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LouisaMayAlcott_20181203_0002

Louisa May Alcott, stealth novelist of the blood and thunder genre

Louisa May Alcott lived a double-literary life. The world knew her as Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women and other widely popular and deeply-loved books that have been read by children for generations. These she called “moral pap” and said she wrote them only for the money. An extremely small circle of people knew […]

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AgathaChristie

Radio dramas from the BBC Radio 4

One of the great pleasures I had when I spent a couple of multi-month stretches in Great Britain in the 1970s (London for eight months and Edinburgh for seven) was listening to the radio — specifically BBC Radio 4. I didn’t have a television, but the radio dramas presented by the BBC more than satisfied my […]

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A recommendation for a winter read from LitHub: The Talented Mr. Ripley

As we head into the depths of winter — don’t worry, Christmas will be over soon, and then we’ll find ourselves there — Emily Temple, a senior editor at the excellent LitHub.com website has a good reading recommendation: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. It is, in my opinion, the perfect winter holiday book. It’s […]

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Joseph Priestly and his Big (writing) Idea

Joseph Priestly, the Englishman we remember as a great scientist and the one who first discovered oxygen, was a writer before he was a scientist. And he was a writer with a Big Idea. Priestly (1733-1804) lived in an age when interest in “natural philosophy,” what we would call “science” today, had exploded, and people […]

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Sinclair Lewis and the Great American Freedom of travel

Few novelists have explored the American mind and character as deeply and perceptively as Sinclair Lewis, who in 1930 became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. The freedom of movement — the ability for Americans to travel — is, according to Lewis, one of the most important parts of the American […]

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A writer who didn’t want to be edited, the ‘real’ Moriarty, and your good words: newsletter, Nov. 23, 2018

  Thanks for the many emails about the words that we use and the ones we don’t hear enough. This week’s word, of course, is gratitude, in line with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans have celebrated this week. All of us have much to be thankful for. I do my best to remind myself of that […]

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MurielSpark1_20181120_0001

Muriel Spark, the writer who couldn’t abide being edited

Muriel Spark, the author of 22 novels including The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, always wanted to be in full control of her writing, and once she achieved a measure of fame and recognition, she got it. She refused to be edited unless she could have the final say in the matter. Just as The Prime of Miss […]

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WinstonChurchill

Winston Churchill: yet another biography, but just what we need

By Andrew Roberts’ count, there are slightly more than 1,000 biographies of Winston Churchill. That’s one for almost every page of his massive new biographyChurchill: Walking with Destiny. So, why write another one — particularly one of such length. Surely by now, we should be able to reduce Churchill to just three or four hundred […]

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PIC00054

The purpose of the honeybee

Bees give us honey. It’s a wonderful food, and many people make a living by harvesting and selling honey. Bees also pollinate many of our crops. Some estimate that up to 30 percent of what we eat is on our tables because of honeybees. Important as these activities are to humans, neither is central to […]

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Fanny Burney: paving the way for Jane Austen and the Brontes

Before there was Jane Austen, before there was George Eliot, before there were Charlotte and Emily Bronte — before even women were supposed to be able to write in this new developing form called a novel — there was Fanny Burney (1752-1840). Burney, daughter of Dr. Charles Burney, a well-known scholar and music teacher of the second half […]

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GKChesterton

G.K. Chesterton: Everything about him was big, including his ‘colossal genius’

In so many ways, Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (1874-1936) was an enormous man. — Physically, he was massive: 6 feet 4 inches tall, he weighed more than 250 pounds. He had a shock of hair that on many days looked like it had exploded out of the right side of his head. — His writing production almost […]

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GenGrant

Good advice for the General: Write like you talk

As a writing teacher of several decades, I never cared for the advice “write like you talk.” Most people don’t talk all that well. Besides, writing is a different process from talking. Talking is easy. Writing is hard. But “write like you talk” was the advice that Ulysses S. Grant got from Robert S. Johnson, […]

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Benedict Arnold, explained but not excused

Nathaniel Philbrick‘s Valient Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution. explains–but does not excuse–Benedict Arnold. And the explanation is an important part of the history of the American Revolution. And, therefore, it is important for Americans to hear and understand. Philbrick is a top-flight historian whose narrative prose makes any topic he tackles readable […]

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BenedictArnold

The United States has always been divided in its thinking — even before it was the United States

The deep divisions in America’s current political culture undoubtedly pose serious and difficult problems for the long-term health of the nation, but they need to be set in some context. The truth is that the United States of America has never been united except on the most basic of principles (equal justice, free speech, etc.). […]

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All About Agatha – the podcast where Agatha Christie is first, last, and always

All About Agatha (Christie)Pro Unlimited Agatha Christie The Agatha Christie fans out there — and they are legion — will want to join in on this weekly podcast, All About Agatha, that is devoted exclusively to the author whose popularity remains undiminished even 40 years after her death. The podcast features Linda Brobeck and Kemper […]

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LawrenceOsborne

What you do when you’re writing a Phillip Marlowe novel

Raymond Chandler died in 1959, leaving the fans of his detective anti-hero Phillip Marlowe wanting more. In the ensuing years, two excellent writers, Robert Parker and John Banville, have attempted to satisfy those desires. Parker took up Chandler’s unfinished novel and finished it as Poodle Springs in 1989. Then he wrote a second Marlowe novel, […]

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biblioburros

The donkey libraries of rural Colombia: a story from the BBC

Colombia is not all drugs and drug lords and gangs and violence. There are people like Luis Soriano, a Spanish teacher in rural La Gloria Colombia, who loves books, understands their value, and wants the young people of his region to have access to them. Soriano put his dream on the back of two donkeys, Alfa […]

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Library of Congress-2

Yes, people are still trying to ban books. And they should be opposed.

You can shield yourself from ideas that make you uncomfortable or that you disagree with. You may be able, to some extent, to limit the exposure that the young people in your care have to those ideas. But you cannot shield your community from the things you disagree with. That’s called censorship, and in any practical […]

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A picture essay book on the necessity of libraries from The Guardian

What are libraries about? Neil Gaiman and Chris Ridell have put together this pretty neat picture book that solidly answers that question. Sit back and take a look. You will enjoy this.   Source: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures | Books | The Guardian

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ElizebethFriedman

‘The Woman Who Smashed Codes’ taught her biographer cryptology after her death

Journalist Jason Fagon, when he set out to write a biography of the extraordinary Elizebeth Friedman, America’s chief codebreaker during World War II, had an obstacle to overcome that most biographers don’t face: He had to learn cryptology, the art and science of secret writing. Fortunately, Fagon had a good teacher: Elizebeth Friedman herself. Friedman […]

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