What do Shakespeare, Thomas Hobbes, and Galileo have in common? All three were among the most prominent figures of the Early Modern era, a time period lasting roughly from 1500 to 1700. The Early Modern era was a time of political and religious upheaval. Catholics and Protestants battled with one another for power, and both France and England experienced bloody civil wars. It was also a time of innovation. Advancements in science and technology changed how people saw the world and writers such as Shakespeare contributed the period’s developing literary culture.
If you’re a fan of a good hardboiled detective novel, make sure you stop by the Maryland Room to check out our new exhibit on Chester Himes! Inspired by the 2019 AHPA annual conference hosted by UMD, “One Press: Many Hands: Diversity in the History of American Printing”, the exhibit displays the work of one of America’s most intriguing crime novelists.
Born in Jefferson City, Missouri, Chester Himes (1909-1984) began writing and publishing short stories while serving a 25 year sentence for armed robbery in Ohio Penitentiary in the 1930s. His first novel If He Hollers Let Him Go was published in 1945.
Himes moved to Paris in the 1950s, where he was celebrated in literary circles alongside fellow expatriate writers Richard Wright and James Baldwin. While in Paris he began writing pulp detective novels, including the popular Harlem Detective series, and achieved critical acclaim. In 1958, he was awarded France’s most prestigious prize for crime fiction, the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, for The Five-Cornered Square (alternate title for For Love of Imabelle).
Himes wrote pulp fiction and protest novels that confronted issues of systemic racism in America. His unique style of noir fiction combined violence, anger, humor, absurdity, social realism, and gritty drama into an entertaining and unflinching portrayal of prejudice and corruption.
Lauded in Europe, Himes found less critical success in America, where his works were frequently published in paperback editions featuring lurid, provocative, and visually striking imagery. The cover art of these inexpensive paperbacks reveal the unique marketing of pulp fiction titles.
In response to the cover of the Dell paperback edition of Run Man Run, Himes wrote: “If it is necessary to put this type of cover… on this book in order to sell it to the American people, the American people are really and truly sick.”
Himes passed way on November 12, 1984 in Moira, Spain. Decades later, his works still provides enjoyment and debate. To see the unique and classic pulp fiction cover art featured in many American editions of Himes’ work, stop by the Maryland Room room the next time you are in Hornbake Library.
Explore more literary collections held at Special Collections and University Archive here!
Also, make sure you check out the exhibit by the entrance to the Maryland Room, Women in Print, highlighting the work of women binders, illustrators, and book artists!
“She always kept things secret in such a public way.”
Katherine Anne Porter, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” (1930)
Katherine Anne Porter’s description of Cornelia, daughter of the titular Granny Weatherall, is apt considering the tensions between Porter’s own private and public personas. Porter, too, was a secretly-public person – she was forthcoming with information about her life and experience, though she sometimes elaborated on the facts, exaggerating details or creating new information. The reality of her life became mysterious, as Callie Russell Porter became the Katherine Anne Porter who captivated the literary communities of which she was a part. In the margins of Katherine Anne’s books in Hornbake Library’s Porter Room, there are even notes from Katherine Anne’s sister, Gay, that call attention to the points at which Katherine Anne’s stories depart from or obscure the source material of her own life.
On display are landmark 20th century literary works by Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alex Haley, W.E.B. DuBois, Chester Himes, John A. Williams , and Richard Wright. Also included in the exhibit is poetry by Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, and Ted Joans.
Ranging from signed first editions (Invisible Man, Ellison) to popular trade paperback editions (If He Hollers Let Him Go, Himes), these titles offer a glimpse into the wide variety of African American literature and poetry in our collections.
Also on display is a rare edition of Negro Anthology, edited by activist Nancy Cunard. Published in 1934, Negro Anthology is a collection of poetry, historical studies, music, and other writings documenting Black culture of the era. Artists represented in the book include Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.
Visit Hornbake Library to view these impressive works of literature in person, or visit us online to explore more titles in our literary collections.
Looking to get into the Halloween spirit? Visit Hornbake Library to view modern illustrated editions of Frankenstein on display, including a pocket-sized Armed Forces edition distributed to soldiers during World War II and editions featuring the artwork of Barry Moser and Lynd Ward.
Step further into the Mary Shelley’s world and explore works by her and fellow writers of the Romantic Era. Included in the display are two first editions of John Polidori’s The Vampyre, a short novel that had it’s beginnings at the same gathering Shelley began telling the story of Frankenstein.
Also on exhibit are works by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Don’t forget to visit more libraries at the University of Maryland, including Architecture, Art, STEM, Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, McKeldin Library, and Library Media Services for more Frankenreads fun! Visit the Frankenreads @ UMD website for all the events, exhibits, and Frankenreads news.