Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

Hemingway on writing, Fraser at writing, counterfeit books, and a podcast: newsletter, June 28, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 28, 2019.

The great satisfaction of a project nearing completion came for me this week with the arrival of proof copies of Loyal Mountaineers: The Civil War Memoirs of Will McTeer. McTeer left his home near the Great Smoky Mountains in 1862 and joined the Union army. He spent the next two and a half years fighting to preserve his country. I’ll have more to say about him and the book next week.

Meanwhile, the earth produces, and we harvest: potatoes, onions, cucumbers, dill, beans, tomatoes, and blackberries.

Be happy and safe this weekend as America gets ready to celebrate the Fourth.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,769 subscribers and had a 30.4 percent open rate; 7 people unsubscribed. A chart showing the percentage of newsletter recipients who opened the newsletter each month will appear in next week’s newsletter.


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Ernest Hemingway on writing

The spare writing style of Ernest Hemingway has been often analyzed — and too often imitated — by many writers, observers, and commentators.

It is unique. There is nothing like it in the English language, and when Hemingway emerged as an important and eventually well-known writer in the post-Great War era of the 1920s, the style was both praised and panned.

One of the techniques of Hemingway’s writing is the heavy reliance on the simple sentence — the subject-verb-predicate sentence without subordination. One study showed that 70 percent of Hemingway’s sentences were simple sentences.

Hemingway wrote like a reporter who was composing for a telegraph message that charged by the word. Every word had to mean something. Every word had to pull some weight. Lavish adjectives and adverbs were likely not only to waste time but to be inadequate for what the writer was trying to convey. What was important, Hemingway argued, was what was omitted, and he compared his writing to an iceberg:

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. (Death in the Afternoon)

Another device that Hemingway used was something the ancient Greeks knew about: polysyndeton. This is the technique of stringing together sentences or phrase with the use of “and” rather than what we would call the serial comma. For instance, Hemingway wrote:

“I said, ‘Who killed him?’ and he said ‘I don’t know who killed him, but he’s dead all right,’ and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights or windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was right only she was full of water.” (After the Storm)

This technique conveys an immediacy to the subject and allows the writer to juxtapose a startling image in the midst of a more mundane description. Many writers before Hemingway, such as William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, used it, and the technique is common in the King James Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.

And, as you might expect, polysyndeton has an opposite: the more commonly used and heard asyndeton. Remember this sentence from John Kennedy inaugural address:

We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardships, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Hemingway was well aware of what he was doing and of the techniques he was using. His quest was to write “the one true sentence.”

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

Book counterfeiting: it happened before Amazon came into existence.

What happens when you are a self-published author (as I am), and someone takes your books, republishes them on Amazon’s self-publishing site, and sells them at a higher price — depriving you not only of royalties but also very possibly creating ill-will among your readers?

This hasn’t happened to me — at least, not that I know of.

But it has happened to others, and the New York Times has published a long article about book counterfeiting that is pretty scary.

. . .  Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.

That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyercomplains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon. Source: What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues – The New York Times

The article blames Amazon for not properly policing what it sells, and it quotes an Amazon spokesperson saying the right things:

An Amazon spokeswoman denied that counterfeiting of books was a problem, saying, “This report cites a handful of complaints, but even a handful is too many and we will keep working until it’s zero.” The company said it strictly prohibited counterfeit products and last year denied accounts to more than one million suspected “bad actors.”

Amazon could, and should, do a better job of policing what it sells, but blaming Amazon — and its dominance of the book market — for this situation, I think, is not particularly helpful.

The existence of this kind of counterfeiting is the result of current advancements in technology. These advancements have had many good and positive effects. But they also allow people who lie, cheat, and steal new ways to lie, cheat, and steal. Book counterfeiting is nothing new. It has a long and storied history, and what’s happening on Amazon now is another chapter in its history.

 

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


Antonia Fraser’s writing day

Fortunately for writer and historian Lady Antonia Fraser, she was pronounced as “uppity” when she was a girl attending convent school. The nuns, for reasons she doesn’t specify, didn’t like her.

They decided to punish by making her spend her Saturday mornings learning to touch type.

“In consequence,” she writes, “I’m a touch typist – actually the most useful skill I ever acquired; so much for uppishness.”

Fraser walls herself off for three hours in the mornings and writes “ferociously.” Then she stops, has lunch, exercises and does other things in the after. In the late afternoon, she edits and revises what she had done in the morning, but it’s at a much more languid pace.

The reason that this pattern of work-in-the-morning-only is something so deeply ingrained in me, is that I began trying to write history seriously when I had six children born in 10 years. I have actually written all my life, but history was It. So I devised a way of working like a bat out of hell, or anyway a bat out of the nursery, the moment I could cram the children into cradles, kindergartens, schools … with the wild hope they would stay there. (There are wicked stories of notices on my door saying “Only come in if you have broken something”, which I utterly deny.) Under the circumstances, I never ever suffered from writer’s block. Source: Antonia Fraser: ‘I was forced to learn typing as a punishment for being uppish’ | Books | The Guardian

All this information comes from a brief and delightful description that Fraser gave of her day to The Guardian a couple of years ago. If you are interested in how a good writer writes, you will want to read this.

Fraser is the author of many tomes of history (Mary Queen of Scots, Cromwell The Lord Protector, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, etc.), a couple of memoirs, and a detective series — among other works. She writes and gives her full powers to it.

Verse and Vision

For the second week in a row, my good friend and newsletter reader Vince V. suggested a poem for a video. Last week I read Alfred, Lord Tennyson‘s most famous poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade and did a portrait of the poet for a video. This week we drop back a couple of centuries to pick up To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace — the poem with the famous line, “Stone walls do not a prison make . . . ”

Here’s the complete list of videos I have made since the beginning of April:

Edgar Allen Poe

To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace: http://bit.ly/lovelace-toalthea 

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennysonhttp://bit.ly/tennyson-lightbrigade 

The House of Rest by Julia Ward Howehttp://bit.ly/howe-houseofrest

Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scotthttp://bit.ly/scott-lochinvar

Ole Bert: In His Own Words by Bert Garner: http://bit.ly/ole-bert

In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson: http://bit.ly/RLStevenson-2poems

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvellhttp://bit.ly/Marvell-CoyMistress

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer:http://bit.ly/Thayer-CaseyattheBat

The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellowhttp://bit.ly/HWL-TheOldClock

Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poehttp://bit.ly/NPM-Poe-AnnabelLee

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Grayhttp://bit.ly/gray-elegy

My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browninghttp://bit.ly/EBB-myheartandi

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poehttp://bit.ly/poe-theraven

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespearehttp://bit.ly/shakespeare-sonnet18

And more are on the way.

Podcast: Man in the Window

He became known as the Golden State Killer, but his crime spree was so long, so widespread, and so extensive that he went by many names: the Cordova Cat, the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, just to name a few.

Now the folks who brought you the compelling podcast Dirty JohnWondery and the Los Angeles Times — have a new podcast series titled Man in the Window. Here is how they describe it:

In Man in the Window, Paige St. John, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter has uncovered never before revealed details about the man who would eventually become one of California’s most deadly serial killers. From Wondery and the LA Times comes a new series that traces his path of devastation through his victims’ eyes.Source: ‎Man In The Window on Apple Podcasts

It is hard to believe the evil of the man who committed the crimes ascribed to the Golden State Killer. The descriptions of his actions are chilling, especially since many of them come from the victims themselves. We had a brief item last year about the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, the man accused of being the killer, and it is worth reading before diving into this podcast.

Everything surrounding this story is strange and complex, and the podcast does an excellent job of shepherding you through it.

https://www.latimes.com/projects/man-in-the-window-podcast/

Reactions

Alice K.: It was nice to read Jennifer’s remarks about the role of a library in the community. (See the newsletter of June 7, 2019.)  She makes many good points, and who would know better than she does about the many people whose lives are touched each day at the library?  There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that says, “the only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London
 
Watch this watercolor being painted with a voiceover of me reciting To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace: http://bit.ly/lovelace-toalthea

Best quote of the week:

All men — whether they go by the name of Americans or Russians or Chinese or British or Malayans or Indians or Africans — have obligations to one another that transcend their obligations to their sovereign societies. Norman Cousins, author, editor, journalist and professor (1915-1990) 

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: A newspaper story becomes a famous poem, the domestic troubles of a famous poet, and a cure for our civil ills: newsletter, June 21, 2019


 
 

 

 

 

 

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

The famous opening scene of The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare begins with the speeches of three witches. They predict what will happen in the play, but they are more than a dramatic device. They were a very pointed and obvious political statement.

