Monday, October 31, 2022

"The Limits of Loyalty" by Jarret Ruminski

We often get images, based on stereotypes, stuck in our heads about history. The antebellum and Civil War periods are no exceptions. We think the South was nothing but large plantations with thousands of slaves. We also might think that every Southerner tightly embraced secession and the war and retained that embrace until surrender in 1865. 

These images are two-dimensional cartoons, with more or less an element of truth. The reality was considerably different. Most Southerners were small farmers, not big plantation owners, who did have an outsized presence in issues of the days. Likely most white Southerners did support secession, but that support began to wane as early as 1862. Fewer than half of white Southerners were slaveowners. And the state of Mississippi is a good example.


In The Limits of Loyalty: Ordinary People in Civil War in MississippiJarret Ruminski takes a deep look at what happened in the state over the period 1861-1865. The time in which people’s nationalist sentiments and actions were most closely tied to the Confederacy was, unsurprisingly, early on. By 1862, as parts of the state began to experience invasion and destruction (and Mississippi experienced considerable amounts of both over the course of the war), sentiment shifted. Other loyalties, like to community and family, began to take precedence over feelings about the Confederacy and even the war. For many, and especially for women left at home with children and small farms and businesses, family survival became the overriding issue.

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

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The lesson of the dream

After Daniel 2

Troubled by his dream,

a king asks the help

pf the best and brightest,

who fail.


Facing certain death,

one man, only one,

asks for prayer, and

prays himself.


A king turns to counselors

and magicians, who read

the tea leaves and extend 

a wet finer into the wind.

A wise man turns to God.


Photograph by Leonardo Yip via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Oct. 29, 2022

The Waste Land by T.S Eliot is considered the most influential poem of the 20th century. It didn’t make much of a stir when it was published in 1922, but like many things literary, its influence grew enormously over time. In honor of the poem’s 100th anniversary, Literary Hub asked four writers and academics (among them, Robert Crawford, Eliot’s most recent biographer), to discuss the poem’s importance and legacy. At the same publication, poet David Barnes describes (or opines) how the poem came to be

If public schools (like the ones I attended) still teach anything about the famous minister Jonathan Edwards, it’s only his well-known sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But Edwards was far more than a single sermon. His “New England School” of Theology raised up a generation of ministers who favored abolition of slavery. Obie Tyler Todd at Desiring God discusses how Edwards’ thinking spread westward, and what happened when it traveled to the South.


The number of newspaper endorsements of presidential candidates has been in serious decline since 2012. Joshua Benton at Neiman Lab takes a look at the “what” and the “why” of the decline. (On a less lofty level, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch just endorsed the Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive in the Nov. 8 election. It’s a measure of just how bad things are going in the county.)


More Good Reads




The Sacred Call to Normal Work: How the Reformation Renewed Vocation – Brian Hanson at Desiring God. 


Who Was David Brainerd? – Dustin Benge at Ligonier Ministries.


Which Man Was More Free? – Tim Challies.


The view from the cave: On turning 50 in a storm – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule.


Grateful for the Baby We Never Knew – Sylvia Schroeder at When the House is Quiet.


News Media


 What Happens When a Newspaper Dies? – John Miller at The Daily Yonder.


Where did the Tweeters go? Twitter is losing its most active users, internal document show – Sheila Dang at Reuters.




Sunday Sermon – Graham Hillard at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Heroes and Villains – Seth Lewis.


‘Cemetery’ and ‘Winter Moment’ – Paul Buchheit at Society of Classical Poets.




A Strange and Brutal Country: New BBC series on Russia’s late 20th century collapse – Christopher Snowden at Quillette.


Poetry After Bucha: Serhiy Zhadan on Ukraine, Russia, and the Demands War Makes of Language – at Literary Hub.


The lesson of 2022: energy is our lifeblood. The Ukraine war reminds us we need it in abundance, whether we like it or not – The Spectator.


Writing and Literature


Reading Aloud: Enjoying the Present Together – Rebecca LeVake at Story Warren.


Data Won't Save Art: More thoughts on book sales, publishing data, and algorithmic culture – Lincoln Michel at Counter Craft.


