A violin on the Grand Canal

October 18, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

This item cheered me up about as much as anything that has happened lately. Earlier this month, a giant violin set sail from a workshop and Venice and floated up the Grand Canal carrying a string quartet that played a selection of music of various composers including the revered Antonio Vivaldi. The idea was that • Read More »

Baroque composers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Eleanor Roosevelt, and yet another bandsaw box: newsletter, Oct. 15, 2021

October 16, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, Voting, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, October 15, 2021. If you grew up in the American South in the 1950s and 1960s and paid attention to the news (here, guilty on all counts), you would have heard the name of Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi woman who upset • Read More »

Meeting St. Louis, the spy and the dirty diaper, banned books, and bandsaw boxes: newsletter, October 8, 2021

October 9, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,272) on Friday, October 8, 2021. Audiobooks—are they really “books”? If you listen to an audiobook, does that count as reading one? Those questions came to mind as I read an email this week from a good friend and newsletter reader. She was responding to • Read More »

Oleg Gordievsky: The message was clear; the listeners just didn’t get it (part 1)

October 8, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

In 1985 Oleg Gordievsky, a colonel in the KGB, was less than 24 hours from launching into a plan that would spirit him out of the Soviet Union and into asylum in the West. For years, Gordievsky had been Western intelligence service’s chief asset within the Soviet hierarchy. Within that hierarchy, he had a reputation • Read More »

St. Louis: stories and scandals; beer and baseball

October 8, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

Every city, large or small, produces its stories and scandals. Some do better at that than others. St. Louis is one of those cities that is above average in this regard. St. Louis, near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, started out in the 18th century as a place where professional trappers would • Read More »

Banned Books Week

October 5, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism.

Banned Books Week was last week (Sept. 26 – Oct. 1), but that’s no reason to stop the observance at just five days. The banning of books is a problem every day of the year in America and elsewhere, and the problem should not slide back under the carpet. The official BannedBooksWeek.org website says this: • Read More »

The Loyalist who was a spy, a giant floating violin, and exfiltration from the Soviet Union: newsletter, October 1, 2021

October 2, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, October 1, 2021. A recent survey by Pew Research tells us that “Roughly a quarter of American adults (23%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form. . • Read More »

The man who pictured Pooh, Ratty, and Toad; useless emotions, and the tall guy at Guadalcanal: newsletter, September 24, 2021

September 25, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, September 24, 2021. Are we eating ourselves toward extinction? Possibly, according to Dan Saladino, who has given a lot of thought to this question and has written a book about it. (Here is a short article in The Guardian in which he • Read More »

Peggy Eaton, more Bad Blood, obesity, and a gem from the archive: newsletter, September 17, 2021

September 18, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,282) on Friday, September 17, 2021. Around 40 percent of Americans are officially classified as obese, and obesity is linked to all sorts of health problems including heart disease and susceptibility to many other ailments. And obesity, we have been told, comes from consuming too • Read More »

The Peterkin family, Bradbury finds his title, Vietnam Voices, and bandsaw boxes; newsletter, September 10, 2021

September 12, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, September 10, 2021. The bandsaw box is something known to most woodworkers. You take a block of wood usually about the size of your hand with the fingers spread out (give or take) and a few inches deep. Then, through a series • Read More »

The bandsaw box

September 10, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

The bandsaw box offers woodworkers a project that begins with a basic simplicity of design and procedure and then offers the woodworker a wide range of creative possibilities. The bandsaw box begins with a slab of wood. It can be a single piece or different pieces of wood glued together. Then. with a series of • Read More »

Ray Bradbury and his typewriter, Ian Rankin and William McIlvanney, nicknames for sports teams, and more: newsletter, September 3, 2021

September 5, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, newsletter, reporters, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, September 3, 2021. During the past few weeks, I have devoted my considerable intellectual resources to solving one of the nation’s most intractable problems. I am, of course, talking about the nicknames given to sports teams. A solution to this vexing dilemma • Read More »

Ian Rankin and William McIlvanney—together in one book

September 5, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, writers, writing.

Scottish mystery novelist Ian Rankin had admired William McIlvanney (see below) for a long time. Rankin had read all of McIlvanney’s Laidlaw series—there were only three books in that series—and had been captured by McIlvanney’s unique writing style and his point of view. Finally, early in his writing career, Rankin got to meet McIlvanney in • Read More »

Courage and treachery during World War II

August 30, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

World War II continues as a touchstone of our thinking about such concepts as courage and treachery, even though the war ended 76 years ago. Two recently published books that I have encountered (but have not had a chance to read) demonstrate that. One is a tale of courage of heroic proportions. The second is • Read More »

Music, courage, treachery, and the spark for modern genealogy research: newsletter, August 27, 2021

August 29, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, August 27, 2021. One of the great mysteries of our lives—one that in some sense I hope we do not “solve” is the effect that music has on our intellect, our emotions, and our general well-being. No one that I know of • Read More »

Alex Haley and the roots of modern genealogy (part 2)

August 27, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

During the mid 1970s and before, genealogy was a pretty hard slog, not to mention a lonely one. The few people who took an interest in researching their family’s history found that family stories didn’t square with the facts (they rarely do), family records often did not go beyond a few entries in the family • Read More »