Literary Stories for Dec. 23-25

Reading time: 6 1/2 minutes

Here are your stories about notable literary birthdays and events for Dec. 23-25. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! 🎄🎅

Share

Twice-weekly articles like this one will be available only to paying subscribers starting Feb. 10. You can subscribe below for either $5/month or $50/year. That’s $50 a year for 104 stories about notable literary events and writer birthdays year. (Your credit card won’t be charged until Feb. 10.)

Now through 12/25, get 20-percent off an annual subscription when you give someone the gift of Bidwell Hollow.

Give Bidwell Hollow

Dec. 23

Norman Maclean

Brad Pitt Fishing GIF

Born in Clarinda, Iowa, Norman and Paul Maclean were little boys when their parents, John and Clara, moved the family to western Montana. There John instilled in his sons a love of fly fishing. And both boys developed an affinity for words. 

Norman went off to Dartmouth College in 1920. He served as editor-in-chief of the College’s humor newspaper, the “Jack-O-Lantern.” He graduated with an English degree in 1924 and taught there for a few years before becoming a professor at the University of Chicago.

Paul also went to Dartmouth, four years after Norman. He played football, graduated, and returned to Montana. He worked as a newspaper reporter and became, according to some, the best fly fisherman in the state.

But in 1937, Paul quit his newspaper job. He accepted a position at the University of Chicago, where his brother, Norman, worked. So in March of that year, Paul said goodbye to Montana and headed east. The next time he’d return, he’d do so in a casket.

A year passed with both boys in the Windy City. Norman taught Shakespeare and Romantic poetry, and Paul worked in the University’s public relations department. Then on the morning of May 2, 1938, two men discovered a bruised body in an alley. It was Paul’s. Police suspected a robbery, but they had no suspects and made no arrests. The case remains unsolved.

Norman accompanied his brother’s body back to Montana. But he then returned to Chicago and kept on teaching. He earned a doctorate in 1940, served as Dean of Students from 1942-1945. Three times he won the University of Chicago’s Quantrell Prize “for excellence in undergraduate teaching.” Finally, in 1973, Norman Maclean retired.

He’d always enjoyed telling stories about his youth in Montana. Now retired, Norman put these tales down on paper. Then the University of Chicago Press bound them into a book. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories came out in 1976. It contains a short story and two novellas, one of which serves as the collection’s title.

“A River Runs Through It” shares a fictionalized account of Norman’s and Paul’s childhood and Paul’s murder. The work impressed many. All the book’s stories, critic Alfred Kazin wrote, contain passages “of physical rapture in the presence of unsullied primitive America that are as beautiful as anything in Thoreau and Hemingway.”

Robert Redford bought the movie rights for “A River Runs Through It” in 1988. That movie came out in 1992, starring Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, and Craig Sheffer. Norman wasn’t around to see his life’s story on the big screen, though. Born on Dec. 23, 1902, Norman passed away in Chicago in 1990.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories is the only book Norman published during his life. A second book of fiction, Young Men and Fire, published in 1992.

Norman Maclean was born on Dec. 23, 1902. He wrote in “A River Runs Through It:” “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

Dec. 24

Stephenie Meyer

By the early 2000s, many of the 3,200 people in Forks, Wash. struggled. Cuts to the local logging industry left them out of work, and 15 percent of Forks’ families lived in poverty.

So the town, located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, started reinventing itself. Instead of relying on forestry jobs, Forks would be a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. After all, it sat on the doorstep of Olympic National Park. Nearby were scenic rivers and old-growth forests.

While city leaders in Forks transformed their town, in Arizona, Stephenie Meyer conducted a Google search for rainy places in the United States. It was August 2003. Every day for three months, Meyer sat at her computer, writing a story about a young woman and man falling in love. The problem is that the woman is a human, while the man is a vampire.

The story idea came to Meyer in a dream, in which the man and woman stood alone in a forest. While the man loved the woman, he was a vampire who wanted to kill her and drink her blood. “It was the kind of dream that makes you want to call your friend and bore her with a detailed description,” Meyer said.

Instead of calling a friend, Meyer awoke, fed her kids, and then wrote as much as she could remember about the dream. And she kept writing each day, usually at night, after her kids were asleep. At first, she called her lead characters “she” and “he.” But before finishing her first draft, they became Bella and Edward.

