Saturday, August 13, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - August 13, 2022

Just when you think American politics couldn’t possibly get any more bizarre, it happens. I am not adding my two cents on what happened with the FBI at Mar-A-Lago. But I do recommend reading two accounts that are better informed than anything I could say. Journalist and Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibi says Welcome to the Third World, while N.S. Lyons at The Upheaval takes a somewhat larger view and says, “It’s not hypocrisy, you’re just powerless.”  

David Murray, editor of Vital Speeches of the Day, dug out a gem from the archives. It’s a speech by an advertising executive, talking about the attitudes of young job seekers coming into the workforce, as in, “What can you do for me?” The speech was given in – 1962.


Right before the recent Missouri primary, I checked the Voter’s Guide, published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and I noticed that, for a number of Republican candidates in a variety of races, there was this: “Information not received at press time.” Danielle Kurtsleben, a reporter at NPR, was covering the primary in Wisconsin, and she discovered the same thing: Republican candidates wouldn’t talk to her or respond to emails or phone calls. She asked around and learned this wasn’t limited to Wisconsin. My only comment: why was the reporter so surprised?


More Good Reads




The documents the Russians are leaving behind – Lauren Wolfe at Chills.


"As Russians approach his town, 'the cat must still be fed'" – Gregory Warner at NPR.


When Stories Aren’t Enough: How Do You Write About the War in Ukraine? – Katya Cengel at Literary Hub.


Russia claims Ukraine used US arms to kill jailed POWs. Evidence tells a different story – CNN. 




True Life: I’m a Father in a Blended Family – Allen Reynolds at Urban Faith.


Hating the Culture Is Not a Strategy: Revulsion against the elites does not a Christian church build – Samuel James at Digital Liturgies.


News Media


The Decline and Fall of Newspapers – Charles Lipson at Real Clear Politics.


Man or Machine: Many Americans are unaware of the tole AI plays in the news they consume – University of Missouri.


Unabridged: Contrasting reactions to George Soros’ column in The Wall Street Journal to Tom Cotton’s in The New York Times – Heather Mac Donald at CityJournal.


Life and Culture


The West needs to grow up – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd. 


Shame and Exceptionalism: Livy’s Subversive History for Liberty – Paul Krause at Front Porch Republic.


The great unrest: How 2020 changed the economy in ways we can’t understand yet – Matt Rosoff at CNBC.


Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are – David McCullough at Imprimis (April 2005).


Writing and Literature


The Last Battle: The End of Narnia’s Beginning – Anthony Pagliarini at Church Life Journal.


The Five Great Novels of Dashiell Hammett – Larry Beinhart at CrimeReads. 


When Should I write? Brief Reflections on the Relationship Between Writing and Expertise – Ronni Kurtz at Mere Orthodoxy.




On Quarantine Dreams – Karen An-hwei Lee at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Niche – Sonja Benskin Mesher.


The Mirage – Charles Simic at Literary Hub. 


Be Unto Me – Brian and Katie Torwalt

 Painting: The Convalescent, oil on canvas (1918-1919) by Gwen John (1876-1939).

Friday, August 12, 2022

Age of anxiety

After Matthew 6:25-34

You see the ads on television,

momentary flashes across the screen,

the ones for the new car, the vacation,

the diet soda, the prescription drug

(fine print mentioned breathlessly),

all aimed at desire, at parting you

from your money or your vote.

You nod or shrug or smile or frown

and the vision gives way to desire,

meets the reality of what’s in the bank,

gives way to a new burst of desire, and

you see the wife and kids sigh over

the promise of a vacation and reality

gives way to the slight sense of anxiety

over what might happen if you don’t

get that vacation, new car, diet soda, 

or prescription (with its fire-hose

description of the fine print), and how

the lives of your family will constrict,

and so you wonder if you can afford

a loan (interest rates are low, after all)

on top of the car payment and

the mortgage and the rise in the price

of groceries and everything else,

that electric bill just took a hefty jump,

and you really need to make

that credit card payment but, oh man,

that vacation would be fantastic, and

then you hear your son say, “Dad,

can we go throw the football?”


Photograph by Kasper Rasmussen via Unsplash. Used with permission.


Thursday, August 11, 2022

"Death at Eden's End" by Jo Allen

Eden's End is a nursing home filled with elderly residents. Death is a normal if not common occurrence. A woman who’s 100 years old is found dead in her chair. The expression on her face suggests she’s angry that she’s been cheated of a few more years. It looks like a natural death, except a visiting home nurse has questions. She thinks that the lady might have been helped along. 

