The anniversary of the death of a literary light

Like that of Robert Kennedy, the anniversary of the death of an American who died too young occurred this past week. Part of our collective conversation this past week has been remembering the death of Robert Kennedy, which happened 40 years ago. Kennedy, shot by an assassin in Los Angeles on the night he won […]

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James Madison on freedom of the press

We have seen an erosion of freedom of speech and the press in the last few years, so it might be good to remind ourselves of what one of the Founding Fathers had to say about it. James Madison: • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise […]

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Writers writing: Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope wrote for money. He made out a schedule and stuck to it. The way writers write – their habits, productivity, quirks, methods of procrastination, etc. – fascinate a lot of people, including me. One of my favorite stories in this vein is that of Anthony Trollope, the mid-19th century British novelist and author […]

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The audacity and hope of Barak Obama, the writer

Barak Obama wrote his own book — no ghostwriters or co-authors. He did the literary heavy-lifting himself. It was with plenty of audacity and no small amount of hope that Barak Obama sat down in the early 1990s to write his life story. He had just turned 30 in 1991 and could reasonably assume that […]

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Jim Webb, writer – and also a senator

• A writer is supposed to “render to the audience things they haven’t seen.” So says Jim Webb, writer. He’s also a senator. Politicians who put their names on a book and claim authorship are not unusual. The ones who actually write the book are unusual indeed. And the politician who says of himself, “I […]

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A seventh edition

A textbook that goes into multiple editions can be like a child who grows up but doesn’t leave home. Textbooks can be funny things. If you write a textbook, you want it to be widely adopted so that about four years later the publisher will ask for a second edition (because, while your royalties don’t […]

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A seventh edition

A textbook that goes into multiple editions can be like a child who grows up but doesn’t leave home. Textbooks can be funny things. If you write a textbook, you want it to be widely adopted so that about four years later the publisher will ask for a second edition (because, while your royalties don’t […]

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On being an author – without doing any writing

Margaret Truman, Eliot Roosevelt, Steve Allen – mystery writers? Did they really take the time out of their celebrityhood to craft, write and rewrite those mystery novels you see on the bookshelf? We all know that politicians don’t write their own speeches. But novelists? Mystery novelists, in particular? Surely no “novelist” would lend a name […]

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The Indiana primary – 40 years ago

The upcoming Indiana primary is the most important primary election in the state in 40 years. The last time it happened, I was there, and I shook hands with Robert Kennedy. The talking heads of the TV babblerati certified it to be true — this is the first time in 40 years the Democratic primary […]

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Hemingway, Dos Passos and the Spanish Civil War in an odd, interesting tale

The Spanish Civil War and the leftist learnings of many 1930s artists are central to the story of the disintegration of the friendship of Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. A test: Which of these men have you heard of? Ernest Hemingway? You kidding? Of course. Read his books and many of his short stories. […]

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The writer’s life, Gay Talese style

For more than 40 years, there has been intense interest in the writing style exemplified by Gay Talese – and in Gay Talese (web site) himself. But that emphasis, particularly in Talese himself, may have been misplaced. Talese is certainly a writer of utmost grace. He works at his profession with an intensity that is […]

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The fiction writer’s bookshelf

If you are interested in writing fiction, here are two of the best books you can have: Christopher VoglerThe Writer’s Journey Renni Brown and David KingSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers (These are the Amazon links.) No one explains “story” better than Vogler. I’m going to post these to a couple of lists to which I subscribe […]

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Alexander McCall Smith on NYT Book Review podcast

Alexander McCall Smith talks about his latest efforts on the NYT Book Review podcast. Lovers of Alexander McCall Smith’s books may want to tune in (so to speak) on the audio interview with him by the New York Times Book Review podcast. Here’s the page with all the podcast links going back to 2006, and […]

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The Invention Conceit

In our modern Scots-invented world of bloviation, headlines and titles can’t stand the heat of a literalist’s kitchen. Being a literalist when it comes to words and their usage (though not without a sense of humor, I hope), I tend to pay attention to headlines and titles and to parse them unmercifully. That’s why, when […]

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First things first

You won’t find too many partisan political statements on this blog unless they come from commenters. But there is one thing I believe in: the idea behind the First Amendment. People have the right to speak, write and think as they please. Jeremiah Wright, Pat Robertson, and anyone else in the public realm may say […]

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The self-publishing phenomenon

It used to be hard thing to get your book published. Now it’s not. Rachel Danadio has an interesting essay, “You’re an Author? Me Too,” in the New York Times on the self-publishing phenomenon. And you get the feeling that she’d rather return to the good old days when agents and publishers and book review […]

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Review: The Last Casualty

An Episcopal priest hears the confessions of a dying man. Get ready for a ride. THE LAST CASUALTY, (Amazon) the latest thriller by Cyn Mobley, is like an Indiana Jones movie, a wild ride that never lets you catch your breath. David Dalt is a U.S. Navy Episcopal priest and an ex-SEAL — except that […]

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Wolhwend in the NYT

Good friend Chris Wohlwend has an article in the New York Times about University of Tennessee footballer Jackie Walker, one of the first black players for the Vols in the late sixties and early seventies. Walker’s take is a sad one, but he finally getting some of the recognition that should have been his years […]

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Good writing from a baseball insider

• When is the last time you called a major league baseball player a good writer? Lots of talented authors have written superbly about baseball. Among all our national games, baseball is a game that lends itself easily to good wordsmiths. But rare among those smithies is an author who has played the game at […]

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Eliot Spitzer as fiction

Novelist Richard Russo puts Eliot Spitzer into the realm of fictional hero — or protagonist. Some disagreement with Russo, but it’s an interesting thought. What if you wrote a novel about Eliot Spitzer? What would it look like? That’s the question that novelist Richard Russo considers in an interesting column in the March 16 in […]

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