Archives: books

Sinclair Lewis and the Great American Freedom of travel

November 28, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: American Road, books, journalism, writers, writing.

Few novelists have explored the American mind and character as deeply and perceptively as Sinclair Lewis, who in 1930 became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. The freedom of movement — the ability for Americans to travel — is, according to Lewis, one of the most important parts of the American • Read More »

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A writer who didn’t want to be edited, the ‘real’ Moriarty, and your good words: newsletter, Nov. 23, 2018

November 26, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, journalism, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

  Thanks for the many emails about the words that we use and the ones we don’t hear enough. This week’s word, of course, is gratitude, in line with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans have celebrated this week. All of us have much to be thankful for. I do my best to remind myself of that • Read More »

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Muriel Spark, the writer who couldn’t abide being edited

November 20, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

Muriel Spark, the author of 22 novels including The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, always wanted to be in full control of her writing, and once she achieved a measure of fame and recognition, she got it. She refused to be edited unless she could have the final say in the matter. Just as The Prime of Miss • Read More »

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Winston Churchill: yet another biography, but just what we need

November 2, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, writers, writing.

By Andrew Roberts’ count, there are slightly more than 1,000 biographies of Winston Churchill. That’s one for almost every page of his massive new biographyChurchill: Walking with Destiny. So, why write another one — particularly one of such length. Surely by now, we should be able to reduce Churchill to just three or four hundred • Read More »

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The purpose of the honeybee

November 1, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: beekeeping, books, journalism.

Bees give us honey. It’s a wonderful food, and many people make a living by harvesting and selling honey. Bees also pollinate many of our crops. Some estimate that up to 30 percent of what we eat is on our tables because of honeybees. Important as these activities are to humans, neither is central to • Read More »

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Fanny Burney: paving the way for Jane Austen and the Brontes

October 31, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, Women writers and journalists, writers.

Before there was Jane Austen, before there was George Eliot, before there were Charlotte and Emily Bronte — before even women were supposed to be able to write in this new developing form called a novel — there was Fanny Burney (1752-1840). Burney, daughter of Dr. Charles Burney, a well-known scholar and music teacher of the second half • Read More »

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G.K. Chesterton: Everything about him was big, including his ‘colossal genius’

October 24, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, journalists, writers, writing.

In so many ways, Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (1874-1936) was an enormous man. — Physically, he was massive: 6 feet 4 inches tall, he weighed more than 250 pounds. He had a shock of hair that on many days looked like it had exploded out of the right side of his head. — His writing production almost • Read More »

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Good advice for the General: Write like you talk

October 16, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, Civil War, history, journalism, writers, writing.

As a writing teacher of several decades, I never cared for the advice “write like you talk.” Most people don’t talk all that well. Besides, writing is a different process from talking. Talking is easy. Writing is hard. But “write like you talk” was the advice that Ulysses S. Grant got from Robert S. Johnson, • Read More »

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Benedict Arnold, explained but not excused

October 12, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, journalism, writers.

Nathaniel Philbrick‘s Valient Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution. explains–but does not excuse–Benedict Arnold. And the explanation is an important part of the history of the American Revolution. And, therefore, it is important for Americans to hear and understand. Philbrick is a top-flight historian whose narrative prose makes any topic he tackles readable • Read More »

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The United States has always been divided in its thinking — even before it was the United States

September 30, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, journalism.

The deep divisions in America’s current political culture undoubtedly pose serious and difficult problems for the long-term health of the nation, but they need to be set in some context. The truth is that the United States of America has never been united except on the most basic of principles (equal justice, free speech, etc.). • Read More »

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All About Agatha – the podcast where Agatha Christie is first, last, and always

September 26, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, Women writers and journalists, writers.

All About Agatha (Christie)Pro Unlimited Agatha Christie The Agatha Christie fans out there — and they are legion — will want to join in on this weekly podcast, All About Agatha, that is devoted exclusively to the author whose popularity remains undiminished even 40 years after her death. The podcast features Linda Brobeck and Kemper • Read More »

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What you do when you’re writing a Phillip Marlowe novel

September 25, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

Raymond Chandler died in 1959, leaving the fans of his detective anti-hero Phillip Marlowe wanting more. In the ensuing years, two excellent writers, Robert Parker and John Banville, have attempted to satisfy those desires. Parker took up Chandler’s unfinished novel and finished it as Poodle Springs in 1989. Then he wrote a second Marlowe novel, • Read More »

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The donkey libraries of rural Colombia: a story from the BBC

September 22, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism.

Colombia is not all drugs and drug lords and gangs and violence. There are people like Luis Soriano, a Spanish teacher in rural La Gloria Colombia, who loves books, understands their value, and wants the young people of his region to have access to them. Soriano put his dream on the back of two donkeys, Alfa • Read More »

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Yes, people are still trying to ban books. And they should be opposed.

September 19, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, First Amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, journalism.

You can shield yourself from ideas that make you uncomfortable or that you disagree with. You may be able, to some extent, to limit the exposure that the young people in your care have to those ideas. But you cannot shield your community from the things you disagree with. That’s called censorship, and in any practical • Read More »

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A picture essay book on the necessity of libraries from The Guardian

September 19, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism.

What are libraries about? Neil Gaiman and Chris Ridell have put together this pretty neat picture book that solidly answers that question. Sit back and take a look. You will enjoy this.   Source: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures | Books | The Guardian

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‘The Woman Who Smashed Codes’ taught her biographer cryptology after her death

September 13, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, reporting, writers, writing.

Journalist Jason Fagon, when he set out to write a biography of the extraordinary Elizebeth Friedman, America’s chief codebreaker during World War II, had an obstacle to overcome that most biographers don’t face: He had to learn cryptology, the art and science of secret writing. Fortunately, Fagon had a good teacher: Elizebeth Friedman herself. Friedman • Read More »

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A 19th century writer-rock star, King James’ obsession, costly commas, and the Clinton impeachment revisited: newsletter, Sept. 7, 2018

September 10, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, grammar, history, newsletter.

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (x) on August 30, 2018 Too much good stuff to read, too little time. I am in the middle of an excellent novel by a well-known author at the moment, and I will tell you about it in a week or two. I’ve also started • Read More »

King James I, perpetrator of a Biblical translation, hunter of witches

September 8, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history.

The famous opening scene of The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare begins with the speeches of three witches. They predict what will happen in the play, but they are more than a dramatic device. They were a very pointed and obvious political statement. That statement — something of a cheerleader’s “We’re with you all • Read More »

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The scientific contributions and botanical art of Beatrix Potter

September 8, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, journalism, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

All the world knows Beatrix Potter as the author of the Peter Rabbit stories. Some of the world knows that Potter also illustrated those stories. Probably even fewer people know that Potter was a scientist and a scientific artist, and her specialty was mushrooms. As Maria Popova of BrainPickings writes: . . . no aspect • Read More »

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Frances Hodgson Burnett, a rock-star writer of the 19th and early 20th century

September 8, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, another of The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy, wrote prolifically and made a ton of money doing it. She traveled extensively, lived peripatetically, spent extravagantly, and maintained a lavish lifestyle that most of us could only imagine. During her 30 years atop the world’s literary stage, she was one of the world’s • Read More »