Happy Birthday Dorothea Lange

NAME: Dorothea Lange
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 26, 1895
DEATH DATE: October 11, 1965
EDUCATION: Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hoboken, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: San Franciso, California

Best Known For:  Dorothea Lange was a photographer whose portraits of displaced farmers during the Great Depression greatly influenced later documentary photography.

One of the preeminent and pioneering documentary photographers of the 20th century, Dorothea Lange was born Dorothea Nutzhorn on May 26, 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her father, Heinrich Nutzhorn, was a lawyer, and her mother, Johanna, stayed at home to raise Dorothea and her brother, Martin.

When she was 7, Dorothea contracted polio, which left her right leg and foot noticeably weakened. Later, however, she’d feel almost appreciative of the effects the illness had on her life. “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me,” she said.

Just before Dorothea reached her teen years, her parents divorced. Dorothea grew to blame the separation on her father and eventually dropped his surname and took her mother’s maiden name, Lange, as her own.

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”

Art and literature were big parts of Lange’s upbringing. Her parents were both strong advocates for her education, and exposure to creative works filled her childhood.

Following high school, Lange, who’d never shown much interest in academics, decided to pursue photography as a profession. She studied the art form at Columbia University, and then, over the next several years, cut her teeth as an apprentice, working for several different photographers, including Arnold Genthe, a leading portrait photographer.

By 1918, Lange was living in San Francisco and soon running a successful portrait studio. With her husband, muralist Maynard Dixon, she had two sons and settled into the comfortable middle-class life she’d known as a child.

Lange’s first real taste of documentary photography came in the 1920s when she traveled around the Southwest with Dixon, mostly photographing Native Americans. With the onslaught of the Great Depression in the 1930s, she trained her camera on what she started to see in her own San Francisco neighborhoods: labor strikes and breadlines.

In the early 1930s, Lange, mired in an unhappy marriage, met Paul Taylor, a university professor and labor economist. Their attraction was immediate, and by 1935, both had left their respective spouses to be with each other.

Over the next five years, the couple traveled extensively together, documenting the rural hardship they encountered for the Farm Security Administration, established by the U.S. Agriculture Department. Taylor wrote reports, and Lange photographed the people they met. This body of work included Lange’s most well-known portrait, “Migrant Mother,” an iconic image from this period that gently and beautifully captured the hardship and pain of what so many Americans were experiencing.

The work now hangs in the Library of Congress.

As Taylor would later note, Lange’s access to the inner lives of these struggling Americans was the result of patience and careful consideration of the people she photographed. “Her method of work,” Taylor later said, “was often to just saunter up to the people and look around, and then when she saw something that she wanted to photograph, to quietly take her camera, look at it, and if she saw that they objected, why, she would close it up and not take a photograph, or perhaps she would wait until… they were used to her.”

In 1940, Lange became the first woman awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Following America’s entrance into World War II, Lange was hired by the Office of War Information (OWI) to photograph the internment of Japanese Americans. In 1945, she was employed again by the OWI, this time to document the San Francisco conference that created the United Nations.

While she battled increasing health problems over the last two decades of her life, Lange stayed active. She co-founded Aperture, a small publishing house that produces a periodical and high-end photography books. She took on assignments for Life magazine, traveling through Utah, Ireland and Death Valley. She also accompanied her husband on his work-related assignments in Pakistan, Korea and Vietnam, among other places, documenting what she saw along the way.

Lange passed away from esophageal cancer in October 1965.

While Lange sometimes grew frustrated that her work didn’t always provoke society to correct the injustices she documented, her photography has endured and greatly influenced generations of documentary photographers.

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The Great Gatsby

Once, I went to a reading of the entire The Great Gatsby.  It took about eight hours and at least a half dozen people to play all the parts.  When they got to the last paragraph, we all recited it together.  It was intense and glorious and beautiful.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

 

 

It was on this day in 1925 that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby was published. Fitzgerald believed he had written a great book, and he was disappointed by its reception. He wrote to his friend Edmund Wilson: “Of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about.”

Fitzgerald was already famous when The Great Gatsby was published. His first novels, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), sold well. Scott and his wife, Zelda, were celebrities — a beautiful, fashionable, social couple. After watching them ride down Fifth Avenue on top of a taxi, writer Dorothy Parker said, “They did both look as though they had just stepped out of the sun.” Shortly after the publication of The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: “I want to write something new — something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”But first he wrote a play, The Vegetable, and it was a flop. To pay off his debts, he churned out magazine stories. He wrote to a friend: “I really worked hard as hell last winter — but it was all trash and it nearly broke my heart as well as my iron constitution.” He had high hopes for a new book. He wrote to Perkins: “In my new novel I’m thrown directly on purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere yet radiant world.”