That statement — something of a cheerleader’s “We’re with you all the way!” shout-out — was pointed directly at King James I.

We remember King James as the man who authorized the most famous translation of the Bible in history — the King James Version. He not only authorized it; he sent some specific directions to the translators and monitored its progress, and that work can easily be compared to the work of any modern best translation services agency.

But there is another side to James that we forget today. He believed in witches and witchcraft and did his best to stamp it out both in Scotland, where he reigned as James VI and in England after he was crowned as James I in 1609.

James’ belief in witchcraft and his campaign against it is outlined in an interesting article in HistoryExtra, the website of the BBC History Magazine and BBC World History Magazine. The article is Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King James’s witch hunts  and was written by Tracy Borman), who has authored a book about King James’s attitude toward witchcraft. (Witches: James I and the English Witch Hunts )

James’s obsession with witchcraft can be traced back to his childhood. The violent death of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, seems to have inspired a dark fascination with magic. “His Highness told me her death was visible in Scotland before it did really happen,” related Sir John Harington many years later, being, as he said, “spoken of in secret by those whose power of sight presented to them a bloody head dancing in the air”.

The article is a fascinating account of the James we may have thought we knew.

Folger Shakespeare Library podcast interviews author of recent book on a newly discovered Shakespeare source

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. has an interesting podcast with June Schlueter and Dennis McCarthy.

These authors were mentioned in a post on JPROF.com in February (and also in Jim’s newsletter) about a newly discovered source for William Shakespeare. How they discovered this source is as interesting as what they discovered.

McCarthy is an independent scholar, and Schlueter is the Charles A. Dana Professor Emerita of English at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. They are co-authors of the first published edition of A Brief Discourse of Rebellion & Rebels by George North, published by Boydell & Brewer in 2018. They were interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. Here’s an early exchange in the 34-minute interview.

BOGAEV: Let’s start with probably your most remarkable example of just how closely some of the passages in North’s A Brief Discourse parallel lines written in Shakespeare’s plays. And it’s the opening soliloquy from Richard III that famously starts, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” Dennis, why don’t you line up the similarities for us?

MCCARTHY: Sure. So the main similarity is that they’re making the same, extremely peculiar, point. They’re both talking about gauging your reflection in the mirror, and then deciding how you should respond accordingly. And as George North says in his manuscript, he says, “To view our own proportion in a glass, whose form and feature, if we find fair…” And when I got to there, I’m like, “Okay. This is starting to read like the Richard III opening monologue.” If you know the language there, it’s very similar.

Source: Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter on the George North Manuscript | Folger Shakespeare Library

You can listen to the entire interview here:

New biography of Agatha Christie; loving alliteration; remembering the Sabbath; newsletter March 16, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,088) on Friday, March 16, 2018.

Hi, [FIRST NAME GOES HERE]

Lots of readers have reacted to lots of different things in previous newsletters, and I include many of those reactions in this week’s missive. I have said this many times: I love hearing from you on any topic. And I am happy to share what you say with everyone else. Please keep writing.

My wife and I watched the movie The Darkest Hour this weekend, and that got me to thinking about Winston Churchill, so I started a little digging. I am turning up some interesting things, and I will tell you about some of it next week.


Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

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But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.


A new biography of Agatha Christie

All of us have heard of Agatha Christie, many of us have read at least one of her books, and some of us have read several. I met a man once who said he had read all 80 of her mysteries, and I do not doubt him. Agatha Christie was, by some calculations, the best selling author of all time. By other calculations, she was the second best, behind only William Shakespeare.

But who was she — really?

Agatha Mary Miller was born in 1890. She married Archibald Christie in 1914, had a daughter Rosalind, and divorced him in 1928. Two years later she married Max Mallowan and stayed married to him for 46 years until her death in 1976. She published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920 and never stopped writing.

Despite her worldwide fame and gigantic audiences, her life was as mysterious as one of her books. Now a new biography is available to American readers (it has been available to British readers for a while), and the book is getting rave reviews.

The book is Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson. Hear what Maureen Corrigan, National Public Radio reviewer, has to say about it here. If you are a Christie fan, you will want to check this out.

So, dear readers, how many Agatha Christie mysteries have you read? And which is your favorite?

 

Remembering the Sabbath

Whether we consider ourselves religious or not, we all observe the Fourth Commandment in some way: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20: 8)

That doesn’t mean we all go to church or pray or even believe in God (though some of us do all of those things). We don’t even call it the Sabbath. We call it the weekend. Still, it’s the Sabbath, and it’s built into our culture. We think differently about it than we do the rest of the week, and we act differently on that day (whether it’s Saturday, Sunday, or some other day).

The concept of the Sabbath, the weekend, comes from ancient Jewish culture — directly from the Fourth Commandment. It is one of the “gifts of the Jews,” according to Thomas Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews, the second volume of his brilliant Hinges of History series. Cahill says there is more to the Sabbath than simply taking a day (or two) each week to honor God.

As important as that is (again, to some but not all of us), the Sabbath is a day of rest, a day of recreation. The Sabbath means not doing what we normally do.

“The connection between both freedom and creativity lie just beneath the surface of this commandment: leisure is appropriate to a free people, and this people so recently free (the Jews being led out of Egypt) find themselves quickly establishing this quiet weekly celebration of their freedom; leisure is the necessary ground of creativity, and a free people are free to imitate the creativity of God. The Sabbath is surely one of the simplest and sanest recommendations any god has ever made; and those who live without such septimanal punctuation are emptier and less resourceful.” The Gifts of the Jews, p. 144

(This is the beginning of a post I have written about the Sabbath. Read the rest of it here.)

Peter Piper and his peck of pickled peppers

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers; if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

She sells seashells by the seashore.

English language speakers love alliteration. We use it to do slapstick, such as the Peter Piper ditty above. When we were kids, we would say that and as a result, spit all over each other. We thought it terribly funny.

We use alliteration to learn to pronounce words, as with the She sells . . . line. Say that quickly five or ten times, and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll learn to slow down when you’re speaking — at least for a sentence or two.

Mark Forsyth, of InkyFool.com, and author of several books on the language, cites in his The Elements of Eloquence (pages 10-11) an example of William Shakespeare, our old friend. Shakespeare lifted a passage from Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives for some lines in Antony and Cleopatra. From North we get this description of Cleopatra’s boat:

. . . the poop whereof was of gold, the sails of purple, and the oars of silver . . .

Shakespeare takes that and makes it into these alliterative lines:

. . . the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sails and so perfumed that

The winds were lovesick with them . . .

And that’s not the only instance, Forsyth points out, even in that one passage. “Nobody knows why we love to hear words that begin with the same letter, but we do, and Shakespeare knew it,” he says. Forsyth also says that alliterations don’t really have to make sense or even be accurate. Try these:

curiosity killed the cat

throw out the baby with the bathwater

right as rain

dead as a doornail

He’s got a point. We love it.

What’s your favorite alliteration?

 

Why stand during the Hallelujah chorus?

My item last week on George Frederick Handel mentioned that we traditionally stand during the Hallelujah Chorus, but we don’t know why. That provoked several responses:

Alice C.: “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin in 1742. It was a benefit concert for charity. According to one source, proceeds freed 142 men from debtors’ prison.

A year later, King George II was present at the first performance of “Messiah” in London. Is it said that the monarch fell asleep, and at the opening of the “Hallelujah” Chorus, he rose to his feet, thinking it was his cue. Whatever the reason, he stood, and that has been the custom ever since—to stand during the “Hallelujah” Chorus.

About 100 years later, even the aged Queen Victoria, who sat in her wheelchair as the chorus began, struggled to her feet as the choir sang, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” She said, “No way will I sit in the presence of the King of kings.”

