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The mysteries of Eleanor Taylor Bland, the firing of Dorothy Parker, and reader reactions: newsletter, February 14, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,617) on Friday, February 14, 2020. Two forces overwhelmed me at the end of last week. The good one was a higher-than-usual number of emails from you readers that I always find enlightening, fascinating, and thoughtful. Some of them were fairly lengthy, and that’s a good […]

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Science fiction’s first Hugo, assassinating the PM Mantel-style, Stephen Fry’s podcast, and reader reaction: newsletter, January 31, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,617) on Friday, January 31, 2020.     Death, unfortunately, is much in mind this week as we hear the tragic news of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the others who perished in a helicopter accident earlier this week. I knew who Kobe Bryant was […]

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Hilary Mantel, Margaret Thatcher, and the story of an assassination that didn’t happen

On a Saturday in the middle of 1983, author Hilary Mantel looked out of the bedroom window of her flat in Windsor, west of London, and saw something she never expected to see: Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wandering around the garden of a nearby hospital. Thatcher was by herself, and Mantel could see her clearly. […]

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Patricia Highsmith and her first job as a writer

Patricia Highsmith achieved international fame in the mid to late 20th century for her deeply psychological and suspenseful novels and short stories that often took the reader into a world of violence. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train (1950), cemented her reputation when Alfred Hitchcock made it into an award-winning movie.  Her Repliad series, […]

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The library of Ashurbanipal, Obama’s audacity of hope, and Highsmith’s first job: newsletter, January 10, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,632) on Friday, January 10, 2020.   One of the post-Christmas-New-Year’s gifts I gave myself was Tom Richmond’s book, The Mad Art of Caricature, and it is both delightful and informative. If you remember Mad Magazine (or still read it), you would know that Richmond is one […]

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Rose O’Neill, creator of the Kewpie doll and the richest illustrator of her time

In 1887 when she was 13, Rose O’Neill entered a drawing contest sponsored by the Omaha World-Herald. Her entry was by far the best submission, and she was declared the winner. But there was a problem. Some of the editors did not believe that the drawing was original. It was too good, and they thought […]

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Candice Millard finds her real story, the demise of the death penalty, and Vietnam in fiction: newsletter, December 27, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,646) on Friday, December 27, 2019.   We are in the midst of the holiday season with plenty of song, food, beverage, and fellowship. I hope that we all (especially me) can take a few moments for those who aren’t so blessed. Actions on behalf […]

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Martha Gelhorn and the wars of the 20th century, parkour considered, and plenty of reader reaction: newsletter, December 20, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, December 20, 2019.    Readers of this newsletter know that I am partial to good stories, especially when they are true; they involve writers and journalists; and they are women. We hit the trifecta this week with some good stuff about Martha Gelhorn, who is often […]

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Mary Beard, every Latin word, and the author accused of fraud: newsletter, December 6, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, December 6, 2019. The week after Thanksgiving is a time filled with shopping both in stores and online. Many retail establishments depend on this time to make up for loses incurred by staying open during the rest of the year. In addition, […]

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Emma Hart Willard and the concept of ‘visual learning’

Long before the term “visual learning” came into being, Emma Hart Willard knew what it meant and how important it was. So important, she believed, that constructing the tools to put it into effect was well worth time and effort. In 1846, she drew a chart titled The Temple of Time (below) in which she attempted […]

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J.K. Rowling on the importance of reading to writing

The paragraph below comes from J.K. Rowling‘s website, so if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll want to check out the site and especially this page. This is especially for younger writers. You can’t be a good writer without being a devoted reader. Reading is the best way of analysing what makes a good book. […]

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How Mildred Wirt became Carolyn Keene – and changed the culture

If you were a young reader, you know that Carolyn Keene wrote the Nancy Drew mysteries. And if you remained aware of that into adulthood, chances are that you found out that Carolyn Keene didn’t exist. So who was Carolyn Keene? The creator of Nancy Drew was Edward Stratemeyer, about whom we have written before […]

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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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Emma Lazarus and the huddled masses

We remember Emma Lazarus — if we remember her name at all — for one thing: the poem “The New Colossus,” which is inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The two lines from that poem are two that most of us can repeat: “Give me your tired, your poor, […]

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Carver’s rules for life, dethroning King Apostrophe, the author that Agatha Christie ‘remembered’: newsletter, July 12, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, July 12, 2019. {% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} The honey harvest was completed last weekend at the Stovall house, and we gathered almost eight gallons of honey from three hives, […]

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Antonia Fraser’s writing day

Fortunately for writer and historian Lady Antonia Fraser, she was pronounced as “uppity” when she was a girl attending convent school. The nuns, for some reason she doesn’t specify, didn’t like her. They decided to punish by making her spend her Saturday mornings learning to touch type. “In consequence,” she writes, “I’m a touch typist […]

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Julia Ward Howe’s not so perfect marriage

When the Battle Hymn of the Republic’s stirring lines were first published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862, Julia Ward Howe seemed ideally position to receive the fame and accolades that she was about to receive for her poem. She was the mother of six children, and she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, […]

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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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HallieRubenhold 1

Who was Jack the Ripper? That’s not the important question

Who was Jack the Ripper — possibly the most famous murderer in history? Decades of evidence and speculation have surrounded that question and provided no definitive answer. But for Hallie Rubenhold, author of the recently-published The Five, that’s not the important question. The really important question is this: Who were his victims? We know their […]

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