The 5 Weirdest Side Jobs Worked By Famous Authors
Realistic or not, our society has certain ideas about what the lives of best-selling authors look like. Stephen King is probably holed up in a dark room, knocking out a story about a killer sink on a typewriter made of human teeth. Meanwhile, J.K. Rowling is sitting in a corner, wearing a wizard hat and mumbling the plot of Fantastic Beasts 3 through 12 to herself. But while those are both (mostly) fake, there are a bunch of writers who did some really weird, really real shit in their spare time.
The Author Of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Trained Guerrilla Fighters
When Stieg Larsson died in 2004, he left behind the first three books in his Millennium series (perhaps better known as the The Girl Who Verbed An Animal Noun novels), as well as notes and outlines for several more. Given their monumental success, one would be forgiven for thinking that they were his life's ambition, as opposed to something he drunkenly brainstormed "when he was too old to work anymore."
But Larsson's true passion lay in leftist journalism and activism, which meant throwing himself into the occasional African civil war. That was how, in 1977, while the rest of the world was waiting in line for Star Wars, Larsson was teaching an entirely female contingent of Eritrean guerrilla fighters about the maintenance and proper use of grenade launchers. The women were part of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, a Marxist organization fighting to gain independence from Ethiopia -- something that was eventually realized in 1993. Until then, the revolutionaries were willing to blow things up to prove their point, and Larsson was there to help, using the know-how he gained from his time in the Swedish military.
Almost the entirety of the above comes from a chapter in a book written by Larsson's friend, John Henri Holmberg. Larsson was understandably private about his life and activities, especially after he was targeted for death by neo-Nazis. So without any existing photos or Snapchats, the closest anyone's been able to come to corroborating this is some of Larsson's friends agreeing that yeah, that's absolutely the kind of thing he would do.
Lolita's Author Drew Pictures Of Butterfly Genitalia, Professionally
Vladimir Nabokov, author (and attempted arsonist) of the much-acclaimed Lolita, was an entomologist. But not, like, in the general sense. Nabokov was specifically into butterflies, and even more specifically, into lovingly illustrating their genitalia.
Nabokov started collecting butterflies at the tender age of seven (or 49 in Russian years). He would go on to curate the Lepidoptera section of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology (even while he was being published), where he named several new species. Even post-Lolita, when he was being interviewed by Life and gracing the cover of Time, his fascination with butterflies was part of the conversation.
But c'mon, you're here for the genitals. Well don't worry, 'cause so was Nabokov. Intrigued by how butterfly naughty bits evolved more slowly and linearly than any other part of them, Nabokov was said to devote up to 14 hours a day to drawing butterfly ding-dongs, with a grand total of "thousands" of insect dicks being produced. There's even a book collecting his efforts, one that's honestly probably less creepy than Lolita.
Sadly, life wasn't all sunshine and butterfly wangs. His fellow insect scientists refused to take Nabokov seriously, on account of how good he was at book-writin'. No one wanted to believe that someone that monumentally talented could also have figured out how butterflies migrated from Asia to North America. Joke's on them, though, because he did.
The Author Of Wizard Of Oz Was Obsessed With Chickens
You likely know L. Frank Baum as the author of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, a book that has little to do with chickens or poultry. Almost stunningly little, considering how Baum was obsessed with the birds. See, Baum was an exceptional chicken fancier. The man of nearly infinite imagination, who would go on to create the Emerald City and clockwork robots, threw himself into a life of raising Hamburgs, a breed of chicken notable because they kind of look like a game of Othello.
After winning several national prizes for his chickens, Baum became a founding member of the Empire State Poultry Association in 1878, and was elected to the executive committee of the American Poultry Association two years later. Then things got about as exciting as chicken journalism can get, as Baum started The Poultry Record, a monthly trade magazine devoted to farm birds.