The Fitzgeralds’ extravagant New York lifestyle was weighing on them, and in the spring of 1924, the couple and their young daughter headed to Europe, where Scott was looking for somewhere quieter and less expensive to work on The Great Gatsby. (Fitzgerald’s idea of a quiet lifestyle was relative; of his 1926 visit to the Riviera, he wrote: “There was no one at Antibes this summer, except me, Zelda, the Valentinos, the Murphys, Mistinguet, Rex Ingram, Dos Passos, Alice Terry, the MacLeishes, Charlie Brackett, Mause Kahn, Lester Murphy, Marguerite Namara, E. Oppenheimer, Mannes the violinist, Floyd Dell, Max and Crystal Eastman … Just the right place to rough it, an escape from the world.”)

After a stay in Paris, they headed south to the town of Valescure on the French Riviera, which Fitzgerald called the “hot sweet south of France.” In those days, the Riviera was cheap, and they rented a villa on a hillside. He described the Mediterranean: “Fairy blue [...] and in the shadow of the mountains a green belt of land runs along the coast for a hundred miles and makes a playground for the world.” They went to fancy dinners with rich friends, listened to jazz on the phonograph, and lay in the sun drinking. Fitzgerald worked on The Great Gatsby, writing to Perkins that the south of France was idyllic and that he would finish the novel within a month. Zelda was not so happy; Scott was too busy with his novel to pay attention to her, and their daughter was watched by a nurse. She distracted herself by flirting with a French naval officer, and the Fitzgeralds’ marriage deteriorated.

They moved to Rome that fall, where Scott made final edits on The Great Gatsby. He couldn’t decide on a title — he considered On the Road to West Egg, Gold-hatted Gatsby, Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, The High-bouncing Lover, Trimalchio, and others. While the book was in publication, Fitzgerald suddenly came up with Under the Red White and Blue, and Perkins had to convince him that it was not worth delaying publication and that they should stick with The Great Gatsby.

When The Great Gatsby was published on this day in 1925, it cost $2.00. The reviews were mostly good, but sales were bad — after the initial run of 20,000 copies, there was a second printing of 3,000 copies in August, but some of those copies were still in the warehouse when Fitzgerald died 15 years later. He told Perkins that he thought there were two reasons for the book’s failure: that the title wasn’t very good, and that there were no strong female characters and women were the ones buying fiction. A few years before he died, Fitzgerald went from bookstore to bookstore trying to find copies of his books for his lover Sheilah Graham, but he couldn’t find any.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald wrote: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”

 

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The African Queen – Required Viewing

I have seen “The African Queen” dozens of times.  It was one of the many movies that we watched after school.  Each time I write that my sister and I watched old movies after school, I fully realize that it is not normal.  There were a number of factors that made it an obvious choice, from not having cable TV to it always raining.  Yet still, it does seem like a different choice to watch “North By Northwest” and the rest.  I am glad we did, I am sure that if we had watched soap operas after school, I wouldn’t have as fond memories of that time.
african queen

The Wiki:

The African Queen is a 1951 adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film was directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel[5] and John Woolf. The screenplay was adapted by James Agee, John Huston, John Collier and Peter Viertel. It was photographed in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff and had a music score by Allan Gray. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor – his only Oscar), and Katharine Hepburn with Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Walter Gotell, Richard Marner and Theodore Bikel.

The African Queen has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, with the Library of Congress deeming it “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.

 

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Dorothea Lange – Style Icon

NAME: Dorothea Lange
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 26, 1895
DEATH DATE: October 11, 1965
EDUCATION: Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hoboken, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: San Franciso, California

Best Known For:  Dorothea Lange was a photographer whose portraits of displaced farmers during the Great Depression greatly influenced later documentary photography.

One of the preeminent and pioneering documentary photographers of the 20th century, Dorothea Lange was born Dorothea Nutzhorn on May 26, 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her father, Heinrich Nutzhorn, was a lawyer, and her mother, Johanna, stayed at home to raise Dorothea and her brother, Martin.

When she was 7, Dorothea contracted polio, which left her right leg and foot noticeably weakened. Later, however, she’d feel almost appreciative of the effects the illness had on her life. “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me,” she said.

Just before Dorothea reached her teen years, her parents divorced. Dorothea grew to blame the separation on her father and eventually dropped his surname and took her mother’s maiden name, Lange, as her own.

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”

Art and literature were big parts of Lange’s upbringing. Her parents were both strong advocates for her education, and exposure to creative works filled her childhood.

