Tag Archives: libraries

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

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,984) on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.

 

 

The theme of writing — good writing, I hope — permeates all of my newsletters, but this week you may notice another: caricature. I have tried this art form from time to time with varying degrees of success. This week I have tried to exercise my caricature muscles, both mental and physical, and have decided to foist the results on my poor newsletter readers.

If these things tempt you to unsubscribe, please hold off for a bit. I’ll try to get better.

Not great news from the apiary this week: We had four hives going into the fall, and now we’re down to two. Two of the hives died probably because the queens died. Why that happened is anyone’s guess. But this is not an unusual situation in the beekeeping world these days. Now the hope is that these two remaining hives — which appear strong at the moment — will survive the winter and create swarms this spring.

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

Under the newsletter’s hood: This newsletter was sent to 3,001 subscribers and had a 31.7 percent open rate; 12 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.


James Gillray: puncturing the pompous with caricature

Caricature is fairly common today (even amateurs like me try their hand at it), but in the late 18th century, it was a newly developing form of art, as well as social and political communication. And no one was better at it — or set a higher standard for others of his time and those who came after him — than James Gillray.

Gillray was born in 1756, and between 1775 and 1810 he produced an estimated 1,000 prints that were brimming with political and social satire, puncturing the pompous and leveling the haughty. He was highly popular with the general public and fiercely despised and feared in many political quarters.

No escaped Gillray’s devastating pen, even King George III. Especially, King George III (picture).

Gillray took aim early and often at the King and those around him. He would attend Parliament sessions, become enraged, appalled, or simply amused at what he saw and heard, and then retire to his studio to produce a print on a “breaking news” basis. Because his prints were often posted on the walls outside the shop where they were printed, crowds would gather to view his latest work.

His works were not only good take-downs and highly evolved satires, but they were good art. They were colorful and detailed, and by themselves they give us a window on what 18th century England looked like.

If you want to know more about Gillray and his work, there is no better place to start that Jim Sherry‘s excellent website: www.james-gillray.org. You’ll find a lot of his prints there as well as much biographical information and an explanation of his methods.

Another excellent website is Matthew Crowther‘s The Printshop Window – Caricature & Graphic Satire in the Long Eighteenth-Century.

Gillray showed us how to do it 200 years ago, and we have been trying to be as good as he was ever since.

And my attempt to try to be as good — with Gillray himself.

Every library needs a group of committed friends

Public libraries deliver far more value to a community than the dollars they represent in a county or city’s budget, and smart local officials recognize that. So does the public.

That’s why many communities have formed independent foundations and organizations to support their local libraries.

A recent blog post on the Internation City/County Management Association website (Advancing Community Goals: The Evolving Role of the Public Library | icma.orgcites a national survey conducted by the Public Libraries Association and the Aspen Institute shows that more than half the jurisdictions that maintain libraries have such organizations. These groups have become integral to the financial stability of the libraries and help the library stay connected with the communities they serve.

If your community library does not have such a group, consider getting together an informal “friends of the local library” group and starting something that will evolve into a permanent support organization.


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


Bret Harte: object of 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 half 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 collaborated 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.

After moving East, 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 America.

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 Twain, but he could never let go of it.

Points and Clicks, Nov. 30, 2018

Technology: Slow down and be mindful

The New York Times personal tech columnist is leaving after five years to take another position at the Times. Farhad Manjoo has been the “State of the Art” columnist since 2014. He is the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.   He has written a final column that is full of advice, insight and wisdom. For instance, look at the company, not just the product it makes. “. . . I found Facebook’s new video-chatting machine, Portal, to be very good, but I’ll never buy it. Besides Facebook’s dependence on targeted ads, the company has repeatedly breached its users’ trust, not to mention the casual disregard it has shown for larger ideas like democracy. Portal is nice, but it’s not that nice.”

His column is How to Survive the Next Era of Tech (Slow Down and Be Mindful) – The New York Times, and it is well worth the time to read it.

Battle simulations

My good friend and faithful newsletter reader Dan C. sent me this link to a very cool site that has animated and annotated battle simulations for many famous European and American battles. On the American side there are Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II battles. If you are into this kind of thing, you’ll learn a lot: History Animated.

