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Graham Greene, the BBC, and the death of John le Carré, plus more sketchbook pages: newsletter, December 18, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,4xx) on Friday, December 18, 2020.     With the death of John le Carré (see below) last weekend, my thoughts immediately turned back to the last couple of newsletters where I profiled Erskine Childers. In two different parts of the 20th century, these two writers did pretty […]

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The controversies of the BBC

Americans who watch a lot of British television shows (and they would include me) are sometimes awestruck by the fact of the British Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as the BBC. The programs that we see coming from the BBC are interesting, thoughtful, and well-produced and often make American programming look shallow and superficial. Why, we […]

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GrahamGreene

Graham Greene goes inside his novels

In Graham Greene’s 1951 novel The End Of The Affair, one of the three main characters, the narrator, is a novelist who lives in the Clapham section of London (as Greene did). The novel is told non-sequentially and takes place both before and after World War II. Green’s novelist has had an affair with the wife […]

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JohnLecarre

What they are saying about John le Carré

With the publication of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in 1963, John le Carré redirected the genre of espionage fiction away from the fanciful world of James Bond to the moral grayness of people such as Alec Leamas and ultimately George Smiley. And while James Bond was lots of fun, George Smiley […]

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RebeccaHardingDavis

Rebecca Harding Davis and the beginnings of American realism

If you know anything about journalism history, you probably know the name Richard Harding Davis. He was a reporter in the early 20th century known for his coverage of the Spanish-American Wa, the Boer War, and the beginnings of World War I. He was also one of the most handsome men of his day. His […]

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Playing the cello2

The woman at the start of American realism, the women of Edward Hoch, and the death of Erskine Childers: newsletter, December 11, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,4xx) on Friday, December 11, 2020. No room in the inn. Anyone familiar with the Christmas nativity story has heard the phrase “no room in the inn.“ The phrase is a short explanation for why Jesus was born in a stable, but over the centuries […]

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Charles Lindbergh

Unity and the lack thereof – American style

In the immediate aftermath of political campaigns, the winner (and sometimes even the loser) appeals for “unity,” which often means in real-speak, “I want you to agree with me now that I am in power.” Such appeals, possibly well-meant, rarely have much effect on either supporters or opponents. But it sounds good, and it’s expected. […]

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A look inside my caricatures sketchbooks

Most artists (and people like me who are working at it) keep a sketchbook. It’s a place where they can try out ideas that they may have to bring to fruition on a canvas or a piece of watercolor paper. As such, sketchbooks are not generally considered things for public viewing. A lot of what […]

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The flute player

Ed Hoch’s short stories, another presidential memoir, and something new from Vietnam Voices: newsletter, November 27, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,489) on Friday, November 27, 2020. The small farm where I live is blessed with hundreds of feet of fencerows. They stretch past the barn and around the pasture and by the garden. And they have been neglected for many years. That means that the […]

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Paul Scofield

Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell: the shifting literary views of each man

Few historical figures can claim as many major literary executions and resurrections as Thomas More, venerated saint of the Roman Catholic Church, who was, in real life, executed by Henry VIII in 1536 for his refusal to sign the Oath of Supremacy. That oath would have acknowledged the king, rather than the Pope, as head of the […]

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BarackObama012009-3

The latest in the uncrowded genre of Presidential Memoirs 

The presidential memoir is a publishing genré into which only a few can legitimately enter — although it might be fun to see some imaginative writer pen a fictional presidential memoir that qualified in some other genré, such as a detective story. (The term “fictional presidential memoir” might set some of you wags thinking, “Redundancy?” […]

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The Flute Player copy

The call for unity, a defense of Thomas More, and more about Abe: newsletter, November 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,495) on Friday, November 20, 2020.     Thanksgiving is approaching, and I have always particularly enjoyed our national season of gratitude. It is important that we acknowledge what we have been given, even during a year when all of us have seen our lives […]

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Sunday morning

More on William Seward, another walk through the Golden Age, and writing like a rifle: newsletter, November 13, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, November 13, 2020. Some people cook and bake. Some people collect. Some make things. Some draw and paint, some listen (to music, etc.), some watch (birds, airplanes, insects, old movies, etc.), some read. The list could go on and on, of course. […]

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Early voting

William Seward, voting, Vietnam Voices, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, November 6, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, November 6, 2020.   There are those of us who are wondering if the fevered political season will ever end. An interesting novel is sometimes a good antidote. I’m reading a couple now: Ian Rankin’s In a House of Lies and Ian McGuire’s The Abstainer. […]

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Candice Millard, through her own struggle, finds her real story

When Candace Millard was researching and writing her best-selling River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, she had to navigate her own river of doubt, which eventually helped her better understand what her real story was Millard was pregnant with her second child in 2005, she got a phone call from her doctor saying something […]

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First cup at sunrise

The unknown Jacques Futrelle, Drew Pearson (part 2), and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, October 30, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, October 30, 2020. Back to the (Zoom) Future. In the last few days, I attended a poetry reading of a friend’s new book on Facebook; I helped another friend launch a book on Zoom; and I attended a memorial service on YouTube​ for a friend […]

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Delicate touch

Political debates and a few thoughts about the election, Harold Bloom on reading, and a century of Christie: newsletter, October 23, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, October 23, 2020.   Political debates in this country have never been especially uplifting affairs. Even the iconic Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 (see below) are remembered because they introduced Abraham Lincoln to the nation rather than for their soaring rhetoric and sweeping […]

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LeeChild

Lee Child, Jack Reacher and their biographer

Several years ago I found myself in the mystery/thriller section of a local bookstore, standing next to a man who was looking intently at a shelf of Lee Child’s books. “I’m trying to see if they have the latest Jack Reacher novel,” he said, unnecessarily explaining himself. “If you haven’t read any of them, you […]

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JohnLothropMotley

The writing of Hans Brinker, Gayle Lynd’s long journey, and a Walter Mosley short story: newsletter, September 25, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,521) on Friday, September 25, 2020.   The year continues to bring its oddities. Major League Baseball is finishing its shortened season this week and will begin playoffs next week. The configuration is like no other, and I won’t try to explain it. I’m not […]

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WalterMosley

Mosley wins distinguished contribution medal from the National Book Foundation

Noted: this from the Washington Post: Walter Mosley has been named winner of the 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. He is the first Black man to win the foundation’s $10,000 lifetime achievement award, which was first awarded in 1988. The author of more than 60 books, Mosley […]

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