New light on Salem Witch Trials
 

New light on Salem Witch Trials

Back in 1954, when I was a freshman at Western Carolina Teachers College (now WCU), the college’s drama department launched…
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When disagreeing could still be eloquent
 

When disagreeing could still be eloquent

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” — George Orwell, 1984 For the past year, Americans have endured…
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Tragedy at Frank Lloyd Wright’s house
 

Tragedy at Frank Lloyd Wright’s house

In this story, I am God. — Frank Lloyd Wright The title of this nonfiction work, Death in a Prairie…
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Reading great books remains important
 

Reading great books remains important

Lent, which extends from Ash Wednesday to Easter, is for many Christians a time of fasting and prayer. Some believers…
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Marquez autobiography rich in detail, just like his prose
 

Marquez autobiography rich in detail, just like his prose

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing…
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A few nuggets from books only partly read
 

A few nuggets from books only partly read

Books brought home from the library: The Art of Grace; Keep It Fake; The Churchill Factor; The Fellowship; South Toward…
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Katrina-spawned novel finally getting its due
 

Katrina-spawned novel finally getting its due

Hurricane Katrina spawned an awesome number of literary works, and it may be that, given sufficient time to determine the full…
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Florence King: a biting wit that took no prisoners
 

Florence King: a biting wit that took no prisoners

In Withering Slights: The Bent Pin Collection (National Review Books, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9847650-3-4, 186 pages, $24.95), the recently deceased (she…
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A polite listener for those bizarre stories
 

A polite listener for those bizarre stories

I have always been an Art Bell fan, and judging from the extensive archives on YouTube, I am not the…
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Florence King took no prisoners
 

Florence King took no prisoners

During a recent discussion in the AP Literature class I teach, I mentioned that the actor Alan Rickman had died…
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The Web is changing us in more ways than we know
 

The Web is changing us in more ways than we know

In Reclaiming Conversation, author Sherry Turkle notes that significant changes sometimes come to our daily lives without our noticing, until…
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Start off with something old, something new
 

Start off with something old, something new

With the new year now upon us, it strikes me that “something old” and “something new” is appropriate for this…
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A look at religion and the ‘misfits for Jesus’
 

A look at religion and the ‘misfits for Jesus’

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the founder of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. She defines herself as…
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A man addicted to reading and writing
 

A man addicted to reading and writing

My name is Joe Ecclesia. On a recent December Saturday, when I interviewed Jeff Minick about his new novel, Dust…
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E.M. Forster 1907 novel relevant today
 

E.M. Forster 1907 novel relevant today

When I was in graduate school at Western Carolina University back in 1970, I encountered a remarkable teacher, Dr. Louise…
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Courage, greed and political intrigue in Peru
 

Courage, greed and political intrigue in Peru

When we think of Peru, we think of captivating pictures of Machu Picchu. We’ve all seen them. Some of us…
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Forschen novel looks at collapse a year later
 

Forschen novel looks at collapse a year later

In the spring of 2011, there appeared William Forschen’s One Second After, a novel set in Black Mountain, North Carolina,…
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King is spot on with new short story collection
 

King is spot on with new short story collection

Being a lifelong Stephen King fan, I have always been pleased to note that King is always keenly aware of…
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‘Dead White Guys’ ideas still relevant
 

‘Dead White Guys’ ideas still relevant

Whatever our denominations or religious beliefs, many of us are familiar with the old adage of this season: “Peace on…
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Irving still churning out sublime writing
 

Irving still churning out sublime writing

Avenue of Mysteries is John Irving’s fourteenth novel and it marks another amazing tale from an author who has been…
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Rash’s poetic prose infuses new novel
 

Rash’s poetic prose infuses new novel

“How near at hand it was If they had eyes to see it.” —G.M. Hopkins
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Four short reviews to help clear the desk
 

Four short reviews to help clear the desk

In the last month, my reading of books has outstripped my reviews. Consequently, stacks of books surround the desk at…
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A post-apocalyptic world fuels sci-fi novel
 

A post-apocalyptic world fuels sci-fi novel

Back in the ‘60s, I went on a science fiction bender that lasted a decade.
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Women writers who took me by the hand
 

Women writers who took me by the hand

Many readers — and I am one of them — are fascinated by books lists. There are scores of these…
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Let’s go surfin’ now …
 

Let’s go surfin’ now …

In a surfing genre memoir complete with a SurferMagazine, globe-trotting storyline, all set to a 1960s rock & roll soundtrack,…
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Touchstones: Seven novels that carry weight
 

