What a woman! Why I love Camille Paglia

Fierce. Honest. Libertarian. 

Those are just three of the reasons why author and professor Camille Paglia has fascinated me for years. She speaks her own mind, uses logic rather than histrionics to make her arguments, and is unafraid of blowback from her critics. Though a lifelong Democrat and a supporter of Bernie Sanders, she refused to vote for Hilary Clinton, regarding her as a “liar.” She has called into question climate change, despises political correctness, rejects the postmodernism that has wormed its way into our universities, and has taken to task our current obsession with transgender issues.

You can’t make this stuff up

One of my favorite and most often used aphorisms in this lifetime has been “you can’t make this stuff up.” This adage applies 100 percent to Michael Finkel’s recent national best-selling book The Stranger in the Woods (The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit). Gifted a copy of the book from a friend who had read my book Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods and who thought that I would enjoy reading about “the ultimate hermit,” I dove right into the book and didn’t come up for air until I had reached page 203 at the end of the book.

A fine novel about a fascinating literary era

The writers who lived and practiced their art between the two world wars of the twentieth century continue to exert a powerful pull on today’s imagination. Woody Allen’s film “Midnight In Paris,” which include a dozen or more celebrities of 1920s Paris; “Genius,” the movie about Thomas Wolfe, reviewed earlier this year in The Smoky Mountain News; the biographies devoted to such figures as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all reveal a continued infatuation with that era.

Cookbooks make nice holiday gifts

So there I was on a Wednesday afternoon in October in one of my favorite spots in town: the public library. I’m running my eyes along the “New Books: Nonfiction” shelves when the cookbooks grab my attention.

Now, I myself own several cookbooks: a Betty Crocker that has seen much better days and opens automatically to the recipe for quiche; The Pat Conroy Cookbook, probably my favorite, not because of the recipes, but because of Conroy’s zest for food and anecdotes about his life; A Man, A Plan, A Can, which I recommend to anyone who doesn’t know a spatula from a ladle; a much-stained Moosewood Cookbook; and several others. I enjoy cooking on occasion, as long as the recipes are simple and forgiving, meaning that if I put too much sauce in the lasagna or not enough spices in the chicken soup, the food will still be edible.

Book explores Trump’s election victory

Want to know why Donald Trump won the 2016 election in one of the most stunning upsets in American history?

Some blame Russian meddling. Some blame Hilary Clinton for running a bad campaign. Some may blame the increasingly radical politics and tactics of certain Democrats.

Halloween suggestions for the young and old

In 2015, online blogger Amanda Russo posted a humorous piece “Why Halloween Is Actually A Pretty Weird Holiday.” As Russo says, this is the day we encourage our kids to take candy from strangers, long a no-no taught by generations of parents to their children. We threaten our neighbors with “Trick or Treat.” We spend a good chunk of change to give away treats, often to people we don’t know. We erect cemeteries in our front yards, carve pumpkins into spooky faces, and hang plastic skeletons from the trees. We sometimes terrorize our family and friends by putting on horrific masks, hiding, and then springing out at them. 

A book for those who wonder what ails them

Time to move away from novels and histories, and look inside some general gift books.

First up is How Psychology Works: Applied Psychology Visually Explained (Penguin Random House, 2018, 256 pages). Here is a compendium of various disorders, advice, and information about such topics as forensic psychology, safety in the community, nationalism, and performance anxiety.  Illustrations on every page, the use of statistics, clear talk about such topics as binge-eating, tics, and sleep disorders, explanations regarding the symptoms and treatments of dozens of afflictions: this is a marvelous collection.

A start on that ever-growing pile of books

So many books, so little time.

Many booklovers may have uttered that old saw with a sigh, but in my case these words have never been truer. On my spare desk a stack of books sits waiting for review, three more wave to me from a bedside stand, and two are calling to me from the steps leading from my apartment to the upstairs. Here are books from three different libraries, books sent in the mail for review, books picked up from the library sale. In addition, I am still working my way through Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization, trying to read at least half an hour every day in order to finish the 11 volume series by the end of the year.

Book examines change in rural Appalachia

In the last 75 years, the landscape and the culture of the Appalachian South have undergone enormous change.

Take the town in which I live. Just 16 years ago, this town offered two large grocery stores, a K-Mart, and of course numerous other small, family-owned shops. That was the extent of choices for shoppers. The nearby motels wore that look of seedy disrepair found in so many such establishments built in the 1950s. The town boosted 10 Seven-Elevens, but had few restaurants other than the usual fast food places. By their dress and accents, many of the people in the stores and on the streets were easily identifiable as natives, born and bred in these hills.

God’s broadcasting station — the great outdoors

When I taught homeschool seminars in Latin, history, and literature in Asheville, I would wait for a cold spell in February and then email my students to come to class dressed for the weather. On their arrival I would lead them outside and hold class for half an hour beneath gray skies and temperatures well below freezing. With any luck we might even find some bits of falling snow. The students would stand shivering in the cold — some of the boys apparently considered t-shirts and shorts appropriate winter clothing — and then we’d tromp back into the classroom.

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