Recently on JPROF.com

The long life of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride”The deaths of Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, foretold

Route 66: the road and the television show

Good journalism saves lives

Reactions

Ann H.: Thank you for saying what I know a lot of people think about Facebook (last week’s newsletter). I have never signed up to it as I feel it is open to misuse and outright manipulation as well as a platform for trolls, bullies etc. If they don’t get into living in the real world it will be a rudderless cash generator for faceless people. I know it can do a lot of good but it needs regulation now before it is too late.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s drawing (graphite): Bret Harte (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do. Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778) 
 

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

 

 
 

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

Colombia is not all drugs and drug lords and gangs and violence.

There are people like Luis Soriano, a Spanish teacher in rural La Gloria Colombia, who loves books, understands their value, and wants the young people of his region to have access to them.

Soriano put his dream on the back of two donkeys, Alfa and Beto (alphabet), and created what this BBC story calls — BBC – Culture – Biblioburro: The amazing donkey libraries of Colombia — biblioburros, a mobile library.

By adapting the packsaddles of his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, from carrying water to carrying books, Luis created a makeshift mobile library and set off to take his books to children who otherwise wouldn’t have access to reading materials. With that the ‘Biblioburro’ was born.

If you love libraries, your heart will be warmed by this wonderful tale.

 

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

What are libraries about?

Neil Gaiman and Chris Ridell have put together this pretty neat picture book that solidly answers that question.

Sit back and take a look. You will enjoy this.

 

Source: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures | Books | The Guardian

The man who wanted every book; the quintessential English detective; and the first American crime novel; and morenewsletter May 18, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,644) on May 18, 2018

 

A summer head cold attacked me this week, making life miserable for a few days, but I tried not to let it slow me down too much. The major woodworking project that I mentioned last week was completed and is explained below. It’s also been a week of interesting discoveries, and I have included a few of those in this week’s newsletter. Just a few. There are more to come later.

And it’s a pleasure to report that warm weather is here in East Tennessee, and the beehives (I had a peek inside some of these for the first time in several weeks) are roaring away. We will see what they produce.

Have a great weekend.


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.


 

The public, the press, and the detective — an uneasy relationship from the very beginning 

In late June 1860, Saville Kent, who resided with his family in a house in Road, Wiltshire, England, was murdered. He was three years old. His throat had been cut, and his body had been left on the floor of an outdoor privy used by the servants and tradesmen at the house. It was not at all clear who killed him or why.

The case quickly achieved international fame, and it produced the genre of the English country house murder. More importantly, it did much to give us the concept of the English detective — the clever man who, viewing things from the outside, can spot the inconsistencies, the hidden stories, the fear, and even the hate of the participants.

Except that’s not exactly how this case developed. I’m not going to include any spoilers here. If you’re interested, you can read Kate Summerscale’s excellent book, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing a Great Victorian Detective. She has all the details, and there are many.

The detective in question is Jack Whicher. He was a member of the first detective squad put together by Scotland Yard in 1842. By 1860, his fame had grown to national proportions because of an enthusiastic press and a general fascination with crime, particularly murder. Whicher’s cleverness and success made him the prototype for the English detective of both fact and fiction that would come down to us today.

But in reading Summerdale’s book, I found some interesting nuances that cloud the picture of the great English detective. I’m not talking about Whicher himself but about that image of the detective.

Read the rest of this short post on JPROF.com.

 

My latest woodworking project

A musical instrument of any kind is not easy to make, so I got some special satisfaction from the completion of my latest woodworking project: a mountain dulcimer. I completed the one pictured here at the end of the week last week, and it made its world debut at a meeting of my local dulcimer club on Wednesday. It’s all about the sound, of course, and this one sounds pretty good.

The dulcimer is made from pecan (body) and walnut (headstock, fretboard, and tailstock). There is no standard wood for a dulcimer, so that makes each one sound a little different.

Dulcimers are popular all over the world — thanks in great part to the late, great folksinger Jean Ritchie — but they used to be confined to certain parts of southern Appalachia. A well-played dulcimer can be magical.

It takes as much patience as skill to make one of these, and I have to thank my friend Bruce M. for giving me lots of help and direction.

