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JuliaWardHowe

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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SirWalterScott

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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OleBert

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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HermanWouk

Television could barely contain “The Winds of War” and its author Herman Wouk

When The Winds of War mini-series premiered on the ABC television network in 1983, the small box in the living room could barely contain the gigantic tale of worldwide proportions that its author Herman Wouk had conceived. It was the story of the coming of World War II in Europe and elsewhere, and its central character […]

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MountainMill

Howard Pyle and the modern Robin Hood; Rick Atkinson’s new trilogy; and Ole Bert: newsletter, May 17, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,815) on Friday, May 17, 2019. The big news on the home front is that our local library is in danger. Because of the way things are structured around here, the Blount County Public Library (see the accompanying watercolor) is supported by three different governments: Maryville, Alcoa, […]

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Rick Atkinson turns his attention to the American Revolution

One of the great popular historians of our day — certainly in a league with David McCullough and Nathaniel Philbrick — is Rick Atkinson, whose An Army at Dawn won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2002. That book was the first of three about fighting in Africa and Europe during World War II. They all are some of the best reading about […]

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Bert Garner, a simple life of complexity

Bert Garner (1885-1970) was a man well-known in East Tennessee and beyond. Some referred to him as the Sage of the Smokies, and others thought of him as the Appalachian Thoreau. For the last third of his life, he lived in a two-room cabin near the Great Smoky Mountains without plumbing, running water, or electricity. Garner was no […]

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AndrewMarvell

Andrew Marvell: Had we but world enough and time

  Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), in this his most famous poem, To His Coy Mistress, speaks with the passion of a lusty young man who tires of being put off by the woman he is wooing. The lines of the poem range from high-flown descriptions of his desire to mundane concepts and comparisons — all in typical metaphysical […]

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AndrewMarvell

Andrew Marvell, Sherwood Anderson, a quarterback’s fall, and another poetry video: newsletter, May 10, 2019

{% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} The garden is growing, except for the corn. We planted six rows of sweet corn, and two-and-a-third of those rows came up. What happened to the other rows? We don’t know. Same soil, same weather, same everything. But […]

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More poetry videos, Casey at the Bat, Richard I, and Foothills Voices (vol. 2): newsletter, May 3, 2019

  The end of April meant the end of National Poetry Month, but the poems and the poetry continue. There is simply too much good stuff to fit into one month, and my awareness of National Poetry Month set me off on a long-term journey of poetry reading, painting, and videos (see below). I hope […]

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Foothills Voices, volume 2, set of launch on May 9

From the Blount County Public Library: The second volume of Foothills Voices: Echoes of Southern Appalachia will be unveiled on Thursday, May 9, at 7 p.m. in the Sharon Lawson room of the Blount County Public Library. Twelve writers from the East Tennessee region tell twelve stories – true stories of love, family, joy, and […]

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Ridge Running: A Memoir of Appalachia

My good friend Chris Wohlwend, an award-winning big-city journalist, has just published a memoir of his life growing up in Knoxville titled Ridge Running: A Memoir of Appalachia. I had the privilege of helping Chris get this thing into print and ebook form, so I can tell you that it is an interesting, humorous, and engaging book to […]

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PalaceTheater

America’s first female police officer, Dan Jenkins, lots of emails, and a modest proposal: newsletter, March 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,866) on Friday, March 22, 2019.   The tractor came out of the barn and had a pretty good workout this week. We had a string of dry days that allowed me — finally! — to get into the garden with some much-needed sub-soiling and […]

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Emma Lathen: a dual force in mystery literature

If you were an avid reader of mystery novels in the 1960s, you were probably aware of three female mystery writers more than any others: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Emma Lathen. Emma Lathen? While Christie and Sayers have achieved immortality in the realms of mystery fiction, Lathen has all but disappeared. Yet her […]

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OleBurt2

Dick Francis, forensics, jury trials, and Ole Bert: newsletter, March 15, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,875) on Friday, March 15, 2019.     The news of this week of a major scandal in the collegiate admissions process has captured, and in some cases (mine) captivated, the attention of the nation, and rightly so. Having spent much of my adult life […]

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