Jeff Minick

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

That many Americans today suffer a disconnect from their past is beyond argument. Some of us have seen those man-in-the-street encounters where a reporter will ask questions of pedestrians — “What event do we celebrate on the Fourth of July?” or “Name the countries America was fighting during the Second World War” — only to be met with embarrassed shrugs or a blank stare. 

Comment

Cold weather means more time indoors, and more time indoors means more time for books. Here are three for the season of Jack Frost, sweaters and robust beverages.  

Comment

Suppose, like some of us, you find yourself needing a quick word fix. You’ve got the jones for something to read, but you’re so short on time that even a short story seems as problematical an undertaking as “War and Peace.” You want a dash of amusement, a dollop of entertainment, and you want it now. 

Comment

In a recent online search, I came across “Good Riddance, But Now What?” by that master of light verse, Ogden Nash: 

Comment

Every once in a while, a novel hits me with a punch I never saw coming, perhaps even one unintended by its author. 

Comment

Suppose you believe that climate change is a threat to humanity, but you oppose abortion or that you consider owning a firearm a natural right, but support open borders?

Comment

Sometimes we read certain histories — Scott’s expedition to Antarctica, for example, or Washington’s troops at Valley Forge, or the prisoners in the Soviet gulag — and are stunned by the endurance and courage of the human spirit.

Comment

The day before my June getaway to the beach ended, I developed a bad case of bookshop lust.

Comment

There are plenty of reasons why Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) is included along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. 

Comment

In his 1897 travel book, “Following the Equator,” Mark Twain wrote , “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”

Comment

When I read certain online commentaries about the possibility of war with China, I smile. Not happily, but grimly. It’s a smile that shakes its head, baffled and in disbelief by the innocence and naivete of the commentators. They’re generally referring to a hot war with China, most likely to occur over the sovereignty of the independent nation of Taiwan, yet they seem oblivious to the fact that China — more specifically, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — has been at war with the United States for over 20 years.

Comment

When I read certain online commentaries about the possibility of war with China, I smile. Not happily, but grimly. It’s a smile that shakes its head, baffled and in disbelief by the innocence and naivete of the commentators.

Most of us are always on the look-out for a means of escape from this crazy old world or from our personal trials and tribulations.

Comment

Don’t worry. We’re not going to explore the relationship of Mrs. Bennet with her daughters in “Pride and Prejudice” or the nature of Marmee March in “Little Women,” who prayed “the fervent prayers only mothers utter.”

Comment

He was good friends with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. He taught shooting to another justice, Elaine Kagan, and became her hunting buddy. When he was under consideration for the post of judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, the FBI conducted its usual background investigation, examining his bank accounts and tax returns, and interviewing several dozen colleagues and friends. These interviews confirmed his integrity, intellectual gifts, and charisma, and are filled with such plaudits as “delightful and sensitive,” “of unimpeachable character,” “a model family man … his reputation above reproach …” and “the government could not have a better candidate for a position as a judge.”

Comment

He was good friends with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. He taught shooting to another justice, Elaine Kagan, and became her hunting buddy. When he was under consideration for the post of judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, the FBI conducted its usual background investigation, examining his bank accounts and tax returns, and interviewing several dozen colleagues and friends. These interviews confirmed his integrity, intellectual gifts, and charisma, and are filled with such plaudits as “delightful and sensitive,” “of unimpeachable character,” “a model family man … his reputation above reproach …” and “the government could not have a better candidate for a position as a judge.”

Comment

April is the season when Chaucer’s pilgrims gathered before setting off to Canterbury and the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket. “Oh, to be in England,” wrote poet Robert Browning, “Now that April’s there.” Later, T.S. Eliot added a different perspective: “April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of a dead land.” In her poem “Spring,” Edna St. Vincent Millay also looks askance at the fourth month: “To what purpose, April, do you return again?” and then ends with “It is not enough that yearly, down this hill/April/Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”

Comment

Maybe it’s the mixed-up weather. The warmer temperatures have delivered a sort of raucous springtime mood, though Whatever the cause, a parade of books on all sorts of topics has passed through my hands, volumes taken from the library and from the pyramid of print on the floor of my study. Some I’ve read, some only browsed, but all deserve at least some garland of recognition. 

Comment

It’s always nice when the good things just keep coming.

Comment

It’s another one of those unremarkable winter afternoons when the outside temp is identical to the inside of my refrigerator, the sky is as gray as a friar’s habit, and the wind has just enough of a whistle to sting an old man’s cheeks.

Comment

This year, the women’s basketball team of Christendom College, a small school in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, includes a forward, Catherine Thomas, who has averaged 27.7 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. Those are outstanding percentages in any league, no matter its size.

Comment

This was a fine morning in the coffee shop.

Comment

Samuel Clemens, best known by his penname Mark Twain, is arguably the master of American novelists, with his great classic “Huckleberry Finn” along with such stories as “Tom Sawyer,” “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,”and “The Gilded Age.”

Comment

It’s 1969-1970, and the world is changing at a fierce pace. The civil rights movement grips America’s cultural arena, and the war in Vietnam is raging. 

Comment

Writers of fiction find themselves under several obligations. First and perhaps foremost, they must entertain their readers, enticing them to keep turning the pages. Doing so means creating believable characters who must get past some challenging hurdles, whether those involve love, war, nature, or other obstacles.

