Category Archives: writers

A description of Artemus Ward for the caricaturist

If ever there was a description that demanded a caricature, it is this one of Charles Farrar Brown, aka Artemus Ward. His fellow editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, George Hoyt, wrote:

His desk was a rickety table which had been whittled and gashed until it looked as if it had been the victim of lightning.  His chair was a fit companion thereto,—a wabbling, unsteady affair, sometimes with four and sometimes with three legs.  But Browne saw neither the table, nor the chair, nor any person who might be near, nothing, in fact, but the funny pictures which were tumbling out of his brain.  When writing, his gaunt form looked ridiculous enough.  One leg hung over the arm of his chairlike a great hook, while he would write away, sometimes laughing to himself, and then slapping the table in the excess of his mirth.” Source: The Complete Works of Artemus Ward

Ward is often described as America’s first stand-up comic.

Born in Main in 1834, he learned the printer’s trade and contributed occasional humorous pieces to newspapers. He developed his talent in Cleveland, where he first used the pen name of Artemus Ward, and then moved east to edit — unsuccessfully — a humor magazine. His humor and language were homespun, and his writing became highly popular.

One of his fans was President Abraham Lincoln, who read one of War’s pieces to his cabinet to break the tension before he told them that he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Ward realized that he had a stage presence that could draw large audiences. He also knew how to publicize himself, and his national tour, which included California and meeting Mark Twain in Virginia City, Nevada, was a great success. He traveled to England after the war in 1866 and contributed to the British humor magazine Punch. But he also became ill there and died of tuberculosis in 1867 shortly before his 33rd birthday.

Based on Hoyt’s description, I came up with this caricature:

 

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

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, captured the community life of the villages of England so well.

She had adopted the name of George Eliot because

— she didn’t want the reception of her writing to have to deal with the prejudices against women writers;

— she was living with a man who was married and not her husband;

— the essay where she first used George Eliot as a nom-de-plume was titled “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.”

If no one ever knew that George Eliot was really Mary Anne Evans, that was fine with Mary Anne. Her work would be judged on its merits, not on the gender of the authors. Anonymity and obscurity were preferable to fame and recognition.

But the outcome was predictable. Her work was well-received, and the reading public became curious about this “country parson.” Some who read it closely began to guess that it might not have been written by a man after all. Some of the speculation spilled into Mary Anne Evans’ lap. She was well known in London intellectual circles, and her writing style distinct.

Then, the unpredictable happened. A man, unknown to everyone, claimed to be George Eliot. After the publication of the novel Adam Bede in 1859 and its generally glowing reviews (which brought on more speculation about the author’s identity), Liggins announced that he was the author. To Evans’ consternation, he developed a following and even advocates among London’s literary elite. Word was seeping out from people who knew who the real author was, but Evans continued to issue denials for a time.

But the denials, in some sense, were just confirmation that Liggins was the real George Eliot, and Mary Anne (or Marian, as she preferred) could not have that. She finally admitted her identity and provided proof that she was who she said she was.

That admission caused some embarrassment and some hurt feelings on the part of friends to whom she had lied. All that was mitigated by the fact that in addition to her works being well reviewed, the books were selling well, and she was making money — more than she expected. The income over the next few years provided her and George Lewes, whom she referred to as her husband, the freedom to live where they wanted to live and to travel at will.

Eliot went on to produce an impressive body of work (Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss, Daniel Deronda), and to emerge as one of England leading writers of the 19th century. About Middlemarch, Virginia Woolf famously said that it was “one of the few English novels written for grown-ups.”

The Poe-English feud: two poets come to blows

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, English was a well-known poet, essayist, and editorialist. His most famous work is a poem titled, “Ben Bolt,” written in 1843 for the New York Mirror. It was a ballad that was later set to music by Nelson Kneass, and the first stanza is this:

Oh don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile
And trembled with fear at your frown.

The song, and the phrase “Oh don’t you remember Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt” became one of the most widely popular and sung tunes of the 19th century. It was turned into a political tune at one point and was sung nightly on steamboats and other popular venues.

Poe and English fell out with each other in 1845 when Poe was asked by a woman to return letters that she had written to him that she believed contain indiscretions. Poe said he had returned the letters, and the story is that he asked English for a pistol to defend himself against the brother. English expressed some doubt that Poe was actually telling the truth about the letters and suggested that he make a public statement about the controversy. This infuriated Poe, and the two men came to blows with Poe later claiming that he administered to English  “a flogging which he will remember to the day of his death.”

English denied that, but no hatchets were buried. English wrote a prohibitionist novel titled 1844 or the Power of the S.F., in which he included a character named Marmaduke Hammerhead, the famous author of a poem The Black Crow. It was a clear parody of Poe. After the New York Mirror published a letter in 1846 about Poe by English, Poe sued for libel and won a $200 judgment.

The two highly-strung writers had several other literary confrontations, and the feud did not end with Poe’s death in 1949. English continued to jab at Poe even though he outlived Poe by more than 50 years.

Today we remember Poe and his body of work as being among the best of American literature, and few people know of Thomas Dunn English. His Ben Bolt, which captures the romantic longing of the age, is still sung and recorded. The entire poem follows:

Ben Bolt

Oh don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile
And trembled with fear at your frown.

In the old church yard in the valley, Ben Bolt
In a corner obscure and alone
They have fitted a slab of granite so gray
And sweet Alice lies under the stone.

Under the hickory tree, Ben Bolt
Which stood at the end of the hill
Together we’ve lain in the noonday shade
And listened to Appleton’s mill.

 The mill wheel has fallen to pieces, Ben Bolt
The rafters have tumbled in
And a quiet that crawls ’round the walls as you gaze
Has followed the olden din.

And don’t you remember the school, Ben Bolt
With the master so cruel and grim
And the shaded nook by the running brook
Where the children went to swim.

Grass grows on the master’s grave, Ben Bolt
The spring of the brook is dry
And of all the boys who were schoolmates then
There are only you and I.

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

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 editor. In reality she was the one who put together the monthly publication — selecting the subjects, gathering the authors, and writing much of the content herself. The breadth of her knowledge and understanding was wide-ranging.

But Mary Anne Evans had a big problem. She was a woman.

It was a man’s world — this world of Big New Ideas — and in it women were relegated to domesticity and, if they chose to become writers, to the genre of light and romantic literature.

Evans did not want that role. She believed she was destined to be something else.

Maybe so, but she had an even bigger problem, She was a Fallen Woman. Evans was living with George Lewes, a man who was married to another woman, who was the mother of his children. They had run off together in 1854 to Europe and when they returned, they lived openly together in a suburb of London.

The scandal had isolated Evans from society and even from her close friends. Alone, except for Lewes, she did what she had always dreamed of doing: writing fiction. The well-connected Evans got a publisher interested in her work, but she feared that publication would just exacerbate her two big problems.

So she solved her problems literally at the stroke of a pen. She became George Eliot.

She used that pen name first in 1857 when she published the first of three stories in Blackwood’s Magazine. George Eliot was a publicity-shy country parson (or maybe his wife), it was said, and the stories were very well received. Two years later, the novel Adam Bede was published, and that received rave reviews. Curiosity about this “George Eliot” person heightened.

Then things got complicated. That’s next week — so stay turned.

Thousands of copyrighted works set to enter the public domain today

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 a creative word is not just an object. It is an idea as well.

Because of that, the nation’s founds granted to Congress the right to set copyrights “for a limited time.” The obvious idea behind that phrase is that it would not be forever, and the hope was that the “limited time” would be reasonable.

Because of intense lobbying through the decades, that reasonable, limited time grew longer. It became unreasonable in 1998 when all copyrights were extended for 20 years. The extension was passed, for the most part, because the Disney corporation wanted to maintain its money-making control over its chief icon, Mickey Mouse.

That extension expires today, January 1, 2019, and the public will benefit enormously from the expiration. Thousands of works will come into the public domain, and entrepreneurs will be able to use them at will.

