end. Parker was especially prolific and at least two finished books will appear after his death; but Salinger famously stopped publishing 45 years ago, although he continued to write fiction.  The author fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep his unpublished letters private. If Salinger had novels and stories locked away, will his family decide to publish them? If they do, will you read them? I’m not sure I will. It seems disrespectful to read work the author so definitely did not want me to see. When unfinished works are published after an author dies,  I always wonder if the writer was really ready for me to see his work. We readers can be greedy and we want more of the characters and stories that we love, but I feel like I’ve arrived too early at a party. My company was requested—but not just yet, please.


elynn1503The literary world lost a great talent on Thursday July 23rd when E. Lynn Harris suddenly passed away on a train to Los Angeles.  Details of his death are not yet known. The part-time Atlanta resident and best selling author had been on a West coast tour in support of his new novel Basketball Jones.  All ten of his previous novels have hit the New York Times bestseller list.

As a gay man with a tumultuous childhood, Harris often wrote about African-American men who publicly identify themselves as heterosexual but privately sleep with men. In an AJC blog post, Philip Rafshoon, Owner of Outwrite Books in Midtown, recalled  Harris’ early literary career in Atlanta, including him spending $25,000 of his own money to self-publish his debut novel Invisible Life in the early 90s.

Harris was born in Little Rock, AR and called many cities his home during his lifetime, but most recently had been dividing his time between Atlanta and Fayetteville, AR.  In addition, he has often read his works at our library.  You can hear a podcast recording of his last Georgia Center for the Book reading at the Decatur Library by clicking here.


s-ashesFrancis “Frank” McCourt, an Irish-American high school teacher and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, died July 19 at the age of 73. He is best known as the author of Angela’s Ashes, a gripping memoir about his childhood growing up in both America and Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s. Angela’s Ashes was awarded the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, as well as the 1996 National Book Critics Circle Award (Biography) and the 1997 Boeke Prize. It’s success led to it’s adaptation as a feature film released in 1999 by Paramount Pictures. Along with Angela’s Ashes, McCourt has published two additional autobiographical works which continue chronicling his life after his move back to America. ‘Tis examines his experiences attempting to acclimate to life in New York City, his stint in the Army, and his attendance and eventual graduation from NYU and later Brooklyn College, while Teacher Man focuses mainly on his life as a teacher in NYC public high schools. In addition to his autobiographical works, McCourt has also written a children’s picture book entitled Angela and the Baby Jesus and appeared as the host of a travel DVD entitled The Historic Pubs of Dublin. For those interested in more information on Mr. McCourt, Time magazine has published an obituary replete with details of his life and work. Additionally, I have linked to a NY Times piece wherein several of his former students have written letters sharing their recollections of him and the affect he had on their lives.

“My dream was to have a Library of Congress catalog number, that’s all,” said McCourt, speaking of his modest hopes for the success of Angela’s Ashes. It went on to sell over 5 million copies. Sometimes dreams come true, and then some. E 184.I6 .M117 1996


Nov 14 2007

Norman Mailer (1923 – 2007)

by Heather O

Mailer Controversial, abrasive, and prolific, Norman Mailer outlasted most of his generation of writers remaining an influential literary figure until his death this past weekend. Pioneering the creative non-fiction/biographical novel genre, Mailer contributed to journalism, activism, theater, and the screen in his prodigious body of work. From his seminal 1948 work Naked and the Dead, a semi-autobiography of his WWII experience to Hitler’s alternate childhood in The Castle in the Forest in 2007. Two-time Pultizer Prize winner with 1968 The Armies of the Night (also a National Book Award winner) and The Executioner’s Song 1979. His larger-than life persona and abrasive behavior belongs to an earlier era: the writer as celebrity, the Hemingway school of huge ego and even bigger lifestyle. Heavy drinker, womanizer, existentialist hipster, protester, politician, brawler- Mailer was as provocative in life as his writings. From his infamous feuds with Arthur Miller and Truman Capote to his brief imprisonment for stabbing one of his six wives, Mailer never shied away from the spotlight or backed away from conflict. While Mailer may never have written the ‘Great American Novel’ his body of literature truly represents America: from the 1968 Democratic convention, Marilyn Monroe, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Apollo mission, feminism, McCarthyism, and the death penalty – Mailer was a keen observer and critic of the epic that is American culture.

Check the online catalog or your DeKalb County Public Library branch for more Norman Mailer life and literature.

New York Times obituary

NPR obituary and interviews.

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