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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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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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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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Sallie Stovall, my grandmother

Was your grandmother overlooked by the New York Times when she died?

The Times started a series a few weeks ago in its obituary section called Overlooked. It was about women that the Times through its many decades had failed to write obituaries on. They included Ida B. Wells and Charlotte Bronte. They also invited readers to nominate women for this section.

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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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A new biography of Agatha Christie 

Despite her worldwide fame and gigantic audiences, her life was as mysterious as one of her books. Now a new biography is available to American readers (it has been available to British readers for a while), and the book is getting rave reviews.

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lovelang

Peter Piper and his pickled peppers: Our love for alliteration

Mark Forsyth, of InkyFool.com, and author of several books on the language, cites in his The Elements of Eloquence (pages 10-11) an example of William Shakespeare, our old friend, lifting a passage from Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives for some lines in Antony and Cleopatra. From North we get this description of Cleopatra’s boat: […]

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WilliamShakespeare-3

Shakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

One of the seminal events in America’s long involvement in Vietnam occurred 50 years ago this past week. CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite — often called “the most trusted man in America” — narrated a prime-time documentary that called into question the American government’s rosy predictions about the war’s progress. Cronkite did not come out against the war. […]

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samueljohnson

Inside the making of a dictionary

Dictionaries are marvels of any language. But English has resisted the orderly cataloguing that has been routine for many other tongues. Early lexicographers believed they could impose some necessary order on the language by setting down spellings and definitions and making them permanent. But the language quickly showed them who was boss.

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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare and the development of the English language

The Bard is not highly popular with college students these days. In fact, he has rarely been popular, although his genius is universally recognized. As a student, you might go to one of his plays (because it’s required or you’re getting extra credit), but you’d rather be buried in a toxic waste dump than be […]

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Point Spread by Jim Stovall

‘The Feminine Mystique’ and the change in women’s status in the 1960s

The book summed up many of the frustrations that middle-class women had experienced, especially if they had set aside ambitions and careers to become suburban housewives and mothers. From the day it was published, it sparked criticism from many quarters (and continues to do so today), but it struck a chord with many women and […]

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WilliamShakespeare-3

Inspiration for a genius: recent discovery of a book that Shakespeare may have used for his writing

Because Leonardo da Vinci kept a vast quantity of journals, we have a good idea about how his mind worked, what he was thinking about, and what he saw. With William Shakespeare, we have no such record. And William Shakespear is the reason we have the English language as it is today.

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Cades Cove Sunday morning - 1

Leonardo’s journals; eyewitness to the biggest event of the first century; football art and the First Amendment; newsletter Feb. 9, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,317) on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Hi,  This has been The Week of Interesting Things for me. Most of my weeks could take that moniker, but this one seemed especially full. I try to put a lot of interesting things I find into the newsletter, but I […]

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Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin on Art, Storytelling, and the Power of Language to Transform and Redeem – Brain Pickings

Maria Popova, the brain behind BrainPickings.com — a newsletter you should subscribe to — has written another tribute to the ideas of the late science fiction novelist, Ursula Le Guin. Le Guin, as Popova points out, has important things to say about the function of storytelling. Here is part of it: “People wish to be […]

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Leonardo's drawings of cats

Leonardo’s journals: A large window into the mind of a genius

The mind of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) still fascinates observers even after 500 years. He was interested in so many things, and he observed the world with the mind and attitude of a scientist, mechanic, inventor, naturalist, and philosopher. He was also a writer. And an artist, of course. We know about Leonardo’s mind because […]

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ten-lost-letters-in-English

10 letters lost from the alphabet: the video

Austin McConnell has put together this fun video about the symbols that were once part of the English alphabet but that we no longer use.

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Pliny the Younger

Eyewitness to Vesuvius: Pliny the Younger and reporting the event of the century

The mountain exploded in August 79 AD. The ensuing lava flow engulfed two entire cities (Herculaneum and Pompeii) and smothered a third, Stabiae, with poisonous gas. The darkness that the clouds of dust and smoke created was, in the ones of an eyewitness, “. . . not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, […]

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KTQcoverrough-300

Another painting giveaway; Amazon gift cards; Pliny the Younger, Rome’s great eyewitness reporter; newsletter, Feb. 2, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,222) on Friday, February 2, 2018. Hi, I watched a super moon, a blood moon, and a lunar eclipse this week. Not as spectacular as the solar eclipse we saw last summer but still pretty phenomenal. Nature has its moments — many of them, in fact, if we would […]

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