The images are indelible: large bonfires fueled by books with Nazi soldiers and citizens tossing them into the flames. Flames, of course, do not destroy information or ideas, and the Nazis understood this as well as anyone. That’s why the Nazis stole far more books than they burned. Libraries of Jewish families who fell under […]
Beginning the modern idea of the American West, the real target of Prohibition, and forensic science reform: newsletter, January 18, 2019
This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,927) on Friday, January 11, 2019. You may have heard this story already. When the newspaper in Portland, Maine, announced it would no longer pay freelancers to book write reviews, the most famous author among their readership — Stephen King, no […]
“Go West!” has been the clarion call for Americans since the days of the early Republic. West across the Alleghenies, west across the Mississippi River, west across Texas and the Great Plains — whatever is west of where we are has represented openness, wonder, opportunity, and adventure. In more modern times, writers like Zane Grey […]
Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing, the Rommel myth, Becky Sharp and Baseball Joe: newsletter, January 11, 2019
This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,941) on Friday, January 11, 2019. The first full week of the New Year has been notable around here (East Tennessee) for what it wasn’t: It WAS NOT “a dark and stormy night.” For the first time since just about anyone […]
A recent newsletter of mine carried an item about the incomparable Edward Stratemeyer whose publishing syndicate produced for us young 20th-century readers series of books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. One of those series was titled Baseball Joe, and Stratemeyer published 14 volumes between 1912 and 1928. The “author” of the series was Lester […]
Several years ago I wrote a book about the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade that was held on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. Not only did this event turn out to be a pivotal one in the history of the suffrage debate, but it also was […]
One of the luckiest men of the 20th century in terms of having a continuing and positive public image is Erwin Rommel. Rommel was “Adolph Hilter’s favorite general.” He was the Desert Fox, a moniker applied to him by British journalists. He was a chivalrous soldier who fought a “clean” war and refused Hitler’s orders […]
For those of us coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s and seeking a voice to articulate the absurdities we were seeing and experiencing, Kurt Vonnegut was a God-send. Vonnegut (1922-2007), a World War II veteran and a survivor of the Dresden fire-bombing as a prisoner of war, wrote in a light, delicate prose […]
Fighting poets, the public domain, the genius behind what you read as a kid, and the American cult of ignorance: newsletter, January 4, 2019
This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,940) on Friday, January 4, 2019. For me, the new year has seen the completion of at least one project, the continuation of several others, and the beginning of a new one. Here I’ll just talk about what’s been completed. Several years […]
When the novel Primary Colors was published in 1996, it caused a sensation inside the core of political and journalistic elites from Washington to New York. The novel was a thinly veiled recounting of the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton, and it was none too flattering to its protagonists, Bill and Hillary. The novel […]
If ever there was a description that demanded a caricature, it is this one of Charles Farrar Brown, aka Artemus Ward. His fellow editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, George Hoyt, wrote: His desk was a rickety table which had been whittled and gashed until it looked as if it had been the victim of […]
When Mary Anne Evans published her first work under the pen name of George Eliot in 1856, there is no evidence that she ever planned to reveal her identity. She was successfully hiding behind the general rumor that George Eliot must be some country parson because the next of her writings, Scenes from a Clerical Life, […]
Edgar Allan Poe once wrote of Thomas Dunn English that he is “a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature.” This after they had once been friends — or at least on friendly terms (although some in the Poe camp dispute even that). In the 1840s, […]
If you were a child in the 20th century, chances are that you owe a great deal to Edward Stratemeyer. Chances are, too, that you have never heard of Edward Stratemeyer. But as a young person, you probably did read books like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, the Rover Boys, Baseball Joe, the […]
Mary Anne Evans was one of the sharpest and most wide-ranging minds of the 1800s in London’s ground-breaking intellectual ferment of the mid-century. She mixed with the most radical and forwarding thinkers of the day and was the driving force behind the resurgence of the Westminster Review between late 1851 and 1853. Her title was assistant […]
The intellectual property dam that has withheld thousands of copyrighted works — books, art, plays, films, etc. — from the public domain is about to burst. It’s about time. Copyright is a useful concept that helps protect an author or artist from having others benefit unduly from the work he or she has created. But […]
This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,951) on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. This is the last newsletter of the year and time, once again, to thank all of you newsletter readers for reading and responding. You have given me so many good tips about articles and books. […]
Back on the road, in a literary sort of way; libraries; and writing advice from Elmore Leonard: newsletter, Dec. 21, 2018
This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,962) on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. The Christmas holiday season, Hannukah, the winter solstice, the beginning of the college football bowl season — they all collide for the next couple of weeks, provoking an increase in shopping, singing, television watching, and […]
When it comes to paying a lasting tribute to veterans, few people can match the work of Josephine Herrick. Herrick was a professional photographer in the 1930s and 40s with a successful studio in New York City when the United States went to war in 1941. She organized a group of 35 fellow-photographers to take […]
You’ve heard the expression, “He/She doesn’t suffer fools lightly.” It is almost always said as a compliment. But I wonder: Is it really a compliment? Is it a trait that we should want to develop? If you were a teacher, as I was for four decades, you had to put up with lots of fools. […]
In this week’s newsletter
Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald
Read about what has just entered the public domain this month.
Point Spread on Amazon
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