Publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a name still imprinted on the spine of many books, was born on this day in New York in 1892. It seems that Knopf, who died August 11, 1984, always had an eye for a bestseller. From The Writer’s Almanac:
He started his own publishing house when he was 23, and it soon gained a reputation for publishing works of literary merit. He was a hands-on boss, overseeing every aspect of production, down to the typeface. He wanted to publish quality books and didn't really care how well they sold. In 1923, he published Khalil Gibran's The Prophet and was nonplussed when it became a huge best-seller.It’s also the birthday of Sri Lankan/Canadian author Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient) who is 67 today and, sadly, this day marks the death of David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest) who took his own life on this day in 2008 at the age of 46.
He co-founded the literary magazine The American Mercury with H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan in 1924, and remained its publisher for 10 years. He also published the work of several notable authors of the 20th century, including Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, D.H. Lawrence, James Baldwin, Theodore Dreiser, and Langston Hughes; his favorite of all his authors was Willa Cather.