Frank C. and Jean T. also sent in the story about George II. In addition, Frank wrote this about the Messiah oratorio:

The first performance was here in Dublin. Gentlemen were asked not to wear swords and ladies to remove their hoops as a crush was expected. One of the singers was a well-known high-class escort. After she sang. “I Know My Redeemer Liveth,” a man in the audience was so moved he called out to her “for that many sins are forgiven you.”

Giveaways

Art of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter reades. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available: https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter? (continued)

Suggestions continue to come in for a name for this newsletter — some facetious, some not so:

Robyn K: I like Seventh Inning Stretch.

Jim S.: I saw some of the suggestions for a title for your newsletter and most seem to do a play off of your name. This just gave me a thought for a title: Cookin’ All on the Stove. Corny? Yeah. Just what came to me.

Scott D.: Have you considered Stovall’s Oven? Camp Stovall? Campy Stove for All? (that last one might be a bit thin 😊)

Jean H.: I still like First Inning Press best!

Jenelle T.: If you are still contemplating names for your newsletter using baseball terms, I’d like to suggest The On Deck Circle. To me that area of a baseball field shows fans who is next in the batting order or who is being brought in to pinch hit. It’s an informative place on the field. Just a thought…

Vietnam, Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and the Pentagon Papers (continued)

After last week’s item on Vietnam, I received this from Vicki G.: Vietnam was NEVER a declared war-it was a police action! I will be 72 next month and I had a lot of friends that went over there, some under orders & some that volunteered. Some came back and some didn’t, and some were forever changed. Yes, I lost most of my trust in the government and the news media during that long incident, I’m trying to regain that, but it needs to be earned!

Thanks, Vicki.

Dictionary diversions (continued)

We have talked about dictionaries now for a couple of weeks, so this came in from my friend Dan C. in Las Vegas:

Glamping, mansplain, among 850 new words added to Merriam-Webster Dictionary and they also added a new word for people who love words: a wordie! https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/new-words-in-the-dictionary-march-2018. My daughter has long said I was guilty of what is now officially mansplaining. I told her that actually, I was guilty of Dansplaining. I talk to most people as if they don’t understand things…

 

Author! Author! (continued)

Last week I issued a call for any authors among newsletter readers to let me know if you want me to say something in the newsletter about your book. I did not get any responses to that, but the offer is still open. I did hear from a reader to wanted to make a recommendation.

A.J. N.: I’m not the writer, but I enjoy Alison Morton’s Roma Nova series … and the first book is free on Amazon.https://www.amazon.com/Alison-Morton/e/B007JZ1XRS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1520879230&sr=1-2-ent

Maybe some of your readers would like these? They are part mystery, part thriller, part history and fun to read, with some military aspects and a strong female lead character. I’ve read the first 3 and am about to start the fourth, I hope … if I ever finish the work I’m supposed to be doing today!

First Family of Radio and Television

The Roosevelts, as noted last week, were in command of radio in the 1930s and 1940s. In the early 1960s, the Kennedys had television. Reader and friend Tod responded with this:

As noted below, Jack and Jackie were known as the first family of TV. I don’t know if you recall Vaughan Meader’s hit album, The First Family, in which he lampooned the Kennedys.

Here is the Wikipedia article about the album:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_First_Family_(album)

Here is the audio of one of my favorite tracks:
https://youtu.be/AtSDzn4qns0

And here is the entire album: https://youtu.be/Xwu8S6Ekx9w

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Blount County Courthouse, Maryville, TN

I haven’t concentrated on landscapes too much lately, so I thought I would try one of the county courthouse building where I live in east Tennessee.

Best quote of the week:

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)

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: Handel, down and out; ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ up and away; more Shakespeare and Vietnam: newsletter March 9, 2018

 
 

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Peter Piper and his pickled peppers: Our love for alliteration

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers; if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

She sells seashells by the seashore.

English language speakers love alliteration.

We use it to do slapstick, such as the Peter Piper ditty above. When we were kids, we would say that and as a result, spit all over each other. It was terribly funny.

We use it to learn to pronounce words, as with the She sells . . . line. Say that quickly five or ten times, and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll learn to slow down when you’re speaking — at least for a sentence or two.

Mark Forsyth, of InkyFool.com, and author of several books on the language, cites in his The Elements of Eloquence (pages 10-11) an example of William Shakespeare, our old friend, lifting a passage from Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives for some lines in Antony and Cleopatra. From North we get this description of Cleopatra’s boat:

. . . the poop whereof was of gold, the sails of purple, and the oars of silver . . .

Shakespeare takes that and makes it into these lines:

 . . . the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sails and so perfumed that

The winds were lovesick with them . . .

And that’s not the only instance, Forsyth points out, even in that one passage.

Nobody knows why we love to hear words that begin with the same letter, but we do, and Shakespeare knew it.

Forsyth also says that alliterations don’t really have to make sense or even be accurate. Try these:

curiosity killed the cat

throw out the baby with the bathwater

right as rain

dead as a doornail

He’s got a point. We love it.

What’s your favorite alliteration?

See also:

William Shakespeare and the development of the English language

Shakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

 

 

Handel, down and out; ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ up and away; more Shakespeare and Vietnam: newsletter March 9, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,116), on Friday, March 9, 2018.

Hi,

You may think that I am obsessed with William Shakespeare, that I just can’t leave him alone. Actually, it’s the other way around. He won’t leave me alone.

The last three newsletters have had items about The Bard, ending last week (I thought) with a grand finale about what he looked like. I was ready to move on the 18th century and tell you something about George Frederick Handel. But then Will popped up the news again this week. So what’s a Shakespeare lover like me to do?

Still, I am going to tell you something about Handel, and about what may be THE most beloved painting in the world today, and about Vietnam. Then there’s the grand giveaway you won’t want to miss. Anon, let the newsletter begin.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

George Frederick Handel: finished, washed-up . . . but then . . .

You will have to work pretty hard during this month of March to avoid hearing some of the music of George Frederick Handel. Handel’s Messiah oratorio is standard fare during the Lenten and Easter season, and everyone knows that you are supposed to stand during the Hallelujah chorus (although no one knows exactly why).

Handel was born in Germany in 1685, studied music is several places including Italy, and came to London in 1710 to seek his musical fortune. London had a thriving and avid musical audience, and Handel — one of the great organists of the day as well as a composer — quickly became the toast of the town with his keyboard genius and his mastery of the highly popular Italian-style opera. During the next 25 years he achieved great success and made plenty of money.

By 1741, however, things weren’t so good. London’s musical tastes had changed — Italian opera was no longer the in thing — and Handel’s productions met with repeated failures. He was facing bankruptcy, and his health was increasingly fragile. Critics descended, and even the Church of England pounced, criticizing his secular productions.

Handel, everyone said, was finished, washed-up.

Then in August, 1741 — just when Handel wondered if he could ever mount another production — his friend Charles Jennens, a poet, handed him a libretto for an oratorio about the life of Christ.

What happened after that showed that Handel was no one-tune keyboard tickler. You can read about it in this post on JPROF.com,

What’s your favorite piece by Handel? Lots of people would name the Hallelujah chorus, but there is much to choose from: Royal Water MusicRoyal Fireworks Music, etc. Personally, I like the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Handel’s oratorio Solomon. You can hear that one and the Hallelujah chorus in my post about Handel on JPROF.com.

The Roosevelts and radio

The item last week about the mastery of radio by both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt drew this response from a newsletter reader:

Fred F.: President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanore was the “First Family” of Radio. Then we had President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife Jackie were the “First Family of TV. What a rich history we had due to the electronic marvels of Radio and TV.

Vietnam, Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and the Pentagon Papers

The New York Times this week has an interesting article by Rick Goldsmith about the origin of the Pentagon Papers. It begins with the story of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense, and Daniel Ellsberg, then a State Department official, being on the same flight from Saigon to Washington in October, 1966. McNamara and Ellsberg spoke to each other during the flight, and in the conversation, McNamara expressed doubts that the strategy the U.S. was then pursuing in Vietnam was working.

When the flight landed in Washington, McNamara was met by reporters as soon as he got off the plane and was asked about his trip and the American strategy. He told the reporters exactly the opposite of what he had said to Ellsberg: that what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam was working and that they were making progress in defeating the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.

The article is well worth reading.

I have written a reaction to the information in the article and posted it on JPROF.com, in case anyone is interested.

