Readers' Almanac

...for August 24 and 25.

Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most innovative and influential writers of the last century, was born August 24, 1899 in a suburb of Buenos Aires. He was raised bilingual in Spanish and English and published his first literary translation when he was 9. His work is almost impossible to classify other than to say much of it reflects a skepticism regarding the existence of an objective reality. The Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, said without Borges, modern Latin American literature wouldn't exist. Borges' work has been cited as a major infuence on the movies Inception and The Matrix. You can read one of his most famous stories, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," here.

Related reading at SPL: Borges' Collected Fictions.

On August 25, 1835, the New York Sun newspaper ran the first of six articles about the discovery of life on the moon. The articles appeared under the name Dr. Andrew Grant, who claimed they were reprints from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Grant described two-legged beavers, human-like creatures with bat wings, and, of course, unicorns (ya gotta have unicorns).

Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you feel about unicorns) none of this was true. And there was no Dr. Andrew Grant.  And the Edinburgh Journal of Science had ceased publication in 1832. The articles are believed to have been written by Richard Adams Locke  a Sun reporter who was probably inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Unparalleled Adventures of Hans Pfall"  a prank piece by Edgar Allan Poe recounting a hot-air balloon trip to the moon that appeared in June 1835 in The Southern Literary Messenger.

Related reading at SPL: Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer

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