Yes, there will be some misuses. But there will be some creative uses that will add to our intellectual environment. The biggest misuse — the manipulation of copyright law to benefit corporations, stockholders, heirs, and estates — will finally come to an end.

You can read more about the specifics of this issue in these two articles:

A Mass of Copyrighted Works Will Soon Enter the Public Domain – The Atlantic

New Life for Old Classics, as Their Copyrights Run Out – The New York Times

Caricature: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Scott’s most famous book, The Great Gadsby, will lose its copyright protection in 2021 because of the expiration of this copyright extension.

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

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. I am much richer — in the ways that are really important — because of you.

This week: more literary deceptions and caricatures, combined as much as possible.

Have a great weekend and a wonderful New Year.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,962 subscribers and had a 30.9 percent open rate; 7 people 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.


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

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 editor. In reality she was the one who put together the monthly publication — selecting the subjects, gathering the authors, and writing much of the content herself. The breadth of her knowledge and understanding was wide-ranging.

But Mary Anne Evans had a big problem. She was a woman.

It was a man’s world — this world of Big New Ideas — and in it women were relegated to domesticity and, if they chose to become writers, to the genre of light and romantic literature.

Evans did not want that role. She believed she was destined to be something else.

Maybe so, but she had an even bigger problem, She was a Fallen Woman. Evans was living with George Lewes, a man who was married to another woman, who was the mother of his children. They had run off together in 1854 to Europe and when they returned, they lived openly together in a suburb of London.

The scandal had isolated Evans from society and even from her close friends. Alone, except for Lewes, she did what she had always dreamed of doing: writing fiction. The well-connected Evans got a publisher interested in her work, but she feared that publication would just exacerbate her two big problems.

So she solved her problems literally at the stroke of a pen. She became George Eliot.

She used that pen name first in 1857 when she published the first of three stories in Blackwood’s Magazine. George Eliot was a publicity-shy country parson (or maybe his wife), it was said, and the stories were very well received. Two years later, the novel Adam Bede was published, and that received rave reviews. Curiosity about this “George Eliot” person heightened.

Then things got complicated. That’s next week — so stay tuned.

 

JFK on the idea of government secrecy

Once upon a time . . . . It almost seems like a fantasy.

A sitting president spoke out against government secrecy. It was John F. Kennedy, and it was April 1961. Kennedy was speaking before a meeting of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

Here’s part of what he said:

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

Much of Kennedy’s speech that night was about the dangers that America and the free world faced — the danger of communism and its threat to our freedoms. With very few changes, the speech could have been delivered last week, and it would have sounded most relevant.

Undoubtedly, neither Kennedy nor his administration lived up to the ideas that he expressed in this speech.

But unlike today’s leaders, Kennedy did not believe in closing off the government to its people. He did not believe in limiting civil liberties. Rather, he sought to expand them, believing that was the best way to fight our enemies.

The whole speech is worth reading.

Particularly by those in power today.

 


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


 

A description of Artemus Ward for the caricaturist

If ever there was a description that demanded a caricature, it is this one of Charles Farrar Brown, aka Artemus Ward. His fellow editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, George Hoyt, wrote:

His desk was a rickety table which had been whittled and gashed until it looked as if it had been the victim of lightning.  His chair was a fit companion thereto,—a wabbling, unsteady affair, sometimes with four and sometimes with three legs.  But Browne saw neither the table, nor the chair, nor any person who might be near, nothing, in fact, but the funny pictures which were tumbling out of his brain.  When writing, his gaunt form looked ridiculous enough.  One leg hung over the arm of his chairlike a great hook, while he would write away, sometimes laughing to himself, and then slapping the table in the excess of his mirth.” Source: The Complete Works of Artemus Ward

Ward is often described as America’s first stand-up comic.

Born in Main in 1834, he learned the printer’s trade and contributed occasional humorous pieces to newspapers. He developed his talent in Cleveland, where he first used the pen name of Artemus Ward, and then moved east to edit — unsuccessfully — a humor magazine. His humor and language were homespun, and his writing became highly popular.

One of his fans was President Abraham Lincoln, who read one of War’s pieces to his cabinet to break the tension before he told them that he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Ward realized that he had a stage presence that could draw large audiences. He also knew how to publicize himself, and his national tour, which included California and meeting Mark Twain in Virginia City, Nevada, was a great success. He traveled to England after the war in 1866 and contributed to the British humor magazine Punch. But he also became ill there and died of tuberculosis in 1867 shortly before his 33rd birthday.

Based on Hoyt’s description, I came up with the caricature on the right:

 

Don vs. Joe: the fight over Anonymous

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 was filled with insider information that only someone close to the campaign — inside, if you will — could know. 

The problem was that nobody knew who it was. The author was listed as Anonymous.

Speculation about the authorship ran wild. Everyone who was any denied writing it — even if the person had not asked. Everybody had a theory. But no one knew for sure.

That’s when New York Magazine called Don Foster. Foster was an English professor at Vassar who had gained a bit of fame for discovering an unattributed poem that William Shakespeare had written. Foster had done this with a straightfoward textual analysis, something literary historians do all the time. The underlying assumption of this kind of analysis is that everyone has a unique style of writing. A person uses words, sentences, paragraphs and punctuation in the same way no matter what they write. Their writing style is as unique as a fingerprint.

By the way, there’s no computer program that does this. It’s a matter of reading carefully and taking notes.

Discovering a style is not particularly difficult if you know what you are looking for, and Foster has proven that he knew. Thus, the editors at New York Magazine asked Foster to discover who Anonymous was. Foster was at first reluctant to get involved but finally consented to try. It didn’t take very long to identify the authors, and he describes the process in a chapter of his book titled Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. (In case you plan to read the book, it’s by far the best chapter; the others are disappointing.)

The author of Primary Colors, Foster said, was Joe Klein, a writer for Time magazine.

Klein’s response — instead of saying, “Ah, good job, professor. You got me.” — was to deny authorship and pour scorn on Foster and the fact that he was an English professor. Needless to say, Klein’s denials were so vociferous that many people believed, leaving Professor Foster in a bit of lurch. Klein continued to deny authorship for the next few months until he was outed by a Washington Post reporter who had incontrovertible evidence — handwritten notes to the publisher.

Klein ungraciously admitted his lie but never offered any apology to the professor.

Klein, despite the lie, was able to continue his journalistic career and has been involved in several controversies over his reporting and writing. Foster, too, continued his career and worked with police around the country using his literary analysis techniques to help solve crimes and find criminals.

 

Reactions

Vince V.: I have a thick folder of writing advice, but on the outside is taped Elmore Leonard’s famous 
“10 Rules for Writing.” I find when I read that (for the 500th  time)I don’t need to dig into the folder.

Brennan L.: I was glad to see Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman listed on CrimeReads’ Best Espionage Fiction of 2018. I have been a fan of his political hot-spot novels ever since I read Lie in the Dark and The Arms Maker of BerlinIn fact, just before reading your newsletter I had recommended his books to a library patron. 

A.J.N.: THANK YOU for sending this newsletter, even though after reading it I am aware that I must not have had time to open last week’s edition – I’ll have to search it out (among the 5,592 unread emails in my Inbox) first, because I love your messages and hate to miss one; second, because I once taught high school English, and I remember The Education of Little Tree because it was one of the books my ninth-graders read; and third, because I own a paperback edition of Louisa May Alcott’s Behind the Mask, and would be interested to read whatever you had to say about her.

Dan C.: Elmore Leonard’s words on remaining invisible are great advice an editor can give to the writers he works with. 
My friend, Dan C., is a great editor, by the way, and he has saved me from numerous embarrassments. JS

Glynn W.: I particularly liked your account of Sinclair Lewis and the automobile. Lewis’ wanderings included a visit to Carmel, Calif., where he tried to hang out with the literary group that had escaped to Carmel after the earthquake of 1906. This group did theatrical productions, exchanged wives and husbands, and they didn’t much like “Red” Lewis. 