Touchstones: Seven novels that carry weight

English writer Graham Greene used to divide his literary works into entertainments, which we might call thrillers, and novels, which…
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A tragic, lively tale of 18th century London
 

A tragic, lively tale of 18th century London

Being a historical fiction addict, I have always loved books about London, a city that has been around for over…
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Fabulous novel is rife with words of wisdom
 

Fabulous novel is rife with words of wisdom

In The Little Paris Bookshop (Crown Publishers, 2015, 400 pages), novelist Nina George, who lives in both Germany and France,…
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Book explores persecution of early Japanese Christians
 

Book explores persecution of early Japanese Christians

In 1549, Jesuit priest Francis Xavier, two companions, and a Japanese translator entered Japan, seeking to bring the Gospel into…
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Essays highlight breadth of Styron’s knowledge
 

Essays highlight breadth of Styron’s knowledge

Some 30 years ago or so, William Styron — the acclaimed author of novels like The Confessions of Nat Turner…
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WNC’s African-American history
 

WNC’s African-American history

This is a monumental work. Ann Miller Woodford has gathered an astonishing amount of information, including old letters, church records, unpublished…
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Collection manages to combine horror and comedy
 

Collection manages to combine horror and comedy

There aren’t many successful horror fiction writers who are described as comical and/or whimsical. The terms seem incompatible. You don’t…
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Interesting book draws some unusual conclusions
 

Interesting book draws some unusual conclusions

We Americans are noted for our ignorance of world geography. Few of us, I imagine, could distinguish Iraq from Iran…
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A second look at Williams classic
 

A second look at Williams classic

In recent years, I have been surprised to learn that it possible for books to win prestigious awards, honors and…
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A traveler’s library; books read and unread
 

A traveler’s library; books read and unread

As some readers of this column may know, I have spent the past six weeks in Europe, specifically the British…
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A murder story unlike any other you’ve read
 

A murder story unlike any other you’ve read

In recent years, literary works that are classified as “investigative reporting” have not only become best sellers, but have lingered…
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Harper Lee’s ‘Watchman’ hits the mark
 

Harper Lee’s ‘Watchman’ hits the mark

So, Scout (Jean Louise) comes back home to Maycomb — where “everyone is either kin or almost kin”— at age…
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Discovering Rome with the help of American ex-pats
 

Discovering Rome with the help of American ex-pats

When we think of American writers living and working overseas, most of us turn to those authors who lived in…
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Manana is a shocking, dark and fantastic read
 

Manana is a shocking, dark and fantastic read

I have been waiting for this book for a long time.  Back in 1978, I read Falling Angel, which was that…
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Keats’ Roman home honors one of our great poets
 

Keats’ Roman home honors one of our great poets

It is not yet ten o’clock on this Saturday morning in late June, and already Rome’s Spanish Steps and the…
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Scotland pays homage to its writers
 

Scotland pays homage to its writers

With literary tours, literary pub crawls, monuments, plaques, and museums, Scotland honors her writers.
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Bronte sisters part and parcel of the magic of Haworth
 

Bronte sisters part and parcel of the magic of Haworth

Haworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.  It’s 4:30 in the morning, Sunday June 18, and I stood a few moments…
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Stratford-on-Avon: in search of ‘The Bard’
 

Stratford-on-Avon: in search of ‘The Bard’

It is mid-June in England, and the skies are a brilliant blue. Sunshine spills on the street and the clipped…
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The literary signposts will point the way
 

The literary signposts will point the way

In the opening pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, we meet Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who treasures his snug home…
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A fantastic collection of life-changing stories
 

A fantastic collection of life-changing stories

I have always been a Russell Banks fan, and when I look back over the last 40 years, he has…
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Ten years of soaking up great books
 

Ten years of soaking up great books

About two months ago, I began culling books from my shelves. I live in an apartment with several thousand books,…
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Soil harkens back to the Southern gothic tradition
 

Soil harkens back to the Southern gothic tradition

Some 30 years ago, I saw a disturbing film entitled “Koyaanisqatsi.” The title comes from a Hopi word meaning “unbalanced life.”…
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A place where home is an elusive ideal
 

A place where home is an elusive ideal

In the last decade, British authorities uncovered evidence of massive sexual abuse and human trafficking in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Two…
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A Mother’s Day bouquet: Ten quotes and comments on motherhood
 

A Mother’s Day bouquet: Ten quotes and comments on motherhood

Back in the days when I still believed in Santa Claus (well, actually I still believe, I just no longer…
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A withering cultural critic takes aim
 

A withering cultural critic takes aim

In Withering Slights: The Bent Pin Collection (National Review Books, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9847650-3-4, 186 pages, $24.95), Florence King demonstrates once…
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