Heads up gents: last-minute tips for Valentine’s

No book review this week. Just some last minute advice for men about the Feast of Love.

It’s V-Day, guys; time to hit the beaches.

Exuberant English and forgotten riches

What kind of a nut writes a play about antiquity using blank verse, sentences as convoluted as any in Shakespeare, and words which, outside of Elizabethan theater, have sounded in no human ear in hundreds of years?

The great and fallen artists

A New York Times Op-Ed recently asked, “Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled?” It raised this question of banishing Gauguin because the artist slept with young girls in Tahiti and called the natives “savages.”

Let’s look at a few more artists and writers before looking for an answer.

Keep calm, stay quiet and carry on

Stillness. Silence. For many people, stillness and silence are as unfamiliar — and terrifying — as zombies or Martians. 

When I used to teach composition classes to homeschoolers in Asheville, we met in a Presbyterian church near the Asheville Mall. Once a year, in good weather, I would have the students carry their folding chairs to the large parking lot behind the church. Here I would place them in a circle facing away from one another, 20 feet or more between students, and have them sit for half an hour. They were forbidden to speak, to read, to write, to use a cell phone. 

Rich rewards: a review of The Enchanted Hour

Though I read aloud with my children and do so now with my grandchildren, I have rarely done so with adults. Two recent experiences made me realize what I was missing.

Beating back the January Blues


The skies are gray, the wind’s a knife, the dank cold crawls into your very bones, and spring seems a thousand years away. You’re bored with watching television, you never want to hear the word “Impeachment” again in your life, your New Year’s Resolutions — to exercise more, lose weight, do some volunteer work — were given graveside services a few days after January started, you get depressed arriving home from work in darkness by 5 p.m., and you find yourself wanting to do nothing but sleep.

Memoir of illness full of gallantry and wit

“It was crazy. The surgeon told me the tumor was the size of a pear, which is scary but also confusing. I was like, ‘Did he go to med school or farmer’s market?’”

That’s part of comedian Jim Gaffigan’s bit on YouTube about his wife Jeannie’s brain tumor. 

Last-minute holiday ideas for the literary

You’re down to the wire. It’s only a few days until Christmas, and you have yet to get that book lover in your life a gift. Maybe it’s your husband who nightly reads military history. Maybe your 9-year-old can’t get enough of the Hardy Boys. Maybe your teenage niece is reading anything she can get her hands on.

Learning to listen: A review of Chris Arnade’s Dignity

Back in the mid-1970s, I was working as a receiving clerk at the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston. I was making $90 a week, maybe a little less, $40 of which went to the room I rented on Joy Street on the backside of Beacon Hill. Though I had a degree and two years of graduate school under my belt, I also had no car, no insurance, and no savings. I was living that way because I wanted to become a writer, and the job afforded me that time, and because I wanted to live in Boston for a year, which I did.

Rethinking school: book offers sage suggestions

If you have school-age children, by now they are two months or more into their routine of classes, books, extracurricular activities, and homework. Perhaps they love their teachers, excel in their academic studies, are popular among their peers, and look forward every morning to whatever new challenges may come their way.

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