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SeymourHersh

Spending his life as a ‘Reporter’: Seymour Hersh 

My Lai. If you know anything at all about the war in Vietnam, you know this word. It was the village where more than 100 unarmed civilians were killed by American soldiers during a 1968 offensive. The word has taken on literal and symbolic meaning. We might not know the word at all if it […]

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The life of Ulysses Grant: ending with a triumph

Ulysses S. Grant lived a life of devastating defeats and mind-boggling triumphs. As such, he gives biographers a rich mine of material to work with. The latest biographer, Ron Chernow, seems to have done fairly with the material of Grant’s life, according to the book’s critics. One such critic is David Blight, an American History […]

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The president and the detective novel – a continuing love story

The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Coming to your physical and digital bookstore in June. Watch for it. Pre-order from Amazon if you like. This won’t be the first time that a president has ventured into the mystery/detective/thriller genre, as Clay Fehrman points out in an interesting and enlightening article in […]

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Dostoyevsky and the current ‘true-crime’ craze 

Interest in true-crime and the justice system is not a new thing. It dates back to Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who was a victim of the judiciary system of his time. That’s the view of Jennifer Wilson, who has an interesting article in the New York Times: Dostoyevsky was obsessed with the judiciary. He spent […]

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LouisaMayAlcott

Louisa May Alcott, journalist

Louisa May Alcott, author of the classic of American literature Little Women, was for a brief time in her life Louisa May Alcott, journalist. Despite the picture presented in her famous novel, Alcott’s childhood and formative years were anything but idyllic. Her family was always on the edge of poverty, and her father, Bronson Alcott, […]

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Farewell, Philip Roth; Mencken on the language; how we got Sherlock, and more: newsletter, May 25, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,081) on May 25, 2018   Thanks to all who wrote or commented on Facebook about the dulcimer that I made and showed off in last week’s newsletter. I am going to start on another one before long. Sadly, for the second week in a […]

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Roth-head

Philip Roth, 1933-2018

The death of Philip Roth on Tuesday (May 22) removes one of the great names from the living giants of American letters. In fact, many consider him to be the last of those giants, and they may well be right. Obituaries in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other publications have praised and […]

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800px-Monet_-_Impression,_Sunrise

Impressionism — at first, it wasn’t a compliment

The Impressionists didn’t start out trying to be impressionists. They began in France in the 1870s as a group of painters who did not like the way that the French cultural czars controlled what the public saw. The French academics dictated that paintings should take on a certain look and that they should be executed […]

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Mr. Whicher

Criticizing the police, from the very beginning

Criticizing the police and their methods — and defending them — has never been out of fashion. It’s been part of the social fabric since the Metropolitan Police Force was officially organized in London in 1829 by Sr. Robert Peel. In America, the criticisms often involve race. In Great Britain of the 19th century, the […]

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Tom Wolfe, the reporter with the right stuff

Few journalists manage to do what Tom Wolfe did, both with his words and his approach. Wolfe, who died Wednesday at age 88, pioneered in the 1960s an approach to journalism that became known as The New Journalism. What that involved was intensive reporting — not a five-question interview with a couple of ready sources, […]

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Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft, the first modern feminist

Chances are, you may never have heard of Mary Wollstonecraft. If so, that’s too bad — both for you and for her. Wollstonecraft, an English writer, lived in the 18th century (1759-1797) and had a great deal of misfortune, both in her life and at her death. She died at the age of 38 after […]

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Wittenberg in 1536

Martin Luther sparked the Reformation, and along with it, the printing industry

Most people who know about Luther understand how important printing — which was still in its fledgling stages — was to the spread of Luther’s ideas. But the relationship of Luther’s ideas and printing is much more than coincidental. It was symbiotic.

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Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov on thinking and writing clearly

In his 72 years (1920-1992), he wrote or edited more than 500 books and as many as 90,000 letters and postcards. An asteroid, a crater on Mars, and an elementary school in Brooklyn are named after him.

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MrShakespeare

Folger Shakespeare Library podcast interviews author of recent book on a newly discovered Shakespeare source

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. has an interesting podcast with June Schlueter and Dennis McCarthy. These authors were mentioned in a post on JPROF.com in February (and also in Jim’s newsletter) about a newly discovered source for William Shakespeare. How they discovered this source is as interesting as what they discovered. McCarthy is an […]

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MrDarwin

Charles Darwin’s plan for Origin of Species – and his luck

Darwin’s basic marketing plan, according to Johnson, was to let others promote the book while never appearing to do so himself. He planned to be drafted into immortality. And so he was.

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Charles Darwin

The three fears of Charles Darwin and the writing of The Origin of Species

Two of them slowed his writing down. He feared that his work would be dismissed by the fellow scientists for whom it was written. That would have been a humiliation that he did not believe he could stand. He also feared what his wife, a deeply religious woman, would think. The final fear had the […]

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A newspaper depiction of Typhoid Mary (National Institutes of Health)

Typhoid Mary: not an ogre from the Dark Ages

Typhoid Mary is not just an expression, and she’s not a ghost from some mysterious past. She was a real person who lived in the 20th century and whose story is a sad one. Her name was Mary Mallon. She lived and worked in New York City during the first decade of the 20th century. […]

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Winston Churchill caricature

Winston Churchill’s World War II saga (part 3): Churchill the writer

In November 1895, Winston Churchill sailed for America for the first time. His ultimate destination was Cuba, where the Spanish government was attempting to put down an insurrection by Cuban rebels. The twenty-year-old Churchill (he turned twenty-one while in Cuba) was a Second Lieutenant in the British Army, and he was going to Cuba as […]

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Winston Churchill caricature

Winston Churchill’s World War II saga (part 2): Obliterating the obstacles

Compelling reasons for Churchill to write his much-anticipated history of World War II presented themselves forcefully by early 1946. There were also monumental obstacles that stood in the way of Churchill’s efforts to write his memoirs. Churchill either found a way around them or turned them to his advantage as he began plans for his multi-volume saga […]

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Winston Churchill caricature

Winston Churchill’s World War II saga (part 1): Motive and opportunity

More than a few times, Churchill expressed the sentiment that “history will be kind to me for I will write it.” Through his life and particularly in his later years, Churchill would say that, sometimes as a threat to others but usually just as a comfort to himself. But Churchill went much farther than other […]

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