Following high school, Lange, who’d never shown much interest in academics, decided to pursue photography as a profession. She studied the art form at Columbia University, and then, over the next several years, cut her teeth as an apprentice, working for several different photographers, including Arnold Genthe, a leading portrait photographer.

By 1918, Lange was living in San Francisco and soon running a successful portrait studio. With her husband, muralist Maynard Dixon, she had two sons and settled into the comfortable middle-class life she’d known as a child.

Lange’s first real taste of documentary photography came in the 1920s when she traveled around the Southwest with Dixon, mostly photographing Native Americans. With the onslaught of the Great Depression in the 1930s, she trained her camera on what she started to see in her own San Francisco neighborhoods: labor strikes and breadlines.

In the early 1930s, Lange, mired in an unhappy marriage, met Paul Taylor, a university professor and labor economist. Their attraction was immediate, and by 1935, both had left their respective spouses to be with each other.

Over the next five years, the couple traveled extensively together, documenting the rural hardship they encountered for the Farm Security Administration, established by the U.S. Agriculture Department. Taylor wrote reports, and Lange photographed the people they met. This body of work included Lange’s most well-known portrait, “Migrant Mother,” an iconic image from this period that gently and beautifully captured the hardship and pain of what so many Americans were experiencing.

The work now hangs in the Library of Congress.

As Taylor would later note, Lange’s access to the inner lives of these struggling Americans was the result of patience and careful consideration of the people she photographed. “Her method of work,” Taylor later said, “was often to just saunter up to the people and look around, and then when she saw something that she wanted to photograph, to quietly take her camera, look at it, and if she saw that they objected, why, she would close it up and not take a photograph, or perhaps she would wait until… they were used to her.”

In 1940, Lange became the first woman awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Following America’s entrance into World War II, Lange was hired by the Office of War Information (OWI) to photograph the internment of Japanese Americans. In 1945, she was employed again by the OWI, this time to document the San Francisco conference that created the United Nations.

While she battled increasing health problems over the last two decades of her life, Lange stayed active. She co-founded Aperture, a small publishing house that produces a periodical and high-end photography books. She took on assignments for Life magazine, traveling through Utah, Ireland and Death Valley. She also accompanied her husband on his work-related assignments in Pakistan, Korea and Vietnam, among other places, documenting what she saw along the way.

Lange passed away from esophageal cancer in October 1965.

While Lange sometimes grew frustrated that her work didn’t always provoke society to correct the injustices she documented, her photography has endured and greatly influenced generations of documentary photographers.

Banned Books That Shaped America: Gone With the Wind

The Library of Congress created an exhibit, “Books that Shaped America,” that explores books that “have had a profound effect on American life.” Many of the books in the exhibit have been banned/challenged.  Give yourself the gift of a beautiful story and read one and them imagine what your life would be like if you were never given that gift.

Fight censorship.

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

The Pulitzer-prize winning novel (which three years after its publication became an Academy-Award Winning film) follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Critically praised for its thought-provoking and realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the South, it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons. Its realism has come under fire, specifically its realistic portrayal – though at times perhaps tending toward optimistic — of slavery and use of the words “nigger” and “darkies.”

gone with the wind

In a film that had four directors, at least twelve scriptwriters, and a rotation of cameramen, the one unifying vision for the production of Gone With the Wind belonged to its producer, David O. Selznick. Born on May 10, 1902, to pioneering movie mogul Lewis Selznick, David lived his early years in financial comfort. Lewis gave his sons lavish personal allowances, advising them to spend it all and stay broke. Selznick’s family wealth vanished abruptly, taken not by the ravages of war but by his father’s poor business decisions and his gambling addiction. By 1923 Lewis Selznick declared bankruptcy, spending his last years financially supported by his sons.

Selznick moved to Hollywood in 1926 and quickly got a job in MGM’s story department, where he began working his way up the ranks. Just two years later he moved to Paramount Pictures, where he was hired as an executive before continuing on to become vice president in charge of production at RKO. He then returned to MGM to help produce several films, most notably David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Anna Karenina. When the original head of production at MGM returned, Selznick lost the creative freedom he craved and left to form his own production company in 1935. The following year, Selznick bought the film rights to Margaret Mitchell’s wildly popular novel Gone With the Wind.

Films about the old South were popular during the first half of the twentieth century. One of the first of these films was Edwin S. Porter’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and twelve years later the epic The Birth of a Nation electrified the country, redefining cinema as an art form. By the late 1930s, however, the genre had gone into a steep decline, and when Irving G. Thalberg, the head of production at MGM, heard the synopsis of Gone With the Wind he was unimpressed. “Forget it,” he was famously quoted as saying after he rejected the story. “No Civil War picture ever made a nickel.”

