From Thanksgiving dinners to football games, from the floors of Congress to Joe’s Bar & Grill, from universities to kindergartens, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Americans find themselves locked into political and cultural debates, shooting out tweets, screaming at rallies, shouting down speakers, and smearing their opponents. Civility and a sense of humor have been banished, replaced by identify politics pitting tribes of people against their neighbors whose skin color, religion, party, and gender preferences differ from their own. The abuse of language, reason, and argumentation, and the failure to define terms or to make clear what is said, only make more brutish this mix of hysteria and malevolence.

Miss Julia Springer lives in a small town near Asheville, where she is mourning the death of her husband of 44 years and trying to settle his affairs, including the enormous estate he has left her. On this particular hot day in August, Miss Julia — she goes by this title despite her long marriage — discovers that she has one last affair to face: her husband’s years-long adultery with Hazel Marie Puckett, a scandalous relationship known to nearly everyone in town except for Miss Julia.

Because Dr. Hood was only one of five professors in Guilford College’s history department, and because history was my major, I took several of his classes. Dr. Hood was more than a bit crazy. He once told our class that every afternoon he returned home, played his harpsichord, and pushed himself back in time to sixteenth century Europe. He seemed serious about these travels. Still, he was a marvelous lecturer with a fascinating mind.

After reading Doug Woodward’s book You Took the Kids WHERE? and as I write these words, it is still officially summer. Despite its somewhat deceptive title, this book is not about “how I spent my summer vacation,” or even your usual travel memoir. With a foreword by legendary alternative medical doctor and cultural icon Patch Adams, this book explores new territory in terms of family relationships and outdoor adventure.

Some four years ago, I reviewed Matthew Baker’s first book, My Appalachian Granny, a delightful collection of anecdotes, photographs and provocative history. Much of the book dealt with Baker’s friendship with Evelyn Howell Beck, whose life reflected the qualities that the author had come to admire.

It is late in the day, and 60-year-old Marianne Messmann of Germany stands on the Pont Neuf in Paris. She has arranged her shoes, coat, wedding ring, and purse on the pavement beneath the bench where she is sitting. Now she climbs the parapet of the bridge, stares into the Seine, and throws herself into the river, determined to free herself from the misery of her life and marriage.

Alcohol, alcoholism, and alcoholics appear frequently in literature.

Shakespeare’s Falstaff is a son of Bacchus. Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux are both detectives who emerge from the dark, beer-damp bars of New York and New Orleans, respectively, to join AA and battle their demons as well as murderers and thieves.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I’m not a race. I’m a person.”

That line from Paul Clayton’s Van Ripplewink: You Can’t Go Home Again surely sums up the dream of Martin Luther King from half a century ago. He and others envisioned an America where skin color no longer mattered, where all Americans were equal in the eyes of the law, where character and heart provided the criteria by which we were to judge our fellow human beings.

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy For Christians In A Post-Christian Nation (Penguin Random House, 2017, 255 pages) has caused quite a stir this year among reviewers, critics, and readers.

Some have applauded what they consider Dreher’s thesis: that the United States — and nearly all Western nations — have abandoned their Christian roots and that, as a consequence, Christians must create a culture separate from that of the secularist mainstream.

If you are one of those people who thinks that the 1960s hippie culture was only about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, then think again, as you need to read Danny Goldberg’s new book In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea. Written by someone who was of age and who was there and a participating observer in 1967 at the height of “The Hip Era,” Goldberg has finally given the American public a truly accurate subjective account of the cultural revolution that went on during the 1960s.

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