 

Giveaways

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

The Amazon gift card raffle that we included in the newsletter for the last couple of weeks has ended, but I haven’t been notified about the winners yet. When I have their names, I will publish them. We’ll likely be doing another raffle like this one next month.

 

The first American crime novel — actually, a sensation novel — had a female author

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor authored and published The Dead Letter in 1867. It is thought to be America’s first full crime novel. (Edgar Allan Poe’s stuff was short stories.) In its day, it was known as a sensation novel.

But it’s not America’s first detective novel.

The Dead Letter has a crime, of course. There is evidence. There are clues. The novel has a police detective — a clever one — and he had a daughter who is also clever in a different way. The detective has a backstory that explains why he’s there.

The problem, as LeRoy Lad Panek points out in his book, The Origins of the American Detective Story, is that the crime is not “solved” by the detective (or his daughter). It’s solved by an accidental discovery. Panek notes that in the pre-detective novel era of crime fiction or sensation novels, it wasn’t necessarily up to the detective to solve the crime. Something else was going on.

That something has a lot to do with the views of and attitudes toward criminals and justice that lie under these kinds of books. Crime and justice in a sensation novel depend on faith in a universe that is eventually and inevitably just and governed by providence: this goes back to the sure knowledge that “murder will out” that serves as the basis for what happens in century upon century of Western literature from Chaucer’s “Prioriss Tale” to MacBeth and Hamlet. (pp. 13-14)

It is the concept of “inevitable justice,” Paneck points out. Victorians and people before them did not need detectives. Truth, providentially, would always take over.

If you are interested in reading The Dead Letter, you can do so here at Project Gutenberg.

Tom Wolfe, the reporter with the right stuff

Few journalists manage to do what Tom Wolfe did, both with his words and his approach.

Wolfe, who died Monday (May 14, 2018) at age 88, pioneered in the 1960s an approach to journalism that became known as The New Journalism. What that involved was intensive reporting — not a five-question interview with a couple of ready sources, but a commitment of days, even weeks, talking and observing.

Then there were the words.

As the New York Times obituary says of him:

His talent as a writer and caricaturist was evident from the start in his verbal pyrotechnics and perfect mimicry of speech patterns, his meticulous reporting, and his creative use of pop language and explosive punctuation. Source: Tom Wolfe, Pyrotechnic ‘New Journalist’ and Novelist, Dies at 88 – The New York Times

Wolfe never ceased being a reporter, even with the novels he wrote. Like a good reporter his curiosity was never in question and never satisfied.

RIP, Tom Wolfe.

 

The man who tried to get every book in the world

Hernando Colón (1488-1539), the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus, spent much of his life traveling around Europe — and later America — amassing what was then the largest private library in the world.

His goal was to collect all of the knowledge of the world into one place (Seville, Spain, as it turned out) because he believed Spain would one day rule the world. It needed an extraordinary base of knowledge to do so, and Colón was determined to make that happen.  Colón was wrong about that, but the error does not detract from the man’s amazing achievements.

Those, indeed, were numerous.

He created Europe’s first botanical garden, gathering specimens from many of the places where he traveled.

He wrote a dictionary.

He helped created the first modern maps of the world.

He seemed to know everyone who was anyone during his age, including Albrecht Durer, Thomas More, and Erasmus.

He gathered the largest collection of printed images in the world.

He had the largest collection of musical scores in the world.

And with so many books, where do you put them? How do you put them? According to Edward Wilson-Lee, author of a recently published biography of Colón titled The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library:

“In essence, he invents the modern bookshelf: row upon row of books standing upright on their spines, stacked in specially designed wooden cases.”

In its description of Wilson-Lee’s book, University of Cambridge writes:

“Colón had an extraordinary memory and an obsession with lists,” says Wilson-Lee, whose research on Colón was funded by the British Academy. “Each time he bought a book, he would meticulously record where and when he bought it, how much it cost and the rate of currency exchange that day. Sometimes he noted where he was when he read it, what he thought of the book and if he’d met the author. As pieces of material culture, each is a fascinating account of how one man related to, used and was changed by books.”

So why have we not heard more about this extraordinary man? Read the rest of this post on JPROF.com.

