This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,324) on Friday, April 22, 2022.
“I like someone who speaks his mind—you know, someone who says what he thinks.” Undoubtedly, you have heard this sentiment expressed in some form or another. Speaking one’s mind is thought to be an admirable quality.
I’m not so sure. “Speaking one’s mind” has never been on my top five list of personal characteristics—or even my top 25. Too often, the person who “speaks his/her mind” is simply being rude or impolite or inconsiderate of the feelings of others. They are indulging themselves and putting forward that their ideas and opinions are superior to those around them.
Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” Sounds about right to me.
Have a great weekend.
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August Wilson, the playwright from Pittsburgh
When August Wilson was 15 years old, he decided to drop out of school. Several stories about why he made this decision are part of his legend. One is that he had written a 20-page paper on Napoleon Bonaparte, and his teacher—not believing that he could compose so well—accused him of plagiarism. Another is that he simply did not find the school—one of several he had attended in his native city of Pittsburgh—very challenging.
August kept up the charade of leaving home every morning, pretending to go off to school. He might well have hit the streets like so many others had done before and since. Instead, he headed to the great Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh where he spent the day reading everything he could get his hands on and educating himself. His decision had an immeasurable effect on 20th century American letters. In later years, the library awarded him an honorary high school diploma for what he had done for himself.
Wilson was born in 1945, the son of a German immigrant and an African-American mother. His birth name was Kittel. His father was soon gone from his life and thus had little bearing on it. His mother’s maiden name was Wilson, and when he was able, he changed his name to Wilson to honor her.
In the early 1960s, he joined the U.S. Army, but he only lasted in that organization for about a year.
Out of the Army, Wilson where he took menial jobs. his urge to write, and particularly his love of poetry, grew into an ambition to be a professional writer.
In 1965, Wilson acquired a typewriter. That purchase put him on the road to being a professional writer. He began submitting poems and short stories to various magazines. He would write in bars, in a local cigar store, and in cafés. He would write in longhand on table napkins, recording what he heard and training his ear to pick up on the vernacular of Black life in America. He listened for stories, for phrases, and for dialogue, and his mental collection of the language grew enormously.
Wilson also discovered music, especially the blues sung by people like Bessie Smith. All of these sounds and experiences melded together, and Wilson began to articulate them in his poetry and stories. In 1968, he teamed up with a friend in Pittsburgh and founded the Black Horizon Theater in the Hill District. His first play, Recycling, was performed before small audiences. At this point, he had never paid much attention to theater and was only beginning to learn how to write plays. He did not attend a professionally produced play until 1976.
But once he had been bitten by the theater bug and acquired the ambition to write plays, he never grew out of it.
In the 1980s, Wilson wrote the majority of the work for which we now remember him, including Jitney in 1982, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in 1984, Fences in 1985, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone in 1986, and The Piano Lesson in 1987. Fences won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and The Piano Lesson won that same award in 1990.
Those two Pulitzers were only a small number of the many awards and honors that accrued to Wilson in the last two decades of his life. The plays listed above eventually constituted part of what critics now refer to as his Pittsburg Cycle or his Century Cycle. This is a collection of 10 plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, that take a critical, analytical, and often humorous look at Black American life during those 100 years. Reflecting the presence of his mother in his life, each of these plays include strong female characters, as well as many other aspects of the Black experience.
“I think my plays offer (White Americans) a different way to look at Black Americans,” he told The Paris Review.
Wilson died of liver cancer in 2005. He was only 60 years old.
The city of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania have declared Wilson’s Bedford Avenue boyhood home as a historic landmark. Pittsburgh is also the home for the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture, which houses a permanent exhibition on Wilson’s life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. In addition, a Broadway theater in New York City, the August Wilson Theater, now bears his name—the first Broadway theater to be named after an African-American.
The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce: Truce, Truth, Truthful, Trust, Turkey, Twice
TRUCE, n. Friendship.
TRUTH, n. An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance. Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with increasing activity to the end of time.
TRUTHFUL, adj. Dumb and illiterate.
TRUST, n. In American politics, a large corporation composed in greater part of thrifty working men, widows of small means, orphans in the care of guardians and the courts, with many similar malefactors and public enemies.
TURKEY, n. A large bird whose flesh when eaten on certain religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of attesting piety and gratitude. Incidentally, it is pretty good eating.
