e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Deaths of literary greats

Every now and then I look through the lists on a website called HistoryOrb. It has a section, Today in History, which lists anniversaries of historical events and the births and deaths of famous people.

Today the list of deaths is far longer than for births. Does that mean we don’t know when some famous people are born? Or that being born on 16th July is not auspicious if one wants to become famous?

One name on the death list caught my eye – Carol Shields. I hadn’t realised that she had died, and was sorry to read that bald statement:

2003 – Carol Shields, Canadian author (b. 1935)

Some years ago I read a couple of her books and found them strange but appealing. I have always had the vague intention of reading more. Now I know that her life’s work is complete.

But it is still available. I can go down the road to the local bookshop or library and savour again the products of a brilliant mind.

It makes me wonder how many other literary greats have slipped out of the world leaving nothing – because they were illiterate, suppressed by culture or politics, or lived so long ago that their books have vanished in fires and floods.

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