MortDrucker

America’s chief subversive, more on the bees, the Marvelettes, and talking ourselves into infirmities: newsletter, April 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,590) on Friday, April 17, 2020. \   Not being able to grieve properly and not being able to express sympathy in person are two of the chief difficulties of our current situation. I mentioned those last week, and a friend who is a minister […]

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Woody Allen’s book ‘Apropos of Nothing’ gets less than sterling reviews

Woody Allen’s autobiography — subject of acceptance and then rejection by Hatchette publishing house — did indeed find a publisher. (See the previous post: Whither Woody Allen, his family, his publisher, his reputation, etc.) Maybe having your book rejected by a publisher is not such a bad thing after all. Allen’s autobiography, Apropo of Nothing, has […]

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MarvinGaye

Fifty years ago, Marvin Gaye asked What’s Going On?

Despite a volatile temper and an extremely troubled personal life, Marvin Gaye was one of many Motown talents whose smooth tones and distinctive rhythms filled the rock ‘n roll airwaves during the 1960s. Not only could he croon with hits such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Too […]

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Talking ourselves – and others – into the ‘inevitable’ infirmities of old age

In early December, I tripped and wound up with a small fracture in my kneecap. The result was that I limped around for a couple of months but managed to maintain some of my normal walking schedule. One morning, a person I regularly see on our walks asked me what  happened, and I told her. […]

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IdaTarbell

Ida Tarbell: Life after Standard Oil (part 3)

Part 1: Ida Tarbell — the sharp, powerful arrow of her words (part 1) Part 2: Ida Tarbell: Madame Roland, Napoleon, and Abraham Lincoln (part 2) Ida Tarbell developed her life as an independent thinker and writer. She asserted her right to be and think in whatever way she saw fit, and she did not conform to […]

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Arnold Mesches covered dramatic courtroom scenes as an artist and was subject to decades-long surveillance by the FBI

Can redacted FBI files, with their various typefaces and thick heavy black lines, be considered works of art? Artist Arnold Mesches believed so, and when he finally received the files the FBI had collected on him through many years of surveillance, he was struck by their visual qualities. Documentary writer and producer Alix Lambert writes […]

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MarvinGaye

An artist and the FBI, Marvin Gaye, Woody Allen, and the first modern detective: newsletter, April 10, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, April 10, 2020. A friend has died of COVID-19. He was not a close friend but someone I had known for just a few months. I would see him once a week at a group I met with — before we stopped […]

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Pouring the bees

The arrival of the bees

One of the ways that a beekeeper starts new hives is to order “packages” of bees, and I mentioned in last week’s newsletter that I received four packages of bees, and that they had been installed in four hives, thus replacing the bees that I had lost last fall.  A package contains three pounds of bees, […]

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MarvinGaye

Bach’s letter of application, the challenge of new words, Handel washed up, and more on Ida Tarbell; newsletter, April 3, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,592) on Friday, April 3, 2020.   During the last couple of years, sometime before Easter, I have included in this newsletter a post about George Frederick Handel and the condition of his life just before he wrote his most famous oratorio, The Messiah. I have included that […]

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Notes on the pandemic: American Samoa escaped the Spanish flu with no deaths

The last pandemic to sweep the world was that known as the Spanish flu, which killed people everywhere from 1918 through 1920 — everywhere except American Samoa. That’s because of its governor, John Martin Poyer, a Naval officer who had retired because of ill health but was called back to service in 1915 to serve […]

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p08540md-300x300-2

Podcast recommendations: My Favorite Murder, The Murder Squad, and My Death Row Pen Pal

My Favorite Murder is hosted by a couple of young women, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, whose language may not be suitable for your grandchildren (or you). That stuff gets old pretty quick, but they may mature into a style that is more in keeping with the seriousness of their subjects. On the other hand, they […]

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William Styron and cultural appropriation

Amid all the other overwhelming news, the controversy over Jeanine Cummins’ novel American Dirt seems to be dying down, but the issue still exists: can an author cross ethnic or cultural lines (and maybe gender and age lines — as well as others) to tell a story. My answer was contained in a post I […]

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WilliamRoughead

William Roughead, founder of modern true-crime books

No one that I know of has the title of Founder of Modern True-Crime Literature (or some such), but if such a title existed, the leading candidate would be a guy you have probably never heard of — a Scottish lawyer named William Roughead (pronounced ruff-head). Roughead (1872-1950) was a lawyer in Edinburgh and, by […]

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7roses

A founder of modern true-crime writing, the poison pen in real life, more on Ida Tarbell, and podcast recommendations: newsletter, March 27, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,597) on Friday, March 27, 2020.   I’ve quoted Shane Parish of the Farnam Street blog several times over the past few weeks, but I couldn’t let this pass by without sharing it with you: We’ve aged a generation in the past three weeks. What matters has sharply come […]

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IdaTarbell

Ida Tarbell: Madame Roland, Napoleon, and Abraham Lincoln (part 2)

Ida Tarbell might have stayed in France for a very long time if it hadn’t been for Abraham Lincoln. Tarbell had moved to Paris in 1891 when she was 34 years old. She gave up a secure job as an editor of The Chatauguan in New York and went to France with the idea of […]

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IdaTarbell

Ida Tarbell — the sharp, powerful arrow of her words (part 1)

When Ida Tarbell fired an arrow of words at a target, she aimed with the accuracy and power of a book full of facts. John D. Rockefeller, probably the richest man in the world at the time, was “the oldest man in the world — a living mummy,” a “hypocrite” who was “money-mad.” She concluded, […]

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Onthewaytothemountains1

The sharp words of Ida Tarbell, the dilemma of Woody Allen, more on cultural appropriation, and reader reaction: newsletter, March 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,597) on Friday, March 20, 2020. The magnitude and rapidity with which the world has changed in the last week lies beyond our complete understanding. Those things that we could confidently predict — high school graduations, opening day of the baseball season, the church service […]

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Whither Woody Allen, his family, his publisher, his reputation, etc.

In the case of Woody Allen, what are we to think? Hachette Book Group recently announced that it is canceling a contract with film director Woody Allen to publish his autobiography. In the last few years, Allen’s reputation has gone from amusing to benign to toxic because of allegations that he molested his daughter, Dylan […]

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Hellman-McCarthy

The Hellman-McCarthy suit, apostrophes again, and an easy-to-use thesaurus: newsletter, March 13, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,601) on Friday, March 13, 2020.     The threat of the coronavirus that is now spreading through the United States and other western nations brings to mind other contagions that have plagued human beings throughout our history. Sometimes they have colorful names; sometimes they […]

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Good advice for editors from Jane Friedman

One of my favorite people from the world of independent publishing is Jane Friedman, a wide-ranging consultant and author of the weekly newsletter Electric Speed, which is consistently full of good tips and advice. The introduction to her newsletter this week struck me as especially enlightening. It’s a special message to those who would be […]

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