He sold the journal to The New York Farmer And Dairyman shortly after, and Baum was given a column there, appropriately titled "The Poultry Yard." The column was so well-received that The Poultry World -- yes, THAT Poultry World -- called Baum "one of our most active and enthusiastic fanciers," and asked him to write an article on Hamburgs. That "article" was so in-depth that the publisher released it as a book.
It wasn't until a few years later, when Baum's health was failing and his doctors told him he needed to sit down more, that he turned to full-time children's fiction. But never fear, as Baum's chicken-lust wasn't sated so easily. He replaced Toto, Dorothy's beloved pup, with a talking chicken in the second Oz sequel, Ozma Of Oz. The chicken, of course, saves the day -- an act immortalized in 1985's nightmare factory Return To Oz, in which Bellina, the hen in question, poops an egg into the main villain's mouth and kills him.
The Father Of Modern Philosophy Tortured Dogs
Rene Descartes, the French philosopher who was famous for writing "I think, therefore I am," also really, really loved murdering dogs. But not just any ol' murder. Descartes tortured them to prove that animals couldn't really feel pain. (Spoiler: THEY FUCKING COULD.) I guess this is the best moment to tell you that if this last paragraph made you uncomfortable, please, by all means, skip the next two.
While many of us understandably see Descartes' actions as the early, exploratory phase of a serial killer, he got a pass by calling himself a vivisectionist, which is an old-timey way of saying he cut open living animals for science. He claimed he did all this in the name of human exceptionalism, which, Jesus. But wait, it gets worse!
Ready? While other vivisectionists were maybe trying to learn .... something, Descartes' entire argument was basically that dogs didn't have souls, and he was going to prove it by strapping them down and cutting into them. And mind you, this wasn't an exacting process. This was 1600s surgery performed by a non-surgeon. Descartes actually -- and, seriously, bail out now if you're not a monster -- stuck his finger into the beating heart of a dog and proclaimed that the tightening of the heart during each heartbeat proved that dogs were essentially machine-like. Why did we put this guy in charge of philosophy again?
The Writer Of Robinson Crusoe Tried To Make Perfume From Cat Buttholes
Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and long considered one of the forefathers of both the novel and journalism as a whole, wanted to be a businessman. Didn't matter which business, really; he'd try anything. And he did. Because he was bad at everything.
Defoe would strike out again and again. Sometime after failing at selling women's stockings, driving a brick and tile factory into the ground, and somehow not being able to sell tobacco, wine, and beer, the future writer hit upon a foolproof plan: He was going to buy 70 civets and make perfume from their rears.
Civets -- nocturnal, vaguely cat-like mammals from Africa and Asia -- have long been famed for their amazing assholes. Even as recently as a few years ago, coffee made from civet droppings was all the rage. But back in the late 1600s, it was the civets' anal musk that everyone wanted, and by god, Defoe was going to give it to them.
Defoe purchased what we assume was a crate of civets, set up a couple of stalls narrow enough to keep the creatures from turning around, and then got to work scraping out -- with a goddamned spatula -- "the butterlike secretion" that "collected in the pouches between the tail and the anus."
In a turn of events that surprised absolutely no one, the endeavor failed spectacularly. It rapidly devolved into a convoluted shitshow of falsified credit notes, and the entire lot of civets was bought and sold and rebought, to the point that even Defoe's biographer Paula R. Backscheider thought it was an amazing con. His creditors, however, were less than impressed. Defoe went bankrupt, gave up on trying to do business altogether, and instead redefined everything we know about writing.
But not before he bought a diving bell to look for sunken treasure, because of course he fucking did.
For more, check out 5 Famous Historical Figures Who Were Total Perverts - The Spit Take:
Also, we'd love to know more about you and your interesting lives, dear readers. If you spend your days doing cool stuff, drop us a line at iDoCoolStuff at Cracked dot com, and maybe we can share your story with the entire internet.
Follow us on Facebook. And we'll follow you everywhere.