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Heads and Tales: Caricatures and Stories of the Famous, the Infamous, and the Just Plain Interesting

My latest literary and artistic efforts are coming to fruition in the next couple of weeks with the publication of a new book: Heads and Tales: Caricatures and Stories of the Famous, the Infamous, and the Just Plain Interesting. The book will be in paperback and ebook form, but it will be accompanied but something new: […]

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Lawrence Block, a writer both prolific and successful

When an intelligent but smart-alecky High School junior got his English composition assignment in a 1943 Buffalo High School, he decided to treat it like the intelligent but smart-alecky kid he was. He would make some fun of it. The assignment was to write about his own career possibilities. He wrote about all of us […]

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Susan Glaspell, a not-quite-forgotten feminist writer

John Hossack, a well-to-do farmer near Indianola, Iowa, was attacked with an ax while he slept in his bed on the night of Dec. 1, 1900. His wife, Margaret, was in bed beside him but said she heard nothing of the intruders who did it until they were in another part of the house. Margaret, […]

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Louis Braille and a new way of reading and writing

January should not escape us without noting that it is Braille Literacy Month. No name is more associated with reading and writing by the blind than that of Louis Braille. Braille’s method of writing so that the blind could read was not the first such system, however. Another system of writing and reading prevailed and was well […]

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Susan Glaspell, a forgotten feminist writer, and Lawrence Block, successful and prolific: newsletter, January 15, 2021

  A common saying among woodworkers – one you have probably heard – is “measure twice, cut once.” That saying counsels us to be careful. But there is another saying that is less well-known and maybe just as important: “Let the tools do the work.” What that saying tells us is that sometimes we can […]

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Benjamin West and his iconic painting, Dickens on the police, and the surprising author of The Queen’s Gambit: newsletter, January 8, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, January 8, 2021. Many people, with good reason, are not fans of January and February. Those months are part of the “bleak midwinter,” which features colder temperatures, shorter days, and a dearth of vegetation.  For the landscape artist (I confess to occupy in a […]

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Reader on a bench

Happy New Year, a great female Restoration writer, journalism drives through Crazytown, and more 2020 review: newsletter, January 1, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, January 1, 2021.   Happy new year. During this time of year, we often hear the word “resolutions,” and we may be encouraged to “make resolutions.” Possibly like many of you, I have found that making resolutions is frustrating and ultimately unproductive. […]

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Edward Hoch, grand master for the mystery short story

When you talk about the Agatha Christies and the Ross McDonalds of the world — the great mystery and detective fiction writers of the 20th century — you probably don’t think of Edward W. Hoch (pronounced Hoke). That’s too bad because his fiction should be listed among the pantheon of the greats. The problem with […]

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Hoch’s Ladies

Throughout Edward Hoch’s long and prolific writing career as a mystery short story writer, he developed many recurring main characters, as we noted in last week’s newsletter. Most of these characters were male. A few, however – three to be exact – were female, and they are worth noting in and of themselves. In fact, […]

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Aphra Behn: a marginalized voice restored

She is thought to have been the first woman to make her living purely by writing. But that one fact — whether or not it is actually true — does not do justice to the person or to the work of Aphra Behn. Behn lived from 1640 to 1689, a time known as the Restoration […]

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Charles Dickens and his manipulation of the language

Few writers in the history of English literature are as read, recognized, and quoted as Charles Dickens. He gave us our more most recognized secular Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, one that we cannot escape during the Christmas season. Dickens planted indelibly in our brains characters such as Martin Chuzzlewit and David Copperfield. The dialogue he […]

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Playing the cello

Dickens manipulates, we review, and readers react: Merry Christmas: newsletter, December 25, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, December 25, 2020.   Merry Christmas. Part of the genius of the Christmas story is that it is about a baby. There is something about a baby that calls forth the depth and the best of our Humanity. Human babies are the […]

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Graham Greene, the BBC, and the death of John le Carré, plus more sketchbook pages: newsletter, December 18, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,4xx) on Friday, December 18, 2020.     With the death of John le Carré (see below) last weekend, my thoughts immediately turned back to the last couple of newsletters where I profiled Erskine Childers. In two different parts of the 20th century, these two writers did pretty […]

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Graham Greene goes inside his novels

In Graham Greene’s 1951 novel The End Of The Affair, one of the three main characters, the narrator, is a novelist who lives in the Clapham section of London (as Greene did). The novel is told non-sequentially and takes place both before and after World War II. Green’s novelist has had an affair with the wife […]

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What they are saying about John le Carré

With the publication of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in 1963, John le Carré redirected the genre of espionage fiction away from the fanciful world of James Bond to the moral grayness of people such as Alec Leamas and ultimately George Smiley. And while James Bond was lots of fun, George Smiley […]

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Rebecca Harding Davis and the beginnings of American realism

If you know anything about journalism history, you probably know the name Richard Harding Davis. He was a reporter in the early 20th century known for his coverage of the Spanish-American Wa, the Boer War, and the beginnings of World War I. He was also one of the most handsome men of his day. His […]

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Playing the cello2

The woman at the start of American realism, the women of Edward Hoch, and the death of Erskine Childers: newsletter, December 11, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,4xx) on Friday, December 11, 2020. No room in the inn. Anyone familiar with the Christmas nativity story has heard the phrase “no room in the inn.“ The phrase is a short explanation for why Jesus was born in a stable, but over the centuries […]

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Erskine Childers’ extraordinary life and death (part 2)

After the publication of The Riddle of the Sands in 1903, Erskine Childers could have settled in to a literary and possibly a political life in London. The book had achieved astonishing success and popularity. The book had also become an important part of the ongoing debate in England at the time about the nation’s […]

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Charles Lindbergh

Unity and the lack thereof – American style

In the immediate aftermath of political campaigns, the winner (and sometimes even the loser) appeals for “unity,” which often means in real-speak, “I want you to agree with me now that I am in power.” Such appeals, possibly well-meant, rarely have much effect on either supporters or opponents. But it sounds good, and it’s expected. […]

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The flute player

Ed Hoch’s short stories, another presidential memoir, and something new from Vietnam Voices: newsletter, November 27, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,489) on Friday, November 27, 2020. The small farm where I live is blessed with hundreds of feet of fencerows. They stretch past the barn and around the pasture and by the garden. And they have been neglected for many years. That means that the […]

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