Archives: books

Charles Dickens, Parliamentary reporter; Antonio Vivaldi, and wide-ranging reader reaction: newsletter, October 22, 2021

October 23, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, newsletter, reporting, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, October 22, 2021. We live about five miles outside a small town on a winding road in an area that would definitely be termed as rural. Last Friday night, the weather permitted me to sit outside on my back porch and listen • 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 »

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 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 »

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 »

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 »

Jeeves: P. G. Wodehouse’s enduring character

August 23, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers.

Jeeves, the omniscient valet of P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster stories, began life in the author’s mind as a one-off character. He appeared in a 1915 story titled “Extricating Young Gussie” and was supposed to have only two lines: “Mrs. Gregson to see you, sir,” and  “Very good, sir. Which suit will you wear?”  Had • Read More »

Alex Haley’s pre-Roots success, the everlasting Jeeves, and Abe as mystery writer: newsletter, August 20, 2021

August 22, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,293) on Friday, August 20, 2021. A friend of mine who is, unfortunately, no longer with us used to express a personal theory concerning public personages. They were, he contended, cosmic clowns. Cosmic clowns, he would explain, are people that the Almighty placed on earth • Read More »

Lytton Strachey blazes a new trail in writing biography

August 16, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

If you tried to read a biography during the late 19th or early 20th century, chances are it was pretty rough going and very possibly not very enlightening. Biographies during that time adhered to strict Victorian standards of propriety and subservience to the rich and famous. The good qualities and achievements of the subject were • Read More »

A new approach to biography and writing and dying in public view: newsletter, August 13, 2021

August 15, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,294) on Friday, August 13, 2021. In the three or so days during and before this section has been written, the New York Times has published the following sentences:  – Mr. Trumka’s approach did not appear to be resolving an existential crisis for the U.S. • Read More »

The soldier poet, the woman who helped make the Revolutionary War, and ideas for writers: newsletter, August 6, 2021

August 8, 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 (2,313) on Friday, August 6, 2021. Writers are often asked where they get their ideas on what to write about. Fiction writers probably field this question more than non-fiction writers, but the question seems to be universally on the minds of readers. Many writers like • Read More »

The second generation of American leaders: Clay, Calhoun, and Webster

August 2, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, journalism, writers, writing.

Here is something odd and overlooked about the history of the American republic. The second generation of leaders―with one notable exception―is completely devoid of any close relatives, mainly sons, of the people we consider the Founding Fathers. None of the relatives of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, or almost any others that • Read More »

The generation after independence, the Irish, and the memories of Midnight Cowboy: newsletter, July 30, 2021

August 2, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,301) on Friday, July 30, 2021. July could rightly be called Independence Month. Not only do Americans and the French celebrate their nations’ birthdays during this time, but the Irish, too, have reason to celebrate ―although few of them do. It was on July 21, • Read More »