Go to the post office or write a novel?

Let’s guess what you did today. Did it involve long lines at a) the post office, b) any store that sells items that are gift-able (not gift-worthy, just physically able to be purchased, wrapped, and presented as a holiday token) or c) both?

Perhaps the only lines you accrued were the number of purchases now pending on your credit card statement, after you spent the day surfing the Internet and buying things for other people (and yourself, because, well, you deserve it after all that website navigation).

Now, let’s take a look back at what some familiar names accomplished on this date in years past . Because, really, the holidays are all about comparing how cool your new toy is versus someone else’s.

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Charles Dickens 

Perhaps a few of you may have heard of old Chuck and maybe you’ve even heard of that novel he wrote  about some tightwad named Scrooge? Oh, right, A Christmas Carol. That was published today in 1843.  Even though you might share dear Ebenezer’s (early) views on those who revel in holiday merriment, it’s probably best not to quote him in your Facebook status: “Every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

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Zora Neale Hurston

Hurrah! You finished your shopping list. On December 19, 1936, Hurston finished the manuscript for what would become her critically acclaimed novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Maybe later on your to-do list will get you a Guggenheim Fellowship, too.

 

 

 

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Constance Garnett 

You think wrapping five presents in a day makes you a superstar? Garnett, a British translator who first introduced English-speaking readers to some of the great works of Russian literature, could translate 5,000 words in a day. And we’re not talking about a Dick and Jane book here; Garnett translated Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in six months. That’s the time it takes some college courses to merely discuss the novel. Born today in 1861, Garnett translated 80 novels and short stories, including Dostoyevsky’s entire oeuvre. Granted, sometimes Garnett was known to skip over Russian phrases she didn’t understand and to tone down the sexuality of the original texts (frisky Ruskies and prim Victorian translators did not mix), but can you name the last 80 novels you read, in any language?

 

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Jordan is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon, after spending six years in NYC for college and graduate school (where she earned her MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia) before realizing that her heart belonged in the Pacific Northwest. She (hopefully) puts that degree to good use writing for BookTrib and Publishers Weekly about the vast quantity of books she reads. While Jordan’s literary diet is largely crime fiction—as she was raised, often literally, in Portland’s only mystery bookstore—she’s perfectly content to read novels and nonfiction that lack a murder because good writing transcends labels. Follow her on Twitter @jordanfoster13.