Red just didn’t fit in with Jeffers and the rest of this fast set. The leader of that crowd (sorta) was the writer, George Sterling. The group used something called “The Abalone Song” for their anthem, which they sang while pounding those critters for picnic dinners on  Carmel’s icy cold beach.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s drawing (charcoal):  Artemus Ward

 

 

Best quote of the week:

I am not one of those who believe that a great army is the means of maintaining peace, because if you build up a great profession those who form parts of it want to exercise their profession. Woodrow Wilson, 28th US president, Nobel laureate (1856-1924)

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — 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.

Jim


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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

 

 

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

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 other unusual human activity. A lot of it involves seeing and hearing from people you aren’t in daily contact with, and that’s one of the fun parts. I hope everything is fun for you these days.

Holidays or not, I always enjoy hearing from you, and this week was particularly delightful. Any thoughts at all from you are welcome.

I’m still doing some sleuthing on literary deceptions — the major theme of last week’s newsletter — and I should have more about that next week. Meanwhile, enjoy your weekend and your holiday festivities, whatever it is that you are celebrating.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,968 subscribers and had a 26.8 percent open rate; 4 people 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.


Sinclair Lewis and the freedom of movement in Ameria

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 psyche.

So says Professor  in a perceptive and entertaining essay on Lewis on the Public Domain Review website: American Freedom: Sinclair Lewis and the Open Road – The Public Domain Review

Lewis’ most affirmative vision of what he means by freedom is found in his novel Free Air, which was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in the spring of 1919, the year before Main Street and Babbitt made him a household name. Free Air is the story of two young people, Milt and Claire. Milt is a small-town mechanic and garage owner, and Claire is from Long Island and in the middle of a coast-to-coast trip to Seattle with her father. . .

The travelers look for something new and different from what they have known and are ultimately disappointed in what they find. Small towns, big cities, and rural areas all seem the same as the places they had left.

Michels goes on to say

This is not just about travel; for Lewis, it is about positive freedom and control. He never presents train travel as especially desirable, constrained as it is to tracks, and his early love of planes is directed at those who can fly them. Americans are rightful captains and pilots, not passengers or spectators. He would have agreed with Thomas Wolfe, who, in You Can’t Go Home Again, posited: “Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America — that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement.” It is only when Wolfe’s protagonist George Webber arrives at a destination, that he feels a sense of homelessness. The expansive country and its prairie makes motion the most natural and comfortable condition.

Lewis wrote at a time when the automobile was expanding the meaning of travel for Americans and giving them more options and more control. The automobile did not invent the concept of “freedom of travel,” but it certainly enhanced the idea. It is now more than ever a part of the American mind.

Illustration: Sinclair Lewis and the American Road (copyright © 2018 by Jim Stovall)

 

12 authors write about the libraries they love

The New York Times asked a dozen authors to write about their experiences with libraries. What they say is fabulous.

Here’s part of what Barbara Kingsolver wrote:

Everywhere I’ve gone since (childhood), I’ve found libraries. Those of us launched from bare-bones schools in uncelebrated places will always find particular grace in a library, where the temple doors are thrown wide to all believers, regardless of pedigree. Nowadays I have the normal professional reliance on internet research, but my heart still belongs to the church of the original source. Every book I’ve written has some magic in it I found in physical stacks or archives. Source: 12 Authors Write About the Libraries They Love – The New York Times

If you love libraries, if you think they’re valuable, if you want to see them help other people as they have helped you, read this and enjoy.

Then go check out a book.

 

Bret Harte’s big journalistic scoop

Before he became famous for his wild tales of the then New West, Bret Harte was a journalist and had broken one of the biggest stories of the era in pre-Civil War California.

Born in 1836 in Albany, New York, Harte moved to California with his family when he was a teenager. He worked at a variety of jobs, including being a guard for a Wells-Fargo stagecoach and a school teacher. In 1860, he found himself employed by a weekly newspaper, the Northern Californian, in Uniontown.

He had been left in charge of the paper during the owner’s absence when, on February 26, 1860,  white settlers attacked the nearby Wiyot Native American village of Tuluwat on Indian Island and killed most of the people, including women and children, they found there. No one knows exactly how many people were murdered because the incident was never adequately investigated. Estimate of the dead range from 60 to 250.

The following Sunday with Harte in charge of the paper (the owner was out of town), Harte published an article describing the massacre scene and an editorial condemning it.

We can conceive of no palliation for woman and child slaughter. We can conceive of no wrong that a babe’s blood can atone for. (p. 55)

These were strong words, and they were not well received by a vocal and violent minority in Uniontown. Harte followed up with another article the next which further ruffled the local feathers.

Within a month, Harte had left Uniontown for San Francisco with a good notice from his editor:

In addition to being a printer, Mr. Harte is a good writer. He has often contributed to the columns of this paper, and at different times when we have been absent, has performed the editorial labors. He is a warm-hearted genial companion, and a gentleman in every sense of the word. (p.56)

No one was ever prosecuted for the killings even though those responsible for them was commonly known. In San Francisco, Harte encountered a new set of difficulties and opportunities. Those would vault him to fame as a literary man.

Source: Axel Nissen, Bret Harte: Prince and Pauper.

Previously on JPROF.com: Bret Harte: Object of Mark Twain’s praise and derision


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


 

Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing, with explanations

Nearly two decades ago, the New York Times asked some prominent writers to write about writing. One of those was Elmore Leonard, the novelist, and screenwriter who died in 2013, and he famously set forth his “10 rules of writing,” which he introduced with this paragraph:

These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over. Source: WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle – The New York Times

These rules are well worth reading (1. Never start with the weather. 2. Avoid prologues., etc.), as are the explanations Leonard gives for each in the Times article.

If you can’t get to the Times article, the rules are located elsewhere on the web. You can find them with a simple search.

 

The lists: espionage and New York in the fifties

Tis the season for lists. And I’ve got a couple for you.

Usually, this time of year, the list involves something having to do with the years that is ending — 10 best, 10 worst, that sort of thing. And that is indeed what one of the lists is about.

But first, something completely different.

If you are caught up in the Netflix series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,”  (here is a review from  The Times ), you know that it’s set in New York City sometime in the 1950s. The sets and the clothes are marvelous, as well as the story and the acting, and the Times gives you this list of books that will tell you more about the city during that decade: If You Love ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ You’ll Love These Books – The New York Times

You likely have read some of the books on the list, but it’s a fun list to go over. I may try one or two of them myself.

The second list is more “traditional,” as they say. It’s CrimeReads’ list of the best espionage fiction published in 2018: The Best Espionage Fiction of 2018 | CrimeReads

I will confess that I have not read any of these books, but several of them sound intriguing. The one that caught my eye was Trinity by Louisa Hall. Here is CrimeReads’ description:

Louisa Hall’s new novel of Cold War fears takes us into the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer as he’s tailed by a secret service agent while waffling on the implications of his work on the nuclear bomb. Beginning with a visually intricate tailing sequence, and zooming out to examine Oppenheimer and his internal conflicts from a variety of perspectives, Trinity is essential reading for fans of le Carré and his classics of Cold War espionage fiction.

 

Recently on JPROF.com

 

Reactions

Penny S.: Please keep sending your newsletters to me. I enjoy reading them although I don’t always link in things. Even if I don’t have time to read the new ones right away, I have a separate file just for your newsletters so I can read when I have leisure time (LOL) which can be rare at this time of year especially. 

Jim D.: I love your theme this week and particularly your focus on The Education of Little Tree. I’ve always loved that book. At the same time, I’ve always been mystified by its author. I knew the story of Forrest “Asa” Carter. I did not know it in the fullness with which it is illuminated through your “This American Life” link, however.

