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Teddy Roosevelt: "I am DEE-lighted."

One of TR’s many foes: the banana peel

Before Theodore Roosevelt battled the Spanish on San Juan Hill, before he fought the trusts in Congress, he had a more obscure but just as dangerous arch-enemy: the banana peel. Roosevelt was police commissioner of New York City in the 1890s when there was little or no garbage service. People simply threw their garbage in […]

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JohnWesley1

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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Joseph Campbell: beginning at the library

If you have studied anything about the art of  — storytelling — you have run headlong into the name and work of Joseph Campbell. Campbell made the study of stories, their structure, and their purpose the focus of his life, and his 1949 book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, is still considered a seminal […]

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The demise of ‘Mad’ magazine – and the nation that it satirized

Many laments were sounded out earlier this summer with DCComics’ announcement that it would no longer be producing Mad magazine with any original content. Typical of those is Jeet Heer‘s article in The Nation magazine: Mad was often rude, tasteless, and childish—which made it all the more potent as a tributary of youth culture. The […]

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BobConsidine1

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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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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Living well: 25 paths toward that goal

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 of living well, give us 25 things we should do and give serious consideration to […]

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Guns, mental illness, missed signals: David Krajicek goes inside the minds of men who murder

David Krajicek, who writes a true-crime column for the New York Daily News, has published a book that attempts to get inside the minds of those who kill a lot of people: mass murderers. The book is titled Mass Killers: Inside the Minds of Men Who Murder, and to write it Krajicek looked at the writings and […]

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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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JimBouton1

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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Yearningtobreathefree

Summer reading, the huddled masses, ALA’s ‘most challenged’ list, and more: newsletter, July 19, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,727) on Friday, July 19, 2019. Two of the history tomes that I am working my way through this summer are Rick Atkisson’s The British Are Coming and Nigel Hamilton’s The Mantle of Command: FDR at War 1941-42. Both are first volumes of trilogies, one that examines the […]

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EmmaLazarus

Emma Lazarus and the huddled masses

We remember Emma Lazarus — if we remember her name at all — for one thing: the poem “The New Colossus,” which is inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The two lines from that poem are two that most of us can repeat: “Give me your tired, your poor, […]

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Carver’s rules for life, dethroning King Apostrophe, the author that Agatha Christie ‘remembered’: newsletter, July 12, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, July 12, 2019. {% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} The honey harvest was completed last weekend at the Stovall house, and we gathered almost eight gallons of honey from three hives, […]

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GeorgeWashingtonCarver1

George Washington Carver’s rules for living a good life

The great scientist and agronomist George Washington Carver developed some simply formulated rules for living that he presented to his students. They’re worth passing on to you. Be clean both inside and out. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor. Lose, if need be, without squealing. Win without bragging. Always be […]

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Writing the national anthem, ripping off Dickens, publishing a Civil War memoir: newsletter, July 5, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,747) on Friday, July 5, 2019. I hope that everyone in America (and elsewhere) is having a happy Fourth of July and its aftermath. In America, we celebrate with fireworks, ice cream, baseball, cherry pie, cookouts, and just about anything else we can think of […]

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AntoniaFraser

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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bookstack3

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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Is it time to dethrone King Apostrophe?

As a member of the Realm of the Apostrophe, you should stand up and declare your position. Are you loyal to our little king (“the squiggly one,” we affectionately call it), trying to follow all the confusing rules put out by his courtiers? Or are you one of a growing number of apostates, planning a […]

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AntoniaFraser

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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JuliaWardHowe

Julia Ward Howe’s not so perfect marriage

When the Battle Hymn of the Republic’s stirring lines were first published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862, Julia Ward Howe seemed ideally position to receive the fame and accolades that she was about to receive for her poem. She was the mother of six children, and she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, […]

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