What if we tried thinking instead of screaming?

It’s September 2020, and you’d have to be living as an anchorite in the deserts of New Mexico if you are unaware of the turmoil in American society. The coronavirus crisis, the riots in various American cities, the daily bombardment of charges and countercharges from candidates for political office, members of the mainstream media, bloggers, and anyone else with an ax to grind: all provide evidence that we are as deeply divided a country as possible without actually engaging in civil war.

Jefferson’s education, books, reading and gifts

For five years, just after we were married, my wife and I were house parents for a sorority at the University of Virginia, responsible for the upkeep of the building and for the safety and behavior of the 20 young women who resided in the old brick home. 

One long, three short: reviews and reflections

We are, at our core, remembering and story-making creatures, and stories are one of the chief ways we find meaning in the flow of events.

Historical consciousness is to civilized society what memory is to individual will. 

Why we need honest journalists right now

The ancient philosopher Diogenes used to stroll about Athens holding a lantern to the faces of those he met and claiming he was looking for one honest man.

In the public square of modern America, truth can be just as hard to find.

A story about second chances

A friend in a book club to which I once belonged disliked Anne Tyler’s novel, Saint Maybe. “I’ve read other novels by her,” she said, “and her characters are always eccentrics.”

Her comment brought a smile then and brings one now.

A feast for readers: A Poor Man’s Supper

The years following the Civil War brought great changes to Western North Carolina. The railroads penetrated these coves and mountains, carrying tourists, flat-landers and goods to small towns previously isolated by their forbidding terrain. Following the railroads were the timber barons, eager to harvest the ancient forests and able now to move and sell the lumber to outside buyers. Though many of those native to the region remained in poverty, others were able to make their fortunes in the mountains.

Advice for those ‘Walking Through Hell’

Many among us have committed crimes or wronged other people, dark deeds which we regret and which may well have ruined not only their lives but ours as well.

Our prisons are full of such people, criminals who have repented of their felonies and who on gaining their release resolve to walk a different path. The strangers we pass in the streets or see in the grocery store may hide a firestorm of guilt and self-accusation in their hearts: the man who hasn’t spoken to his father in years, the woman who lost her job for spreading rumors about a fellow employee, the drunk whose addiction left him abandoned by his family, the adulterer who lost his reputation. They are the ones who by wounding others have wounded themselves.

Redemption and Occasional Magic: two books of inspiration

Many readers are familiar with his story. 

Johnny Cash, also known in later life as “The Man in Black,” grew up poor in Arkansas, son of a hard-nosed father and a pious mother. His brother Jack died at age 14 after a horrific sawmill accident, leaving J.R., as he was then called, emotionally crippled for years. 

Writer argues that common sense is not so common

“At the heart of this wonderful book by Robert Curry is the simple belief that you as a human being can govern yourself. That shouldn’t be a controversial proposition, but when an army of federal bureaucrats, university professors, and social science “experts” begin telling you how you ought to be living your life or running your business or raising your children, you might start to wonder. You may begin doubting your own ability to make decisions and to distinguish true from false, with the fundamental faculty of common sense.”

Story delves into illicit affair and its fallout

About halfway through Kate Russell’s My Dark Vanessa (William Morrow, 2020, 372 pages), I nearly put the novel aside. Like many of my fellow Americans, I am suffering the coronavirus blues, a bit down from the daily reports, often contradictory, about death tolls, masks and gloves, social distancing, the shuttering up of schools, businesses, and churches, and the tens of millions of unemployed. My Dark Vanessa, the dark tale of a teacher and his student who become lovers, somehow added to my melancholy.

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