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Henry Timberlake1

Henry Timberlake, his adventure and his sad end, part 2

When Henry Timberlake floated from the Holston River into the Tennessee in December 1761 and saw a small band of Cherokees on the bank, his first emotion was fear. He was in the middle of a harrowing journey where he had come close to freezing to death, starving, and being eaten by a bear. He […]

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Joseph Emerson Worcester1

A better lexicographer than Webster, tools of the fiction writer, and what we think we see: newsletter, September 6, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,674) on Friday, September 6, 2019. Summer has drifted into September in East Tennessee with the temperatures unduly hot and the land remaining dry. Despite that, the bees seem to be thriving. We have been feeding them since July when we took our share of […]

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Joseph Emerson Worcester1

Joseph Emerson Worcester produced a better dictionary than Noah Webster

If any American name is associated with dictionaries, it is Noah Webster. The name we should remember, however, is Joseph Emerson Worcester. Webster, whom I wrote about last year, made a fortune by producing the Blue Back Speller and by his determination, in the early days of the Republic, to produce a dictionary that put […]

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What we see, and what we think we see

One of my favorite artists — and YouTube video star — is James Gurney, who produces amazing paintings on-site (plein-air is the artistic term) and videos the process so that he can share them with his thousands of subscribers. Gurney also has a website on which something new appears just about every day. This past […]

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The Grapes of Wrath, written in 100 days, by a man with a mission

It took John Steinbeck less than 100 days in 1937 to write one of the 20th century’s great novels, The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck was a writer and resident of Salinas, California, at the time. It was a town located near a migrant worker camp, and Steinbeck had witnessed the poverty, degradation, and oppression of those […]

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Women and true crime: a new book examines the archetypes

True crime fascinates many of us, but are women more drawn to it than men? Yes, says journalist Rachel Monroe, who has recently authored a book examining in-depth case studies of four archetypes: Detective, Victim, Defender, and Killer. The book is Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession. Monroe was recently interviewed […]

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RobertSherwood1

Robert Sherwood, wordman for FDR

When Franklin Roosevelt was president during World War II, the words he spoke publicly took on a heightened importance and had to be weighed carefully. When he had to give a speech or a radio address, he turned to the people he trusted the most to help him weigh those words. One of the people […]

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‘In Cold Blood’ murderers may have committed a similar crime in Florida

Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Smith murdered four members of a Kansas family — Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon Clutter — in November 1959. Their crime, for which they were both hanged in 1965, was the subject of Truman Capote‘s most famous book, In Cold Blood. In Cold Blood became iconic because, after extensive interviews […]

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Henry Timberlake, his adventure and his sad end (part 1)

Henry Timberlake‘s short life came to a sad end. He died in 1765 in debtor’s prison in London, there because of some unfortunate but well-meaning decisions and some truly bad luck. He was somewhere between 30 and 35 years. We’re not exactly sure when he was born. We probably wouldn’t remember Timberlake at all except […]

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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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