While the TAL piece sheds much light, I remain in the dark as to the real Carter. Did the bigoted Asa have a Damascus Road experience and become the gentle and wise Forrest, or are the segregationist speechwriter and the author of the Cherokee boy parable simply two aspects of a complex, multifaceted man? My guess is we’ll never know. And, for that matter, does it really matter?

The more fundamental question is: does art stand alone? That is to say, should the hand behind a work matter in judging the work itself? Is a symphony written by a rapist any less melodic? Is a sculpture crafted by a murderer any less majestic? Is a poem written by a thief any less beautiful? I think not.

Gary P.: I thoroughly enjoy your newsletter and have read several books based on the content.  Thank you for thinking of me and keeping me on the list.

Joyce L.: Wow, Jim, you’re really looking under the rocks and finding fascinating truths!  Kudos.  I never knew or even imagined that Louisa May Alcott wrote “blood and thunder,” novels.  But why not?

And I read The Education of Little Tree as a real autobiography, not as some political claptrap deception.  Oh, how naïve of me!

In this time of extreme “faux news” and “phony baloney” on all fronts, I’m glad you’re poking around and exposing the truth!

Glynn W.: I especially liked the Alcott piece, and I’d not known about her dreadfuls. As my mother’s boy, I was handed LITTLE WOMEN when I was five or so (home-schooled in today’s jargon), and it remains one of my favorite novels. Her other choices included TREASURE ISLAND and ROBINSON CRUSOE). It is a bit strange that Louisa May thought that her New England crowd wasn’t up to the things that Jo would write.

From your humble newsletter author: Thank you and God bless you — each and every one — for writing to me. Your emails are a joy beyond measure.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s drawing (pen and ink):  Sinclair Lewis (caricature)

Special Christmas bonus watercolor: Charles Dickens (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view. Paul Klee, painter (1879-1940) 

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — 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.

Jim


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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

 

 

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

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 labor camp — something that Solzhenitsyn himself had undergone.

The novel was smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published in the West. It became wildly popular and Solzhenitsyn became a household name. It rang so true and was so damning that Communist regimes never again mustered any moral standing in the world.

The writer was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 and stripped of his citizenship. He settled in America and continued his writing. His novels sold widely and his voice remained powerful, but his influence waned, particularly after he criticized American society.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Solzhenitsyn was vindicated in his criticisms, and three years later he returned to his native land as a hero. But he didn’t seem any better satisfied with what Russian leaders were doing to democratize the nation than he had been with America. The country needed a strong leader, one who could maintain order, support the Church, and return the nation to its traditional values.

He thus welcomed the rise of Vladimir Putin and accepted the honors Putin offered him in 2007. He died the next year at the age of 89.

Because the centenary of his birth occurred this week, Michael Scammell, his biography, has written a piece about him in the New York Times. Scammell gives Solzhenitsyn a great deal of credit for the ultimate downfall of the Communist regime — credit he undoubtedly deserves.

He risked his all to drive a stake through the heart of Soviet communism and did more than any other single human being to undermine its credibility and bring the Soviet state to its knees. Source: Opinion | The Writer Who Destroyed an Empire – The New York Times

Solzhenitsyn’s battle with the Soviets shows the strength of writing against a political power. Words and ideas have moral force when they are correct, and they cannot be killed.

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

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 this week in which the authors hid their identities from the audience. One of them took great pains to do it; the other, more or less, hid in plain sight. I thought I had this clear in my mind, but the more I looked into it, the more confusing it got. This week’s newsletter gives you a first glance at what I found.

While I am thinking about it, I want to say thanks to all of you newsletter readers who have stuck with me through the year — particularly those who have written to me. You have made 2018 a truly great year for me, and I appreciate it very much.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,977 subscribers and had a 30.5 percent open rate; 10 people 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.


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

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 her as A.M. Barnard, author of what she termed “blood and thunder” sensational novels, the kind she wanted to write for all of her writing career. She was ashamed of these novels and worked to keep her connection with them a secret.

That secret held for nearly 90 years after death in 1888.

In the mid 1970s, while helping Madeleine Stern research a biography of Alcott, Leona Rostenberg discovered a large, unknown cache of papers at the Houghton Library at Harvard University that indicated that Alcott had written works no one knew about. They included Behind a Mask and A Long Fatal Love Chasenovels that featured strong, independent women and lavish, involved plots. Behind a Mask was published in serial form in 1866, two years before Little Women.

These were the kind of novels that Jo, her fictional alter ego, wrote in Little Women.

The success of Little Women turned Alcott away from writing sensation novels, and she never acknowledged the authorship of these blood-and-thunder works. In fact, she destroyed many of the letters that tied her to these books and asked others to do so as well.

But these books give us a valuable insight into this highly important and interesting literary personage.


 

Many biographies of Louisa May Alcott exist. An exceptionally readable one is by Susan Cheever, Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography, published in 2010.

Louisa May Alcott, journalist, previously on JPROF.com

 

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

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 by the Cherokees in the mountains of East Tennessee but by a Ku Klux Klansman and former speechwriter for George Wallace when he was running his racist campaign for governor of Alabama in the early 1960s.

Despite the full knowledge of its author and background, The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter (aka Asa Carter in his Alabama days) is still read and discussed in high school literature classes across the nation.

This American Life, the excellent public radio show produced in Chicago, has a compelling 35-plus minute podcast 180 Degrees – This American Life ) that takes a deep dive into the fascinating story of this book and its author. Here’s how the folks there describe it.:

Alex Blumberg takes us to an American classroom where students are reading a classic, The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter. The book is marketed as a simple homespun autobiography of a Cherokee orphan. But public radio documentarian Joe Richman explains that the book is not at all what it seems. The origins of the heartwarming tale of respect for nature and tolerance, are actually filled with hatred, racism and lies.

Can a piece of art — literature, painting, whatever — stand apart from its creator? The question is a haunting one, and there’s no easy answer. It’s something we’ll explore in future posts.

If you’re interested in the topic, take a look at this article on literary hoaxes published recently in the New Yorker: Literary Hoaxes and the Ethics of Authorship | The New Yorker


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


 

Saul Bellow, a jerk and a determinedly great writer

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, who has just published the second of a two-volume biography, this one cover the last 40 years of Bellow’s life. Leader, according to New York Times reviewer and English professor Mark Grief, not just covers Bellow’s life but manages to make him, somewhat, sympathetic.

How?

The vein that successfully keeps one focused on Bellow, and enchanted, is the novelist’s excerpted prose. It knocks you back on your heels. Not just in the novels and stories, but in letters to every sort of addressee, from intimates, to fans, to politicians, Bellow’s prose is electric. Was Saul Bellow a Man or a Jerk? Both, a Monumental Biography Concludes – The New York Times

Greif describes one of the elements that made Bellow a great writer:

I have always found Bellow’s artfulness to cloy over the length of his longest novels. He made himself a fiction writer by force of mind, hard work and sheer will, plus study of the greats. He remained a lifelong student of the highest caliber: co-teaching with philosophers, metabolizing esoteric doctrines, even directing the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Read the review, read the biography if you’re interested, but by all means read Bellow if you have never done so. Read his words and sentences and find out what Grief is talking about.

 

Kim Jung Hi, an amazing performance artist

If you don’t know about this guy or have never seen him in action, you should probably take a few minutes to watch. (Click on the photo, and it will take you to the video on YouTube.)

His name is Kim Jung Hi, and he is famous in the art world for his drawing performances. That’s right, performances. In front of an audience, he produces large, highly detailed, realistic drawings using nothing but his pen and brush. He has no sketchbook in front of him, no reference photos, and no plan.

It’s stream-of-consciousness drawing. Its accuracy and precision are astonishing.

The video is produced by online art teacher Stan Prokopenko and includes an interview with Kim Jun Hi.

 

The writer vs. the empire: who wins?

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 titled A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which recounted the experiences of a Russian man sentenced to a Soviet labor camp — something that Solzhenitsyn himself had undergone.