More on Shakespeare’s sources

An independent Shakespeare researcher in Great Britain, according to a recent article in The Guardian, thinks he may have found a sample of Shakespeare’s actual handwriting. John Casson says he was looking through François de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, a 1576 French text many believe to be a source for Shakespeare’s plays, when he noticed some hand-written notations on the pages of a story of a Danish prince whose father was murdered by the prince’s uncle.

This recalls an item we discussed a couple of weeks ago about a new book identifying possible sources for Shakespeare’s writing.

There’s a problem with John Casson, however. He doesn’t believe Shakespeare wrote the plays that are attributed to him. He thinks it was Sir Henry Neville, a courtier of Elizabeth I.

Correction from last week: I said that Shakespeare’s birth is celebrated on April 26. Wrong! A sharp-eyed reader informs me it April 23. I stand corrected — and I thank the reader: Jean T.

Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’

Few of the world’s great works of art — even Leonardo’s Mona Lisa — can match Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring for admirers and adherents. A best-selling novel and stage play have been written about this enigmatic painting from the great Dutch master.

The painting was created in about 1665, but for the first two hundred years of its life, few people knew of its existence. Where it was all that time is also a mystery. Today it is the star of the show in the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Holland, where the gallery is conducting a close — really close — look at the painting.

Read more about all this to-do in this post on JPROF.com.

 

Dictionaries — still the one, after all these years

Last week’s item about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary (read the JPROF.com post here) brought in these interesting tidbits:

Helen P.: Dictionary response. When my husband joined a French company in late 90’s, management was given French classes at work. I loaned him my mother’s french/english dictionary from when she took college French prior to WWII. One week after he turned in his assignment he was called on the carpet, threatened with harassment charges. Yes, the teacher was young female and very upset at what she said was incredibly filthy. She did not relent until he brought the book in and showed the phrase he used. Yes, language changes, and not always for the better.

Sunny S.: As with many things in life, I wish the English language, and therefore the dictionaries which catalog the meanings of all those delightful words, would stay the same! I, too, still have the (Webster’s Collegiate) dictionary and thesaurus given to me in high school. The thesaurus is especially well-used and loved!

Giveaways

Art of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter reades. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available: https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

We had one late entry in the name-the-newsletter sweepstakes last week — this one from my good friend Dan C. in Las Vegas: Seventh Inning Stretch.

Any reactions?

I like this one but still tend to favor the Hot Stove League. Seventh Inning Stretch might be good for something else I have in mind, which I will reveal when it’s developed a bit more.

I’d still like to hear from anyone who has an opinion or a suggestion.

Author! Author!

From time to time, I mention authors and books I think newsletter readers might be interested in. If you are a newsletter reader and have written a book you’d like for me to highlight, I am glad to do so. Send me an email. A description or blurb and an Amazon link would also be helpful.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: George Frederick Handel

Handel’s musical genius was widely recognized during his life, but by all accounts he was an affable, generous man — even though the performers he hired for his operas could drive him into fits of rage. He was also a workaholic who pursued his musical ideas into exhaustion and eventually ill health.

Best quote of the week:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882) 

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. 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
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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 newsletterShakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

Shakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,151) on Friday, March 2, 2018.

Hi, 

We left February behind this week and are headed for spring. My reading and browsing have ranged far and wide, so there is a lot to share. Thanks to all who have written to say they enjoy the newsletter and look forward to getting it each week. I appreciate that more than I can say, and I am always delighted to hear from you.

We welcome about 500 or so new readers this week. I hope you newbies will stick around and maybe join in the conversation.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

What did Shakespeare look like?

The simple answer is: We don’t know, exactly.

But, of course, it’s more complicated than that. William Shakespeare was born in April 1564; we don’t know the exact date, but we celebrate his birthday on April 26. He died in 1616 at the age of 52. During his lifetime, he achieved some fame and fortune, and it is quite likely that a gentleman of his standing would have commissioned a portrait of himself. If he did, that portrait was not mentioned in his will or by any of his family members and is lost to us today.

BShakespeare-Chandosut we have an idea of his appearance from two sources. One is a half-length statue commissioned by his family and placed in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown, in 1622. The other is an engraving that appeared in the frontispiece of the first published collection of his plays, The First Folio, pirnted in 1622 and published a year later. Both of these would have been seen by people who knew what Shakespeare looked like.

During the next 400 years, six portraits have made some serious claim to represent Shakespeare’s likeness. One, the Chandos portrait (right), is accepted by many but not all scholars as close to genuine. The others have had adherents but are generally dismissed by today’s scholars.

On JPROF.com this week, I have written a piece on what we know about Shakespeare’s appearance and a little about each of the portraits that have made the claim to be genuine. And, just to make life interesting for myself, I produced my own watercolor of Shakespeare. Check it out at the bottom of this newsletter.

Finally, last week I asked if you had a favorite word or phrase that Shakespeare first used or coined. A couple of your chimed in:

Peggy G.: Bravo and Huzzah ( spelling ) So, “Out damned spot” is my favorite Shakespeare quote ( insert your dogs name I place of spot ) 

And from LuAnn R, check out the Best Quote of the Week — a few Shakespearean lines — below.

 

The first Roosevelt America heard after Pearl Harbor

All during the day on Sunday, December 7, 1941 — the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor — no serious consideration was given to having the president speak to the nation via radio. Franklin Roosevelt spent the afternoon and evening meeting with government and military officials and working on his address to Congress, a request for a declaration of war that would be delivered the next day.

Across the hall from the Oval Office, Eleanor Roosevelt was preparing to go on the air. She had a regularly scheduled radio program on Sunday evening, and she was rewriting the introduction to that show in light of what had happened at Pearl Harbor.

Both Eleanor and Franklin were masters of radio. Their mastery is well documented in an American Public Radio radio show titled The First Family of Radio. You can hear that show at this post on JPROF.com and find out what Eleanor Roosevelt said to America on the first day of its participation in World War II — and what she did immediately after the broadcast.

 

Inside the making of the greatest dictionary of the English language

When I turned 18 in 1966, just a week or so before I headed off to the University of Tennessee as a freshman journalism major, my sister gave me a copy of Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. It was an incredibly wonderful gift that I used frequently during and after my college days. Today, a half century later, it sits on my shelf, still ready for use at a moment’s notice.

Samuel Johnson

 Dictionaries are marvels of any language. But English has resisted the orderly cataloguing that has been routine for many other tongues. Early lexicographers believed they could impose some necessary order on the language by setting down spellings and definitions and making them permanent. But the language quickly showed them who was boss.

Samuel Johnson (right) recognized this inability to tame the language in the preface to his great dictionary (1755) when he wrote: “We laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay.” More about Samuel Johnson here on JPROF.com.

The Guardian of London newspaper has a “long read” look at the history of dictionaries in English and the efforts of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to keep up with the language in this digital age. Highly recommended.

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

Art of the ArcaneArt of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter readers. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available:https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4

 

Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

For a couple of weeks now I have been asking about a name for this newsletter, and many of you have responded. Last week I proposed The Hot Stove League for consideration. Here are some of the responses to that:

Peggy G.: As to the name for your newsletter… how about the “Pot-bellied Stove League” I live on the West coast so there are more pot-bellies sitting around a barbecue, the league infers that you ( not you,you ) but, us are not alone.

Fred F.: How about “A Day on the Porch”? We used to gather on the back porch in the shade and talk about everything that happened that day. That’s when I had a family gathered around me and had fun doing everything together. Perhaps not what you were looking for, but that’s what we called it then.

Robin K.: Name for the newsletter popped into my head when I saw this subject in my inbox – sorry, I have a rather irreverent sense of humor – “Jim’s Jabberings.” Or Jabbering?? Mostly tongue in cheek, but I do like the alliteration!

Joan H.: Just read the latest newsletter and wanted to let you know I like The Hot Stove League. Of course I also like Jim’s Jottings.

W.: I HATE HATE HATE HATE ….. that name. Hot Stove sounds like a romance title. I am not creative but something like The Prof’s thoughts

Angie L.: After reading the newsletter today, I thought of another possible name.” Inside the Stove”

Cynthia G.: I think you’re on the right track with The Hot Stove League, because it includes your readers.

Janet K.: I like the Toasty Stove. Hot Stove is a show on MLB Network.

