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The call for unity, a defense of Thomas More, and more about Abe: newsletter, November 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,495) on Friday, November 20, 2020.     Thanksgiving is approaching, and I have always particularly enjoyed our national season of gratitude. It is important that we acknowledge what we have been given, even during a year when all of us have seen our lives […]

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Sunday morning

More on William Seward, another walk through the Golden Age, and writing like a rifle: newsletter, November 13, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, November 13, 2020. Some people cook and bake. Some people collect. Some make things. Some draw and paint, some listen (to music, etc.), some watch (birds, airplanes, insects, old movies, etc.), some read. The list could go on and on, of course. […]

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Early voting

William Seward, voting, Vietnam Voices, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, November 6, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, November 6, 2020.   There are those of us who are wondering if the fevered political season will ever end. An interesting novel is sometimes a good antidote. I’m reading a couple now: Ian Rankin’s In a House of Lies and Ian McGuire’s The Abstainer. […]

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Delicate touch

Political debates and a few thoughts about the election, Harold Bloom on reading, and a century of Christie: newsletter, October 23, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, October 23, 2020.   Political debates in this country have never been especially uplifting affairs. Even the iconic Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 (see below) are remembered because they introduced Abraham Lincoln to the nation rather than for their soaring rhetoric and sweeping […]

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TheCelloPlayer

The birth of the selfie, why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor (part 1), and reader reactions: newsletter, October 2, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,519) on Friday, October 2, 2020. Johann Sebastian Bach is on my list of “things to be thankful for” this week. In fact, he’s not far from the top. Bach lived from 1685 to 1750 and was a composer of baroque-era music. He was also deeply spiritual, […]

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JohnLothropMotley

The writing of Hans Brinker, Gayle Lynd’s long journey, and a Walter Mosley short story: newsletter, September 25, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,521) on Friday, September 25, 2020.   The year continues to bring its oddities. Major League Baseball is finishing its shortened season this week and will begin playoffs next week. The configuration is like no other, and I won’t try to explain it. I’m not […]

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GordonParks

Gordon Parks and “The Atmosphere of Crime, 1957”

Gordon Parks bought his first camera in 1938 when he was 25 years old and living in Seattle, Washington. Up to that time, Parks did not have much of a life. Born in Kansas in 1912, Parks was one of 15 children and experienced the cruelties of racism when some white kids pitched him into […]

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Mosley wins distinguished contribution medal from the National Book Foundation

Noted: this from the Washington Post: Walter Mosley has been named winner of the 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. He is the first Black man to win the foundation’s $10,000 lifetime achievement award, which was first awarded in 1988. The author of more than 60 books, Mosley […]

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JosephineTey

Josephine Tey and her masterpiece of paranoia in postwar England

Those Americans of us who watch a lot of British-produced television — from Upstairs, Downstairs to Downton Abbey to Belgravia and many more besides — are often impressed, if not horrified, by the number of servants required to help the British upper-classes get through the day. Butlers, cooks, scullery maids, chambermaids — the list of […]

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Mary Mapes Dodge and her extraordinary editorship of St. Nicholas magazine (part 2)

The publishers of The Century Magazine, in 1872, had given Mary Mapes Dodge a golden opportunity — a “blank check,” as we would say today. She was determined to make the most of it. They wanted her to create a magazine for children, and they were convinced that Dodge was the right person for the […]

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MaryMapesDodge

Mary Mapes Dodge, the Silver Skates, and St. Nicholas magazine (part 1)

Mary Mapes Dodge, suffering from the disappearance and then death of her husband in 1857 and facing the need to support herself and her two sons, wrote one of the most beloved children’s novels of all time — Hans Brinkler or The Silver Skates. For that, she will always be remembered. But what she did beyond the […]

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Abandoned schoolhouse

More on Mary Mapes Dodge, Josephine Tey and paranoia, and a couple of podcast recommendations: newsletter, September 18, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,529) on Friday, September 18, 2020.   Getting a book that you have anticipated for a while and then having it live up to your expectations is a particular delight. That happened to me with the arrival of Ian Toll‘s Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western […]

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Mary Mapes Dodge, Robert Louis Stevenson, and thoughts on forgiveness: newsletter, September 11, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, September 11, 2020.   Nearly two decades after the infamous 9/11, I am struck by how far it feels from that awful event. For those of us who lived through it, the day was one of those we will always remember. Yet, […]

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GordonParks

Gordon Parks’ “Atmosphere of Crime” photos, the war in Iraq, a look back at William Manchester, and reader reactions: newsletter, Sept. 4, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,531) on Friday, September 4, 2020.   The idea rattling through in my head for the last few days has been “gentleness.” Our modern human world doesn’t put much stock in the idea of gentleness, but nature does. I’m lucky in that I get to […]

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JamesLeeBurke

Dave Robicheaux and his creator James Lee Burke: both great stories

If you are a James Lee Burke or Dave Robicheaux fan, you will want to take a look this retrospective on Burke’s writing career by David Masciotra on CrimeReads.com. Although Burke has written much that does not include the flawed detective Robicheaux, this character is by far his most popular and most developed creation. Throughout his […]

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MaryKingWard

Mary King Ward and the life she lived

Mary King Ward is remembered because of the way in which she died. She should be remembered for the way in which she and for the accomplishments she achieved as a 19-century female scientist. Ward died in 1869, thought to be the first automobile traffic fatality. That fact overshadows the many aspects of her life […]

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RichardBenCramer

Richard Ben Cramer on ‘what it took’ for Joe Biden

Richard Ben Cramer, an extraordinary reporter, could pack enough energy into a paragraph to charge a lightning bolt. To read Cramer is to get caught up in his rhythm, to follow is thinking, and to come to his understanding of the subject he was reporting on. Cramer brought all of his writing and reporting talent […]

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Cat on watch

A top 19th century female scientist and writer remembered, the history of Aunt Jemima, and Richard Ben Cramer on Joe Biden: newsletter, August 28, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 28, 2020. Sometimes you win the lottery, and then sometimes you get really lucky. Our household is still in a joyous state over the birth of our grandson a couple of weeks ago. It’s a big win, as they say these days. Thanks, […]

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HighwayGas

The 19th amendment, James Lee Burke, John Quincy Adams, and NYT’s typos: newsletter, August 21, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 21, 2020.   Through muted celebrations, we noted the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution this week. This amendment guaranteed the right of women to vote, and it represented the largest and most significant change […]

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Being tall at Guadalcanal, a notorious pirate, rural noir, and the serial killer: newsletter, August 14, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 14, 2020.   One of the things on my mind this week is the concept of respect. The thinking on that was kicked off by an NYT column by Bret Stephens on the 18th-century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke (Why Edmund Burke […]

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