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Patience, or how to suffer fools lightly

You’ve heard the expression, “He/She doesn’t suffer fools lightly.” It is almost always said as a compliment. But I wonder: Is it really a compliment? Is it a trait that we should want to develop? If you were a teacher, as I was for four decades, you had to put up with lots of fools. […]

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Kim Jung Gi, pen and ink artist extraordinary

If you don’t know about this guy or have never seen him in action, you should probably take a few minutes to watch. His name is Kim Jung Hi, and he is famous in the art world for his drawing performances. That’s right, performances. In front of an audience, he produces large, highly detailed, realistic […]

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The writer and the empire: who wins? The words win.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, during the 1970s, was a hero in the West because as a Russian writer, he chose to stand against the Soviet empire and expose its corruption and inhumanity. His weapon was a short novel titledA Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which recounted the experiences of a Russian man sentenced to a Soviet […]

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Literary deceptions, caricature, and a writer vs. an empire: newsletter, Dec. 14, 2018

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,967) on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.     Literary deceptions and caricatures (again) — those are the items we focus on in this week’s newsletter. But there more, too. When is it okay for an author to deceive readers? We have two instances […]

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Bret Harte’s big newspaper scoop

Before he became famous for his wild tales of the then New West, Bret Harte was a journalist and had broken one of the biggest stories of the era in pre-Civil War California. Born in 1836 in Albany, New York, Harte moved to California with his family when he was a teenager. He worked at […]

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Saul Bellow, a jerk and a determinedly great writer

Saul Bellow is one of the giants of 20th century American literature — a writer of the first order who could mesmerize the reader with his prose. Yet personally, he could be — and often was — a jerk, demanding, demeaning, and thoroughly foul-tempered. What’s a biographer to do? The answer comes from Zachery Leader, […]

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Joseph Priestly’s big writing idea, a winter’s read recommendation, and radio drama from the BBC: newsletter, Dec. 7, 2018

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,977) on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.     In light of the reduction of our beehives, which I reported last week, I have come across a couple of substantial articles about bees and insects in this environment. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance […]

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The Education of Little Tree – heartwarming tale or major league hoax?

It’s a heartwarming tale: a small Cherokee boy is raised by his aging grandparents and taught to love the land and be tolerant of others. It is “the way” of the Cherokee tribe, and the writing is simple, ironic, and at times hilarious. The Education of Little Tree was written not by a person raised […]

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Facebook’s public image deteriorates as more of its private actions come to light

After a scathing two-part documentary by Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline in October (The Facebook Dilemma, discussed in a JPROF.com post a couple of weeks ago), Facebook’s reputation as an idealist company that wants to change the world and do go continues to deteriorate. Here’s the lead paragraph from a New York Times story (Facebook Used […]

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Radio dramas from the BBC Radio 4

One of the great pleasures I had when I spent a couple of multi-month stretches in Great Britain in the 1970s (London for eight months and Edinburgh for seven) was listening to the radio — specifically BBC Radio 4. I didn’t have a television, but the radio dramas presented by the BBC more than satisfied my […]

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The British Library to present an exhibit on the history of writing in 2019 

The British Library will host an exhibit on the history of writing in April 2019. If you are going to be in London between April and August of next year, this would be one of those must-see events. Here’s how the library describes the exhibit: The story unfolds through more than 100 objects from the […]

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A recommendation for a winter read from LitHub: The Talented Mr. Ripley

As we head into the depths of winter — don’t worry, Christmas will be over soon, and then we’ll find ourselves there — Emily Temple, a senior editor at the excellent LitHub.com website has a good reading recommendation: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. It is, in my opinion, the perfect winter holiday book. It’s […]

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by Charles Turner, after  James Gillray, mezzotint, published 1819 (circa 1800)

James Gillray: puncturing the pompous with caricature

Caricature is fairly common today (even amateurs like me try their hand at it), but in the late 18th century, it was a newly developing form of art, as well as social and political communication. And no one was better at it — a set a higher standard for others of his and those who […]

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Bret Harte: object of Mark Twain’s praise and derision

Bret Harte probably deserves a higher station than the one he occupies in the pantheon of American letters. A big part of the reason he doesn’t have it lies with his one-time friend, Mark Twain. Twain had known Harte from their days in the West when Harte achieved national fame in writing about the tall […]

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Joseph Priestly and his Big (writing) Idea

Joseph Priestly, the Englishman we remember as a great scientist and the one who first discovered oxygen, was a writer before he was a scientist. And he was a writer with a Big Idea. Priestly (1733-1804) lived in an age when interest in “natural philosophy,” what we would call “science” today, had exploded, and people […]

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Sinclair Lewis and the Great American Freedom of travel

Few novelists have explored the American mind and character as deeply and perceptively as Sinclair Lewis, who in 1930 became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. The freedom of movement — the ability for Americans to travel — is, according to Lewis, one of the most important parts of the American […]

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A writer who didn’t want to be edited, the ‘real’ Moriarty, and your good words: newsletter, Nov. 23, 2018

  Thanks for the many emails about the words that we use and the ones we don’t hear enough. This week’s word, of course, is gratitude, in line with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans have celebrated this week. All of us have much to be thankful for. I do my best to remind myself of that […]

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Muriel Spark, the writer who couldn’t abide being edited

Muriel Spark, the author of 22 novels including The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, always wanted to be in full control of her writing, and once she achieved a measure of fame and recognition, she got it. She refused to be edited unless she could have the final say in the matter. Just as The Prime of Miss […]

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PBS Frontline confronts the Facebook Dilemma

Some people spend hours a day on Facebook; others have never seen it and actively avoid it. Some people have strongly partisan views, one way or another, which may color their view of Facebook. In my view, it doesn’t matter whether or not you “like” Facebook, or whether you are red or blue or any […]

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Ring Lardner, the Grand Review, and a book illustrator who had to keep apologizing; newsletter Nov. 16, 2018

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,014) on November 16, 2018 Oxford Dictionaries, I understand, has chosen the 2018 International Word of the Year: toxic. The choice, according to those who choose these things, reflects the general “ethos, mood or preoccupation” of the year as well as its widespread use as […]

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