Comment

Whatever our political beliefs or affiliations, few of us, I suspect, will look back on 2022 with pangs of nostalgia, at least in regard to events in our country at large.

Comment

In her online article “World Happiness Report reveals the US has gotten happier in 2022,” Ann Schmidt relates that the United States moved from number 19 out of 146 nations to number 16 in its happiness index.

Comment

Take a broken-hearted, alcoholic English professor, some colleagues seeking his dismissal from the university, several women who desire him for different reasons, and a series of encounters in bars in Charlottesville, Virginia, and you have the basic ingredients of Victor Cabas’s tragicomic “Postmodern Blues” (Hypocrite Press, 2020, 170 pages). 

Comment

Mention the name C.S. Lewis to other readers, and they might recollect him in any number of roles. The younger set and their parents might mention him as a writer of children’s classics like “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

Comment

If you’re looking for a gift for the holidays for that person in your life who enjoys reading about local history, folklore, and life in these mountains, or if someone you know loves whipping up different sorts of meals in the kitchen, then you need to hustle out and pick up a copy of Jim Casada’s “Fishing For Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir” (The University of Georgia Press, 2022, 336 pages). 

Comment

According to a recent U.S. News & World Report article, “The 15 Richest Counties in the U.S.,” five of these counties are next door neighbors to Washington, D.C. These are the bedroom communities for the capitol, the home of politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and others who have their finger in the federal pie and tell the rest of us how to live.

Comment

À chacun son gout, as the French say: “To each his own,” or if you prefer, “There’s no accounting for taste.” Best to keep that thought in mind in this review.

Comment

Recently I wrote an article on the American artist Edward Hopper and his vision of solitude and alienation. Though I used the internet to hyperlink pictures of his paintings to those discussed in my essay, I also went to my local library, where — this was a bit of a miracle — I found three volumes of his work.

Comment

Every once in a while, a book gives me the willies. 

“2034: A Novel of the Next World War” did more than that. It scared the hell out of me.

Comment

In “Sexual Personae,” controversial feminist Camille Paglia wrote, “When I cross the George Washington Bridge or any of America’s other great bridges, I think: men have done this. Construction is a sublime male poetry…. If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.”

Comment

Dear Christine Simon,

Normally I write a book review in this space, and I intend to do so here in regard to your novel “The Patron Saint of Second Chances” (Atria Books, 2022, 304 pages). But as this is also a thank you note as well as a look at your book, I am breaking ranks with my usual template of review.

Comment

Annus horribilis is Latin for a horrible year, a time of disaster, and aptly applies to the first months of 1942. On all fronts the Allied Forces — Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor — suffered defeat after defeat.

Comment

In the past 10 days, whim, a desire for a breather from our breathless age, and heaven knows what else tempted me away from contemporary literature and into the past.

Comment

In “A Fatal Booking” (Crooked Lane Books, 2022, 304 pages), Victoria Gilbert’s third novel in her series “Booklovers B&B Mysteries,” we again meet Charlotte Reed, owner of Chapters Bed-and-Breakfast in Beaufort, North Carolina. Charlotte is a former school teacher and 40-something widow who has inherited this inn from her great-aunt Isabella. With a passion for books and reading, Charlotte remodels the old mansion, turning it into a literary lovers paradise. 

Comment

Before proceeding to reading and books, a note on circumstances and environment.

Comment

Daniel Pink’s “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward” (Riverhead Books, 1922, 256 pages) opens with a brief account of Edith Piaf’s “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” or “I regret nothing,” a song which includes the lines in English “No, not a thing.”

Comment

To be human is to suffer. In the case of third-grader Michael O’Brien, that meant watching the apparent disintegration of his family: a father who left home and divorced his wife, a series of moves that eventually led to making a home in Utah, and the struggles of his mom as she tried to pay her bills and raise her four children, of whom Michael was the youngest. 

Comment

About halfway through “Blue Fire” (Kensington Publishing Corp., 2022, 326 pages,) John Gilstrap’s apocalyptic novel about a worldwide nuclear war, I paused and asked myself a question: “Given the state of the world right now — the sabre rattling of nations like Iran, North Korea, and China, the war in Ukraine, the economic and cultural devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the foolish fiscal policies of our federal government — do you really want to be reading a book about hundreds of millions of people dying while many of the survivors become savages?”

Comment

Novels that touch on faith and God have long intrigued me.

Comment

Too much time has passed since I last visited the coast.

Comment

Sometimes a book I’ve read, particularly a novel, will leave me mystified, which is not always a good thing.

Comment

Recently in this space I reviewed “The Broken Spine” by Dorothy St. James, a murder mystery set in a small town in South Carolina. At one point, I described the novel as “a perfect book for an escape from the trials of the day or for that trip to the beach.”

Comment

Cypress, South Carolina is a moderately-sized town surrounded by farms where neighbors know one another and the pace of life is low-key.

But that is about to change. 

Comment

So why take a look here at two books by a philosopher and polymath, neither of which may appeal to a broad audience?

Comment

Some men pick up a copy of Ellery Adams’ “The Book of Candlelight: A Secret, Book, and Scone Society Novel” (Kensington Publishing Corp., 2020, 320 pages) might read the blurb, flip through a few pages, and return the novel to its shelf, judging it a chick-lit book and unworthy of their attention. 

Comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.