Tag Archives: history

#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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Study This: The Summer Before the War

It’s nearly 500 pages long—and I flew through Helen Simonson’s second novel set in an English village. I never wanted to put it down. Also, it made me angry (on behalf of a character I loved), and it made me cry a couple times. This is a sign that I was fully invested—in the characters, […]

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Don’t Date Yourself: Writing About and For Your Audience

A few nights ago over dinner the Boy’s girlfriend told me she was “an original Harry Potter kid. I grew up with Harry.” Golly, that stopped me in my tracks. (The first book—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—released in the United Stated on 1 September 1998.) I truly enjoyed those books, but I’ve spent many […]

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The “Romantic” Regency

The true Regency lasted only nine years. It began on 5 February 1811 when George, Prince of Wales, was officially sworn in as Regent and ended on 31 January 1820 when he was proclaimed King George IV. Yet the term ‘Regency’ is frequently used to describe the period of English history between the years 1780 […]

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Short Saturday: Good-Bye to “Hello”

You know I love to talk about getting the details right in your novel, so when I read A. A. Gill’s lovely essay in Vanity Fair, I knew I had to share. “We are coming to the end of the age of the telephone call,” he says, “and that may be a good thing or […]

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The Bonus Round (2014 Edition)

I’ve been publishing a recap, every January (or February!), of every book mentioned in posts during the past year. It’s just a list of of books I talked about last year, here on the blog, and I present them as a cross-reference … in case you were thinking of reading one of them, say. Mind […]

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Recycling Is Nothing New (An Update*)

Mine has been an actively recycling household for at least twenty years, and I don’t just mean turning in soda bottles for cash. (I know that reference dates me; it can’t be helped.) I’ve understood the concept a lot longer than that, of course. I listened to stories of what my parents’ parents saved and […]

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