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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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The teenage revolutionary, Cold War spies, Potterheads, and the writing of a sentence: newsletter, October 12, 2018

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,079) on October 12, 2018 The workshop on self-publishing that I conducted for the Blount County Public Library was well attended and lots of fun for me. The participants had much information and many ideas, and they were not shy about sharing it. Self-publishing (I […]

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William Davies: How feelings took over the world

Those of us concerned about the increasing irrationality of civic life and public debate –the denial of expertise, the “fake news” canards, the rush to believe rather than to examine, etc. — should pay some attention to why we have come to this state. William Davies, a sociologist whose next book is –, has a […]

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Wendell Berry: begin with natural resources and local cultures

If you aren’t familiar with Wendell Berry, poet, essayist, and most of all farmer, this article by Gracy Olmstead in the New York Times is a good introduction, and you should take your time and read it. Berry is an ecologist who has long been critical of the way in which we farm. Mr. Berry […]

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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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Scientists discover what they believe is the oldest known drawing by human hands Discovered in South African Cave

Seven red marks resided in a cave in South Africa for about 73,000 years until a few years ago when rocks from the cave were extracted for examination. Now scientists believe they are the oldest drawings yet discovered that were made by humans. They are about the side of two thumbnails, and what they mean, […]

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George Orwell, Joe Moran, and the complexity of the problem of writing a good sentence 

Joe Moran, an English prof in Liverpool, whose book First You Write a Sentence: The Elements of Reading, Writing … and Life has been well received and reviewed, has written a marvelous essay on the sentence for The Guardian. He begins it using the words and thoughts of George Orwell, who thought deeply about the use of […]

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Ben Macintrye: another spy tale by the master of the genre

 Ben Macintyre has done it again. His genre is 20th-century spycraft and espionage, and he had told some thrilling tales. (Operation Mincemeat, A Spy Among Friends, Agent Zigzag, Double Cross; see his Amazon author page) Now he’s got another one — the story of Oleg Gordievsky’s betrayal of his KGB masters and the Soviet Union […]

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JosephPlumbMartin

The American Revolution from the common soldier’s point of view: Joseph Plumb Martin

Joseph Plumb Martin, an otherwise quiet New England farmer in the first half of the 19th century, did three remarkable things in his life: — He lived to be 90 years old, dying in 1850. — He wrote and published his memoirs, to little acclaim, when he was 70 years old in 1830. — He […]

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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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A member of the Dutch resistance and an assassin – at 14 years old

The world weighed in on Freddie Oversteegen when she was barely a teenager. Freddie, along with her sister Truus and a  friend, Hannie Schaft, fought back against that world. It was the world that Nazi Germany imposed on The Netherlands when it invaded and brutally opposed that country in 1940. The girls began engaging in […]

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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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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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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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Bob Woodward talks about his use of anonymous sources for his reporting

Using anonymous sources has always been a controversial practice in journalism for many generations. In an interview with the New York Times’ podcast The Daily, Bob Woodward, who has been breaking important stories for nearly 50 years in Washington, talks about his use of anonymous sources for his reporting. Bob Woodward on Trump, Nixon and Anonymity […]

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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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Cades Cove in winter, watercolor

Appalachian language and other myths about the region

You’ve probably heard this rural legend (as opposed to urban legend): The people of Appalachia speak a dialect of English that harkens back to the English of Chaucer; it’s older even than the English of Shakespeare. No, they don’t. Just as everyone else’s English has done, the English of rural Appalachia has constantly evolved and […]

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Left-brain-right-brain: Time to get a new theory

You probably run into the left-brain-right-brain theory of behavior a lot, as I do. It’s undoubtedly a popular way to explain why people are different. The left side of the brain is the analytical side; the right is the creative side. Or maybe I have that backward. Anyway, one side is supposed to be dominant, […]

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