Selznick had his own reservations about the story, including the cost of screen rights and production and the difficulties of choosing a cast that wouldn’t alienate the many fans of the novel. Problems continued during the shooting of the film, ranging from wars between starlets over the lead role of Scarlett to Selznick’s constant rewriting of the script. The production surpassed its budget before any of the action sequences were filmed, the hours were so long that some of the cast and crew took drugs to keep going, and the once supportive press abandoned the project entirely. Selznick, however, remained unbeaten through these trials, firm in his vision of a sweeping romantic drama and determined to prove that the film the press was now calling “Selznick’s Folly” would be a success.

In the end, Selznick’s vision didn’t fail him. After its December 1939 premiere, Gone With the Wind proved to be a huge critical and box office success. It was labeled a masterpiece by the very critics who had once called it a folly, and it went on to be one of the top grossing films of all time. It was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Leigh), Best Director (Fleming), and Best Color Cinematography. In addition, the Academy bestowed upon the film a special achievement award and an honorary plaque. Hattie McDaniel also walked into film history with her win as Best Supporting Actress, the first Oscar ever won by an African American. In England, Gone With the Wind ran in theaters for the duration of World War II, with Scarlett serving as a symbol of resistance and liberation. For these same reasons, the Nazis banned the film.

Such success, however, could not last. Despite the film’s achievements, Gone With the Wind’s enormous scope and budget precluded the chance of it strongly influencing other films. Even if the film had spawned an imitator, there would have been no market for it. By the end of World War II, protests over Hollywood’s racial stereotyping had permanently tainted Southern films, sending their popularity into steep decline. Selznick had another success in 1940 with the film Rebecca, but after that he was unable to repeat the success of his two most famous films and began losing money. The creative control of producers fell as directors rose in influence, and shifting balances of power marked the end of the glory days of the studio system. Like the story of the South in the Civil War, Gone With the Wind proved to be the end of an era.

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Banned Books That Shaped America: The Call of the Wild

The Library of Congress created an exhibit, “Books that Shaped America,” that explores books that “have had a profound effect on American life.” Many of the books in the exhibit have been banned/challenged.  Give yourself the gift of a beautiful story and read one and them imagine what your life would be like if you were never given that gift.

Fight censorship.

The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903

Generally hailed as Jack London’s best work, The Call of the Wild is commonly challenged for its dark tone and bloody violence. Because it is seen as a man-and-his-dog story, it is sometimes read by adolescents and subsequently challenged for age-inappropriateness. Not only have objections been raised here, the book was banned in Italy, Yugoslavia and burned in bonfires in Nazi Germany in the late 1920s and early 30s because it was considered “too radical.”

call of the wild

Jack London was born in San Francisco on January 12, 1876, the illegitimate son of Flora Wellman, the rebellious daughter of an aristocratic family, and William Chaney, a traveling astrologer who abandoned Flora when she became pregnant. Eight months after her son was born, Flora married John London, a grocer and Civil War veteran whose last name the infant took. London grew up in Oakland, and his family was mired in poverty throughout his youth. He remained in school only through the eighth grade but was a voracious reader and a frequent visitor to the Oakland Public Library, where he went about edu-cating himself and laying the groundwork for his impending literary career.

In his adolescent years, London led a rough life, spending time as a pirate in San Francisco Bay, traveling the Far East on sealing expeditions, and making his way across America as a tramp. Finally, temporarily tired of adventure, London returned to Oakland and graduated from high school. He was even admitted to the University of California at Berkeley, but he stayed only for a semester. The Klondike gold rush (in Canada’s Yukon Territory) had begun, and in 1897 London left college to seek his fortune in the snowy North.

The gold rush did not make London rich, but it furnished him with plenty of material for his career as a writer, which began in the late 1890s and continued until his death in 1916. He worked as a reporter, covering the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s; meanwhile, he published over fifty books and became, at the time, America’s most famous author. For a while, he was one of the most widely read authors in the world. He embodied, it was said, the spirit of the American West, and his portrayal of adventure and frontier life seemed like a breath of fresh air in comparison with nineteenth-century Victorian fiction, which was often overly concerned with what had begun to seem like trivial and irrelevant social norms.

The Call of the Wild, published in 1903, remains London’s most famous work, blending his experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness with his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence. He drew these ideas from various influential figures, including Charles Darwin, an English naturalist credited with developing theories about biological evolution, and Friedrich Nietzsche, a prominent German philosopher. Although The Call of the Wild is first and foremost a story about a dog, it displays a philosophical depth absent in most animal adventures.