Sapphire L.: I think that I really like “The Hot Stove League”. It really is a name that stands out from the crowd and is unique. You should stick with that name, if you want.

Debie C.: I really like The Hot Stove League.

Erin S.: The Professor’s Prose heehee

There’s no consensus yet, but the tide of opinion seems generally toward The Hot Stove League. I’m leaning that way myself. If there are other opinions out there, I would love to hear them.

Vietnam, 1968: The Walter Cronkite broadcast

One of the seminal events in America’s long involvement in Vietnam occurred 50 years ago this past week. CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite — often called “the most trusted man in America” — narrated a prime-time documentary that called into question the American government’s rosy predictions about the war’s progress. Cronkite did not come out against the war. Rather, he said:

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that were are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

Even this mild statement was a stunning blow to the story that the administration of Lyndon Johnson had been trying to sell to the public. Author Mark Bowden, writing for the New York Times, has an excellent article about Cronkite’s broadcast and its effects on the events that followed.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Mr. Shakespeare

 

 

I have done a good bit of reading this week about what we know concerning the appearance of William Shakespeare. I decided to weigh in with my own contribution. I have not been taken with the portraits that I have seen as I think they lack character and personality. So, the watercolor painting above is what I think.

Best quote of the week (contributed by reader LuAnn R.):

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

William Shakespeare, philosopher and writer (1563-1616)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. 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 newsletterA name for this newsletter; more on Shakespeare; the lost eloquence of the sports page

 
 
The Chandos portrait

Shakespeare’s appearance remains a mystery – but we have lots of clues

 

A 19th century painting of the installation of the Shakespeare bust in Stratford-on-Avon

A 19th century painting of the installation of the Shakespeare bust in Stratford-on-Avon

Much of what we would like to know about William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the history of the English language, remains beyond our grasp. We simply do not much about the man — what he read, how he worked, when he wrote, who his friends were, etc.

One of the things we do not know about Shakespeare is what he looked like.

Shakespeare was a man of some standing and wealth, and most men in his position would have commissioned a portrait of some kind during his lifetime. We have no record of Shakespeare having done this, and no such portrait survives. So, we have no first-hand evidence of his visage.

But, like many other things about his life, we do have some clues. The search for Shakespeare’s likeness is not without evidence.

First, there is the bust of Shakespeare that rests in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown. This is a half-length plaster cast of Shakespeare that was commissioned mostly likely by a family member and placed in a few years after his death in 1616. Because it would be viewed by many people who had known the man, we can assume that it was a reasonably satisfactory likeness. Indeed, the characteristics we have come to associate with the writer’s appearance are all there: high, receding hairline, hair that flairs out from the ears and neck, mustache, and goatee or beard.

The First Folio engraving

The Droeshout portrait – The First Folio engraving

In this rendering, Shakespeare is slim-faced and broad-shouldered. His eyes bulge a bit, and there is little hint of an expression.

The second likeness that comes close to being contemporary and authentic is the engraving found in the frontispiece of the First Folio, the 1623 collection of Shakespeare’s plays. This one is known as the Droeshout portrait because it comes from an engraving by Martin Droeshout. A poem in the introduction by Ben Jonson implies that this is a good likeness of the man.

The engraving is a competent rendering of a man with Shakespearean features, but it lacks much depth and expression. The head is actually slightly larger than it should be in proportion to the body on which it sits. Though it may present the general characteristics of the subject accurately, it’s sterile quality leaves the view wishing for more. Much more.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nd that leads us to six other portraits that have, at one time or another in the last 400 years, have made the claim to being authentic portraits of William Shakespeare.

The Chandos portrait

The Chandos portrait

Chief among those is the Chandos portrait, so named because it was once in the possession of the Duke of Chandos. This portrait was done during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but we have no direct evidence that the subject was Shakespeare himself. Scholars have studied this portrait closely for many decades and have never been able to satisfactorily answer important questions about it or produce any convincing documentation that it shows us, William Shakespeare.

The portrait, unlike the bust and the engraving, shows a somewhat dark-skinned man whose appearance is strong and comfortable. The fact that he is wearing an earring is a bit jarring to modern eyes, but such an accouterment was not unknown in portraits of the time.

The Chandos portrait is as close as we have come so far to a contemporary likeness of Shakespeare.


The Grafton portrait

The Grafton portrait

The Grafton portrait is a painting of a young man of 24 years, painted in 1588. Shakespeare was 24 in 1588, but otherwise, there is no evidence or reason to believe that this is a painting of William Shakespeare. The young man in the painting has some features that resemble other likenesses of the writer, but these are not enough to convince any discerning view of its authenticity. Even at that, the Grafton portrait had many adherents during the 20th century, and scholars went to great lengths to authenticate it. Their efforts were not successful.

 


The Sanders portrait

The Sanders portrait

Like the Grafton portrait, the Sanders portrait dates from the time that Shakespeare was alive. It presents a young man, who might have looked like Shakespeare at a young age. It is named for John Sanders, a painter at the time who was thought to have had some connection with Shakespeare’s theater company. No such connection has been documented, and there just is not any evidence that this is a picture of William Shakespeare.

 


The Janssen portrait

The Janssen portrait

The Janssen portrait also dates from the time Shakespeare lived, and its likeness is so close to what we know about Shakespeare that many believed — for a time — that this was an authentic likeness. The uninterrupted curve of the heard mirrored that of the Droeshout portrait, and yet this gentleman looked more like the proprietor of a theater than one of its actors. There was a problem, however. There had always been doubts about this painting, and in 1988 those doubts were confirmed. The forehead and been overpainted to look like Shakespeare. The original showed a man with to receding hairline at all. The painting was undoubtedly of somebody, possibly Thomas Overbury, but it wasn’t Shakespeare.

 


The Soest portrait

The Soest portrait

The Soest portrait was executed in 1667, about 50 years after Shakespeare’s death, and is the most subtle and artistic of all of the paintings discussed here. It was produced as a memorial to Shakespeare by Gilbert Soest and is clearly Shakespearean in its features. Shakespeare is shown as an intelligent, serious young man, possibly in his thirties, and his clothing is simple and unadorned. Again, however, there is no real evidence that this is a portrait of Shakespeare based on any authentic source.

 


The Flowers portrait

The Flowers portrait

The Flower portrait was a painting based on the Droeshout engraving but signed and dated 1609. It is a faud. The painting was probably executed some time in the first part of the 19th century, and doubts about its authenticity have always existed. Those doubts were confirmed in 2005 when it was x-rayed and examined extensively and found that it could not have been painted during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

 

The source for much of this information is Searching for Shakespeare by Tanya Cooper and others; the book is the companion to an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2006. 

Source: Searching for Shakespeare – National Portrait Gallery

 

A name for this newsletter; more on Shakespeare; the lost eloquence of the sports page: newsletter, Feb. 23, 2018

Hi,

My life is continually blessed with remarkable people and interesting information. Those people include readers of this newsletter. You folks continue to write, sometimes to correct, sometimes to add to what I have written, and occasionally to compliment.

And just so you know, the newsletter is going out to about 3,500 people this week; that’s down from more than 4,000 a few weeks ago. I trimmed the list down to eliminate folks who had not opened and engaged in the past few weeks. Then I added a few from the Amazon gift card raffle that a few of us authors sponsored. The total number of people on the list is not important. What counts, they tell me (they being the “experts” in this field), is the “open rate,” the percentage of folks who actually open the email and click to display the images or click on one of the links. A good open rate is about 25 percent. For the past few weeks, the open rate for this newsletter has been 38-40 percent.

So, many thanks to you readers.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Shakespeare’s effect on the English language

Last week the newsletter had a piece about a recently discovered source for some of William Shakespeare’s writing. We have no direct knowledge of what sources Shakespeare used or what he read, so everything in this realm has to be said tentatively. What we do know about Shakespeare is the effect that he had on the English language. Shakespeare was the first to use many of the words commonly used today. He turned phrases that were so meaningful and memorable that we still use them everyday.

The list of phrases is long and varied: the game is up; the truth will out; if the truth were known; send him packing; laughing stock; green-eyed monster. The words, too: swagger, bedazzle, hurry, and many more.