 

Reactions

Shakespeare

Jean T.: The censor who reviewed all Shakespeare’s plays was still operating as the censor of British Theatre until 1968  – the Lord Chamberlain- when the role of the official censor was abolished by the Theatres Act 1968. The Lord Chamberlain’s Office is still working in the Royal Household. They plan State visits, Royal Garden Parties, the State Opening of Parliament, Investitures, Royal Weddings and funerals. Not sure if they are doing much about Harry and Meghan’s wedding though – if what the celebrity mags say is true. 

Libraries

Don M.: Living 50+ miles from the nearest library, makes MY Kindle Tablet my library…😀….that way I’m not limited to 3 books only and save time and expenses… traveling back and forth…time I spend reading on my Kindle. Many of us live in villages without a public library. … .😕

Good point. Try openlibrary.org.

Mary Wollstonecraft

A.J.N.: Your portrait of Mary W. reminds me of a current “feminist” writer, Rita Mae Brown. I love Rita Mae Brown’s “Mrs. Murphy” mystery series, and her “Sister Jane” mystery series that revolves around a group of modern-day foxhunting enthusiasts (who really do fox chasing from horseback, NOT actually hunting, as the greatest care is taken NOT to kill the fox!).

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Hemingway and cat

A friend asked for some caricatures of 20th century American writers for her business. No. 1 on the list, of course, is Ernest Hemingway. Thought I would have some fun with this one.

Best quote of the week:

To me, the great joy of writing is discovering. Most writers are told to write about what they know, but I still love the adventure of going out and reporting on things I don’t know about.” Tom Wolfe, journalist (1930-2018)

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who 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 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 first feminist, the power of the story, Golden State Killer followup, Shakespeare, and more: newsletter, May 11, 2018

 

 


Point Spread’s latest review
A very kind reader (David P.) has left the following review of Point Spread on Amazon. Thanks, David.

Point Spread by Jim Stovall

Interesting premise told from a teenage girls point of view and I think Stovall totally nailed it. I loved the way the plot unfolded bit by bit having you trying to guess what comes next. It’s about doing something wrong for a good reason. It’s a look into life in the 60’s in a small town, about moral dilemma, determination and solving a mystery. It is full of a cast of characters that you can relate to and seem very real. It is extremely well written and a very enjoyable read. It kept me involved and interested in the story from the first page to the last. More Please!


Unsubscribe | 2126 Middlesettlements Road, Maryville, Tennessee 37801 

 

 

Hernando Colón: The man who tried to read everything

Hernando Colón (1488-1539), the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus, spent much of his life traveling around Europe — and later America — amassing what was then the largest private library in the world.

His goal was to collect all of the knowledge of the world into one place (Seville, Spain, as it turned out) because he believed Spain would one day rule the world. It needed an extraordinary base of knowledge to do so, and Colón was determined to make that happen.  Colón was wrong about that, but the error does not detract from the man’s amazing achievements.

Those, indeed, were numerous.

  • He created Europe’s first botanical garden, gathering specimens from many of the places where he traveled.
  • He wrote a dictionary.
  • He helped created the first modern maps of the world.
  • He seemed to know everyone who was anyone during his age, including Albrecht Durer, Thomas More, and Erasmus.
  • He gathered the largest collection of printed images in the world.
  • He had the largest collection of musical scores in the world.

And with so many books, where do you put them? How do you put them? According to Edward Wilson-Lee, author of a recently published biography of Colón titled The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library:

“In essence, he invents the modern bookshelf: row upon row of books standing upright on their spines, stacked in specially designed wooden cases.”

In its description of Wilson-Lee’s book, University of Cambridge writes:

“Colón had an extraordinary memory and an obsession with lists,” says Wilson-Lee, whose research on Colón was funded by the British Academy. “Each time he bought a book, he would meticulously record where and when he bought it, how much it cost and the rate of currency exchange that day. Sometimes he noted where he was when he read it, what he thought of the book and if he’d met the author. As pieces of material culture, each is a fascinating account of how one man related to, used and was changed by books.”

So why have we not heard more about this extraordinary man?

Much of the fault for that lies with Colón himself. He wrote a biography of his father that did much toward creating the legend of Christopher Columbus — a legend so large and wide-ranging that it obscured his brilliant son.