The novel was smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published in the West. It became wildly popular and Solzhenitsyn became a household name. It rang so true and was so damning that Communist regimes never again mustered any moral standing in the world.

The writer was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 and stripped of his citizenship. He settled in America and continued his writing. His novels sold widely and his voice remained powerful, but his influence waned, particularly after he criticized American society.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Solzhenitsyn was vindicated in his criticisms, and three years later he returned to his native land as a hero. But he didn’t seem any better satisfied with what Russian leaders were doing to democratize the nation than he had been with America. The country needed a strong leader, one who could maintain order, support the Church, and return the nation to its traditional values.

He thus welcomed the rise of Vladimir Putin and accepted the honors Putin offered him in 2007. He died the next year at the age of 89.

Because the centenary of his birth occurred this week, Michael Scammell, his biography, has written a piece about him in the New York Times. Scammell gives Solzhenitsyn a great deal of credit for the ultimate downfall of the Communist regime — credit he undoubtedly deserves.

He risked his all to drive a stake through the heart of Soviet communism and did more than any other single human being to undermine its credibility and bring the Soviet state to its knees. Source: Opinion | The Writer Who Destroyed an Empire – The New York Times

Solzhenitsyn’s battle with the Soviets shows the strength of writing against a political power. Words and ideas have moral force when they are correct, and they cannot be killed.

 

Recently on JPROF.com

Who killed Julia Wallace? The classic locked-door mystery

Route 66: the road and the television show

Female writers, #MeToo, and the love for Raymond Chandler 

American Fire and Bad Blood: two excellent pieces of journalism

 

Reactions

Vince V.: Many years ago I worked with a brilliant caricaturist in Memphis. He said the secret of the art was to pick one — and only one — feature of the subject and emphasize that. He said if you enhanced several different features from the person, it would only be confusing to the viewer. He also said that caricature artists too often fed off of each other instead of sticking with the subject. For instance, he said, Nixon’s upturned nose actually had no basis in reality but eventually became the signature of the man because so many used it as a signature.

Finally . . .

This week’s drawing (pen and ink):  Saul Bellow (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

 That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. Willa Cather, novelist  (1873-1947)

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — 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.

Jim


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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

 

 

Bret Harte’s big newspaper scoop

Before he became famous for his wild tales of the then New West, Bret Harte was a journalist and had broken one of the biggest stories of the era in pre-Civil War California.

Born in 1836 in Albany, New York, Harte moved to California with his family when he was a teenager. He worked at a variety of jobs, including being a guard for a Wells-Fargo stagecoach and a school teacher. In 1860, he found himself employed by a weekly newspaper, the Northern Californian, in Uniontown.

He had been left in charge of the paper during the owner’s absence when, on February 26, 1860,  white settlers attacked the nearby Wiyot Native American village of Tuluwat on Indian Island and killed most of the people, including women and children, they found there. No one knows exactly how many people were murdered because the incident was never adequately investigated. Estimate of the dead range from 60 to 250.

The following Sunday with Harte in charge of the paper (the owner was out of town), Harte published an article describing the massacre scene and an editorial condemning it.

We can conceive of no palliation for woman and child slaughter. We can conceive of no wrong that a babe’s blood can atone for. (p. 55)

These were strong words, and they were not well received by a vocal and violent minority in Uniontown. Harte followed up with another article the next which further ruffled the local feathers.

Within a month, Harte had left Uniontown for San Francisco with a good notice from his editor:

In addition to being a printer, Mr. Harte is a good writer. He has often contributed to the columns of this paper, and at different times when we have been absent, has performed the editorial labors. He is a warm-hearted genial companion, and a gentleman in every sense of the word. (p.56)

No one was ever prosecuted for the killings even though those responsible for them was commonly known. In San Francisco, Harte encountered a new set of difficulties and opportunities. Those would vault him to fame as a literary man.

Source: Axel Nissen, Bret Harte: Prince and Pauper.

Saul Bellow, a jerk and a determinedly great writer

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, who has just published the second of a two-volume biography, this one cover the last 40 years of Bellow’s life. Leader, according to New York Times reviewer and English professor Mark Grief, not just covers Bellow’s life but manages to make him, somewhat, sympathetic.

How?

The vein that successfully keeps one focused on Bellow, and enchanted, is the novelist’s excerpted prose. It knocks you back on your heels. Not just in the novels and stories, but in letters to every sort of addressee, from intimates, to fans, to politicians, Bellow’s prose is electric. Was Saul Bellow a Man or a Jerk? Both, a Monumental Biography Concludes – The New York Times

Greif describes one of the elements that made Bellow a great writer:

I have always found Bellow’s artfulness to cloy over the length of his longest novels. He made himself a fiction writer by force of mind, hard work and sheer will, plus study of the greats. He remained a lifelong student of the highest caliber: co-teaching with philosophers, metabolizing esoteric doctrines, even directing the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Read the review, read the biography if you’re interested, but by all means read Bellow if you have never done so. Read his words and sentences and find out what Grief is talking about.

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

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 to read them yet but will do so soon and will pass along anything of interest.

Meanwhile, I continue to heap coals of caricatures on the heads of my poor, unsuspecting newsletter readers. For this newsletter, I went a bit wild, so pardon is humbly sought. I would enjoy knowing what you think, and I honestly don’t mind criticism. Caricatures are fun to do. I have always been fascinated by them and wished that I could be a competent caricaturist.

Another current obsession: shape note singing. I am writing a chapter on that for the second volume of Foothills Voices, a book featuring local writers produced by the Friends of the Blount County Library. Shape note singing is not merely singing without standard musical notation. Its history and traditions go back to the beginning of the 19th century. More later.

Thanks for reading. Haave a great weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: This newsletter was sent to 2,984 subscribers and had a 32.8 percent open rate; 3 people 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.


Joseph Priestly and his big (writing) idea

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 were beginning to notice and discover things about the natural world they had never known before. One of the chief objects of this interest in “natural philosophy” was electricity, and Priestly’s natural curiosity sent his extraordinary mind in that direction.

He read whatever he could find about the subject, and that brought his attention to a group of men who were exploring the natural world in ways that had never been done before. The most eminent of those was Benjamin Franklin, possibly the most well-known non-royal in the Western world. 

In the 1760s, Franklin spent a good deal of time in England and met often with his group of natural philosophers (known as The Electricians).

In 1765, Priestly made his way to London from his home near Leeds, determined to introduce himself to Franklin and his group and propose his Big Idea.

In his reading about the group, Priestly had been frustrated by what he didn’t know. Most of what this group had discovered and the ideas and theories they had generated were confined to letters and papers they had shared among themselves. Priestly’s big idea was to change that by writing a book about them and their experiments.

To do that, however, he needed their help and cooperation.  So, on December 19, 1765, Priestly showed up at the London Coffee House next to St. Paul’s Cathedral where the group met. Franklin was there and so was John Canton and William Watson.

Priestly was warmly welcomed — and so was his idea.

They promised to share their correspondents and papers with him. They also encouraged Priestly to undertake and record experiments himself — advice that Priestly took to heart.

The result was a book published in 1767 titled The History and Present State of Electricity: With Original Experiments. It was a great success, going through five editions and translations into French and German.

The book changed the world’s view of science. In the words of Steven Johnson, author of a high readable biography of Priestly, The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America:

He had invented a new way of imagining science: instead of a unified Newtonian presentment, Priestly recast natural philosophy as a story of progress, a rising staircase of enlightenment with each new innovation building on the last. (p. 34)

Science, in other words, was a narrative, not an argument with conclusions.

It was a brilliant formulation and typical of the type of creative thinking that Priestly engaged in during his life, not only in science but also in theology, politics, education, and grammar. (Yes, grammar, which we’ll explore in another post.)

 

The British Library upcoming 2019 exhibit: the history of writing

The British Library will host an exhibit on the history of writing in April 2019. If you are going to be in London between April and August of next year, this would be one of those must-see events.

