Friday, November 29, 2013

Looking at Literary Lives

Here is a graphic showing  the event history in the literary careers of famous 20th century authors. It was produced by the design firm Accurat for one of my favorite blogs Brain Pickings. (click here for the image for all the authors). 
 As the legend indicates, begin at an author's birth (at noon on the top of the circle) then move clockwise (around to midnight) representing an elapsed time of 100 years. Triangles are drawn connecting notable events in these literary lives (birth, publication(debut, masterpieces), and death). Authors' ages at their debut mark the vertex of one triangle (with birth and death). Ages, at the publication of  of their masterpieces, are marked by the vertices of other shaded triangles. For many authors, their careers are displayed as a single triangle, showing that their masterpiece was their debut work. Others have several notable works, represented by overlapping shaded triangles. This provides a stylish depiction of these literary lives. But a long-lived author with a lone, early debut masterpiece (e.g. Norman Mailer) might have a triangle of the same size as one whose notable life was cut short (e.g. Jack London). Our eyes/minds are drawn to the sizes of the triangles. What are we to learn from the most central feature of these displays?

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