R.I.P.: Four Giants Laid to Rest. Their Contributions Are Our Legacy

From The Guardian comes this report.  [That he was an "uncompromised and uncompromising communist" is not the only reason I appreciated Saramago's work.  The inventiveness of his form always advanced the complexity of his content.  For myself, the sadness that I can not look forward to a new Saramago novel is tempered only by the gratitude for the many I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy -- Lew Rosenbaum]:

José Saramago obituary

Saramago at his home in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain. Photograph: Martinez De Cripan/EPA

Nobel prize-winning author whose popular works addressed heavyweight themes

José Saramago, who has died aged 87, won the Nobel prize for literature in 1998 and was Portugal‘s most prolific and best-known 20th-century writer. More widely read in Europe and Australia than in North America, and with print runs of 150,000 in Portugal and Brazil, these supposedly difficult and unarguably heavyweight works, on ponderous themes, have become major sellers.

Saramago once said that: “If I had died when I was 60, I would have written nothing.” While this effectively glosses over his first major success in fiction (with the novel Manual de Pintura e Caligrafia – A Manual of Painting and Calligraphy – in 1977) and a number of volumes of poetry, plays and essays, there was little in Saramago’s background, or even his early career, to suggest a flowering of success at the age when many are contemplating retirement.

He was born into a humble rural household in the small village of Azinhaga. The family moved to Lisbon when he was two, and Saramago left school early to contribute to the household bills by working as a mechanic. Gradually, he progressed through numerous jobs towards his central literary interest. He worked as a draughtsman, publisher’s reader and freelance translator, and in the editorial and production departments of a publishing house. He also worked on several newspapers, including a stint as a literary reviewer for Serra Nova and, after the death of the dictator António Salazar in 1970, as political commentator on the Diário de Lisboa.

Political wranglings, and Saramago’s own uncompromised and uncompromising communism, were at least partly responsible for his being fired in 1975. The following year, he devoted himself exclusively to his books. “Being fired was the best luck of my life,” he said. “It made me stop and reflect. It was the birth of my life as a writer.”

He had, of course, been writing since his youth, but literature had seemed a pretentious option for a child from an illiterate background.  Click here to read the rest of this story.

More links on Saramago:

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From the Associated Press:

By FRANK ELTMAN (AP) – 2 days ago

Tuli Kupferberg, a founding member of the underground rock group and staple of 1960s anti-war protests, the Fugs, has

FILE - In this July 16, 2003 file photo, 1960s anti-war rocker Tuli Kupferberg is seen in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York. A founding member of one of the first underground rock groups, the Fugs, Kupferberg, died Monday, July 12, 2010, in a Manhattan hospital at 86. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin, File)

died.

Kupferberg, who had suffered strokes in the past year, died Monday in a Manhattan hospital, said his friend and bandmate Ed Sanders. He was 86.

“I think he will be remembered as a unique American songwriter,” Sanders told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Woodstock, N.Y. “Tuli had an uncanny ability to shape nuanced lyrics.”

Sanders, who is writing a new memoir about the Fugs, said he visited his friend in the hospital on Thursday. Although Kupferberg was clearly ailing, he leaned into his ear and sang him the lyrics to a Fugs classic, “Morning, Morning,” Sanders said.

“And then I said, `goodbye,’” he said.

Kupferberg’s contributions were recognized in January when Lou Reed, Sonic Youth and others appeared at a benefit concert in Brooklyn to help pay for some of his medical expenses. He was too ill by then to attend the show, but recorded a 10-second video message, according to the New York Times, thanking the audience.

“Now go out there and have some fun,” he said. “It may be later than you think.”  Click here to read more.

Click here to read the New York Times article on Kupferberg.

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The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

Harvey Pekar, Cleveland comic-book legend, dies at age 70

Published: Monday, July 12, 2010, 11:05 AM     Updated: Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 11:44 AM

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Harvey Pekar’s life was not an open book. It was an open comic book.

Lonnie Timmons III, The Plain DealerCleveland comics legend Harvey Pekar was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. today. He was 70.

Pekar chronicled his life and times in the acclaimed autobiographical comic book series, “American Splendor,” portraying himself as a rumpled, depressed, obsessive-compulsive “flunky file clerk” engaged in a constant battle with loneliness and anxiety.

Pekar, 70, was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. Monday by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights home, said Powell Caesar, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Pekar and Brabner wrote “Our Cancer Year,” a book-length comic, after Pekar was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990 and underwent a grueling treatment. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and also suffered high blood pressure, asthma and clinical depression, which fueled his art but often made his life painful.

“American Splendor” carried the subtitle, “From Off the Streets of Cleveland,” and just like Superman, the other comic-book hero born in Cleveland, Pekar wore something of a disguise. He never stepped into a phone booth to change, but underneath his persona of aggravated, disaffected file clerk, he was an erudite book and jazz critic, and a writer of short stories that many observers compared to Chekhov, despite their comic-book form.  Click here to read the entire story.

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The Guardian reports:

Carlos Monsiváis obituary

Popular Mexican writer admired for holding his country’s political elite to account

Mexican writer, critic and essayist Carlos Monsiváis was frequently interviewed for his wit and near-encyclopedic knowledge, often while at home surrounded by clutter and cats. Photograph: Saul Lopez/EPA

The writer, critic and activist Carlos Monsiváis, who has died at the age of 72, made Mexico understandable to Mexicans – or at least helped them laugh about it. He was admired for the intelligence and the intricate ironies of his prose, recognised for his principled support of leftwing causes, and famed for his crumpled appearance and adoration of cats. It is a measure of how popular he was that even the favoured targets of his acerbic wit rushed to include themselves among his admirers upon news of his death. Felipe Calderón, the country’s rightwing president, announced: “We Mexicans will miss his critical, reflective and independent vision.”

Born in Mexico City just nine years into the 71-year-long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Monsiváis belonged to a generation of writers that includes Carlos Fuentes and José Emilio Pacheco. He was less well known than them internationally, but arguably even more revered at home. Part of his appeal was the ease with which he entwined highbrow references with frankness, sincerity and a fascination with popular culture. His rejection of airs and graces endeared him further to an audience far wider than the one usually enamoured of the intelligentsia.  Click hear to read the entire story.

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