For her story’s setting, Meyer knew she wanted a rainy place surrounded by forest. So the writer looked at maps of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. She spotted a dot on the map called Forks and looked at online photos of the town and surrounding area. She’d never been to Forks or even the state of Washington, but Meyer decided it was the right place for Bella and Edward.

Meyers completed her first draft. After many rejections, she found a literary agent willing to sell her story. And then Little, Brown and Company paid Meyer $750,000 for the manuscript and two more novels. The first book, Twilight, came out on Oct. 6, 2005. It became a bestseller.

Meyer went on to write four Twilight Saga novels, spawning a massive following of readers. By 2010, a fansite, Twilight Lexicon, averaged 30,000 daily visitors. More than 100 million copies of the books have sold. And Hollywood produced six Twilight movies. The films brought in a combined $3.32 billion worldwide at the box office.

Meanwhile, the popularity of the Twilight Saga transformed Forks, Wash. In Jan. 2005, ten months before the first Twilight novel came out, 75 people signed the guestbook at the Forks Visitors Center. By July 2009, after the release of the fourth novel and first movie, 16,186 people came to the Forks Visitors Center.

Tourists continue to visit Forks. They come from many countries, including Australia, Germany, and Israel. Each September Forks hosts Forever Twilight in Forks, a celebration of the books and movies. And the Forever Twilight in Forks Collection features Twilight Saga memorabilia.

Meyer, too, visited Forks. She arrived for the first time in the summer of 2004, a year before Twilight came out. About the experience, she said, “There were a few small differences: the logging presence was much more evident than I’d pictured it—the clear cuts put a bit of a lump in my throat, and the constant, gigantic log haulers barreling down the wet highway made driving a thrilling adventure—and it was sunny, as I’ve mentioned. Otherwise, it was eerily similar to my imaginings.”

Stephenie Meyer was born on Dec. 24, 1973, in Hartford, Conn. 

Mary Higgins Clark

For Mary Higgins Clark, the first 50 pages of a novel are the hardest. But the novelist pushes through, and she suggests the same for other writers. “Get it down. Bumble through it. Tell the story,” Clark said.

Clark knows a thing or two about writing. She’s the author of 51 books, with more than 100 million copies sold. Her latest, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, came out in November. The novel touches on the #MeToo Movement. Yet current events compel many of Clark’s plotlines. “As a writer, I want to create a story about a topic people are interested in and talking about at the time the work is being published,” Clark said.

Being one of the highest-paid novelists in the world wasn’t the plan for Clark in 1949. That year she quit working as a flight attendant to marry her husband, William. She stayed home and raised their five kids. In the early 1960s, though, a doctor diagnosed William with heart disease. The diagnosis meant William would have to quit working. Since someone had to provide for the family, Mary got a job writing radio scripts. The day she started, William died of a heart attack.

Widowed, Clark wrote for radio while taking classes at Fordham University. She’d written short stories for years, but decided now was the time she’d try writing books. After all, editors rejected most of the pieces the writer submitted. Clark liked reading suspense novels, so she chose to write in that genre.

Clark worked on her first novel every morning before her kids awoke. She’d get them ready for school and then head from their New Jersey home into New York for work and classes. Because the family had little money, Clark couldn’t give her children Christmas presents. Instead, she gave them poems about the gifts she wanted to buy them but couldn’t.

But in 1974, Clark sold her book to Simon & Schuster for $3,000. Where are the Children? came out in 1975 and became a bestseller. The next year, Clark was getting ready for evening classes at Fordham when her agent called. Simon & Schuster wanted to buy the writer’s next book for $1.5 million.

After hearing the good news, Clark drove to class. On the way, the tailpipe and muffler fell off her seven-year-old car. Later, Clark rewarded herself when she received her $1.5 million advance. She bought a mink coat and a new Cadillac.

Clark’s birthday is Dec. 24. She was born in 1927 in Bronx, New York.

Sources

Significant effort goes into ensuring the information shared in literary stories is factual and accurate. However, errors can occur. If you see a factual error, please let me know by emailing nick@bidwellhollow.com. I'll make every effort to verify and correct any factual inaccuracies. Thank you.

Norman Maclean

Stephenie Meyer

Mary Higgins Clark