Have We Gone Too Far with Literary Anniversaries?

Anniversary of publication of Austen’s “Persuasion” and “Northanger Abbey” in December.

The Guardian has an excellent book page. Yes, there are brilliant reviews of new books, but that’s not why you will read it.

Do you like sensational book news?  Alison Flood will uproot it…somewhere!  How about the wonderful lists?   Top 10 this and Top 10 that, with clever synopses/reviews, unlike the stark lists at Book Riot, where there is often no description of the books.  Dead authors?  Diana Athill’s recent essay on Molly Keane is superb.  Do you wait for books to come out in paperback?  Nicholas Lezard zeroes in on some of the best.

But the 2017 Literary Calendar made me pose the question:  have we gone too far with literary anniversaries?  Do we really want to know that   Aug. 9 is “the 50th anniversary of the death of Joe Orton, who was killed by his partner Kenneth Halliwell in August 1967 in the London flat they shared”?

So I have listed the anniversaries as “legitimate “and “illegitimate.”  Let me know what you think.



Carson McCullers

Feb. 19:   Centenary of birth of Carson McCullers in Columbus, Georgia.

March 1: Centenary of the birth of Robert Lowell in Boston.

March 19: Albert Camus’s L’Etranger was published 75 years ago in France, with The Myth of Sisyphus appearing in the same year.

May 30: It is 50 years since the publication in Buenos Aires of Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

Oct. 14: It’s 125 years since The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was published, the first collection of Holmes stories.

November 30: The 350th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Swift in Dublin, 1667.

Dec.  Bicentenary of the posthumous publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, when Jane Austen was identified as the author of her novels for the first time in a biographical note by her brother.


Jan.: It’s 250 years since the completion of Tristram Shandy, with the publication in 1767 of Laurence Sterne’s final volume.  (The first two volumes appeared in 1759, and the seven others in the next seven years, so…  Oh, well.)

Feb. 22:  75th anniversary of the Austrian author Stefan Zweig’s death in 1942 in exile in Brazil.  (Why do deaths??)

June:  Centenary of publication of TS Eliot’s debut pamphlet, Prufrock and Other Observations.  (Okay:  maybe that’s going too far?)

June 26: Twenty years since the publication in 1997 of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first in the series.  (That’s an anniversary?)

July 18: Bicentenary of death in Winchester of Jane Austen.  (Why deaths?)

Aug. 9: 50th anniversary of the death of Joe Orton, who was killed by his partner Kenneth Halliwell in August 1967 in the London flat they shared.  (Very grisly!)

Aug.  31 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Baudelaire in Paris in 1867.  (Okay, why the death?)

8 thoughts on “Have We Gone Too Far with Literary Anniversaries?

  1. Yes, I like the distinctions you’ve made. Birthdays and significant publication dates are worth noting. The others (“illegitimate”) seem to just pad the list.


  2. Thank you for the review link. I’d never heard of Molly Keane and I see she’s considered the successor to Jean Rhys, a writer I find intensely interesting, not to mention good. I’ll be looking into Good Behaviour.


  3. I love this! I broadly agree with you – I can’t understand the sudden vogue for death anniversaries either – but how is the centenary of Eliot’s first pamphlet going to far?!?! And I rather think 20 years since Potter does count as an anniversary, even if it does make me feel very old! 😀


    • Eliot should go in the other stack, you’re right. The poem was published in a poetry mag in 1915, so I was thinking that was the pbublication, but the pamphlet really matters. I was confused.

      Well, I don’t consider Potter lit, so that’s how old I am!


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