Did you know that the month of July was named for Julius Caesar, Roman general, scholar and politician (100 B.C. – 44 B.C)? Quintilis, which was his birth month, was renamed July by the Roman Senate to honor him after he died. Caesar’s connection to the calendar did not end there: he actually created the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar currently used by much of the world today. Other interesting facts about the seventh month of the year: it is notable for celebrations of freedom and independence – July 1 is Canada Day, which celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada; July 4 is American Independence Day; and July 14 is Bastille Day, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution. And, July is also National Ice Cream Month – which makes perfect sense since it is also the hottest month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. While plans to indulge in ice cream confections at baseball stadiums or amusement parks are on hold this year, we can still find reasons to celebrate. Check out (some of) the literary lights whose birthdays occur in July and lift a glass, a bowl of ice cream or a book in their honor. Click on names and book titles to be taken to links.
Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883-June 3, 1924) Franz Kafka, one of the most complex and influential writers of the 20th century, was born to a German speaking, upper middle class Jewish family in Prague, Bohemia – now the Czech Republic. His works, including The Metamorphosis and The Castle, reflect his neuroses and tremendous emotional and physical torment. While not widely read in his lifetime, in the years following his death his genius as a modernist writer was finally acknowledged. In 1988 the handwritten manuscript of his novel, The Trial, was sold at auction for $1.98 million, at that point the highest price ever paid for a modern manuscript.
Anna Quindlen (b. July 8, 1953) is an American novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of nine novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Miller’s Valley, and Alternate Side. Her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, published in 2012, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear.
Alice Munro (b. July 10, 1931) Highly acclaimed Canadian born short story writer, Alice Munro, won the Man Booker International Prize in 2009 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. By her 80th birthday she had published 13 books of short stories, primarily centered around life in Ontario. Her book Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) was later adapted into the film, Away from Her. Her most recent book, Dear Life, was published in 2012. This would be her final story collection; in June 2013, Munro announced that she was retiring from writing.
Cormac McCarthy (b. July 20, 1933) American novelist and playwright Cormac McCarthy was hailed by literary critic Harold Bloom as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written screenplays and plays. Blood Meridian (1985) was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-language books published between 1925 and 2005. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men was adapted into a widely acclaimed 2007 film of the same name.
Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) American Nobel Prize winner, novelist, short story writer, and journalist, Hemingway was known as much for his adventurous lifestyle and macho image as he was for his writing. He served as an ambulance driver in World War I and in the twenties worked as a journalist in Paris, where he fell under the influence of modernism and the “Lost Generation” of writers. He was renowned for novels like The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in literature. He committed suicide on July 2, 1961.
Chang-rae Lee (b. July 29, 1965) South Korean born American novelist Chang-rae Lee was selected by The New Yorker as one the “20 Writers for the 21st Century.” He won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for his first novel, Native Speaker (1995) and received the Asian/American Literary Award for his second novel, A Gesture Life. His 2010 novel, The Surrendered, won the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a nominated finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His 2015 novel, On Such a Full Sea, was honored by the ALA as a notable book of the year. In addition to his writing, Lee is also a Professor of English at Stanford University.
Emily Bronte (July 30, 1818 – December 19, 1848) English novelist and poet Emily Bronte wrote a single work of fiction but that one novel brought her literary immortality. Her powerful, romantic and disturbing novel Wuthering Heights is still widely read today and has been the inspiration for numerous film interpretations, including a 1939 treatment starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. The book was not enthusiastically endorsed by critics after its publication; it was only following Bronte’s death in 1848 from tuberculosis that the book achieved its stature as a literary masterpiece. Bronte’s two sisters, Anne (Agnes Gray) and Charlotte (Jane Eyre) were also gifted writers with enduring reputations.