When Agatha Christie was living in London during World War II, she wasn’t sure she was going to survive. The Blitz by the German air force had inflicted heavy damage on London’s capital city, and thousands of people had died. Christie believed she might eventually be among them. She was famous, and so were her […]
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — tagged by no less than Dorothy L. Sayers as the “very finest detective story ever written” — is the August selection for The Guardian’s reading group. The Moonstone is the first of the great English detective novels. The Guardian’s Sam Jordison, moderator of the reading group, says: It’s 150 years […]
My good friend Vince Vawter is about to launch a new novel, Copyboy. Launch date is August 1, 2018. Vince is the author of the much-acclaimed Paperboy, a 2014 Newberry Honor winner. Paperboy is about a kid, Victor, growing up in Memphis in the 1950s. Victor must deal with a disability and confront the world […]
If you’re like me, you’re a bit of a sucker for “top 10” or “10 best” lists — especially when it comes to books about topics that interest me. So here’s a good one. Crime novelist Ron Reynolds has written an intelligent and entertaining piece for The Guardian on his top 10 books about gangsters. […]
Good journalism is hard to do — I have said this many times — and when I find some, I tend to pay some attention. A couple of examples of excellent long-form journalism that I have come across lately are American Fire by Monica Hesse and Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. American Fire: Love, Arson […]
Sometimes a successful writer, both in his life and in his writing, gets it all wrong. Such was the case with Thomas Dixon. Dixon was born in 1864 in North Carolina and grew up during the Reconstruction era as an unreconstructed Southerner. He attended Wake Forest and later Johns Hopkins, where he befriended a young […]
The Guardian’s online reading group is exploring Rebecca West’s first novel, The Return of the Soldier, published in 1918. The Return of the Soldier: an incendiary, formidable debut | Books | The Guardian The book was a ground-breaking work, according to Sam Jordison, the group’s director: On the way to (an) unsettling conclusion, West packs […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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.
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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