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Authors of the 70s

Literature is a major contributory factor in a decade. In the 70s there were several break-out authors who we still read and look up to today. Among them are John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Neil Simon, Sam Sheperd, Agatha Christie, Robert C. Atkins, Christina Crawford, Richard Nixon, Carl Sagan, and Stephen King. Robert C. Atkins is responsible for the Atkins Diet which has taken America by storm. Christina Crawford is responsible for the book Mommie Dearest, which gave an in depth view into the life of Christina Crawford growing up as Joan Crawford’s daughter.

Richard Nixon wrote the book Memoirs of Richard Nixon. And Stephen King debuted in 1979 with his first big name book, The Dead Zone. Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio in 1931. Her six major novels–The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Sula, Tar Baby, Beloved, and Jazz–have collected nearly every major literary prize. Ms. Morrison received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977 for Song of Solomon. In 1987, Beloved was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Her body of work was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993.

Other major awards include: the 1996 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the Pearl Buck Award (1994), the title of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (Paris, 1994), and 1978 Distinguished Writer Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ms. Morrison was appointed Robert F. Goheen Professor of the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University in the spring of 1989. Before coming to Princeton, she held teaching posts at Yale University, Bard College, and Rutgers University.

In 1990 she delivered the Clark lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Massey Lectures at Harvard University. Ms. Morrison was also a senior editor at Random House for twenty years. She has degrees from Howard and Cornell Universities. A host of colleges and universities have given honorary degrees to Ms. Morrison. Among them are Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence College, Dartmouth, Yale, Georgetown, Columbia University and Brown University. Ms. Morrison was commissioned by Carnegie Hall in 1992 to write lyrics for “Honey and Me”, an original piece of music by Andre Previn.

The lyrics were sung in performance by Kathleen Battle. In 1997, she wrote the lyrics for “Sweet Talk”, which was written by Richard Danielpour and performed in concert by Jessye Norman. Ms. Morrison lives in Princeton, New Jersey and upstate New York. Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his parents separated when Stephen was a toddler, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, with a B. S. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level.

A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured ear drums. He and Tabitha Spruce married in January of 1971. He met Tabitha in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University of Maine of Orono, where they both worked as students. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co. accepted the novel Carrie for publication. On Mother’s Day of that year, Stephen learned from his new editor at Doubleday, Bill Thompson, that a major paperback sale would provide him with the means to leave teaching and write full-time. Soon after he wrote his next-published novel, originally titled Second Coming and then Jerusalem’s Lot, before it became Salem’s Lot.

Carrie was published in the spring of 1974. That same fall, the Kings left Maine for Boulder, Colorado. They lived there for a little less than a year, during which Stephen wrote The Shining, set in Colorado. Returning to Maine in the summer of 1975, the Kings purchased a home in the Lakes Region of western Maine. At that house, Stephen finished writing The Stand, much of which also is set in Boulder. The Dead Zone was also written in Bridgton. He put some of his college dramatic society experience to use when he did a bit part in a George Romero picture, Knightriders, and Creepshow, a film he scripted.

Joe Hill King, his son, also appeared in Creepshow, which was released in 1982. Stephen King wrote and directed the movie Maximum Overdrive, in 1985. Creepshow II was released in 1987. Many of his works have been adapted for the screen, including: Carrie, The Dead Zone, The Shining, Christine, ‘Salem’s Lot, Firestarter, Cujo, Pet Sematary, (for which King wrote the screenplay and had a bit part as a minister), and Misery, as well as several others. The popular movie, Stand By Me, was adapted from his novella, “The Body” from Different Seasons. In 1992, Sleepwalkers was produced from an original screenplay by King.

Since writing the opening sentence of The Gunslinger he has written more than forty novels and two hundred short stories. He has won the World Fantasy Award, several Bram Stoker Awards, the O. Henry Award for his story “The Man in the Black Suit,” and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. , was born on the eleventh day of November, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His birth date, which fell on Armistice Day, would prove to be an omen for his pacifist views. He was the grandson of the first licensed architect in Indiana, and the son of a wealthy architect.

The Great Depression, however, left Vonnegut’s father out of work, and the wealth of the family soon diminished. It was at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis that Vonnegut gained his first writing experience. During his last two years there he wrote for and was one of the editors of the Shortridge Daily Echo, which was the first high school daily newspaper in the country. At this young age Vonnegut learned to write for a wide audience that would give him immediate feedback, rather than just writing for an audience of one in the form of a teacher.

After graduating from Shortridge in 1940, Vonnegut headed for Cornell University. His father wanted him to study something that was solid and dependable, like science, so Vonnegut began his college career as a chemistry and biology major, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Bernard, who was to eventually be the discoverer of cloud seeding to induce precipitation. While Vonnegut struggled in his chemistry and biology studies, he excelled as a columnist and managing editor for the Cornell Daily Sun. But by 1943 Vonnegut was on the verge of being asked to leave Cornell due to his lackluster academic performance.

He beat Cornell to the punch by enlisting in the army. By this point Vonnegut’s parents had given up on life, being unable to adjust to or accept the fact that they were no longer wealthy, world travellers. On May 14, 1944, his mother committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. His father was to remain a fairly isolated man the rest of his days, in full retreat from life, content to be in his own little world until his death on October 1, 1957. On December 14, 1944, Vonnegut became a German prisoner of war after being captured in the Battle of the Bulge.

He was sent to Dresden, an open city that produced no war machinery; thus it was off-limits to allied bombing. He and his fellow POW’s were to work in a vitamin-syrup factory. On February 13, 1945, however, allied forces strafed Dresden, killing 135,000 unprotected civilians. Vonnegut and the other POW’s survived the bombing as they waited it out deep in the cellar of a slaughterhouse, where they were quartered. Vonnegut was repatriated on May 22, 1945, and on September first of that year he married Jane Marie Cox, a friend since kindergarten, for he thought, “Who but a wife would sleep with me?

Vonnegut spent the next two years in Chicago, attending the University of Chicago as a graduate anthropology student, and working for the Chicago City News Bureau as a police reporter. When his master’s thesis was rejected, he moved to Schenectedy, New York, to work as a publicist for General Electric. It was here that his fiction career began. On February 11, 1950, Collier’s published Vonnegut’s first short story, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect. ” By the next year he was making enough money writing to quit his job at GE and move his family to West Barnstable, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

In 1952 his first novel, Player Piano, was published. By the time his next novel, The Sirens of Titan, was published in 1959, he had had dozens of short stories published, worked as an English teacher at a school for emotionally disturbed students, run a Saab dealership, seen his father die, witnessed the death of his 41-year old sister, Alice, due to cancer, which occurred less than forty-eight hours after her husband had died in a train accident, and had adopted three of Alice’s four children to add to his own stable of three kids.

The sixties were highlighted by the publication of four more novels, a collection of short stories, and a two-year residency at the famous University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The decade culminated with the publication of Vonnegut’s sixth, and still best, novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, in 1968. The early seventies were an interesting and hectic time for Vonnegut.

Much in demand as the voice of the college-aged generation, he spent time teaching creative writing at Harvard, wrote a mildly successful off-Broadway play, got divorced, and saw his son Mark suffer a schizophrenic breakdown. By the time Breakfast of Champions was published in 1973, Vonnegut’s life was starting to slow down just a bit as he dropped from his pinnacle in the national spotlight. The critically lambasted Slapstick appeared in 1976, which was followed by 1979’s Jailbird.

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