Those who served in the United States military as enlisted men and women — particularly from World War II through Vietnam — have a particular affinity for Bill Mauldin. Mauldin was an artist whose cartoons depicted, with brilliant perception, brutal honesty, and insightful humor, the life of the everyday “grunt,” the guy who dug the ditches, […]
Webster, Chesterton, a World War II hero, and a clock that hasn’t quit for 600 years: newsletter, Oct. 26, 2018
This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,045) on October 19, 2018 This week you will meet a couple of “colossal geniuses,” one from the 19th century and the other from the 20th. You probably know of these guys: Noah Webster and G.K. Chesterton. I’ll admit I had heard of both, but I never knew much about either. […]
G.K. Chesterton, the great British author of the early 20th century, liked detective stories, read them, and wrote them. He had the formula down pat. It went like this: The bones and structure of a good detective story are so old and well known that it may seem banal to state them even in outline. […]
Noah Webster was a difficult man living in a difficult time. In 1806, when he published the first edition of his dictionary, it was judged not for its content but by for the political positions of the author. Webster was a Federalist, but he had with Republican attitudes about the language Americans spoke. Because of his apostasy, […]
You probably have a sundial or two still laying around the house. Well, it’s probably time to let the garbage guys (and gals) carry it away. Mechanical clocks are here, and they’re not going away. That could have been the message to the people of Salisbury, England, in 1386 when the mechanical clock was installed in […]
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 […]
Joachim Ronneberg, like so many other courageous individuals during World War II, tried to do what he could to fight off the Nazi invasion and oppression of his nation. He didn’t mean to become a hero. But that’s what happened. In 1943, Ronneberg and eight fellow resistance fighters skied across the Telemark pine forest, mostly […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.). […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
In this week’s newsletter
Read about Joseph Priestly's big writing idea, Facebook's continuing troubles, and drama from the BBC's Radio 4.
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