The nurse happens to be the ex of Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jude Satterthwaite of the Cumbria Police. She tells him her suspicions, and he convinces her to call it anonymously in to the National Health Service. That they’re talking civilly to each other at all is something of a miracle, but she knows he’s almost a puritan when it comes to crime, law, and order, and he’s telling her to do what she herself wanted to do anyway. He just gave her the needed push.


Jo Allen

As it turns out, the woman died of suffocation. She was smothered. Suspects are plentiful – the Polish care worker, the director of the home, a niece waiting for her aunt to die, and possibly even person or persons unknown.


For DCI Satterthwaite and his team, leads are few. Slowly, they begin to unravel what looks to be a very clever plot, one with its seeds in decades long since passed.


Death at Eden’s End is the second of the DCI Satterthwaite mysteries by British author Jo Allen. Allen mixes together a charismatic DCI, an ex-wife, a growing love interest on the police team, and a host of motives to roduce a fast-paced, satisfying mystery story.


Allen is a native of Wolverhampton, England, and has graduate and postgraduate degrees in geography and earth science. After a career as an economic consultant, he began writing short stories, romance, and romantic suspense under the pen name of Jennifer Young. She began writing the DCI Satterthwaite crime novels in 2017. 




Death by Dark Waters by Jo Allen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

When a Book Won't Let Go

Two weeks after finishing it, and I’m still thinking about Hearts Torn Asunder: Trauma in the Civil War’s Final Campaign in North Carolina by Ernest Dollar Jr. (See my review last week.)  

When I read it, I expected to read about the final convulsive moments of the surrender of the Confederate armies and the immediate aftermath. And that’s the thumbnail description. But it’s about a lot more.


It’s the story of the civilians in north central North Carolina, roughly Raleigh to Greensboro, who found themselves in the path of two defeated armies and one victorious one.


It’s the story of the soldiers in those armies, who had to live with what we know today as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. One thing you don’t read in the general histories of the Civil War period in the rather startling increase in soldier suicides and commitments to insane asylums in the years and decades after the war.


To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.


Photograph: My great-grandfather, Samuel Franklin Young, and my great-grandmother, Octavia Montgomery Young. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Poets and Poems: Michał Choiński and “Gifts Without Wrapping”

Love and poetry are as old as, well, love and poetry. Since Biblical times with the Song of Solomon, extending through the poems of Ovid and Catullus in ancient Rome, poetry has been used to express love and desire right up through our own times. 

Sometime in the 20th century, likely with the rise of the Modernist poets in the 190s and 1920s, love poetry fell out of fashion. It’s never really regained its footing. That’s not to say it’s disappeared; love poems continue to be written and published. But it’s unusual to see a love poem published in the well-known literary and academic journals and magazines.  


Gifts Without Wrapping by Michal Choiński is a collection of love poems. The publication is what Americans call a chapbook and the British call a pamphlet. An ultra-slim volume of 10 poems, it won the 2019 White Label Deux competition sponsored by The Hedgehog Press, based in Britain. The competition, now in its 10th year, is for first-time pamphlet or chapbook publications (current deadline is Oct. 31, 2022).

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, August 8, 2022

"Christmastime 1940" by Linda Mahkovec

It’s December of 1940. Lillian Hapsey, 34, is struggling to make a life for herself and her two sons after the death of her husband, a fireman who “shouldn’t have gone into that building.” She works as a telephone operator at a New York City publishing company, and she likes her job, if not the unwanted attentions of the owner. 

He apartment building in Brooklyn has been bought for a new development, and she’s moved her family to an apartment on Manhattan’s upper west side. Down the hall from her place is the apartment of Charles Drooms, a 45-year-old man who owns an accounting firm. Charles has never married; he’s never gotten over a family tragedy that happened in his childhood, a tragedy for which he feels responsible. The neighborhood children think of him as a crotchety old man. 


In fits and starts, and several misfires, Lillian and Charles are gradually brought together. Charles finds his heart thawing, while Lillian finds her own to be warming toward this strange, difficult man. That’s it’s Christmastime both aids and hinders their slowly growing relationship. 


Linda Mahkovec

And overhanging everything is the growing possible of the United States entering the war.


Christmastime 1940 is the second in the Christmastime series by author Linda Mahkovec. The series encompasses the World War II period, from 1939 to 1945. It’s a heartwarming story, with two lonely people slowly trusting each other and themselves.


In addition to the seven Christmastime novels, Mahkovec has also published two short story collections, Seven Tales of Love and The Dreams of Youth, and a novel, And So We Dream. She’s currently working on her next book, The Tower: A Small Town Tale of Dreams. A native Midwesterner, she holds a Ph.D. degree in Victorian literature and lives in New York City.