Here’s how the library describes the exhibit:

The story unfolds through more than 100 objects from the British Library’s extensive collection – some on display for the very first time – bridging 5,000 years and spanning five continents.

Follow writing’s remarkable evolution through ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved on a stone monument and early examples of printed text such as the Mainz Psalter, to the art of note-taking as demonstrated by some of history’s greatest minds, and onwards to the ground-breaking digital communication tools we use today.

Source: Writing Making Your Mark – The British Library

You can book tickets at the link above.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


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

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 acrobatic and addictive reading, the prose sharp-edged and wry and sometimes quite pretty, and also it’s about warm weather and beautiful people, at least one of whom is decidedly amoral but perplexingly sympathetic. This, of course, is Tom Ripley, a small-time con-man who stumbles into a new life—one he will literally kill to keep. Source: A Close-Reading of The Talented Mr. Ripley as Coming of Age Story | Literary Hub

Even if you have seen the 1999 movie, which is packed with Matt Damon and other Hollywood stars, Temple says you should read the book to get the full impact of the author’s talent. Temple’s argument is well worth reading.

Patricia Highsmith created a character in Tom Ripley that outlived the end of the novel. She went on to write four more novels with Ripley as the main character. He is charming, attractive, and utterly amoral, and he always gets away with his murders. The five novels of Tom Ripley are today known as The Ripliad.

 

Radio dramas from the BBC Radio 4

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 need for entertainment. In fact, I grew to prefer radio to television, which is a reason why podcasts are so charming for me.

Now, through the magic of the world wide web, anyone can listen to the BBC Radio 4 dramas. If you are interested, here’s where to start: BBC Radio 4 Extra – Agatha Christie, The Sittaford Mystery, The Message

This is the first of a five-part adaptation of an Agatha Christ mystery. Each episode is 30 minutes. Here’s the description:

A seance at a remote house spells out a man’s murder. Agatha Christie mystery with Geoffrey Whitehead as Inspector Narracott. From January 1990.

If you are interested, don’t wait. These dramas are available for a limited time. You’ll also find links to a Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger.

Facebook’s public image deteriorates as more of its private actions come to light

After a scathing two-part documentary by Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline in October (The Facebook Dilemma, discussed in a JPROF.com post a couple of weeks ago), Facebook’s reputation as an idealist company that wants to change the world and do go continues to deteriorate.

Here’s the lead paragraph from a New York Times story (Facebook Used People’s Data to Favor Certain Partners and Punish Rivals, Documents Show – The New York Times) published this week:

Facebook used the mountains of data it collected on users to favor certain partners and punish rivals, giving companies such as Airbnb and Netflix special access to its platform while cutting off others that it perceived as threats.

There is also this from the New Yorker:  Facebook’s Very Bad Month Just Got Worse | The New Yorker

Facebook and founder Mark Zuckerberg are sticking with their insistence that Facebook has never sold personal data, but with everything that we know now, skepticism about that real truth of that statement grows. Things will probably get worse for Facebook, at least publically, before they get better.

Recently on JPROF.com

Jury trials: a thing of the past?

Route 66: the road and the television show

Two failures who saved each other – and then saved a nation (part 1)

An offer you can’t refuse: The Guardian’s top 10 books about gangsters

Reactions

LuAnn R.: I loved your caricature in this newsletter—glad you intend to keep trying!

Bonnie R.: Have really enjoyed You Know Me Al. (Takes you)  back to the time when the whole family could go to a game.

Bonnie is referring to a post a couple of weeks ago on Ring Lardner and his book You Know Me Al.

Jim D.: I did not know of the bad blood between Bret Harte and Mark Twain. That’s troubling, and even more troubling is the way Twain handled it. Twain was a brilliant man. Too bad he became so embittered in his later years.

Hal M.: As a lover of good local honey I was sad to hear about the loss of your two hives.

Always try to buy local honey, as I told my good friend from high school days Hal M. The honey that is not local can easily be adulterated — and often is.

Finally . . .

This week’s drawing (pen and ink):  Joseph Priestly (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong. Robert Louis Stevenson, novelist, essayist, and poet (1850-1894) 

Helping those in need — in California, especially

Raging fires in California have killed dozens of people at this writing, and they’re still not under control. They have spread untold misery and disruption around the state. These people 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.

Jim


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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: The father of modern caricature, bitterness among literary lights, and a view of personal technology: newsletter, Nov. 30, 2018

 

 

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

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 by the Cherokees in the mountains of East Tennessee but by a Ku Klux Klansman and former speechwriter for George Wallace when he was running his racist campaign for governor of Alabama in the early 1960s.

Despite the full knowledge of its author and background, The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter (aka Asa Carter in his Alabama days) is still read and discussed in high school literature classes across the nation.

This American Life, the excellent public radio show produced in Chicago, has a compelling 35-plus minute podcast 180 Degrees – This American Life ) that takes a deep dive into the fascinating story of this book and its author. Here’s how the folks there describe it.:

Alex Blumberg takes us to an American classroom where students are reading a classic, The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter. The book is marketed as a simple homespun autobiography of a Cherokee orphan. But public radio documentarian Joe Richman explains that the book is not at all what it seems. The origins of the heartwarming tale of respect for nature and tolerance, are actually filled with hatred, racism and lies.

Can a piece of art — literature, painting, whatever — stand apart from its creator? The question is a haunting one, and there’s no easy answer. It’s something we’ll explore in future posts.

If you’re interested in the topic, take a look at this article on literary hoaxes published recently in the New Yorker: Literary Hoaxes and the Ethics of Authorship | The New Yorker

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

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 her as A.M. Barnard, author of what she termed “blood and thunder” sensational novels, the kind she wanted to write for all of her writing career. She was ashamed of these novels and worked to keep her connection with them a secret.

That secret held for nearly 90 years after death in 1888.

In the mid 1970s, while helping Madeleine Stern research a biography of Alcott, Leona Rostenberg discovered a large, unknown cache of papers at the Houghton Library at Harvard University that indicated that Alcott had written works no one knew about. They included Behind a Mask and A Long Fatal Love Chasenovels that featured strong, independent women and lavish, involved plots. Behind a Mask was published in serial form in 1866, two years before Little Women.

These were the kind of novels that Jo, her fictional alter ego, wrote in Little Women.

The success of Little Women turned Alcott away from writing sensation novels, and she never acknowledged the authorship of these blood-and-thunder works. In fact, she destroyed many of the letters that tied her to these books and asked others to do so as well.

But these books give us a valuable insight into this highly important and interesting literary personage.


Many biographies of Louisa May Alcott exist. An exceptionally readable one is by Susan Cheever, Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography, published in 2010.

Radio dramas from the BBC Radio 4

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 need for entertainment. In fact, I grew to prefer radio to television, which is a reason why podcasts are so charming for me.

Now, through the magic of the world wide web, anyone can listen to the BBC Radio 4 dramas. If you are interested, here’s where to start: BBC Radio 4 Extra – Agatha Christie, The Sittaford Mystery, The Message

This is the first of a five-part adaptation of an Agatha Christ mystery. Each episode is 30 minutes. Here’s the description:

A seance at a remote house spells out a man’s murder. Agatha Christie mystery with Geoffrey Whitehead as Inspector Narracott. From January 1990.

If you are interested, don’t wait. These dramas are available for a limited time. You’ll also find links to a Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger.

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

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 acrobatic and addictive reading, the prose sharp-edged and wry and sometimes quite pretty, and also it’s about warm weather and beautiful people, at least one of whom is decidedly amoral but perplexingly sympathetic. This, of course, is Tom Ripley, a small-time con-man who stumbles into a new life—one he will literally kill to keep. Source: A Close-Reading of The Talented Mr. Ripley as Coming of Age Story | Literary Hub

Even if you have seen the 1999 movie, which is packed with Matt Damon and other Hollywood stars, Temple says you should read the book to get the full impact of the author’s talent. Temple’s argument is well worth reading.

