Writing and dying, in public view; The Devil’s Dictionary

October 23, 2017 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to the people on Jim’s email list (3,988) on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.


Fence rows, tractor lifts, chainsaws, and hayrolls — they’ve all been a big part of my life lately. The farm offers an endless variety of experiences and possibilities.

Don’t forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. The wildfires in California are causing unprecedented destruction. The people affected directly by these disasters need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Writing and dying – all in public view

Writing is hard enough, particularly when you are facing a deadline. For Ulysses S. Grant, the deadline was literal. He was dying of throat cancer in 1885 as he was trying to complete the story of his actions during the American Civil War. The cancer was painful and exhausting. Drugs might have helped, but they would have clouded his mind and made writing impossible.

Grant was the general who led the Union to victory in 1865. Three years later, he was elected to the first of two terms as president. In his post-presidency, Grant became a generally beloved and respected public figure. When it became known that he was writing his memoirs — and that he was dying — journalists flocked to his door and produced daily reports on his condition and on the progress of his writing.

The story of the writing of Grant’s memoir — which was both a commercial and critical success — is set forth in more detail in this post on JPROF.com. It is a tale of extraordinary courage and willpower.

The First Amendment, free expression and “hate speech”

Still looking for your thoughts about the First Amendment and free expressions and any of the current controversies related to these ideas.

I opened up the topic a couple of weeks ago with this picture. The photo shows Virginia Arnold, a suffragist who stood in front of the White House with a banner that was headlined “Kaiser Wilson” in August 1917. The nation was at war with Germany at the time, and it’s likely Arnold’s banner would have been termed “hate speech” if we had used those terms.

I received some excellent responses to this topic and would like to hear from more of you. Unless you say otherwise, I’ll be sharing some of the responses in this newsletter. And don’t forget Jill Lepore’s short and excellent articlein the New Yorker magazine on the recent history of free expression in American.

Any thoughts of free expression, First Amendment values, “hate speech,” or related issues? I would enjoy hearing from you.


Crooks, Outlaws and Gangsters. This Instafreebie giveaway goes through Oct. 22 and has a lot of fun reading if you are into crooks, outlaws and gangsters. Have a look here: https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/MphRWQwmitjFRys8TW…

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

The Devil’s Dictionary

The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce is probably not a book that you are familiar with (I wasn’t until recently), but you should be. It is the American answer to much of the wit and satire found in Samuel Johnson’s more famous dictionary. The book was published in 1906 and was a compilation of Bierce’s writings over more than 30 years. It was named as one of “The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature” by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration in the 1970s. Here’s a sample of the entries:

BENEFACTOR, n. One who makes heavy purchases of ingratitude, without, however, materially affecting the price, which is still within the means of all.

DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.

GRAMMAR, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet for the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to distinction.

Bierce is an interesting character, and I will have more to say about his later. You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.

Finally . . .

October is a bittersweet month for the baseball fan. We have lots of exciting playoff and World Series games to watch, but we also know that when it’s over, it’s over. We have to face the winter without the sport we love. So, I am enjoying this month but dreading the fact that it will end, and nothing will take its place.

And I have to confess to an eccentricity. I would much rather listen to a radio broadcast of a baseball game than watch one on television. I have lots of reasons for this preference, and one of these days I will outline them in a blog post or something. For now, however, I’ll just enjoy the games.

The best quote I have come across this week:

Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value. – Arthur Miller, playwright and essayist (1915-2005) 

Keep reading and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter

4-star review: You have to love a female lead character set in the sixties whose storyline isn’t about getting knocked up or becoming a drug addict in an abusive relationship, this may well be a first for a YA female in a story set in the the 60s or 70s, a rarity for any historic setting unfortunately.
A good story with a strong female lead.

Kill the Quarterback

5-star review: An excellent book with building suspense that makes it hard to put down even for a little while. The characters are fresh and nicely developed with some gentle humour.

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