Tag Archives: history

#WhatImReadingNow : Hillbilly Elegy

It was at this meal, on the first of five grueling days of interviews, that I began to understand that I was seeing the inner workings of a system that lay hidden to most of my kind. Our career office had emphasized the importance of sounding natural and being someone the interviewers wouldn’t mind sitting […]

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#WhatImReadingNow : Negroland

“Debi and Judi asked me if we know their janitor, Mr. Johnson. They think he lives near us.” “It’s a big neighborhood,” Mother says. “Why would we know their janitor? White people think Negroes all know each other, and they always want you to know their janitor. Do they want to know our laundryman?” That […]

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#WhatImReadingNow : A Gentleman in Moscow

Five days later, the Count was pleased to accept a formal invitation to tea from his new acquaintance, Nina Kulikova. The engagement was for three o’clock in the hotel’s coffeehouse at the northwest corner of the ground floor. Arriving at a quarter till, the Count claimed a table for two near the window. When at […]

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A Lighter Shade of Pale (#WordUse Series)

We’ve got exciting times goin’ on here in the good ol’ US of A, with one political party making some pretty interesting claims and the opposing party reacting with outrage. (See how I did that?) My Irish immigrant husband has spent hours watching debates and newscasts and commentaries on the television. He also follows the […]

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Short Saturday: May You Live in Interesting Times!

One looks for the good, I think. So recently some of us have been repeating that old saw, May you live in interesting times. A Chinese curse, we’re told. Or a blessing. May you live in interesting times. But … it’s not Chinese. :) I know, I know, I’m a wet blanket about these things—but […]

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#WhatImReadingNow : The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson

Persimmon is the name my mama gave me, after the fruit she stole off a tree down in the woods while she was carrying me, and Wilson is the name of the man that last owned me. I don’t want to call that man master here, but for the pupose of making this easier to […]

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#WordUse Series:
On Stationery. And Guilds. And Vocabulary Words.

Stationery is an old-fashioned word. Or maybe I just think it’s old-fashioned because I learned it a long time ago and I don’t see it used much any more, given our electronic culture. But no, my fave dictionary lists it as having appeared in 1688—which is old enough, but its etymology is stationer, which we’re told by the same […]

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Saving a Beautiful History

On Friday morning, January 25, 2013, fifteen jihadis entered the restoration and conservation rooms on the ground floor of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Sankoré, the government library that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had taken over the previous April. For nearly a year, thousands of manuscripts left behind by the Ahmed Baba staff […]

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Looking for Good Writing

How much or how little “natural” ability anyone has is nearly impossible to gauge. When Emily Dickinson composed the lines that filled the pages she kept in her lonely desk, she could not know that her pure apprehension of the language, her immutable style and breathtaking line breaks would forever change the landscape of American […]

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Possible … Not Probable

Some years ago in a weak moment I fell victim to some mediocre book marketing—“follow-up to the international best-selling Pillars of the Earth!”—and purchased Ken Follett’s World Without End, a one thousand–page historical novel. I’d read and enjoyed his early work*—Eye of the Needle (1978), Triple (1979), The Key to Rebecca (1980), The Man from […]

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