Check out this short piece on JPROF.com to find more. Watch the video. Then go exploring yourself. What’s your favorite word or phase that Shakespeare originated?

Next week: One more piece about Shakespeare (unless something else comes up); What did Shakespeare look like?

Vince Vawter’s new novel: Copyboy; to be released in August

Friend and fellow newsletter reader Vince Vawter is about to have has second novel published, and it deserves mention here. Vince was in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago and met with his editor at Capstone Publishing, and he tells me that they have just about settled on a cover (right).

Vince’s first novel is titled Paperboy, and it’s the story of a boy growing up in Memphis who has a stutter. Vince himself is a stutterer, and the story rings true on every page. The novel was a Newberry Honor Award winner, and the Washington Post said: “[Vawter’s] characterization of Little Man feels deeply authentic, with . . . his fierce desire to be ‘somebody instead of just a kid who couldn’t talk right.”

Vince spent his professional career in the newspaper business and finished as the publisher of the Evansville (Ind.) Courier and Press.

His new title is Copyboy, and it’s a book to look forward to. It’s the story of a young man’s trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, and it should be out in August.

The lost eloquence of the American sports page

The American sports page, in the Golden Age of the 1920s, was the home of lyrical, eloquent, and erudite writing that honored the magic of athletic competition as well as the magnificence of the English language. Consider this paragraph:

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”

That’s how Grantland Rice, sports writer for the New York Tribune, began his account of the Notre Dame-Army football game of 1924. Notre Dame, led by its great backfield, won the game against a strong team from the United States Military Academy (Army).

The Four Horsemen postage stamp

No paragraph in the history of sports journalism has been quoted more than this one. The “Four Horsemen” became part of the legend of Notre Dame football, and publicists at the University placed the four footballers on four horses for a famous photograph. That photograph was turned into a postage stamp more than 50 years later.

Some of the greats of American literature — Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, Jimmy Cannon — were sports writers. Read more about this topic on JPROF.com and then follow the links for even more information and great writing.

The Feminine Mystique and the change in women’s status in the 1960s

One of the often-overlooked phenomena of the 1960s — the time when I was a teenager and grew into adulthood — was the change in the status of American women during that decade. The change was one of the major motivating ideas for my writing the novel Point Spread. The central character of that novel, Maxine Wayman, has dreams and ambitions, but she runs into the roadblock of “being a girl.”

I make no claim to being a particularly progressive thinker as a teenager or a college student. I’m sure I was part of the problem more than part of the solution, but I did know many bright, talented, and ambitious girls who had to overcome obstacles that I never faced.

In some ways, Maxine is my continuing tribute to those young women.

These thoughts were sparked this week by a short piece in the New York Times Daily Briefing that noted that it was this week, 55 years ago, that The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published.

The book summed up many of the frustrations that middle-class women had experienced, especially if they had set aside ambitions and careers to become suburban housewives and mothers. From the day it was published, it sparked criticism from many quarters (and continues to do so today), but it struck a chord with many women and became a phenomenal best-seller over the following two years.

Read the rest of this post and find out more about the book, The Feminine Mystique, on JPROF.com.

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

For a couple of weeks now I have asked: Does this newsletter need a name?

I have mentioned The Writing Wright and JPROF Journal. One reader suggested Jim’s Jottings. Another: Jim’s Musings. Then newsletter reader and regular correspondent Tod wrote this:

A name? “The Stove” would be unique. Or “Pot-bellied Stove.” We could keep warm by The Stove. I am mildly against the use of references to “writing” (jotting, journal, scribbles, and so on) in the name of a journal or newsletter because that would be redundant*. Of course it’s a journal/jotting/diary; you don’t need to point out the obvious. Besides, such use is all too common. You want something unique and not look like part of the crowd. “The Quarterback Sneak” sounds interesting and it plays on your football titles.

* sort of like the local newspaper of a town in Virginia, the Newport News News.

That got me to thinking. What about The Hot Stove League? That expression comes from the baseball world, and it describes a time when people would sit around a hot stove in the winter and discuss last season or next season or politics and books or anything else that might be on their minds. I like it. I may go with it.
Let me know what you think.

Compliments

It is gratifying beyond words — and extremely humbling — to receive compliments about this newsletter from readers. Lately, my cup runneth over.

Maria K: It’s always very diverse! and very informative. I may not always click on a link, but I do read it from start to finish. Thank you,

Alice C: I would like to take a moment to compliment you on your newsletter. Not only do I take the time to read it each week, but I look forward to it as well. I look forward to the eclectic content as I find there are always one or two articles which elicit further exploration.

Dorothy B: I am opening and enjoying your newsletter, Jim. Thanks for sending it.

Angie L: Me, Myself and I ( sorry it had to be done) look forward to opening and reading every part of your newsletter. I think I would really miss them should they stop.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Franklin Roosevelt (caricature)

Last week it was Eleanor. This week it’s Franklin. I’ll have more about them both in next week’s newsletter.

Best quote of the week:

The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.

Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. 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


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William Shakespeare and the development of the English language

The Bard is not highly popular with college students these days. In fact, he has rarely been popular, although his genius is universally recognized.

As a student, you might go to one of his plays (because it’s required or you’re getting extra credit), but you’d rather be buried in a toxic waste dump than be caught reading his stuff.

It’s obscure, opaque, convoluted.

And loquacious (look it up).

Words, words, words. That’s what you get with Shakespeare. Lots and lots of words. He goes on and on, sometimes about the smallest point. There’s plenty of action in his plays, but he slows it down with all the words.

Shakespeare had an extensive vocabulary. In all of his plays and poetry (the ones that we have), there are about 30,000 different words. The well-educated person of today knows about 15,000, and we use far fewer than that.

But the ones we do us, particularly in our everyday speech — well, many of those originated with Shakespeare. Consider the following expressions:

more in sorrow than in anger

vanished into thin air

refused to budge

played fast and loose

tower of strength

hoodwinked

fair play

cold comfort

too much of a good thing

fool’s paradise

bag and baggage

high time

the game is up

the truth will out

if the truth were known

send him packing

laughing stock

The list could go on and on. (By the way, it comes from English journalist Bernard Levin’s book Enthusiasms.) These expressions — many of which are now considered clichés — first appeared in Shakespeare’s work. They weren’t clichés when he wrote them, of course. They were fresh expressions, uses, and combinations of words that no one had ever thought of before.

And they were so good that people remembered them and kept using them.

Hephzibah Anderson, writing for the British Broadcasting Corporation website in 2014 on the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, said:

. . . during his 52 years on earth, he enriched the English language in ways so profound it’s almost impossible to fully gauge his impact. Without him, our vocabulary would be just too different. He gave us uniquely vivid ways in which to express hope and despair, sorrow and rage, love and lust. Even if you’ve never read one of his sonnets or seen a play – even if you’ve never so much as watched a movie adaptation – you’re likely to have quoted him unwittingly. It’s almost impossible to avoid.

And here’s a four-minute video on 10 words invented by Shakespeare:

 

If we’re smart, we’ll listen very closely to what Shakespeare has to say and the way he says it. We might learn a thing or two.


Note: This essay was originally written for an introductory course in writing (MC 102) that I taught for many years at the University of Alabama. It has been edited and expanded for this post.

A new source for Shakespeare; etymology for everyone; nutritious foods; more crimes against English

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,270) on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018.

Hi, 

Life is not all sitting around reading and writing blog posts and painting watercolors. Sometimes there is real, hard physical labor involved. That’s what it has taken over the past few weeks to clean out our 50+-year-old barn and re-floor it so that I can put some of my woodworking equipment there. I’m also contacting All Service Plumbing so they can take care of the plumbing. I’m happy to report I have finished re-flooring much of the center of the barn, which gives me an extra 500 square feet of working space. I have begun to move some equipment (table saw, drill press, belt sander, etc.) in there and am now considering what my first projects will be. I’ll keep you posted.

Last week’s newsletter included some inside info about this newsletter. There’s some more this week below the signature.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Shakespeare’s source: peering into the mind of a genius

Last week we talked a little about the thousands of pages of journals that Leonardo da Vinci kept and how much they tell us about how his mind worked. William Shakespeare, who lived a century after Leonardo and whose business was writing, left us no such record of his life. Much of what we know about The Bard is what scholars and literary detectives have gleaned through implication and circumstantial evidence. That’s too bad because Shakespeare was a great writer who appeared just when we needed him the most — the time when English was developing as the beautiful language we have today.

