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Alfred Lord Tennyson1

A newspaper story becomes a famous poem, the domestic troubles of a famous poet, and a cure for our civil ills: newsletter, June 21, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,769) on Friday, June 21, 2019. The local library where I live — the Blount County Public Library — continues its vital work despite the county commission’s threat of underfunding its operation. The funding issues should be resolved in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Blount County Friends […]

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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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The solution to the things that divide us: ‘Love Your Enemies’

The New York Times has recently reviewed a book that I have not read but whose title I certainly agree with: Love Your Enemies. The book is by Arthur C. Brooks, who is among other things the former director of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C. The author of the review […]

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fountain pen

The fountain pen – the first portable writing instrument

For the first time in many months, I decided last week to make a fountain pen — not a ballpoint, which is what I usually do — on my lathe. During much of my working life, I used a fountain pen because I liked the feel of it and because I felt the writing was […]

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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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GeorgeOrwell-caricature

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed.” Or maybe not.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”  This quotation is currently making the rounds on the web, especially on Facebook, and it is being attributed to the writer George Orwell. The quotation has various iterations — such as “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else […]

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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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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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Getting away with murder in the U.S.? It may be easier than you think

If you are planning to commit a murder (don’t do it!) in America and you’re a bit clever and a bit lucky, you have a pretty good shot at getting away with it. That’s the conclusion you are led to when you read the Murder Accountability Project’s “Why We Exist” page, which begins this way: […]

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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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HanVanMeegeren

Han van Meegeren: His Vermeers fooled everyone (part 2)

In May 1945 Dutch artist Han Van Meegeren found himself on top of the work. The war was over, the Nazis were gone, and he was a rich and famous man. He was about to take a steep tumble. It started with a visit to his studio by members of the Allied Art Commission who […]

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MountainMill

Robert Louis Stevenson and the birth of Treasure Island

  Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson’s great novel for young readers, sprang from a single sheet drawing he made while spending an afternoon with his stepson Lloyd in the summer of 1881. They were living in Scotland at the time, and a summer rain had confined Lloyd to the house. He spent that time in […]

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WilliamManchester

Five of the biggest writing mistakes, from  Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula

Mark Dawson is one of the most successful and prominent authors in the independent publishing world, and his Self Publishing Formula, which provides a vast amount of information and training on how to get into the business and stay there, has become a must-have resource. One part of the resource is a blog about independent […]

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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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SherwoodAnderson

Sherwood Anderson and the revolution in 20th century American literature

Sometimes librarians get it wrong — at least, initially. Sherwood Anderson, the author of the classic Winesburg, Ohio, was from the small town of Clyde, Ohio, and used that small town as the source of the novel. When it was first published, 100 years ago this week, it was praised by a few and panned […]

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EdgarAllanPoe

Poems and Paintings — the videos

I have posted two more videos of poetry and painting this week, and I have a request of you faithful newsletter readers: I plan to continue doing these for a while — they’re lots of fun — but I need a name for the series. Poetry and Painting just doesn’t do it for me, and I’m looking […]

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Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Marie Antionette’s favorite artist and the woman who changed portrait painting (part 2)

When Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun fled Paris with her small daughter in October 1789, she felt that her life might be in danger — and she was probably right. Élisabeth had been the unofficial portraitist for the French royal family. She had painted more than 50 portraits of them and was most especially noted for her paintings […]

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440px-Self-portrait_in_a_Straw_Hat_by_Elisabeth-Louise_Vigée-Lebrun

Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Marie Antionette’s favorite artist and the woman who changed portrait painting (part 1)

Élisabeth Vigée (later Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun) painted her first exhibited portrait sometime before 1770 — a picture of her younger brother Étienne Vigée, who would later become a playwright and man of letters. She had not yet reached her fifteenth birthday. Élisebeth’s early life was one of extraordinary good fortune. — She had a […]

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440px-Self-portrait_in_a_Straw_Hat_by_Elisabeth-Louise_Vigée-Lebrun

Marie Antionette’s female portraitist, videos, Mendelssohn, and the battle of Antietam: newsletter, April 26, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,830) on Friday, April 26, 2019.   This week a few folks — millions, in fact — celebrated World Book Day (April 23), an event begun in the 1990s by the United Nations to commemorate and recognize the importance of books to our world. One part of […]

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