The Garden House by Linda Mahkovec.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The master

After Matthew 6:24

Money is an unforgiving

master, stern in demeanor,

whispering, always

whispering of its beauty,

its power, its desirability,

its allure, its promise

of control. The only way

it accomplishes these

things is by growing,

always growing, requiring

and demanding more

of itself. Thou shalt have

no other gods before it,

because money requires

total focus, and love,

and worship, and sacrifice,

and enslavement. It allows

no other master; it tolerates

nothing but obedience.

Serve money or serve God.

You choose.


Photograph by Meritt Thomas via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - August 6, 2022

I just completed an online course about the history of the Roman Republic. While we associate the decadence of Rome with the Empire period (Nero, Caligula, etc.), it is said that Rome reached the height of its decadence during the late Republic. I don’t believe that history (necessarily) repeats itself, as Mark Malvasi says at The Imaginative Conservative, there are some lessons we can learn from what happened to Rome. (Or, as I learned in my course, the American founders struggled mightily with how to prevent or at least guard against the decline of the American republic that was being born.) 

Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder tackles a subject that many, many Christian parents grapple with – sending children off to college. He looks at how parents can encourage their children to keep the faith.


It was perhaps inevitable, in this era of fake news, gaslighting, and ghosting. This isn’t exactly a new development, but it is one that seems to be rising: pretending to have read books. Ben Sixsmith at The Critic Magazine has the story.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


Why we need the apocalypse – Mary Harrington at UnHerd.


George Soros Gaslights on Crime – Rod Dreher at The American Conservative.


Highways to utopia – Roger Kimball at New Criterion.




Metal Fatigue: My Latest Report – John Sweeney at John Sweeney Roars.


‘Ukraine as It Was Can’t Continue to Exist’ – Charlotte Lawson at The Dispatch.


Dnieper battle recalls a turning point in World War II – Deutsche Weller.


Ukraine’s Literary Identity – Anna Sergeeva & Olena Rybka at Guernica Magazine.




Dog Tired, Cat on Top – Damian Robin at Society of Classical Poets.


Lawn Cutting – Paul Brookes.


Why do we like Larkin so much? – Ben Sixsmith at The Critic Magazine.




How to become a Calvinist in 5 easy steps – Jesse Johnson at The Cripplegate.


From Rage to Repentance – A.W. Workman at Entrusted to the Dirt.


The Christian’s Need for Strength Is Not New – Aaron Earls at The Wardrobe Door.


News Media


The Great Awokening of British media – Matthew Goodwin at The Critic Magazine.


Is Social Media Losing Credibility? – Chris Martin at Terms of Service.


British Stuff


Slaughter and forgetting: Strange echoes from Bosworth Field – Rev. Fergus Butler-Gallie at The Critic Magazine.


The Lion Sleeps Tonight – George David Weiss / Berniuku Choras Dagilelis

 Painting: Claude Monet, oil on canvas (1872) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Friday, August 5, 2022

An eyeful

After Matthew 6:22-23

The eye sees.

The eye observes.

The eye notices and

makes sens of the world.

The eye explains.

The eye enlightens.

The eye is the gateway

to the heart, to the soul.

If the eye is healthy,

the body is healthy,

suffused by light. But

if the eye sees wrongly,

improperly, fractured,

misunderstanding, and

ignoring, then it fills

the body with darkness.

If you see the dark and

not the light, the eye

absorbs and floods

the body with darkness,

a great darkness.


Photograph by v2osk via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

"Murder on the Oxford Canal" by Faith Martin

Detective Inspector Hillary Greene of the Thames Valley Police is just trying to do her job, but everything keeps getting in the way. Like her boss, who likes to step in and take credit for her hard work. Or the now dead ex-husband, Ronnie, whose activities have made Hillary the target of an Internal Affairs investigation. Or the colleague in the office, Ronnie’s former partner, who looks for any opportunity to make trouble for her.  

Hillary is also 40, wondering if age is catching up with her, hating having to live on a houseboat on a canal near Oxford, and watching a subordinate have a fling with her boss. A body turning up in a canal is almost a relief. 


As Hillary and her team swing into action, they learn that nothing about this case is simple. No one liked the victim, a small-town hood known for a penchant for rape. Hints surface that a local crime boss, Luke Fletcher, might be involved, but pinning anything on him is next to impossible. Drugs might be a contributing factor. And every time Hillary seems to make progress, her boss or a colleague or the International Affairs investigators seem more than ready to step in.


Faith Martin

Murder on the Oxford Canal
 is the first of the DI Hillary Greene mystery series by British author Faith Martin, and it’s a humdinger of a story. Martin uses a fast pace, constantly changing circumstances, and a desire by the reader to see Hillary to get one up on both the police scoundrels and the villains. She tells Hillary’s personal story, but uses it expertly to supplement the main narrative.


