Library Moments: Authors who died in 2016

Bessie Sullivan: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.

The literary world lost some of its giants in 2016, although some were not a surprise based on their age, we in the library world always feel a little sad about the loss of a writer because we know they will never produce a piece of art again. The upside is that the death of an author always ignites new interest in their works and this is proven to us by the spike in circulation we see after someone we have in our collection dies.

Some big names from the losses we experienced this year were Harper Lee author of the beloved novel, To Kill a Mockingbird and Umberto Eco best known for The Name of the Rose.

Today on Library Moments Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each tell you about a writer that we admired who we lost in 2016.

Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Canadian author W.P. Kinsella is probably best known for writing Shoeless Joe, which was the basis for the movie Field of Dreams. Prolific during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, Kinsella wrote many novels including The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, and short story collections including Dance Me Outside which was adapted into a movie a television show by the CBC. Born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1935, Kinsella lived in Western Canada for most of his life, earning his Bachelor’s in Creative Writing at the University of Victoria, and later border hopping to earn his Master’s of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa. Kinsella had a variety of jobs including government clerk, credit union manager, pizzeria manager, taxi driver, and English professor. No stranger to controversy, Kinsella became immersed in debates around cultural appropriation because of his portrayal of indigenous Canadians in Dance Me Outside, The Fencepost Chronicles and other stories he wrote about reservation life. He was also threatened with a lawsuit by J.D. Salinger for being written into Shoeless Joe. The threat of litigation resulted in the removal of Salinger’s character from the movie Field of Dreams.

Kinsella’s career was interrupted in 1997 when he was hit by a car and suffered a brain injury. The brain injury, according to Kinsella, resulted in a loss of creativity as well as a change in personality as well as other physical impairments. However after 14 years his novel Butterfly Winter was published in 2007, though according to Kinsella it was something that he had been working on for 27 years. His biographer, Willie Steele, said that Kinsella essentially stopped writing after the accident, and most of what was published after was already largely complete. Kinsella’s final book, Russian Dolls: Stories from the Breathing Castle has just been released – and is available to reserve at HCPL. W.P. Kinsella elected to die on September 16, 2016 with the assistance of a physician.

Bessie: Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel was born September 30, 1928 in Romania and died in New York City on July 2, 2016. He was a Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor. He was the author of 57 books including Night, an autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.

Along with writing, Wiesel was a professor of the humanities at Boston University, which created the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies in his honor. He was involved with Jewish causes, and helped establish the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, at which time the Nobel Committee called him a “messenger to mankind,” stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler’s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”, Wiesel had delivered a message “of peace, atonement and human dignity” to humanity.

Books by both Kinsella and Weisel are available at the Haliburton County Public Library. Although the death of someone admired is always pause for thought, the beautiful thing about being a writer is that your legacy lives on in the words that you have published.

That’s it for this week’s edition of Library Moments, thanks for listening to this week’s edition of Library Moments here on 100.9 Canoe FM and best wishes for 2017.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM.

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