American Stuff


The Ghosting of Thomas Jefferson – Jerry Salyer at The Imaginative Conservative.


Life and Culture


Reject the Consumer: Imagining a New Identity Politics – Wes Jackson & Robert Jensen at Front Porch Republic.


The New Gatekeepers – Michael Lind at Tablet Magazine.


Every Step – City Alight

 Painting: Portrait of Edmond Maitre, oil on canvas by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).

Friday, October 28, 2022

To describe a dream

After Daniel 2

Asked (or ordered)

to describe the dream

of another, they ask

the obvious: tell us

what it was.


Asked to describe

the dream of another, 

only one didn’t ask

the obvious. Instead,

he prayed, knowing

any guess would be

wrong, knowing tricks

or stratagems would be



Instead, he prayed.

He asked for what 

he could not do

within himself. And

he was given the vision

of the dream.


Photograph by Josh Hild via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

"A Long Shadow" by H L Marsay

I love mysteries, and especially British mysteries, and it’s always fun to discover a new writer and a new series. 

John Shadow is the detective chief inspector for the city of York. Middle-aged, unmarried, and something of a curmudgeon, he is extremely set in his ways. He doesn’t like to drive, he eats most of his meals at a set group of restaurants and doesn’t like interruptions while he’s eating, and he lives on a boat docked along the Ouse River.


Street cleaners find a body of a young woman in a doorway; she’d been living at a refuge called The Haven. The autopsy shows she’d been poisoned – the cyanide delivered in a bottle of vodka. Within days, two more people, both homeless, are found dead from the same cause. Someone is giving people bottles of poisoned vodka. 


H L Marsay

Then a skeleton is discovered in an abandoned tunnel under museum park and near the river. While local archaeologists had hoped it was a find within their domain, the skeleton turns out to be that of a young woman from 32 years before – a friend of several people connected to the recent murders who was believed to have drowned. The examination of the skeleton shows she’d been murdered from blows to the head.


In A Long Shadow by H L Marsay, DCI Shadow and his team have to sort through past and present, old and new motives, and old and new passions to learn what has been happening to homeless people, and what happened to a teenager more than three decades ago. The story has a lot of details and angles (not to mention walking tours of central York) that have to be managed, and Marsay does that very well indeed. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable story.


Marsay is the author of six mystery novels in the DCI John Shadow series. A member of the Crime Writers Association, she lives with her family in the city of York in England.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

"Murder in the Manor" by Roy Lewis

City planner Arnold Landon takes something of a busman’s holiday. After his widely reported success with identifying a particular kind of medieval barn construction (Murder in the Barn), a historical society asks him to catalogue the library of a manor. The house and property have become the subject of a legal struggle between the current owner, a young woman, and a distant relation, who claims he’s the rightful heir. And looming behind the claim is an American investment company, who seems intent on gaining control of the property.  

All the legal maneuvering is of little interest to Landon, who spends a week in the library, absorbed in old books and family property records. He meets the head of the investment company, an elderly man named John Torrance, and, rather inexplicably, the two find a common bond. They even discover a secret tunnel leading from the kitchen.


Landon understands that his new friend is having doubts about his company’s investment plans in Europe. His lieutenants seem more focused on their struggle to succeed him. In the middle of all the investment activities comes the news of a body found nearby. Landon recognizes the man as a guest staying at the same inn he is, but there appears to be no connection to the activities at the manor. Torrance learns that someone is making moves in his company’s stock. And then he’s nearly killed in what looks like an automobile accident.


Roy Lewis

Murder in the Manor
 is the second Arnold Landon mystery by British author Roy Lewis, and it’s every bit as good as the first one. Lewis combines such disparate elements as medieval record practices, modern investment activities, a secret tunnel that served the monks of an abbey but now seems to be serving another purpose, and even a bit of romance to create a really fine story.


Lewis is the author of some 60 other mysteries, novels, and short story collections. His Inspector Crow series includes A Lover Too ManyMurder in the MineThe Woods MurderError of Judgment, and Murder for Money, among others. The Eric Ward series, of which The Sedleigh Hall Murder is the first (and originally published as A Certain Blindness in 1981), includes 17 novels. Lewis lives in northern England.  