In addition to the DI Hillary Greene novels, Martin (a pen name for Jacquie Walton) has also published the Ryder and Loveday novels as well as the Jenny Sterling mysteries. Under the name Joyce Cato, she has published several non-series detective stories. Both Cato and Martin are also pen names for Walton. (Walton has another pen name as well – Maxine Barry, under which she wrote 14 romance novels.) A native of Oxford, she lives in a village in Oxfordshire.


I didn’t expect to like a Hillary Greene story as much as I have the Ryder and Loveday series, but I was pleasantly surprised. Murder on the Oxford Canal is a thoroughly enjoyable story.




A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Mistake by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Flaw by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Secret by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Truth by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Affair by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Night by Faith Martin.


A Fatal End by Faith Martin.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

"Hearts Torn Asunder" by Ernest Dollar Jr.

It’s April 1865, the last month of the Civil War. Richmond has fallen. The Confederate cabinet is fleeing. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Lee’s soldiers are paroled and dispersed, most heading south (and on foot) into North Carolina and toward home in the rest of the former Confederacy. William Tecumseh Sherman’s army is chasing that of Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston, and the chase is ending near Raleigh and Greensboro. As Johnston meets with Sherman to discuss surrender terms, he learns that President Lincoln has been assassinated in Washington.  

The final convulsion of the war and the Confederacy is happening in central and north central North Carolina. And it its path are the people who live there, in cities and towns, and on farms, people who see both armies strip the countryside bare of food and provisions. One army’s soldiers experience sorrow and despair, while those of the other feel jubilation. Soldiers of both, after four long years of war, are experiencing what today we recognize as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It isn’t called that then; it isn’t even recognized. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ada Limón: The New U.S. Poet Laureate

One of the things I’ve learned this far into a life in language is to be grateful about all of this,” said poet Ada Limón in a 2018 interview with Poets & Writers. “I get to read and spend time with words as a vocation. Yes, it’s work, and there is so much failure and so much getting it wrong. But still, we are so lucky.”  

Limón’s life in language has taken another turn. Last month, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden named her the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States. In her appointment, Hayden cited the poet’s ability to connect and how her poems “ground us in where we are and who we share our world with. They speak of intimate truths, of the beauty and heartbreak that is living, in ways that help us move forward.” 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, August 1, 2022

"Innovation" by Peter Ackroyd

For England and Britain, it was a century that began with Victoria on the throne – the second longest reigning monarch – and ended with Elizabeth, now the longest reigning monarch. In between were two world wars, the rise of the Labour Party, the Great Depression, the decline of the old, landed aristocracy, the vote for women, the first woman prime minister, and social change on a scale previously unimaginable. Telling the story of England in the 20th century is British author Peter Ackroyd, finishing his grand historical series with Innovation: The History of England Volume VI. 

The sheer breadth of this series is rather astonishing. Like he’s done with its predecessors, Innovation is written in a lively, comprehensive style, focusing on the political history of England while paying at least some attention to social and cultural. In other words, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones get sufficient attention, but don’t expect much detail. (Ackroyd also emphasizes that this is a history of England, not Britain; he includes information on Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland / Ireland only when they might be important to English history.)


Ackroyd’s England is familiar and yet it’s not. He fills in well-known stories with unexpected details, even as he paints with a broad brush. Winston Churchill is portrayed, failures and all (and he had his share of failures). He provides an account of each parliamentary election and keeps the story fast-paced enough so that it doesn’t become repetitious. Margaret Thatcher is treated with more balance that I expected; she was never popular with the literary and artistic elites in Britain and remains an object of ire. But Ackroyd gives her what she’s due; she revolutionized Britain and many have never forgiven her. 


Peter Ackroyd

The highlights of the work are the events leading up to World War II; how an entire generation became disillusioned after the first world war; how the music of the 1960s developed and became known worldwide; and how Thatcher faced down Argentina’s military junta in the Falklands.


The author is one of Britain’s most prolific popular historians. In addition to his history of England series, he’s also written biographies of Charles Dickens and the artist J.M.W. Turner, among several others; a history of London (and a history of London beneath the streets); and many other works. 


Innovation and the first five volumes in the series are what historians would call “popular history,” but they provide a solid overview of the history of England from prehistoric to contemporary times. His broad grasp of so much history is rather astonishing, and he shares it all. (And I keep wondering what his office must have looked like to accommodate all of the research.)




My review of Dominion by Peter Ackroyd.


My review of Revolution by Peter Ackroyd.


My review of Rebellion by Peter Ackroyd.


My review of Peter Ackroyd’s Tudors.

My review of Peter Ackroyd’s Foundation


Reading Peter Ackroyd.


A Revolt over a Prayer Book.