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John Wesley, the history of Methodism, and the clash of biographies

Most of what happened to Methodism after John Wesley‘s death in 1791 was highly predictable. Wesley had created Methodism, a religious movement within the Anglican Church, in the 1740s by his interpretative theology, his going outside the church walls to preach to those neglected by the church, and by forming “classes” of his followers who […]

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Teddy Roosevelt: "I am DEE-lighted."

Nigel Hamilton’s FDR, where Joseph Campbell began, John Wesley, and banana peels: newsletter, Aug. 16, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,696) on Friday, August 16, 2019. Two big events this week: the publication of two books that we had been working on for the Friends of the Blount County Library. One is Loyal Mountaineers: The Civil War Memoirs of Will A. McTeer, which we mentioned in the newsletter several […]

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Newsman Bob Considine, the semicolon, the demise of Mad, and another Longfellow poem:newsletter, Aug. 9, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,707) on Friday, August 9, 2019.   Thanks much to those who signed up for a free subscription to American Watercolor magazine on my behalf. I reached the appropriate number and have been offered the possibility of an “ambassadorship,” which means my stuff will be […]

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On the line with Bob Considine

Bob Considine, who achieved international fame for his World War II reporting was the consummate journalist: he loved traveling, he loved talking to people, he loved finding information, and — most of all — he loved writing. In his late 60s, he was still working and still writing — mostly on a nationally syndicated column […]

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Walking, Arthur Ashe, and a new video: newsletter, Aug. 2, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,716) on Friday, August 9, 2019. ​ Living well, as any sensible person knows, is not just a matter of diet and exercise. It’s a whole range of behaviors, attitudes, habits, and choices. Susan Saunders and Annabel Streets, two women who have looked deeply into the science […]

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Seeing Suffrage

The practical, victorious, but less-than-glorious fight for women’s suffrage

We are entering a period when, for the next year or so, many Americans will be celebrating the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote nationwide. The history of the ratification fight is often presented as glorious and ultimately victorious, a great confirmation that sometimes our political […]

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Bouton’s ‘Ball Four,’ mystery recommendations, and Mark Twain’s delight: newsletter, July 26, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, July 26, 2019.   Three weeks ago when we extracted the honey from our beehives, the last part of the process was putting the “wet” frames back onto the hives. These are frames that contain honey, but the amounts are too small […]

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Bouton’s ‘Ball Four’: a book that afflicted the rich and comfortable of the baseball world

When someone writes a book that thoroughly offends and discomfits people who are well off, in positions of influence, rich, and comfortable, it should merit our attention. That was the case when Jim Bouton, briefly a star pitcher for the New York Yankees, wrote his tell-all memoir Ball Four that centered on stories from inside […]

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Antonia Fraser’s writing day

Fortunately for writer and historian Lady Antonia Fraser, she was pronounced as “uppity” when she was a girl attending convent school. The nuns, for some reason she doesn’t specify, didn’t like her. They decided to punish by making her spend her Saturday mornings learning to touch type. “In consequence,” she writes, “I’m a touch typist […]

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Book counterfeiting: it happened before Amazon came into existence.

What happens when you are a self-published author (as I am), and someone takes your books, republishes them on Amazon’s self-publishing site, and sells them at a higher price — depriving you not only of royalties but also very possibly creating ill-will among your readers? This hasn’t happened to me — at least, not that […]

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Hemingway on writing, Fraser at writing, counterfeit books, and a podcast: newsletter, June 28, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 28, 2019. The great satisfaction of a project nearing completion came for me this week with the arrival of proof copies of Loyal Mountaineers: The Civil War Memoirs of Will McTeer. McTeer left his home near the Great Smoky Mountains in […]

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McTeer-front cover

Will McTeer and his Civil War memories

Will McTeer was one of more than two million soldiers who fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War years of 1861-1865. He was not looking for a fight. He did so because he loved his country and what it represented and because he feared the Confederacy – an idea with which he, his […]

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The personal civil war of Julia Ward Howe

We remember Julia Ward Howe for genius in composing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” In the history of the English language, few poems have been repeated and sung as much this one — and perhaps none has generated so many book titles. But Howe is far more than the author of this great piece […]

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The House of Rest

Julia Ward Howe’s visions of glory, the fountain pen, more about libraries: newsletter, June 14, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,775) on Friday, June 14, 2019.   Beans on the stand, tassels on the corn, blooms on the cucumbers, tomatoes on the vine — the garden continues to amaze us with its seasonable miracles. The months of planning, planting, watering, weeding, and watching are being […]

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Walt Whitman’s calculated plan to achieve the fame he wanted

Walt Whitman (whose 200th birthday we celebrated briefly last week) was 35 years old in 1854 with no job and no prospects. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a poet — a famous poet. He was well on the way to being a poet. He had already written much of his seminal work, Leaves […]

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Walt Whitman chases fame, Verse and Vision, libraries, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, June 7, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 7, 2019.     Celebrations of great moments and memories in the history of the United States continue during these weeks with Memorial Day, followed by D-Day (June 6), Flag Day (June 14), and then July the Fourth. Each of these times calls for clear-eyed reflection and assessment […]

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Sir Walter Scott writes himself out of debt, more on libraries, competing definitions of journalism: newsletter, May 31, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, May 31, 2019. For the past six or seven weeks, we have left our beehives alone. This is the main honey-making season, and we did not want to do anything to disturb them. That changed this week when I opened them to make […]

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What good are libraries? How should they be run? Provocative questions from a reader

After my rant last week about the funding proposals from the county government for our local library, one of my very good newsletter readers and faithful correspondents (Frank C.) sent me these provocative questions. They were challenging enough that I thought I should share them with you to see if you had any reactions. Does […]

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Overcoming debt and grief, Sir Walter Scott wrote – and wrote some more

Despite fame and great fortune, Walter Scott found himself in 1826 at a low point in his life. The year before, a banking crisis had plunged the nation into a depression, and Scott went from being a man rich with assets to a man with 130,000 pounds of debt (the equivalent of 10 million pounds […]

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What good are libraries, The Winds of War, and getting away with murder in the U.S.:newsletter, May 24, 2019

  For the last 105 weeks or so, this newsletter has been winging its electronic way to subscribers each Friday, rain or shine, hot or cold. We just passed our second birthday, and when I realized that the anniversary had come and gone, it was something of a shock — in a good way. I started […]

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