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MrChurchill

Churchill: the man who loved to write

We know him as a great statesman, the man who led the fight against Nazi Germany, the one who provided the lion of Great Britain its roar (as he once put it). He gave voice to the grit and determination of the British Empire when it went through its darkest hour. But Winston Churchill, being […]

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Solon – an ancient sage and a synonym

If you read the quotations from the speeches of John F. Kennedy in my post about them or in last week’s newsletter, you might remember one of his references to someone named Solon, whom he identified as an Athenian lawmaker. Solon (638-558 BC) was more than that. He is listed as one of the Seven […]

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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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WilsonasSherlock-2

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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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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Do people really write this stuff?

My current reading includes a biography of the Apostle Paul by N.T. Wright, a retired Anglican bishop, a biblical historian, and one of the most prolific scholars of the Bible today. I was reading through some of the Amazon reviews of the book, which generally gets high praise from those who have bought it, and […]

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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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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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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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