TWICE, adv. Once too often.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
George Butler, the latest in a long line of combat artists
One of my areas of continuing interest is the artwork produced in and around the theaters of war. This art has not only special characteristics but also special meaning. The people who produce it are journalists just as much as the reporters, photographers, television camera carriers, and producers who report on battles that they have witnessed.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has now produced its own set of combat artists. One of those is George Butler, and his work using dip pens, watercolors, India ink, and a drawing board stashed in his shoulder bag can be viewed at this link on The Guardian newspaper website.
“I guess doing my job is a compulsion,” he says. “I think it’s the same for photojournalists and journalists who cover conflicts. We want to tell stories that otherwise we assume would not be told. That’s always been my intention in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Yemen and all the other places I’ve worked in before.” Source: Artist George Butler: ‘I draw what happens at the fringes of atrocity’ | Illustration | The Guardian
Butler is one of the latest in the very long line of artists who have heard the boom of the cannon and the movement of an army and have rushed toward it with whatever artistic instruments they have been comfortable with. These people bring a special point of view to the conflicts they cover, and they convey special insights into those conflicts.
As we watch with horror the devastation that has been wrought by this conflict—one many of us never thought we would see in a place like Europe—we should pay special attention to the men and women who tell us a story that no one else is able to tell.
Here are some links to previous posts on JPROF.com about combat artists:
Illustration above: Vietnam Combat Artists Program
Murder Most Criminous (Volume 1): resurrecting the father of true crime writing
The father of modern true crime writing is back.
William Roughead, the Scottish barrister who attended and reported on every major British murder trial for nearly six decades and wrote about each of them in detailed and yet interesting accounts, is returning from obscurity. Roughead died in 1952 but not before he built a huge following for his work both in America and Great Britain.
His name and work, unfortunately, have fallen into obscurity. First Inning Press is bringing him back to life.
Murder Most Criminous: The Cases of William Roughead, Father of Modern True Crime Literature (Volume 1) has just been published. It is the first of several anticipated volumes of Roughead’s work. The editors, Jim Stovall and Ed Caudill, have worked not only to reproduce this great writer’s work but also to give it new life for modern audiences.
The first volume of this series includes four of Roughead’s cases, all from a time before he was able to attend their trials. They include:
- Mackcoull and the Begbie Mystery
- The Secret of Ireland’s Eye: A Detective Story
- The Ghost of Sergeant Davies
- The Parson of Spott
Each case has unique features that Roughead interprets with his unique and fascinating writing style. The links above will take you to a JPROF page that contain
We have done a lot of work with editing these cases and trying to make them presentable to modern readers.
We have introduced some typographical innovations that include footnotes, more readable paragraphing, and subheads—all of which we believe will aid the reader. The essential Roughead is still there, and we believe the reader will be captured by his exquisite phrasing and point of view.
During March and April, the first volume of this series is being offered to readers at a special ebook price of $1.99. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook platforms. Paperback and hardback editions of this work are also available.
Volume 2 in this series, which will include the Oscar Slater case, is due out later this spring.
Kill the Quarterback is part of a group giveaway, April Crime Thriller Giveaway, a BookFunnel giveaway that runs through the month of April. This giveaway is exclusively for all sorts of crime-related books and novels.
The giveaway includes more than 30 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors. The link for this giveaway is https://books.bookfunnel.com/pka-crime-thriller-giveaways/glkpa6m4vw.
It helps me if you use this link to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books.
Dan C.: Gifted did not take hold, but gift is an oft-used verb in its own right. French and Classic Arabic (as opposed to Modern Standard Arabic) are two languages that try not to change. I remember in the 1970s, the French were trying to keep the French from becoming Anglicized. Classic Arabic does not contain any words not found in the Quran.
Finally . . .
This week’s pen and wash: Old Lit, Edgefield College
Best quote of the week:
A book, once it is printed and published, becomes individual. It is by its publication as decisively severed from its author as in parturition a child is cut off from its parent. The book “means” thereafter, perforce,—both grammatically and actually,—whatever meaning this or that reader gets out of it. James Branch Cabell, novelist, essayist, critic (1879-1958)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: The rites of April, Manly Wade Wellman, and some nifty giveaways: newsletter, April 15, 2022
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