Jonathan Swift, Andrew Greeley, and things about good and bad book reviews: newsletter, December 30, 2022

December 30, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2, 491) on Friday, December 30, 2022.

As with most authors, I am of two minds when it comes to reviews of anything I have written. Reviewers who are kind are obvious geniuses able to perceive the many profundities—written with the appropriate amount of self-effacing humor—in my work. Reviewers who are unkind are idiots with unresolved issues dating to their childhood.

Of course, all that applies only to my work. Reviewers who take on the work of others (except for my friends) can have free rein to praise or condemn as they see fit. This attitude allowed me to enjoy’s articles on the best-reviewed and worst-reviewed books of 2022.

My favorite line (and there is a lot of competition here) came in Steve Donoghue’s comments on Henry Kissinger’s Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy:

Henry Kissinger (who is 99 years old) might not be able to climb a flight of stairs anymore, but he’s still capable of telling a lie before he’s even finished his Table of Contents.

This is my second week of time off from the newsletter and instead filling your email box with Golden Hits from the JPROF Post. I hope you find something below to enjoy.

Have a great and literate weekend, and a very Happy New Year.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,752 subscribers and had a 37.3 percent open rate; 10 persons unsubscribed.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


Jonathan Swift: writing for the “meanest”

This post was originally published on in 2013.

John Simon, in a recent review of Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World by Leo Damrosch, says this about Swift, a cleric and most famously the author of Gulliver’s Travels:

His aim in writing as in sermons was to be “understood by the meanest.” Thus he would read his writings aloud to his servants, and when they didn’t understand, rewrite until they did: “I write to the vulgar, more than to the learned. (quoted from the review)

That’s what we try to teach our journalism students: to write to be “understood by the meanest.” And would that they would rewrite their work until that happens.

The review, A Giant Among Men, ‘Jonathan Swift,’ by Leo Damrosch, appears in the New York Times book review section.


The review gives us another quote from Swift that I particularly like: “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”


Author Gene Doucette offers a lucid account of the ‘collective insanity of the publishing industry’

This article was posted on in 2016. I can’t tell that much has changed in the last six years.

Fantasy author Gene Doucette has posted one of the clearest and most lucid accounts of the “collective insanity” of the publishing industry to date. (Source: The collective insanity of the publishing industry – Gene Doucette)

Traditional publishers are desperately fighting to maintain an economic model that in the world of ebooks, digital access, and independent publishing is no longer viable. They have created their own fantasy—ebook reading is down and print sales are up—and have decided to believe with all their hearts in that fantasy.

Doucette gives an easy-to-read account of how they did it.

The publishers have even convinced the New York Times and a few other clueless journalists (and, sadly, authors) that the fantasy is real.

Doucette writes:

“If the Big 5 are under the impression that they can strangle the ebook market, they’re mistaken. All they really can do is strangle their corner of it.

If you’re wondering, driving readers toward print and away from ebooks is actually the idea behind this madness. Given the overhead costs of one versus the other, it makes almost no business sense, except for one detail: the Big 5 can exert a lot more control over print and distribution of paper copies than they can over electronic copies. So if you’re looking for logic in this scheme, that’s probably where you’ll find it. A true resurgence in print could mean a revival of physical bookstores and a resumption of Big 5 control over the publishing industry as a whole. And maybe a pony, a recipe for no-calorie fudge, and a cure for male-pattern baldness.” (quoted)

Read the entire article. It’s a bit of a laugh, but it’s also sad.



The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”


Andrew Greeley, a prolific author

This post was originally published in 2013.

Andrew Greeley, a Catholic priest whose books numbered more than 120, died at the age of 85 in Chicago this week (2013).

The world has lost an engaging, combative intellect who seemingly could produce a book length manuscript as easily as a breeze wafts off of Lake Michigan.

Greeley was a priest and a Catholic first, but he had little use for many in the church hierarchy. He was an acerbic critic of church officials as they covered up the misdeeds of their fellow priests and as they ignored their congregants. He was a defender—with evidence—of Catholic schools against those who said they were second-rate. He was a sociological researcher and political commentator.

His New York Times obituary gives a full accounting of the life he led and the battles he fought. Interesting reading throughout.

Update: The New York Times, a couple of days after his death, praised the stand that Greeley took in criticizing the Catholic Church for protecting and covering up priests who had abused children:

From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, years before the scandal metastasized in Boston and engulfed the church worldwide, he sounded a prophetic warning about predator priests and bishops who protected them. He wasn’t alone: parents and victims had been battling the church hierarchy for years by then, and journalists like Jason Berry had done much to expose those crimes. But Father Greeley was among the first and most effective critics from within, defying his fellow priests on behalf of the betrayed laity. He had a pulpit, a column in The Chicago Sun-Times, and he used it often.

. . . Father Greeley, a sociologist, had great affection for the people in the pews. His words in their defense were strident, defiant, alarmist, and exactly right.


Group giveaways for December

Kill the Quarterback is part of four group giveaways during the month of December:

December Crime, Thriller, Suspense Giveaway

December Crime Newsletter Promo

December’s Free Mysteries

Mystery Giveaway

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 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.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Rita: Hi Jim, just a quick note to tell you how much I enjoy, and appreciate your articles!  They are always so interesting and informative! I was fourteen years old when President Kennedy was assassinated and though I wasn’t much interested in politics then, my family, and our entire community was devastated. Our school closed for three days so those of us who wanted to could watch everything on TV. No TVs in schools back then! And as I said, I enjoy all of your articles. I have been reading fiction since I was nine years old, and while I love it, now, as a double amputee confined to a wheelchair, that’s about all I do. So a break, now and then, with articles such as yours is very refreshing! Please keep sending them. I have a few of your books which sound very good. I am eager to get started on them, but it’s probably going to be close to the first of the year before I get a chance. With all of the Christmas chaos, and family coming in from out of town for the holidays, this apartment is going to be a zoo! When I have finished them I will leave a review for you. Do you prefer Amazon or Barnes & Noble?  I wish you and all of your loved ones a safe, blessed, and joyous holiday!    

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Christmas morning

Best quote of the week:

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (1913-1980)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try 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.

If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.

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 ( 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.


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: George Smalley, JFK on open government, sports writing, and Safire on words: newsletter, December 23, 2022



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