The art of writing can certainly be learned

“What we have here is failure to communicate.”

So says The Captain, the warden of a prison, in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” after he knocks Luke down a hill for smart-mouthing him.

Apollo missions were propelled by a bold vision

July 20, 1969.

This summer marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped to the moon’s surface while Michael Collins flew above them in lunar orbit. About 650 million people worldwide watched the live event on television. Millions of others listened to it on their radios or followed the progress of the astronauts in their newspapers. Those of us who watched will never forget where we were when those grainy images of human beings on the moon’s surface flickered on our television screens.

A quick run through some fine books

Spring-cleaning.

Those two words conjure up images of washing windows, storing away the winter clothes, and carting off odds-and-ends to the Salvation Army.

For me, spring-cleaning means attacking stacks of books, piles of papers, and a platoon of bookshelves in whose dust I could write sonnets with my fingertips.

Jennie Churchill was anything but a prude

Mrs. Patrick Campbell, famed Victorian actress, was renowned for her sharp wit. On hearing about a sexual relationship between two contemporaries, she supposedly remarked, “My dear, I don’t care what they do, so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”

A book for those who love books

Yes!

Yes! YES! YES!

Lest you think I am wallowing in some bed of literoticism or celebrating Molly Bloom from James Joyce’s Ulysses, let me clarify. I am celebrating the return of one of the great bibliophiles of our age to the public square, by which I mean the world of print. It’s an occasion that calls for little black dresses and tuxedos, a platter of Brie and baguettes, fireworks, some lively chamber music, magnums of champagne, and hands raw with applause.

Reading aloud is good medicine for all

Here are two books about books, one aimed at amusement, the other at instruction. Or so they were written and published. Personally, I found them both amusing and instructive.

A worthwhile book on raising children

Much is made these days of “snowflakes,” slang for some of our young people. One online source defines snowflakes as individuals with “an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are over-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.” Some commentators even speak of a “Snowflake Generation.”

Falling in love with a writer

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and I have fallen in love. Again.

Three years ago, Nina George entranced me with her novel The Little Paris Bookshop. Ah, Nina, Nina, Nina: she won my heart, and I still open that fine tale once a month or so, rereading certain passages and always delighted by her romantic take on life and the ways of the human heart. 

A poet offers thoughts on life and death

When someone dies, we look for words to assuage our grief and the grief of others. We deliver eulogies, we offer prayers, we console those left behind, we sing hymns or other songs beloved by the deceased, we read from various books — the Bible, poems, bits and pieces of prose — to send the departed one into the earth. Often, too, we gather after the funeral for food and drink, and recollect our dead by sharing memories of their deeds and words while they still lived.

When the fault lies in ourselves

I used to teach seminars in composition, history, literature, and Latin to homeschool students. One day a bright young man who later entered Brown University asked me what I thought of the Harry Potter books.

“My kids loved them,” I replied.

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