Murder in the Barn by Roy Lewis.


Error in Judgment by Roy Lewis.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

"Elizabeth Bishop: A Very Short Introduction" by Jonathan Post

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) fits the oft-believed stereotype of the writer or artist who becomes mor famous after her death than during her life. She has a towering reputation today as one of the finest American poets of the 20th century – and she had a total of 90 poems published during her lifetime. 

As professor and author Jonathan Post points out in Elizabeth Bishop: A Very Short Introduction, her timing for fame – like the sense of timing in her poetry – was perfect. The end of her life occurred as feminism was going mainstream in American culture. It also helped that her poetry was approachable – you didn’t need a college degree to read and enjoy it, as Post says, calling her poetry “casually perfect.” 

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

Monday, October 24, 2022

"Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi" by William C. Harris

It’s barely mentioned in the standard school history textbooks, but the Southern states experienced two Reconstructions after the Civil War. The second is the best known, lasting from 1867 to 1876, and generally known as Radical Reconstruction (for the Radical Republicans in Congress who controlled it). The first is Presidential Reconstruction, between 1865 and 1867, directed by President Andrew Johnson, who believed he was carrying out the desires and plans of the assassinated Abraham Lincoln, who wanted a speedy reunion. 

The Radical Republicans wanted punishment, and they wanted civil rights for the former slaves.


Mississippi was the second state to secede after South Carolina and the first to seek reunion. But reunion was anything but simple. The state was devastated economically; much of its large agricultural and small industrial infrastructure has been destroyed, and its social infrastructure was in upheaval. Law and order had broken down, railroads destroyed, and planters and farmers were desperate for a labor force to plant and harvest cotton.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The king's dream

After Daniel 2

The king, more than 

troubled by a dream;

the king, frightened.

scared, terrified

by a dream. Wise men

summoned, not only

to interpret and explain,

but to describe the dream

(the king knew his servants,

his magicians, his sorcerers, 

his enchanters). Wise men 

fail, and wise men die.


One man, renamed

Belteshazzar, prayed.

The dream revealed,

the man praised

the revealer.


Photograph by Armand Khoury via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Oct. 22, 2022

I attend an evangelical, Presbyterian church, part of a small denomination. If someone polled our members, I’d expect that most would say they’re conservative politically. But it’s hard to know, because it’s rare for me to hear anyone talk about politics (about 10 years ago, I did hear a group of men at dinner talk about global warming). Instead, people talk about worship, missions (we’re big on missions), Sunday School classes, our music concerts (we have wonderful concerts), and other church ministries. So, when I first heard about people called “Christian nationalists,” I wasn’t sure what the conversation was about. The one thing I did see that the people talking about “Christian nationalists” tended to be on the far progressive side of the political spectrum. Rachel Lu at
 National Review describes how sociologists are using a nebulous term to classify half the country as extremist. 

Many of us have experienced those periods we call “desert times,” when little seems to go right, you feel like you’re drifting with no real purpose, and nothing looks like it will improve any time soon. Michael Kelley at Forward Progress that there is a point to desert times – and they are not “wasted” time.


What’s the best mystery story ever written? Murders in the Rue Morgue by Poe? The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie? One of Dashiell Hammett’s novels? Ryan Britt at Esquire has a nomination for at least the best Sherlock Holmes story. He says that, 130 years later, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is still the detective’s best outing.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


How Dads Change with Fatherhood – John Stonestreet & Shane Morris at Breakpoint/Colson Center.


Are We Postliberal Yet? – Michael Hanby at NewPolity.


Mystery Stories on a Mountaintop – Kathryn Butler at Story Warren.


A Message to Intentionally Childless Millennials – Shane Morris at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.


Humane Vitae and the Brave New World – John Cavadini at Church Life Journal.


An Alzheimer Odyssey: Journey’s End – Joseph Mussomeli at The Imaginative Conservative.




We Are People of the Long Game – Samuel D. James at Digital Liturgies.


Resistance and Rebellion – Glenn Moots at Mere Orthodoxy.


Calling Our Your Name – Glenn McCarty at Story Warren.