Another reason for his relative obscurity is that when he died he left his holdings to his nephew, a wastrel who care nothing for what his uncle had accomplished. The books were locked in the attic of the Seville cathedral for many years, and those who did have access to them did not care for them. Today less than a quarter of them remain together. Knowledge of Colón’s collection faded from memory.

Because we face a new information revolution today, interest in what Colón did and how he did it has been renewed.

 

Source: The man who tried to read all the books in the world | University of Cambridge

Source: How Christopher Columbus’s son built ‘the world’s first search engine’ | Books | The Guardian

Martin Luther, Isaac Asimov, and the value of libraries; 50-plus true-crime books; and more; newsletter, April 27, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,067) on Friday, April 20, 2018.

Finally, the crimson clover has started to bloom (about a month late, due mostly to cold weather). Agriculturally, that’s the big event in our lives this week. The bees have started to work the clover, and now, maybe, the order of the universe will turn toward normal. I’ll have more to say about crimson clover, the bees, and what happens next inside the hives next week.

Meanwhile, this week’s big theme is libraries. If you haven’t been inside one lately, get thee to a library. You’ll be surprised at what you find happening there.

It’s been a great week for me, and next week promises to be better. I hope the same goes for you.


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.


 

50 great true-crime books: which ones have you read

Katie McLain at Bookriot.com has done all of us true-crime fans a real service. She has put together 50 of the best true-crime books into one simple list.

She writes:

What is it about true crime books that are so addicting? Is it a voyeuristic, “train wreck” sort of reading experience? Is it an opportunity to understand trauma and the dark impulses of human nature? Is it the chance to play detective and investigate real crimes? Source: 50 Must-Read True Crime Books to Add to Your TBR Right Now

She answers those question with her list. Chances are, you have read some of these books already. You might even have read most of them. But there will still be a few that you have missed and want to check them out.

For good measure, I will add a couple of my favorites that aren’t on Katie’s list:

The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule. The chilling story of serial killer Ted Bundy. Chilling.

Fatal Vision, by Joe McGinnis. It’s the classic true-crime thriller. Some call it the best ever. Here’s the Amazon description: “Fatal Vision is the electrifying true story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the handsome, Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children, murders he vehemently denies committing.” The book definitely lives up to the Amazon description.

Okay, readers, time to weigh in: Which of the books on Kate’s list (or my additions) have you read? What’s your favorite true-crime book?

 

Martin Luther: Writing, designing, and printing the Protestant Reformation

Most of us know that when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, the Protestant Reformation began. We probably also know that Luther’s life, ideas, and actions coincided with the development of the printing press. And we may even know that the printing press was a major factor in spreading his ideas.

But did you know how much of a 16th-century nerd Martin Luther was — nerd in the sense that Luther knew and understood this new technology (printing) as well as any man on the planet. Luther was a clear and concise writer who knew how to state ideas in accessible and understandable ways. He also knew that printers of his day could make money by printing tracts (usually eight pages or so) rather than by printing books, so Luther wrote much of work in easily digestible (and marketable) tracts. Finally, Luther paid close attention to the way those tracts looked, understanding that the design of the printed work determined it readability.

All of these ideas (and more) are explored and ex by Andrew Pettegree in Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe–and Started the Protestant Reformation, a fascinating book about how Martin Luther drove the Protestant Reformation by understanding the new technology of his day. I have written a short post on this topic on JPROF.com.

 

Library of Congress celebrates its 218th anniversary 

The strain of anti-intellectualism that pervades American culture is always at war with those of us who value learning and believe that life is more than just a set of economic facts.

We have many valuable and visible allies. One of the most visible is the Library of Congress.

And this week is special. The Library is celebrating its 218th birthday (April 24, 1800).

So what is this thing, the Library of Congress? In its own words:

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 167 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 39 million books and other printed materials, 3.6 million recordings, 14.8 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 8.1 million pieces of sheet music and 72 million manuscripts. Source: Fascinating Facts | Library of Congress

There are lots of things about the Library you should know:

When the British army invaded Maryland and set fire to Washington in August 1814, it burned the Library and its collection of 3,000 books. Five months later the Library purchased the collection of Thomas Jefferson, some 6,000 volumes, for about $24,000.

Jefferson’s personal papers, notes, accounts, and correspondence were added later, and the collection now consists of about 27,000 items — including a draft of the Declaration of Independence.