Patricia Highsmith created a character in Tom Ripley that outlived the end of the novel. She went on to write four more novels with Ripley as the main character. He is charming, attractive, and utterly amoral, and he always gets away with his murders. The five novels of Tom Ripley are today known as The Ripliad.

 

Bret Harte: object of Mark Twain’s praise and derision

Bret Harte probably deserves a higher station than the one he occupies in the pantheon of American letters. A big part of the reason he doesn’t have it lies with his one-time friend, Mark Twain.

Twain had known Harte from their days in the West when Harte achieved national fame in writing about the tall tales of the miners and mining towns they built. Stories such as “The Luck of Roaring Camp”  (you can read it here at Project Gutenberg or hear it here at LibriVox) and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” and poems like “Plain Language from Truthful Jones” entertained all of America and brought Harte a good deal of fame. 

Harte’s contributions to American literature are important because his writing represented a complete break with the stranglehold that English literature had on American writing through the first have of the 19th century. Harte not only wrote himself, but he encouraged other writers, particularly the young Samuel Clemons, aka Mark Twain, in their writing.

Harte and Twain became the best of friends, with Twain giving Harte generous credit for his encouragement. Twain told Thomas Aldrich Bailey in 1871, that, “Harte had trained and schooled him so patiently until he changed me from an awkward utterer of grotesquenesss to a writer of paragraphs and chapters that have found a certain favor in the eyes of even  some of the very decentest people in the land.” (Quotation from the New Netherland Institute biography of Bret Harte)

Both writers eventually moved back to the Atlantic shore to continue their writing, and they even collaborate on a stage play, which turned out to be less than successful. Harte’s writing could not sustain its initial popularity, while Twain’s popularity grew exponentially. Eventually, their friendship dissipated with Twain delivering increasingly harsh judgments on Harte’s writing and his character. Exactly what precipitated the falling-out is not known, although scholars and friends have speculated about it.

Twain wrote that Harte was “a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward, . . . he is brim full of treachery.” For his part, Harte never responded directly to Twain’s name-calling and bullying.

Money problems caught up with Harte so that he accepted a consulate position at first in Germany and eventually became the U.S. Consulate in Glasgow, Scotland. He continued to write and amassed a long list of novels, short stories, and poems, but he never achieved the stature that he sought for his work.

He died in 1902 in England after living for 24 years abroad and never returning to American.

Four years after his death, Twain — by then an embittered old man — published his autobiography in which he continued his harsh criticism of Harte. It was a hatred that diminished him, but he could never let go of it.

Joseph Priestly and his Big (writing) Idea

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 were beginning to notice and discover things about the natural world they had never known before. One of the chief objects of this interest in “natural philosophy” was electricity, and Priestly’s natural curiosity sent his extraordinary mind in that direction.

He read whatever he could find about the subject, and that brought his attention to a group of men who were exploring the natural world in ways that had never been done before. The most eminent of those was Benjamin Franklin, possibly the most well-known non-royal in the Western world. 

In the 1760s, Franklin spent a good deal of time in England and met often with his group of natural philosophers (known as The Electricians).

In 1765, Priestly made his way to London from his home near Leeds, determined to introduce himself to Franklin and his group and propose his Big Idea.

In his reading about the group, Priestly had been frustrated by what he didn’t know. Most of what this group had discovered and the ideas and theories they had generated were confined to letters and papers they had shared among themselves. Priestly’s big idea was to change that by writing a book about them and their experiments.

To do that, however, he needed their help and cooperation.  So, on December 19, 1765, Priestly showed up at the London Coffee House next to St. Paul’s Cathedral where the group met. Franklin was there and so was John Canton and William Watson.

Priestly was warmly welcomed — and so was his idea.

They promised to share their correspondents and papers with him. They also encouraged Priestly to undertake and record experiments himself — advice that Priestly took to heart.

The result was a book published in 1767 titled The History and Present State of Electricity: With Original Experiments. It was a great success, going through five editions and translations into French and German.

The book changed the world’s view of science. In the words of Steven Johnson, author of a high readable biography of Priestly, The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America:

He had invented a new way of imagining science: instead of a unified Newtonian presentment, Priestly recast natural philosophy as a story of progress, a rising staircase of enlightenment with each new innovation building on the last. (p. 34)

Science, in other words, was a narrative, not an argument with conclusions.

It was a brilliant formulation and typical of the type of creative thinking that Priestly engaged in during his life, not only in science but also in theology, politics, education, and grammar. (Yes, grammar, which we’ll explore in another post.)

Sinclair Lewis and the Great American Freedom of travel

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 psyche.

So says Professor  in a perceptive and entertaining essay on Lewis on the Public Domain Review website: American Freedom: Sinclair Lewis and the Open Road – The Public Domain Review

Lewis’ most affirmative vision of what he means by freedom is found in his novel Free Air, which was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in the spring of 1919, the year before Main Street and Babbitt made him a household name. Free Air is the story of two young people, Milt and Claire. Milt is a small-town mechanic and garage owner, and Claire is from Long Island and in the middle of a coast-to-coast trip to Seattle with her father. . .

The travelers look for something new and different from what they have known and are ultimately disappointed in what they find. Small towns, big cities, and rural areas all seem the same as the places they had left.

Michels goes on to say

This is not just about travel; for Lewis, it is about positive freedom and control. He never presents train travel as especially desirable, constrained as it is to tracks, and his early love of planes is directed at those who can fly them. Americans are rightful captains and pilots, not passengers or spectators. He would have agreed with Thomas Wolfe, who, in You Can’t Go Home Again, posited: “Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America — that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement.” It is only when Wolfe’s protagonist George Webber arrives at a destination, that he feels a sense of homelessness. The expansive country and its prairie makes motion the most natural and comfortable condition.

Lewis wrote at a time when the automobile was expanding the meaning of travel for Americans and giving them more options and more control. The automobile did not invent the concept of “freedom of travel,” but it certainly enhanced the idea. It is now more than ever a part of the American mind.

Illustration: Sinclair Lewis and the American Road (copyright © 2018 by Jim Stovall)

 

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

 

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 every day, including getting into the habit of associating gratitude with regular activities or events.

For example, every time I walk out into my garden, I remind myself of my good fortune to be living at this particular spot on God’s green earth and how beautiful and miraculous it all is. I do that every time — even if I know I am facing a tough set of weeds (God made those, too) that need to be defeated.

Much of this past week has been spent trying to know and understand shape note singing. I am writing a chapter about it for a book, and I will explain more about that soon.

Meanwhile, I hope that your week has been a good one — one of gratitude — and that your weekend is filled with joy.


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.


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

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 Jean Brody was about to appear in 1961, her publisher, Macmillan, sent out a press release that included an edited version of an interview that she had given the year before. The essay was titled How I Became a Novelist, and she had seen the written version and edited it herself. It was sent to Books and Bookmen, a literary journal of the day.

The editor was delighted with the essay and put her picture on the cover of the issue in which it ran.

Spark was less than totally pleased. The editor had “updated” the text but had not gained her approval for the changes he had made. Spark confronted him with an ultimatum: pay a small sum to a charity of her choice for his indiscretion. He refused. Spark wouldn’t let it go. It was a matter of “principle and justice.” She threatened to sue for twice the amount she had suggested, plus cost. The editor finally relented and paid.

Before 2018 slips away, we should recognize that this year is the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth. She has been the subject of several remembrances. The best article about her work that I have found, however, was one written by novelist Thomas Mallon for the New Yorker in 2010, which you can find here.

Spark’s fame became international after the publication of Jean Brody and particularly the movie version of it in which Maggie Smith won an Academy Award in 1969.

