May 4, 2010

Random Writerly Facts

One out of every eight letters you read is the letter ‘e’. In 1939 an author named Ernest Vincent wrote a 50,000 word novel called Gadsby. The only thing unusual about the novel is that there is not a single letter ‘e’ in the whole thing.

In the book, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, is a sentence that is 823 words long. When Victor wrote to his editor inquiring about their opinion of the manuscript, he wrote, "?" They answered, "!"

If you stretched out all the shelves in the New York Public Library, they would extend eighty miles. The books most often requested at this library are about drugs, witchcraft, astrology and Shakespeare.

Emily Dickenson developed a case of agoraphobia and was reluctant to leave her own property, sometimes even her own room.

More than two and a half billion Bibles have been made. If you put them on a long bookshelf and started driving along the shelf at 55 mph, you would have to drive 40 hours per week for over four months to get to the end. All these Bibles would fill the New York public library 467 and one-half times. The Bible contains 3,566,480 letters, or 810,697 words.

The first published book ever written on a typewriter was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain used a Remington in 1875.

It took Noah Webster 36 years to write his first dictionary.


Random Facts About Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel did not have any children of his own and admitted to being slightly afraid of them. In an interview, his widow Audrey claimed the unpredictability of children often unnerved him. "What might they do next? What might they ask next?" he would exclaim.

It is widely known that Dr Seuss was a pseudonym. What is lesser known, however, is the story behind Geisel's need for a pseudonym. Purportedly, while a student at Dartmouth, Geisel was caught drinking with several other boys in his dorm. Usually this wouldn't be a very big deal, college boys drinking, but this occurred during prohibition. Consequently, Dartmouth prohibited Geisel from engaging in anymore extracurricular activities, including his work for the college's humor magazine Jack O Lantern. In order to get around the administration's orders, he adopted the pen name "Dr Seuss" and used it for all magazine content from that point on.


Charles Dickens was preoccupied with looking in the mirror and combing his hair - he did it hundreds of times a day. He rearranged furniture in his home - if it wasn't in the exact "correct" position, he couldn't concentrate. Obsessed with magnetic fields, Dickens made sure that every bed he slept in was aligned north-south. He had to touch certain objects three times for luck. He was obsessed with the need for tidiness, often cleaning other homes as well as his own.

Dickens suffered from epilepsy and made some of his characters - like Oliver Twist's brother - epileptics. Modern doctors are amazed at the medical accuracy of his descriptions of this malady.

His study had a secret door designed to look like a bookcase. The shelves were full of fake books with witty titles, such as Noah's Arkitecture and a nine-volume set titled Cat's Lives. One of his favorites was a multi-volume series called The Wisdom of Our Ancestors, dealing with subjects like ignorance, superstition, disease, and instruments of torture, and a companion book titled The Virtues of Our Ancestors, which was so narrow that the title had to be printed vertically.

Dickens was a devotee of mesmerism, a system of healing through hypnotism. He practiced it on his hypochondriac wife and his children, and claimed to have healed several friends and associates.


When British poet and novelist Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928, his literary contemporaries decided he was too important to be buried in his hometown's simple churchyard. The good people of Dorset, where Hardy had spent nearly all of his 88 years, vehemently disagreed. The two groups reached a grisly compromise.

The author's body was cremated, and his ashes were interred in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Hardy's heart, on the other hand, was placed inside a small casket and buried beside the grave of his first wife in a Dorset churchyard.

To this day, a rumor persists that the author's heart was accidentally devoured by his housekeeper's cat, and that the heart of a pig was buried in its place.


O. Henry (born William Sydney Porter) may have been the master of the popular short story form, but he was far less skilled when it came to money. While working as a bank teller in Houston, the fledgling author was accused of embezzling a few thousand dollars, prompting his rather sudden move to Honduras.

A few years later, when he came back to visit his dying wife, he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. It was here that convict Porter assumed the pen name O. Henry. His incarceration offered him the time to write as well as a chance to mix with a slew of seedy characters, perfect fodder for his fiction.

A model inmate, Porter was released in 1901, after serving just three years. He passed away in 1910 with 600 stories, but reportedly only 33 cents, to his name.

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