There’s more about the Library of Congress — interesting stuff! — on this post I wrote for JPROF.com.

 

Giveaways

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

Amazon gift card raffle. In the next couple of weeks, I will be joining with a number of other independent authors to raffle off an Amazon gift card. We don’t know how much the card will be worth yet, but it should be the largest amount we’ve had for quite some time. Watch for it.

 

In case you’re wondering: James Comey’s book sold 600,000 copies in the first week

The New York Times reported this week that James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, has sold about 600,000 copies during its first week in print.

Here’s how that compares to other recent political blockbusters.

The early sales figures for Mr. Comey’s book dwarfed other recent political best sellers. Hillary Clinton’s memoir, “What Happened,” sold more than 300,000 copies in all formats in its first week on sale. And “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s explosive look inside the Trump White House, sold around 200,000 hardcover copies in its first full week on sale, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks about 85 percent of print sales. Mr. Wolff’s book, which came out in January, has sold more than 2 million copies to date. Source: Sales Figures for Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty’ Dwarf Recent Political Best Sellers – The New York Times

Comey’s book came out with a well-planned marketing blitz centered around Comey being interviewed by just about every radio, television, and cable show that would have him. And most of them did.

Donald Trump contributed amply to the success of the book by tweeting about it numerous times.

 

Isaac Asimov on thinking and writing clearly

“I try only to write clearly, and I have the very good fortune to think clearly so that the writing comes out as I think, in satisfactory shape.” Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was a writer of extraordinary breadth, depth, and output. He was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University for much of his career, but he wrote fiction, literary criticism, textbooks, and mysteries — just to name a few. When he wasn’t writing, it seems, he was editing. His name as an author or editor is in just about every section of your local library.

In his 72 years (1920-1992), he wrote or edited more than 500 books and as many as 90,000 letters and postcards. An asteroid, a crater on Mars, and an elementary school in Brooklyn are named after him.

Asimov’s usual daily routine was to rise by 6 a.m., or before, sit down at his typewriter by 7:30 a.m. and write until 10 p.m. that night. According to his obituary in the New York Times, this routine came from his youth:

In “In Memory Yet Green,” the first volume of his autobiography, published in 1979, he explained how he became a compulsive writer. His Russian-born father owned a succession of candy stores in Brooklyn that were open from 6 A.M. to 1 A.M. seven days a week. Young Isaac got up at 6 o’clock every morning to deliver papers and rushed home from school to help out in the store every afternoon. If he was even a few minutes late, his father yelled at him for being a folyack, Yiddish for sluggard. Even more than 50 years later, he wrote: “It is a point of pride with me that though I have an alarm clock, I never set it, but get up at 6 A.M. anyway. I am still showing my father I’m not a folyack.”

The New York Times, April 7, 1992

And he said this about himself and his writing:

[T]he only thing about myself that I consider to be severe enough to warrant psychoanalytic treatment is my compulsion to write … That means that my idea of a pleasant time is to go up to my attic, sit at my electric typewriter (as I am doing right now), and bang away, watching the words take shape like magic before my eyes. 

Asimov, Isaac (1969). Nightfall, and other stories. Doubleday. pp. 205, 244.

Two more things about Asimov:

He was a claustrophile; he liked small, enclosed spaces.

He was afraid of flying; he did so only twice in his life.

 

It’s official: Writer-in-Residence for the next two years

The good folks at the Blount County Public Library made it official this week. I am to be the library’s writer-in-residence for the next two years. I am certainly honored and humbled by this. BCPL’s staff is an amazingly talented and dedicated group of folks, and they provide the county — indeed, the whole region — with a marvelous physical and intellectual resource. I am happy to be part of it.

In my experience, libraries everywhere are much like the one we’re blessed with in Blount County, Tennessee. They do their very best to serve their communities and make life better for everyone. So here’s an appeal: 

Wherever you are, use your local library, find out what’s going on there, and join the group of good citizens that supports it.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor — actually, it’s a pen and wash: Library of Congress

Best quote of the week:

“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. I’m beginning to believe it.”  Clarence Darrow, lawyer and author (1857-1938) 

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who 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 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: Starting beehives; surviving March; sketching in the urban; more on Darwin: newsletter April 13, 2018