Spark is a puzzling and fascinating writer. Her work does not fit into any genre. There’s usually crime and mayhem in her stories, but she is neither a crime writer nor a mystery novelist. Instead, she is a master stylist and a manipulator of characters she creates. Her characters never get away from her; they are always under her control, and she makes them do odd and sometimes surprising things for the reader.

Mallon writes:

Spark was never a creator of character; she was a trickster of circumstances, a writer whose narrative voice speaks from the past or present or future at her own whim and will. She never foreshadows action when she can simply foretell it, with as much cruelty or merriment as she pleases. This is how Miss Brodie’s most hapless student is shown answering a question, incorrectly, at the end of Chapter 1: “Mary Mcgregor, lumpy, with merely two eyes, a nose and a mouth like a snowman, who was later famous for being stupid and always to blame and who, at the age of twenty-three, lost her life in a hotel fire, ventured ‘Golden.’ ”

Spark was a dedicated and prolific writer but a difficult and complex personality. Her life, even after she achieved wealth and fame, was never easy. She took her craft seriously, and if you read any of her books, you know that she was a master. They are slim volumes with lean, sparkling prose, where every word counts.

And she was probably right. An editor, even a good one, likely would not have helped.

Another essay on Spark’s work: Snapshots of Muriel Spark – Margaret Drabble | Literaturein the Times Literary Supplement.

Martin Stannard’s Muriel Spark: The Biography goes into depth on just about every aspect of her life and her writing.

The real Moriarty, Sherlock’s nemesis? A new book makes the case for George Boole

Okay, Sherlockians, most who have studied this weighty matter have concluded they know what real life character Arthur Conan Doyle based his detective on: Scottish doctor Joseph Bell, one of Doyle’s medical school instructors.

But where did Professor Moriarty, the “Napoleon of crime” in Sherlock’s words, come from?

A new book says it was mathematics pioneer George Boole, the originator of symbolic logic. The book is New Light on George Boole by Des MacHale and Yvonne Cohen, due out soon. A short review by Peter Lynch in the Irish Times says this:

A thorough comparison between Conan Doyle’s fictional Moriarty and the real Boole reveals numerous persuasive similarities. Both characters held chairs at small provincial universities; both won appointments on the basis of outstanding early work; both had interests in astronomy; the two were of similar appearance – an illustration of Moriarty in Conan Doyle’s work bears a striking resemblance to a photograph of Boole and may well have been based on it. Source: Could Sherlock Holmes’s true nemesis have been a mathematician?

The real-life Boole, however, was no criminal. Far from it. Born too poor even to attend grammar school, he taught himself mathematics, and his writing on it earned him a professoriate at the Queen’s College in Cork. He was a highly moral family man who devoted much time to religious philosophy as well as his mathematics.

His ideas and formulations have contributed much to the way that modern computers work.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


PBS Frontline confronts the Facebook Dilemma

Some people spend hours a day on Facebook; others have never seen it and actively avoid it. Some people have strongly partisan views, one way or another, which may color their view of Facebook.

In my view, it doesn’t matter whether or not you “like” Facebook, or whether you are red or blue or any other political color. There is a problem with Facebook that goes beyond personal preferences and political partisanship. That problem is presented in PBS Frontline‘s excellent two-part presentation on The Facebook Dilemma. I hope that you watched it. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend it.

(I stay about three weeks behind on most things, and this is typical. The series was aired in late October, and I just got around to watching it this week.)

What the series tells us is that the people who run Facebook do not recognize the problems and are unwilling to make decisions to deal with them. All of the Facebook executives who talked with the Frontline reporters — there were six — essentially said the same thing, often using the same phrases. They were “slow to recognize” the problems that the Russian involvement in the 2016 election caused. They are going to have a “continuing conversation” about what needs to be done.

Most disturbing of all, I think, is that Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook, continues to spout an “idealistic” vision for his company — that it can change the world for good — when the purpose of Facebook is not to change the world but to make money for its investors.

Zuckerberg and his cohorts need to grow up — or they need to put an adult in the room — and confront the behemoth that they have created rather cling desperately to a pie-in-the-sky vision.

Points and Clicks, Nov. 23, 2018

Edinburgh, a mecca for crime fiction?

British author Paul French has an excellent article on CrimeReads.com about Edinburgh, Scotland as a mecca of crime and detective fiction. The first association you’re likely to make in this regard is between Edinburgh and Ian Rankin‘s booze-laden detective John Rebus. But there is more to Edinburgh’s literary crime wave than Rebus, and French does a good job in laying out his case. Edinburgh is a special place for me in that I lived there in the late 1970s for seven months while I researched and wrote my doctoral dissertation. It’s a magical place. Take a look at French’s article: Crime and the City: Edinburgh | CrimeReads.

Criminal, the podcast

An excellent podcast series that you should try is Criminal. It’s one of the best that you will hear. The host is Phoebe Judge, and it’s produced by North Carolina Public Radio and part of Radiotopia. You are likely to hear anything associated with crime on these 30-to-40 minute episodes. Start with episodes 88 and 89, Cold Case and Shadowing Sheila. This is a two-part story about a woman who, years after the fact, decides to investigate the murder of a college friend. The result is that she becomes a professional detective, one who gets more cases than she can accept. The stories in all the episodes I’ve listened to are compelling.

Recently on JPROF.com

Ring Lardner: when baseball no longer seemed like baseball

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

Good advice for the General: Write like you talk

Left-brain-right-brain: Time to get a new theory

Reactions

Alice K.: I enjoyed your column this week, especially the words that have been on your mind. Another word that came to my mind is honor. We don’t hear much about honor anymore, or courtesy. In some cultures, a man would give a guest his last piece of bread, going hungry himself, rather than bring dishonor on his family by offering nothing to a guest. When I see the way people drive, the way they behave in stores on Black Friday, or even the behavior of politicians in Washington, it seems that honor and courtesy are extinct.

Dan C.: A comment on Vince’s comment (from last week’s newsletter):
The one thing Elementary could have done that would have kept it in line with the original would have been to have Joan Watson a military surgeon who served in Afghanistan and switched careers because of the losses she had on the battlefield. As I am sure you know, John Watson was a veteran of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880).

Kathy R.: The word I most think about and miss today is compromise. For some reason, it has become a “dirty” word in group dynamics. Neither side should completely win – each side getting some of what they want leads to more harmony. Neither side is completely happy and neither side feels totally left out. We could all use a bit more compromise.

Robin K: Ahhh! Baseball. We were a baseball (and football) family. My brother played in Little League. I wanted to, but girls weren’t allowed to back then. So my dad met with city officials and got a softball league for girls my age started. He took my brother and I to many Washington Senators games (yes, I’m old). But between the Senators up and leaving and a player’s strike, my dad stopped paying attention to pro baseball. He was indignant that these players who made more money than he ever would had the nerve to strike because they wanted even MORE money. It does seem obscene that athletes are paid so much, when teachers, nurses, and my dad, a juvenile probation officer – people who had a bigger impact on others – got paid peanuts in comparison.

And about words: My niece talks a lot about kindness. She recently started a streaming channel (whatever that is) and says she’s trying to build a community that is kind to each other, tolerant, and accepts people as they are. So I think kindness is a word we need to think about, and live into, more.

Gary H.: I read with interest Anna Goldfarb‘s essay, “How to be a More Patient Person.” I have decided to give her suggestions a try. My wife, who was a teacher like you, constantly reminds me that “cussin” is not a proper stress control technique. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s pen and ink: Muriel Spark (caricature)

Next week: Bret Hart. I’ll have more to say about this interesting and important 19th century American writer next week.

Best quote of the week:

 

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first. Charles de Gaulle, French president (1890-1970)


Helping those in need — in California, especially

Raging fires in California have killed more than 40 people at this writing, and they’re still not under control. They have spread untold misery and disruption around the state. These people 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 Wesleyhere).

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.

Jim


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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: Ring Lardner, the Grand Review, and a book illustrator who had to keep apologizing; newsletter Nov. 16, 2018

 


 

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