The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 20, 2014

January 20, 1920

Herbert Mitgang  (January 20, 1920 to November 21, 2013) wrote for The New York Times,  specializing in foreign affairs.  the law, and the arts.

According to his obituary in that paper:

Herbert Mitgang,[was]... an author and journalist whose wide-ranging work included Abraham Lincoln biographies and an exposé of the F.B.I.’s bulging files on America’s most renowned writers — John Steinbeck’s dossier was 800 pages long ...

Mr. Mitgang,... was trained as a lawyer ... His 1988 book, “
Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America’s Greatest Authors,” reported that the agencies were suspicious not just of radical views but also of liberal ones. Mr. Mitgang said the Nobel Prize winners Sinclair Lewis and William Faulkner were monitored in part because they favored racial equality.

The file on Ernest Hemingway, another Nobel winner, included voluminous evidence of his opposition to fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War, criticized his muscular writing style and, probably most damning, said that he had once likened the F.B.I. to the Gestapo.
The F.B.I. saw Steinbeck’s sympathetic portraits of the American downtrodden as fodder for Nazi and Soviet propaganda. When he tried to get into the Army as an officer in 1943, Steinbeck, also a Nobel laureate, was turned down on the basis of his F.B.I. file.
... His exposé on the F.B.I. files first appeared in
The New Yorker in 1987.

Mr. Mitgang was a leader in the fight for authors’ rights and interests as president of the Authors Guild and the Authors League Fund. In 2005, he was a principal plaintiff in a suit by the guild and several authors to defend copyrights in the face of Google’s plan to digitize the contents of five major libraries. ....

Mr. Mitgang drew praise as a perceptive reporter and deft stylist. ...
,[In a review of] “Once Upon a Time in New York” (2000), [The New York Times reviewer called Mitgang] “a true Gotham maven.” ... Alfred Kazin praised him for his sheer enthusiasm. “Reading Mr. Mitgang,” Mr. Kazin wrote, “one remembers the forgotten pleasures of idealism.”...

Not mentioned in his obit, these lines he wrote,  and we excerpt, from "Nine Fat Cats in Little Italy."(Included in The Great Cat: Poems about Cats, edited by Emily Fragos (2005)) :

Say bon giorn to fatso Toni
     She likes to gorge on peperoni
Caruso cat sings for salami
     With parmesan and vermicelli
Padrone cat Marloni Brando
     Prays last rites for cannellono

The royal feline Medici
     Drinks champagne with biscotti


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