HilaryMantel

Science fiction’s first Hugo, assassinating the PM Mantel-style, Stephen Fry’s podcast, and reader reaction: newsletter, January 31, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,617) on Friday, January 31, 2020.     Death, unfortunately, is much in mind this week as we hear the tragic news of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the others who perished in a helicopter accident earlier this week. I knew who Kobe Bryant was […]

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HilaryMantel

Hilary Mantel, Margaret Thatcher, and the story of an assassination that didn’t happen

On a Saturday in the middle of 1983, author Hilary Mantel looked out of the bedroom window of her flat in Windsor, west of London, and saw something she never expected to see: Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wandering around the garden of a nearby hospital. Thatcher was by herself, and Mantel could see her clearly. […]

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Batter040

Doug Glanville on baseball’s ‘existential crisis’ 

Baseball’s cheating scandal, which I mentioned in the newsletter a couple of weeks ago, seems to have come and gone in the relative blink of an eye. A couple of days of headlines, perpetrators punished, a few days of comment and commentary, and we’re done. Let’s move on. But some of us want to shout, […]

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HugoGernsback

Hugo Gernsback and the invention of science fiction

When you write a really good mystery story or novel, you might be able to get an Edgar Award. The source of the name of the award is as obvious as the name of the professional football team in Baltimore. But what do you get if you write a really good science fiction story or […]

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YoungWinstonC

Winston Churchill as a celebrity journalist, Irish mystery writers, and George Smith and the Epic of Gilgamesh: newsletter, January 24, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, January 24, 2020.     Mid-January has brought us subfreezing temperatures and plenty of rain. The rain has kept us out of the garden plots, which need winter tilling, and the cold prevents wood-working because glue won’t adhere in the cold. All […]

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HenryRawlinson

Henry Rawlinson on the Behistun inscription: key to the translations of Ashurbanipal’s library

Previously: — Writing: It started with the Sumerians  — The library of Ashurbanipal: its discovery changed our view of history The discovery of Ashurbanipal’s Library and its treasure of ancient clay tablets that contained writing up to 3,000 years old stands as one of the great archeological finds of the modern era. The discovery came in […]

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HPLovecraft

The father of modern horror literature, grammar rules to live without, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, January 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, January 17, 2020.   {% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} News from Major League Baseball in January is never plentiful, and what there was this week was not good: two team managers were fired […]

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Howard Phillips Lovecraft: The Life of a Gentleman of Providence

It’s good to have friends, even after you have died. In 1939, the year H.P. Lovecraft died, he considered himself a failure. His life had been a series of mental and emotional battles. His relationship with his mother had been strange and destructive. His marriage had ended in divorce. His view of non-Nordic, non-white people […]

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Accused

Accused: a top-notch true-crime podcast, now into Season 3

After June 18, 1984, no one ever saw David Bocks again. He was a divorced father of three and, despite the divorce, a devoted dad. He worked as a pipe-fitter at the Fernald Feed Production Center, which was a cover for a U.S. Department of Energy facility that processed high-grade uranium for use in nuclear […]

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Three grammar rules to ignore, according to the expert

A sharp-eyed, enlightened, and faithful newsletter reader sent me a link to a post by Benjamin Dryer, a copy chief at Random House publishers, who delineates his top three English “rules” that he believes should be ignored. He introduces the post this way: The English language, though, is not so easily ruled and regulated. It […]

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PatriciaHighsmith

Patricia Highsmith and her first job as a writer

Patricia Highsmith achieved international fame in the mid to late 20th century for her deeply psychological and suspenseful novels and short stories that often took the reader into a world of violence. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train (1950), cemented her reputation when Alfred Hitchcock made it into an award-winning movie.  Her Repliad series, […]

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Invisible writing, an essay of continuing interest, by William Tapply

Before his untimely death in 2009, one of the best mystery novelists around was William G. Tapply, creator of the Brady Coyne mystery series. Tapply’s novels live up to the cover blurbs — well-formed characters, tightly woven plots and elegant writing. Tapply practiced what many of us who teach writing often preach, and he gives […]

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Layard-Rassam

The library of Ashurbanipal: its discovery changed our view of history

Ashurbanipal was as cruel and ruthless as any of his Assyrian predecessors. All of the kings who had come before had sought to strike fear into their enemies by their spectacularly horrid treatment of those who opposed them — treatment that included blinding their children and jerking them around as their tongues were impaled by […]

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Layard-Rassam

The library of Ashurbanipal, Obama’s audacity of hope, and Highsmith’s first job: newsletter, January 10, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,632) on Friday, January 10, 2020.   One of the post-Christmas-New-Year’s gifts I gave myself was Tom Richmond’s book, The Mad Art of Caricature, and it is both delightful and informative. If you remember Mad Magazine (or still read it), you would know that Richmond is one […]

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The ‘withering’ of the death penalty in America

One of the few overtly political statements that I am willing to make in this newsletter is that I am against the death penalty. Relatively few countries in the world still use the death penalty in their legal system, and I fail to see why the United States is one of them. That’s why the […]

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roseoneill

Rose O’Neill, creator of the Kewpie doll and the richest illustrator of her time

In 1887 when she was 13, Rose O’Neill entered a drawing contest sponsored by the Omaha World-Herald. Her entry was by far the best submission, and she was declared the winner. But there was a problem. Some of the editors did not believe that the drawing was original. It was too good, and they thought […]

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AustenHenryLayard 1

Writing: It started with the Sumerians

The earliest writing that is anything close to what we do today comes from the Sumerians, the ancient civilization that occupied the Tigris and Euphrates valley (now Iraq and Iran) more than 3,000 years ago. Paper and ink, as we know it, were nonexistent then in that part of the world. Instead, the Sumerians made […]

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Literary Hub’s 20 best works of nonfiction, 2010-2019 

Despite the complaints of many, journalism is structured to tell the “bad” news rather than the “good” news. That’s when it works best — when it points out the flaws and evils in our society. But the bad news, when piled on top one after one, can be depressing. That’s the feeling I had when […]

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The fight to save the apostrophe revives

Even though the brilliant, talented, and hard-working Anu Garg, creator of A Word A Day email, has declared “Death to the Apostrophe,” there may be another way forward for this much-misused punctuation mark. Things looked pretty dark when John Richards, creator of the Apostrophe Protection Society, announced a few weeks ago that he was shutting […]

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Gretchen McCulloch and the ‘new way’ of writing

Gretchen McCulloch, the author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, has written an interesting piece for the New York Times hailing the new freedom that Internet writers, especially texters and Twitter scribes, have in using the language to exhibit their meaning and emotions.   They’re doing for the written word, she argues, what […]

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