Where did Shakespeare get his ideas? How did he formulate the depths of the poetry of his plays? Who and what influenced his thinking and writing?

We have so few answers to these questions that when clue about them appears, we get pretty excited. That’s what happened last week when a new book (Rebellion and Rebels) appeared. The authors indicated that an obscure contemporary of Shakespeare was probably a source for few of his more famous soliloquies. Using computer software designed to detect plagiarism, a computer nerd and a Shakespearean scholar have tracked the ideas and some of the words found in one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches — the opening lines of Richard III (Now is the winter of our discontent . . .) — to a fellow named George North.

Read a bit more about this and why it’s important in this short article on JPROF.com.

Etymology just for the fun of it

Friend and fellow newsletter reader Brett M. sent me a couple of books this week, and they could not have pleased me more. They are Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase and The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language.

Forsyth writes with an energy and wit that speeds the reader through the maze of his brain and his knowledge as he makes connections with words and phrases that are surprising, extraordinary, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Forsyth’s blog is InkyFool.com. That’s a good place to start. He has just published a book titled A Short History of Drunkenness, which he describes thusly:

A Short History of Drunkenness traces humankind’s love affair with booze from our primate ancestors through to Prohibition, answering every possible question along the way: What did people drink? How much? Who did the drinking? Of the many possible reasons, why? On the way, learn about the Neolithic Shamans, who drank to communicate with the spirit world (no pun intended), marvel at how Greeks got giddy and Sumerians got sauced, and find out how bars in the Wild West were never quite like in the movies.

This is a history of the world at its inebriated best.

The purpose of great literature

On the not-so-funny side of the language this week is the news that the school system in Duluth, Minnesota, has dropped The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from its ninth-grade required reading list. School officials did this because some of the words used in these books — actually, one word in particular — might make the students “uncomfortable.”

There you have it, friends: The purpose of great literature: to make people comfortable.

It’s hard not be sarcastic in the face of such thinking, and I have tried to keep the sarcasm to a minimum in a short post about this that I have written for JPROF.com.

The most nutritious foods

I don’t usually venture into the realms of food and its preparation (above my pay grade, I am told), but I thought this was interesting. On the British Broadcasting Corporation site a couple of weeks ago was a listing of the 100 most nutritious foods based on research done by scientists and compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The listing begins with Number 100 and goes down to Number 1. I didn’t have the patience to go through the entire list to begin with so I scrolled down to find out the top 10 or so. (SEMI-SPOILER ALERT) Here the top dozen, but they are listed in alphabetical order, so if you want to know the winner, you’ll have to go to the site: almonds, beet greens, celery flakes, cherimoya, chia seeds, dried parsley, flatfish, ocean perch, pork fat, pumpkin seeds, snapper, Swiss chard.

And the others on the list? Relax, you’re probably already eating some of them.

Here is the link to the scientific article on which the story is based. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.137…

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

Crimes against English

Jean T.: Tautology – near us is a river called the Ravensbourne River. Legend says it was so named because Julius Caesar saw ravens at its source (there’s no evidence that he made it as far as south London). However, Raven is derived from an old word for river, bourne is an old word for river as well so it is actually the river, river river. Redundancy or what?

Well, readers, what do you think?

Tod: In southern California there is an archeological site called La Brea, where thick oil (tar) has bubbled to the surface. Even the locals call it The La Brea Tar Pits, which, when translated into English, reads The The Tar Tar Pits (la brea = the tar).

What crime against English have you discovered?

 

A name for this newsletter?

Last week I asked: Does this newsletter need a name?

I got a couple of responses and would like to have more.

I think that maybe it does. I have been turning over a couple of possibilities — The Writing Wright and JPROF Journal. One reader suggested Jim’s Jottings. Do you have a suggestion?

Let me know what you think.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Eleanor Roosevelt (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading 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


Jim’s newsletter: Under the hood (part 2)

Number of subscribers and open rates

Here’s where we get a bit technical.

There are currently more than 4,000 names on my subscriber list, but that number doesn’t mean much. What really means something is something called the “open rate.” That is, how many of those subscribers actually open the email and engage with it.

You can open an email but still not engage with it. To engage, you must display the images (that’s why I have the note at the top of the email asking you to click on “display the images”) or click on one of the links contained in the newsletter.

I am told that with a newsletter such as many (one by an independent author, that is), an open rate of 25 percent is considered to be good. If you are getting more than that, you are doing very well.

My open rate, I am happy to report, is between 30 and 40 percent and occasionally goes to 42 or 44 percent. I am modestly proud (oxymoron ALERT!) of that. It means that at present each week, I am engaging with 1,400 to 1,800 friends.

As Teddy Roosevelt would say, “I am DEE-lighted!”

More on JPROF.com

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Inspiration for a genius: recent discovery of a book that Shakespeare may have used for his writing

The workings of the mind of a genius — and where that genius comes from — are forever fascinating.

What made Monet paint the way he did?

Where did Lincoln get his political acumen?

Why did Einstein travel into the realms of relativity?

Who gave Shakespeare the ideas for his plays?

William Shakespeare

None of these questions ever has a single answer, of course. But part of the answer to the last one — what inspired the Bard — may have been found by a computer nerd living in New Hampshire.

Dennis McCarthy, the nerd, and June Schlueter, a Shakespearean scholar, have co-authored a book (Rebellion and Rebels) identifying George North, an obscure writer in Elizabethan times, as a possible source for what ultimately became some of Shakespeare’s most memorable speeches.

McCarthy says he did it using some open source plagiarism software — but quickly adds that Shakespeare didn’t plagiarize. Like all of us, he used the ideas and information of others to form his own creative works. (The headlines about this have emphasized that it was “anti-plagiarism” software that helped uncover this finding. The implication is that Shakespeare may have plagiarized, which he did not — even by today’s standards. That implication obscures the real importance of this finding.)

What the authors found is that a passage from an obscure anti-rebellion document written by George North used some of the words and ideas that later showed up in some of Shakespeare’s soliloquies. For instance, North uses “proportion,” “glass,” “feature,” “fair,” “deformed,” “world,” “shadow” and “nature” in the dedication of his treatise. Those words, in almost the same order, show up in the famous opening lines of Richard III.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

Insights into the mind of a genius are always fascinating and instructive.

Because Leonardo da Vinci kept a vast quantity of journals (See Leonardo’s Journals: A large window into the mind of a genius here on JPROF.com), we have a good idea about how his mind worked, what he was thinking about, and what he saw.

With William Shakespeare, we have no such record. Other than his plays and poems, we have little or nothing that Shakespeare wrote. To gain insight, we must look at the world around him to come to a greater understanding of his words.

As critic Isaac Butler explained in an article on Slate.com:

. . . we look at Julius Caesar and marvel at the incredible rhetoric but don’t see it as in dialogue with plays about Rome by other Elizabethans such as Thomas Lodge’s The Wounds of Civil War, and we don’t look at Plutarch’s accounts of Brutus and Mark Antony’s lives, which served as the source for both Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. The result is that our understanding of both Caesar and Shakespeare is impoverished. By looking at his sources, we can see what he kept and cut and changed. By looking at his context, we can see the debates and cultural moments that he was responding to.

What emerges when you do this is a richer appreciation of the plays and a more down-to-earth view of their writer. Shakespeare wasn’t a God, and he wasn’t unique, even if he was the best. He was an artist responding to his time the way artists actually do, through opening themselves up to influence and creating out of the materials around them. There’s a practical side to his work as well. He wrote for a company, which means he wrote to the particular skills and limitations of his actors. He wrote prolifically, which necessitated recycling ideas, themes, and bits of dramatic business. As a part owner of his company, he also had to respond to practical matters like trends, government censorship, and the need to fill up to 3,000 seats a night.

Plagiarism Software’s New Discovery About Shakespeare Is an Opportunity to Rethink His Genius

All of this is important — extremely important — because without William Shakespeare, we would not have the English language as we know it today.

 

The Digital Reader: 8 Common Phrases that You May Be Getting Wrong; plus a bit from JPROF

Nate Hoffelder, the Digital Reader, gives us  – at a quick glance – eight phrases that we might be getting wrong. They’re all packaged neatly in a simple infographic.

