Nov. 6 in Literary History: Michael Cunningham Is Born, Kate Greenaway Dies, and Gulliver Lands on Lilliput

Reading between the lines.
Nov. 6 2013 8:00 AM

A Reader’s Book of Days: Nov. 6

Hundreds of years of literary history, day by day.

JRR Tolkien, Gulliver's Travels, Michael Cunningham
J.R.R. Tolkien, Gulliver's Travels, and Michael Cunningham

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photos by Getty, Boston College/Flickr, and Richard Matera/Flickr via Creative Commons.

Excerpted from A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales From the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year by Tom Nissley, out now from Norton. Slate will be excerpting the book every day this week.

BORN:

Advertisement

DIED:

1699 The only survivor of a shipwreck somewhere northwest of Tasmania, Lemuel Gulliver awakens bound to the ground, unable to move any part of his body and with 40 or so tiny men, armed with bows and arrows, advancing across his prone torso. The men scatter at his roar but, bravely, they soon return, and what follows is a small miracle of cross-cultural communication, in which Gulliver and his captors, though they share no language, agree that he will not murder scores of them with the sweep of his giant hand and they, in return, will not torment him with the piercings of a thousand tiny arrows. The Lilliputians feed the giant as best they can and comprehend his needs well enough to loosen his bonds so that he can, to the peril of those nearby, “ease myself with making water; which I very plentifully did, to the great astonishment of the people.”

1839 At noon on this fall Wednesday, 25 New England women assembled in the Boston apartment of Mary Peabody for the first “Conversation” in a new series hosted by Margaret Fuller, already gaining at age 29 a reputation as a remarkable intellect. Scheduled on Wednesdays so the attendees could stay in town for her friend Emerson’s “Present Age” lecture series in the evening, the Conversations began as more of a monologue by the charismatic Fuller on her subject of the Greek myths, but in the five years she led the discussions, she became the “nucleus of conversation,” “call[ing] out the thought of others” toward her aim that women should not just be superficially educated but, like men, should “reproduce” what they learn, in conversation with one another if not out in the public world where they were less free to operate.

1932 More than 3,000 people died in the Cuba hurricane of 1932, one of the century’s deadliest, but none of them were aboard the SS Phemius, a 7,400-ton merchant steamer whose massive central funnel was blown overboard by winds topping 200 mph. The ship and crew were dragged across the sea by the storm for five brutal days, and the captain’s report on their improbable survival so moved the chairman of his shipping line that he passed it along to novelist Richard Hughes, whose strange sea story, A High Wind in Jamaica, had just been a great success, in hopes he could record an event “that must never be forgotten.” Six years later, Hughes produced In Hazard, a short, taut novel that holds tight to the dramatic details of the Phemius ordeal.

1944 J.R.R. Tolkien buried a hen and grease-banded his apple trees.

---

Reprinted from A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year by Tom Nissley. Copyright © 2014 by Tom Nissley. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.