London was married twice—once in 1900, to his math tutor and friend Bess Maddern, and again in 1905, to his secretary Charmian Kittredge, whom he considered his true love. As his works soared in popularity, he became a contradictory figure, arguing for socialist principles and women’s rights even as he himself lived a materialist life of luxury, sailing the world in his boat, the Snark, and running a large ranch in northern California. Meanwhile, he preached equality and the brotherhood of man, even as novels like The Call of the Wild celebrated violence, power, and brute force.

London died young, on November 22, 1916. He had been plagued by stomach problems and failing kidneys for years, but many have suggested that his death was a suicide. Whatever the cause, it is clear that London, who played the various roles of journalist, novelist, prospector, sailor, pirate, husband, and father, lived life to the fullest.

Fight all forms of censorship.
Fight all forms of censorship.
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Banned Books That Shaped America: Stranger in a Strange Land

The Library of Congress created an exhibit, “Books that Shaped America,” that explores books that “have had a profound effect on American life.” Many of the books in the exhibit have been banned/challenged.  Give yourself the gift of a beautiful story and read one and them imagine what your life would be like if you were never given that gift.

Fight censorship.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961

The book was actually retained after a 2003 challenge in Mercedes, TX to the book’s adult themes. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class, a common school board response to a challenge.

stranger in a strange land

Robert A. Heinlein was one of the most famed and respected writers of science fiction’s “Golden Age,” which occurred from the 1940s to the 1950s. He began writing stories for John W. Campbell Jr.‘s periodicals, Astounding and Unknown, in 1939 and quickly made a career of his fiction writing. Although he tried his hand at a number of other genres, like his alter ego, Jubal Harshaw, in Stranger in a Strange Land who writes for a vast array of magazines, Heinlein soon found that he was best suited to and most successful at science fiction. Many of his stories took place in a continuum Heinlein called “Future History”—these stories cross-referenced each other and Heinlein’s alternate universe became more and more elaborate over the years.

In 1947, Heinlein published his first novel, Rocket Ship Galileo. It was a simple sci-fi adventure, intended for the lucrative adolescent market; such books were known as “juveniles.” Heinlein prolifically produced these juveniles, and a number of short stories throughout the end of the 1940s and through the 1950s. Though all of the novels were intended to be compelling and comprehensible for adolescents, some of them touched upon mature subject matter, such as the handling of militarism and politics in Starship Troopers. Heinlein enjoyed writing for the juvenile market, but he longed to write a novel that could deal with truly adult, controversial subject matter. Throughout the 1950s he worked on the story that would become Stranger in a Strange Land. Early working titles included The Man from Mars and A Martian Named Smith—the title that Jubal Harshaw gives to the “stereoplay” he begins composing at the end of Stranger. Heinlein had several false starts on writing the novel, between other works, but in 1960 was finally able to complete a draft to his own satisfaction. With its challenging, eccentric, and occasionally bizarre philosophies about human sexuality and organized religion, Heinlein was uncertain if he would ever be able to find a publisher for Stranger.

G. P. Putnam boldly took on the book, which was more complex and brazenly satirical than any mainstream science fiction novel to date. The sales were not immediately impressive, but as the years progressed, the paperback edition of the novel slowly accumulated word of mouth advertising from a dedicated core group of admirers, and the novel blossomed into a sensation. Stranger found a place alongside such books as Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 as a touchstone of the 1960s counterculture. Because of its broad themes and ambiguous moral stance, one could easily interpret the novel’s philosophies to appease many different viewpoints. Stranger appealed to many far flung subcultures: it was a novel equally well-suited to conservative, hardcore science fiction fans and to radical members of the 1960s hippie movement, since the free love and communal living of Valentine Michael Smith‘s church anticipated many hippie tenets. Some avid fans of the novel went so far as to found cults of their own based on Heinlein’s “teachings.” Heinlein kept as much distance as possible between himself and these fans, whom he felt had emotionally overinvested in what, for whatever wisdom it may have contained, was still only a work of fiction. After Charles Manson and his “family” committed multiple murders in 1969, it was widely rumored that Manson had been inspired by Stranger, though those rumors proved to be unfounded.

Until his death in 1988, Heinlein went on to write several more adult novels, many of which continued to grapple with the controversial themes of Stranger. Although many of those novels, such as The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Time Enough for Love, and The Number of the Beast were quite popular, none ever repeated the tremendous cultural impact of Stranger.

Fight all forms of censorship.
Fight all forms of censorship.
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