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Book News: Cache Of Letters From 'Frankenstein' Author Found

NPR | Jan. 9, 2014 4:40 a.m. | Updated: Jan. 9, 2014 7:35 a.m.

Contributed By:

Annalisa Quinn

An image of author Mary Shelley, circa 1830.

An image of author Mary Shelley, circa 1830.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A British academic stumbled upon a trove of unpublished letters written by Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, who was the daughter of women’s rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft and the wife of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Nora Crook, emerita professor of English Literature at Anglia Ruskin University, said that she found the letters at the Essex Record Office. “I knew right away they had never been published before,” she told The Guardian. Written to Shelley’s friend Horace Smith and his daughter Eliza, the letters, which date from 1831 to 1849, discuss the suthor’s declining health — in one, she apologizes for her “blotty and invalidy” writing. Other letters are lighter: She says that she called a hairdresser at three in the morning the day of William IV’s coronation, and that she was “mortified” her son wasn’t taller. The letters will be published in the Keats-Shelley Journal.
  • Next year, the National Book Festival will move from the National Mall to the Washington Convention Center, the Library of Congress announced in a press release. The National Park Service’s concerns about damage to the mall lawn prompted the move.
  • The American Dialect Society has named “because” as the word of the year for 2013. Although of course the word itself is nothing new, a new usage has sprung up online. With this new usage, “because” is followed by a single word, often a noun, instead of a whole clause. Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, explained the usage in a statement: “This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use. No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ “
  • Poet Paul Beilstein has a new poem in Guernica, called “Psychopomp.” An excerpt:

“The popular literature says I got
the right amount of sleep,
but does not say how to return
safely from sleep’s charcoal rot visions.”

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