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JuliaWardHowe

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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Walt Whitman’s calculated plan to achieve the fame he wanted

Walt Whitman (whose 200th birthday we celebrated briefly last week) was 35 years old in 1854 with no job and no prospects. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a poet — a famous poet. He was well on the way to being a poet. He had already written much of his seminal work, Leaves […]

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Walt Whitman chases fame, Verse and Vision, libraries, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, June 7, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 7, 2019.     Celebrations of great moments and memories in the history of the United States continue during these weeks with Memorial Day, followed by D-Day (June 6), Flag Day (June 14), and then July the Fourth. Each of these times calls for clear-eyed reflection and assessment […]

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Sir Walter Scott writes himself out of debt, more on libraries, competing definitions of journalism: newsletter, May 31, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, May 31, 2019. For the past six or seven weeks, we have left our beehives alone. This is the main honey-making season, and we did not want to do anything to disturb them. That changed this week when I opened them to make […]

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GeorgeOrwell-caricature

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed.” Or maybe not.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”  This quotation is currently making the rounds on the web, especially on Facebook, and it is being attributed to the writer George Orwell. The quotation has various iterations — such as “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else […]

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HermanWouk

Television could barely contain “The Winds of War” and its author Herman Wouk

When The Winds of War mini-series premiered on the ABC television network in 1983, the small box in the living room could barely contain the gigantic tale of worldwide proportions that its author Herman Wouk had conceived. It was the story of the coming of World War II in Europe and elsewhere, and its central character […]

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WilliamManchester

Five of the biggest writing mistakes, from  Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula

Mark Dawson is one of the most successful and prominent authors in the independent publishing world, and his Self Publishing Formula, which provides a vast amount of information and training on how to get into the business and stay there, has become a must-have resource. One part of the resource is a blog about independent […]

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Bert Garner, a simple life of complexity

Bert Garner (1885-1970) was a man well-known in East Tennessee and beyond. Some referred to him as the Sage of the Smokies, and others thought of him as the Appalachian Thoreau. For the last third of his life, he lived in a two-room cabin near the Great Smoky Mountains without plumbing, running water, or electricity. Garner was no […]

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AndrewMarvell

Andrew Marvell: Had we but world enough and time

  Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), in this his most famous poem, To His Coy Mistress, speaks with the passion of a lusty young man who tires of being put off by the woman he is wooing. The lines of the poem range from high-flown descriptions of his desire to mundane concepts and comparisons — all in typical metaphysical […]

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King Richard and the legend of Robin Hood

Note: This is the first entry in a series about Robin Hood If you had asked me, as a boy growing up in the 1950s and 60s, to name some of the kings and queens of England, I probably could have come up with two. One was Elizabeth II, the then current queen (she still is) […]

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Casey at the Bat, the poem and the video

The most famous baseball poem in history is Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Its subtitle is “A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888.” The poem was first published in the San Francisco Chronicle and tells the story of one game of the baseball team of Mudville and its mighty hitting star Casey. […]

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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin and his way of thinking

Charles Darwin achieved the most important breakthrough in the annals of scientific thinking with the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. But Darwin did not see himself as a great intellect or even a particularly clever person. His self-awareness was not the product of humility, as Shane Parrish points out in a short […]

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PalaceTheater

America’s first female police officer, Dan Jenkins, lots of emails, and a modest proposal: newsletter, March 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,866) on Friday, March 22, 2019.   The tractor came out of the barn and had a pretty good workout this week. We had a string of dry days that allowed me — finally! — to get into the garden with some much-needed sub-soiling and […]

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MillerHall1

The college admissions scandal: a modest proposal

What has practically every story you’ve read or heard during the last couple of weeks about the college admissions scandal had in common? The journalists and commentators have consistently used the terms elite colleges or elite universities. They have done without any critical assessment of the terms themselves, and therein lies a problem — possibly The Problem. We […]

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Emma Lathen: a dual force in mystery literature

If you were an avid reader of mystery novels in the 1960s, you were probably aware of three female mystery writers more than any others: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Emma Lathen. Emma Lathen? While Christie and Sayers have achieved immortality in the realms of mystery fiction, Lathen has all but disappeared. Yet her […]

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Dan Jenkins, 1928-2019, RIP

Back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, if you had a sacred cow — particularly if it had to do with sports or anything connected — Dan Jenkins would come along and push it over. And make you laugh while he was doing it. Jenkins was one of an elite group of sportswriters who worked […]

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Dick Francis, forensics, jury trials, and Ole Bert: newsletter, March 15, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,875) on Friday, March 15, 2019.     The news of this week of a major scandal in the collegiate admissions process has captured, and in some cases (mine) captivated, the attention of the nation, and rightly so. Having spent much of my adult life […]

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Dick Francis, a top jockey and an even better mystery writer

When Dick Francis took his horse Devon Loch up over the last hurdle at the 1956 Grand National Steeplechase, he was on top of the British racing world — which was quite a place to be since racing, literally, was the sport of kings. He led the field, and the finish line was in sight. Devon […]

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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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