Literary Miscellany: Fun Facts, Quotes, and Trivia

Odd Jobs, Unique Drinks, and Notable Quotes

Classic Author Habits

One of the more fascinating pieces of biographical information we like to collect about famous classic authors is information about their writing habits. Did you know, for example, that E.B. White, author of beloved children’s classics Stuart Little (1945) and Charlotte’s Web (1952), absolutely never listened to music?

Other interesting habits include the fact that Haruki Murakami made a habit of waking up at 4a.m. in order to write, which he did for about five hours, and then followed his writing with a 10k run or 1500-meter swim. Kurt Vonnegut incorporated push-ups and sit-ups into his writing routine and, calling it quits around 5:30pm each day, he would unwind with a glass of Scotch.

Speaking of alcohol, some classic writers are notorious drinkers. Edna St. Vincent Millay, for example, was known for her fondness toward a drink called “Between the Sheets,” composed of rum, brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice. Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, was a fan of the Screwdriver (vodka and orange juice).

John Steinbeck’s signature drink was “The Jack Rose” (applejack brandy, grenadine and lemon juice), while Tennessee Williams favored the “Ramos Gin Fizz” (gin, orange flower water, egg white, cream, soda water, lemon and lime juice). Leave it to Tennessee Williams to be such a drink diva!

Famous First Lines

Can you identify this famous first line?: “Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.” Sounds like something out of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, doesn’t it? Not quite! This line is the introduction to George Eliot’s masterpiece, Middlemarch.

Let’s try another, shall we? In which classic novel does the following first line appear? “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Thirteen is certainly an ominous number, so did you come up with the right dystopian work? If you guessed Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, you were getting warm! This famous line begins George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fun and Memorable Quotes

  • “You cannot open a book without learning something.” –Confucius
  • “Isn’t it nice to think tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” –L.M. Montgomery
  • “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” –Kurt Vonnegut
  • “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” –Douglas Adams
  • “You can’t use up your creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou
  • “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” –Ernest Hemingway
  • “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.” –Mark Twain

Fun Facts

Despite popular opinion, most writers, even successful classic authors, do have “day jobs.” Did you know, for example, that Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, was also an actor’s assistant, a theater critic, and managed the famous London Theater for almost three decades? 

Speaking of authors’ employment, another “Jack of all Trades” was John Steinbeck. The author of Grapes of Wrath could do seemingly anything. He was a caretaker at a fish hatchery, he manufactured mannequins, and he even worked as a tour guide.  Steinbeck’s first novel, Cup of Gold, was not a great success.

John Steinbeck isn’t the only classic author to work multiple job before finding literary success, however. James Joyce, before finding success with his short story collection, The Dubliners, was a medical student, a pianist and singer, and a teacher. He was also an entrepreneur, having opened Dublin’s first movie theater, The Volta. The cinema only lasted about a year; fortunately, Joyce’s career lasted a lifetime and beyond.

Did you know that one of Leo Tolstoy’s most famous characters, Anna Karenina, was inspired by a real person? Not just any person; indeed, Anna Karenina was inspired by the daughter of one of Russia’s greatest poets, Alexander Pushkin. Maria Gartung was also the granddaughter of an African slave who would become a General in the Russian military, serving under its then Emperor, Peter the Great.