Archives: books

Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction: rule number 4

January 9, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, writers, writing.

For those of us coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s and seeking a voice to articulate the absurdities we were seeing and experiencing, Kurt Vonnegut was a God-send. Vonnegut (1922-2007), a World War II veteran and a survivor of the Dresden fire-bombing as a prisoner of war, wrote in a light, delicate prose • Read More »

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Fighting poets, the public domain, the genius behind what you read as a kid, and the American cult of ignorance: newsletter, January 4, 2019

January 7, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,940) on Friday, January 4, 2019.   For me, the new year has seen the completion of at least one project, the continuation of several others, and the beginning of a new one. Here I’ll just talk about what’s been completed. Several years • Read More »

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Don vs. Joe: the fight over Anonymous

January 6, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

When the novel Primary Colors was published in 1996, it caused a sensation inside the core of political and journalistic elites from Washington to New York. The novel was a thinly veiled recounting of the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton, and it was none too flattering to its protagonists, Bill and Hillary. The novel • Read More »

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Becoming George Eliot (part 2): the progress of Mary Anne Evans

January 5, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

When Mary Anne Evans published her first work under the pen name of George Eliot in 1856, there is no evidence that she ever planned to reveal her identity. She was successfully hiding behind the general rumor that George Eliot must be some country parson because the next of her writings, Scenes from a Clerical Life, • Read More »

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The Poe-English feud: two poets come to blows

January 5, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, writers, writing.

Edgar Allan Poe once wrote of Thomas Dunn English that he is “a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature.” This after they had once been friends — or at least on friendly terms (although some in the Poe camp dispute even that). In the 1840s, • Read More »

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Edward Stratemeyer, the genius behind the series you probably read as a kid

January 5, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism.

If you were a child in the 20th century, chances are that you owe a great deal to Edward Stratemeyer. Chances are, too, that you have never heard of Edward Stratemeyer. But as a young person, you probably did read books like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, the Rover Boys, Baseball Joe, the • Read More »

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Becoming George Eliot (part 1): The progress of Mary Anne Evans

January 5, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

Mary Anne Evans was one of the sharpest and most wide-ranging minds of the 1800s in London’s ground-breaking intellectual ferment of the mid-century. She mixed with the most radical and forwarding thinkers of the day and was the driving force behind the resurgence of the Westminster Review between late 1851 and 1853. Her title was assistant • Read More »

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Thousands of copyrighted works set to enter the public domain today

January 1, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

The intellectual property dam that has withheld thousands of copyrighted works — books, art, plays, films, etc. — from the public domain is about to burst. It’s about time. Copyright is a useful concept that helps protect an author or artist from having others benefit unduly from the work he or she has created. But • Read More »

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More literary deceptions, Artemus Ward, and JFK on open government: newsletter, Dec. 28, 2018

December 31, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,951) on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018.     This is the last newsletter of the year and time, once again, to thank all of you newsletter readers for reading and responding. You have given me so many good tips about articles and books. • Read More »

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Back on the road, in a literary sort of way; libraries; and writing advice from Elmore Leonard: newsletter, Dec. 21, 2018

December 24, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: American Road, books, journalism, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,962) on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.     The Christmas holiday season, Hannukah, the winter solstice, the beginning of the college football bowl season — they all collide for the next couple of weeks, provoking an increase in shopping, singing, television watching, and • Read More »

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The writer and the empire: who wins? The words win.

December 17, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, during the 1970s, was a hero in the West because as a Russian writer, he chose to stand against the Soviet empire and expose its corruption and inhumanity. His weapon was a short novel titledA Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which recounted the experiences of a Russian man sentenced to a Soviet • Read More »

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Literary deceptions, caricature, and a writer vs. an empire: newsletter, Dec. 14, 2018

December 17, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, journalism, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,967) on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.     Literary deceptions and caricatures (again) — those are the items we focus on in this week’s newsletter. But there more, too. When is it okay for an author to deceive readers? We have two instances • Read More »

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Saul Bellow, a jerk and a determinedly great writer

December 11, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, journalism, writers, writing.

Saul Bellow is one of the giants of 20th century American literature — a writer of the first order who could mesmerize the reader with his prose. Yet personally, he could be — and often was — a jerk, demanding, demeaning, and thoroughly foul-tempered. What’s a biographer to do? The answer comes from Zachery Leader, • Read More »

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Joseph Priestly’s big writing idea, a winter’s read recommendation, and radio drama from the BBC: newsletter, Dec. 7, 2018

December 10, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, history, journalism, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,977) on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.     In light of the reduction of our beehives, which I reported last week, I have come across a couple of substantial articles about bees and insects in this environment. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance • Read More »

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The Education of Little Tree – heartwarming tale or major league hoax?

December 10, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

It’s a heartwarming tale: a small Cherokee boy is raised by his aging grandparents and taught to love the land and be tolerant of others. It is “the way” of the Cherokee tribe, and the writing is simple, ironic, and at times hilarious. The Education of Little Tree was written not by a person raised • Read More »

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Louisa May Alcott, stealth novelist of the blood and thunder genre

December 6, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

Louisa May Alcott lived a double-literary life. The world knew her as Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women and other widely popular and deeply-loved books that have been read by children for generations. These she called “moral pap” and said she wrote them only for the money. An extremely small circle of people knew • Read More »

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Radio dramas from the BBC Radio 4

December 5, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers.

One of the great pleasures I had when I spent a couple of multi-month stretches in Great Britain in the 1970s (London for eight months and Edinburgh for seven) was listening to the radio — specifically BBC Radio 4. I didn’t have a television, but the radio dramas presented by the BBC more than satisfied my • Read More »

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A recommendation for a winter read from LitHub: The Talented Mr. Ripley

December 4, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, journalism, writers, writing.

As we head into the depths of winter — don’t worry, Christmas will be over soon, and then we’ll find ourselves there — Emily Temple, a senior editor at the excellent LitHub.com website has a good reading recommendation: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. It is, in my opinion, the perfect winter holiday book. It’s • Read More »

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Joseph Priestly and his Big (writing) Idea

December 3, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

Joseph Priestly, the Englishman we remember as a great scientist and the one who first discovered oxygen, was a writer before he was a scientist. And he was a writer with a Big Idea. Priestly (1733-1804) lived in an age when interest in “natural philosophy,” what we would call “science” today, had exploded, and people • Read More »

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