The phrases:

  • for all intensive purposes (my personal favorite)
  • reign in
  • baited breath
  • sneak peak
  • mute point
  • case and point
  • extract revenge
  • peaked my curiosity

Hoffelder leaves out one my other favorites:

exact same

Now, what’s wrong with that one?

In any event, head over to the Digital Reader and take a look: Infographic: 8 Common Phrases that You May Be Getting Wrong | The Digital Reader

 

The death of a great mystery writer; and more crimes against English; newsletter Jan. 5, 2017

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,662) on Friday, January 5, 2017.

Special note: If you have unsubscribed to this list previously, I apologize for this email. I had some problems with the list this week — due mainly to my incompetence — and some unsubscribers may have been added back in. Click on this link Unsubscribe or the one at the bottom of the email to get off this list, and I will do my best to see that you don’t get any more emails from me.


Hi,

The holiday season is officially over, and a new year has begun. I wish all of you the very best in 2018. The watercolor at the end of the newsletter gets back into landscape mode, and this week I stray a bit from the true-crime podcast recommendations.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

A is for Alibi and G is for Grafton; Sue Grafton dies at age 77

Sue Grafton secured her place in the pantheon of great mystery writers in the 1980s when she began publishing novels that began with a letter of the alphabet and featured a tough-talking but vulnerable female detective named Kinsey Millhone. The novels were well-written, the plots were well-structured, and Kinsey Millhone was so well-drawn that millions of readers — male and female — could easily identify and sympathize with her.

Grafton died last week after a two-year battle with cancer. She had just published the 25th in her Kinsey Millhone series, Y is for Yesterday. Her family said she had selected the title for her next book, Z is for Zero, but had not made any progress in writing it.

I have written a tribute to her on JPROF.com.

On her website, SueGrafton.com, the author included some of the journal notes that she kept while writing some of the books, and they are fascinating to read. I have included some of those written for H is for Homicide in the tribute. As a result, I’m currently in the middle of that book, one that I have never read.

Note: Last week, we promised to take a look at Raymond Chandler. Due to Grafton’s death, we’ve put that on hold for a week.

The 100 best nonfiction books of all time?

Writer Robert McCrum, co-author of The Story of English (1986), has compiled a list of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, and the list was recently published in The Guardian (The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list | Books | The Guardian), a well-respected newspaper and news website in Great Britain.

Such lists are always arguable, and this one is particularly daunting, but we owe McCrum some debt of thanks for bringing these books to our attention.

I have included the final 25 on his list in a post on JPROF.com. See what you think.

True crime podcasts (sort of): Uncivil

Uncivil. This week, I stray in my podcast recommendations from the strict true-crime paths and recommend something that would be more easily classified as history. Uncivil takes a look at untold or rarely told stories connected with the American Civil War, and it often looks at them with a point of view different from anything you might have heard before. Here is how Uncivil describes itself:

America is divided, and it always has been. We’re going back to the moment when that split turned into war. This is Uncivil: Gimlet Media’s new history podcast, hosted by journalists Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. We ransack the official version of the Civil War, and take on the history you grew up with. We bring you untold stories about covert operations, corruption, resistance, mutiny, counterfeiting, antebellum drones, and so much more. And we connect these forgotten struggles to the political battlefield we’re living on right now.

Uncivil (in my defense) occasionally deals with crime. Listen to the fascinating episode about the Yankee counterfeiter who nearly wrecked the Confederate economy. It’s No. 7: Paper on the list on this page.

See what else we’ve recommended below the signature of this newsletter.

Giveaways

A New Year & A New Gift Card Giveaway. We about to start a giveaway that has a $350 Amazon Gift Card prize. The giveaway is set to run Jan. 1-15, and it’s one simple entry. On Monday, click on this link below for your chance at a $350 Amazon Gift Card: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/77deea0969/? Now you have a chance to get what you REALLY wanted for Christmas.

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

Crimes against English (continued)

I continue to receive reports from readers about crimes against English. This from Jean T. in the United Kingdom:

There is a huge misuse of the word “of” instead of “have” as in “you would of” instead of “you would have”. I don’t know if this is only in the UK but it’s on the radio and tv now. Very grating.

Then a couple of days later, I received this, also from Jean, who obviously is traveling:

Another irritating mistake is mixing up “your” and “you’re”. We’ve been in New Zealand and yesterday saw a camper van with the slogan beautifully painted saying “gambling is only a problem if your losing “

About to arrive in Australia – then home to cold England

Thanks, Jean. Safe travels.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: A Walk in the Woods

This is my first landscape for a while.

Congratulations to the football teams from Alabama and Georgia for winning their playoff games. They will meet in the national championship game on Monday night.

Best quote of the week:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading 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


 

Previous true-crime podcast recommendations


The Vanished.
 What about people who go missing, usually under suspicious circumstances, and are never found? They simply vanish. If that fascinates you, this is the podcast you will want to listen to regularly. Host Marissa Jones does a fine job of researching, interviewing, and writing this show on a weekly basis. The podcast is partnered with Wondery and has an excellent audio quality. The latest episode involves a young Atlanta-area woman, Jenna Van Gelderen, and has a maddening account of how law enforcement agencies in the area bungled the investigation of her disappearance

 

Crimetown. This multi-episode podcast takes a close look at former mayor Buddy Cianci and organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island. Cianci began his political career as a reformer but found that even though he had been elected mayor, real power in Providence lay outside city hall. The podcasts are hosted by Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, and they use a wealth of audio interviews with city officials, lawyers, friends of Buddy, crime bosses, mistresses, show girls, and wise guys to tell a mesmerizing story. And unlike many podcast episodes which last an hour or more, most of these are 30-45 minutes long.

S-town. The makers of This American Life and Serial have done it again. They have created a podcast series that begins in one direction and zigs and zags through a variety of fascinating scenes, situations and characters. You think it’s about murder or small-town corruption, but by episode 3, it’s headed off somewhere else. The story comes from Woodstock, Alabama — just up the road from Tuscaloosa where I used to live — and begins with John B., an unhappy resident there, calling reporter Brian Reed and asking him to investigate the cover-up of a murder that has occurred in Woodstock. Once you have listened to episode 1, you’ll be on the roller coaster and won’t be able to get off.

Casefile, a well written and well delivered podcast from Australia, deals with stories of real crime under the moniker: “Fact is scarier than fiction.” Casefile is this week’s true crime podcast recommendation. Casefile deals with crimes from all over the world, not just Australia, but their native cases are often the most interesting and intriguing. The narration is delivered by Anonymous Host, an unnamed voice whose Australian accent is positively charming. The podcasts are well-researched and tightly written and are a pleasure to listen to. Casefile has a large following around the world and has gathered a number of prestigous awards. After listening to a few episodes, it’s easy to see why. Start with Episode 66: The Black Widow and get hooked.

True Crime All the Time , hosted by Mike Ferguson and Mike Gibson, or “Gibby,” presents some fascinating cases, and the hosts are well informed (though not experts of any sort). Both have engaging personalities, and a big part of the fun is just hearing them play off of each other. Try episode 45, the case of Adolpho Constanzo and Sara Aldrete. It’s typical of Mike and Gibby’s approach. (Be careful; some of this episode is graphic and hard to take.)

Real Crime Profile, with three excellent hosts, have discussions of criminal cases that are riveting and insightful. The link provided above is to a list of some of the recent podcasts. Start anywhere. You will be fascinated. (Real Crime Profile on Facebook.)

Dirty John: Christopher Goffard, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has written and narrates a series called Dirty John. It’s the story of Debra Newell and John Meehan and is a true crime podcast of the highest order. It will take you a while to get through it, but once you start, you’ll likely be hooked. The reporting is thorough, the interviews are fascinating, and the story is full of twists, turns, and surprises. The ending is well worth the journey. Here’s a link to part 1, “The Real Thing.”

Sword and Scale. This website and podcast, according to its own description, is about “the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it.” The folks associated with Sword and Scale have spent a lot of time producing interesting and informative podcasts about serious crimes. One episode I listened to was episode 90. It was an hour well spent.

Do you have any true crime podcast recommendations to share with fellow readers?

 

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