The Truelove – David Whyte at The Marginalian.


Peter Kien: Five Poems Translated by Sibyl Ruth – High Window Press (H/T: Paul Brookes). 


Writing and Literature


The Birth of Narnia and Why Tolkien Hated It – Harry Lee Poe at Crossway.


The Birth of an Immortal Literary Character: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Leslie Klinger at CrimeReads.


News Media


"Algorithmic Money Faucet": Trading our humanity for content and engagement – Chris Martin at Terms of Service.


Inside the identity crisis at The New York Times – Ben Smith at Semafor.


American Stuff


Wounded at Cedar Creek – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War.


British Stuff


A Ramble Through Long Forgotten London – Spitalfields Life.


From the Ends of the Earth – Alan Hovhaness

Painting: Reading, oil on canvas (1873) by Berthe Morisot (1841-1895).

Friday, October 21, 2022

Exotic, toxic city

After Daniel 1

An exotic, toxic city,

a city alien to belief

and faith, a city

treasuring gods

of stone, gods of clay,

gods of metal.


An exotic, toxic city,

welcoming new citizens

who bend the knee,

rewarding those who

reject their own 

for the dazzling array

of wealth and power.


Yet even here, here

in this citadel of destruction,

and false worship, four

decline to eat what the city

offers, the king’s food, 

to show where life and

sustenance are born.


And it’s not from 

this exotic, toxic, city.


Photograph by Jisun Han via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

"Treacherous Strand" by Andrea Carter

Attorney Benedicta O’Keeffe, known as Ben, has put a client off for a day. The client wants a will drawn up; in fact, she seems almost desperate. Ben tells her to return the next day and they’d get it done.  

Except the client doesn’t return; her body is found washed up on a beach. Because of the tide and the way the currents run, the police know where she likely went into the water. And that’s where they find her clothes. The police, including Ben’s sometimes romantic interest Tom Molloy, say it’s suicide. Ben is not convinced. And she won’t let it go, because she feels a sense of guilt in not getting the will done when the woman wanted it.


Andrea Carter

The woman wasn’t well known; she’d only been in Inishowen (the most northern part of the Republic of Ireland) for a few years. Only gradually does Ben ferret out the story of her former client’s life – a daughter in Norway, a connection to a religious cult, and affairs with two local men. As Ben gets closer and closer to the truth of what happened, she doesn’t realize that she’s in an increasingly dangerous position. 


Treacherous Strand by Irish writer Andrea Carter is the second of the Ben O’Keeffe mysteries, and it’s a page-turner that’s difficult to put down. Carter keeps her story fast paced, with the increasing tension as it approaches a climax. Even the possibility of a romance between Ben and Molloy feeds the tension of the story. 


Carter studied law at Trinity College Dublin and managed the most northerly solicitor’s practice in the Republic of Ireland. In 2006, she moved to Dublin to work as a barrister and then turned to writing crime novels. She’s published five Inishowen mysteries featuring solicitor Benedicta “Ben” O’Keeffe: Death at Whitewater ChurchTreacherous StrandThe Well of IceMurder at Greysbridge, and The Body Falls.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

"A Temporary Ghost" by Michaela Thompson

So far, Georgia Lee Maxwell is managing her transition from the Florida Panhandle to Paris, despite becoming involved in an investigation into a stolen art object and two murders (See Magic Mirror, the first in the series). Now she has an extended gig as a ghostwriter for a somewhat notorious New Yor society figure who’s living near Avignon in Provence.  

The reason for the notoriety is that her husband was murdered two years before, and she was the chief suspect. She hires Georgia Lee to help her write her side of the story, which, given the publicity surrounding the case, should bring in a considerable income. And the woman needs money; she’s fighting with her husband’s family over the estate. 


Georgia Lee finds the group in Provence somewhat strange, to say the list. The daughter seems bereft, wandering around and writing a story called The Book of Betrayal. The family butler or manager from New York is there, and he may know more of what happened with his employer’s murder than anyone. The socialite has also brought along her lover, an artist who seems unable to create anything since the murder. 


Michaela Thompson

Someone doesn’t want the book to be written. Georgia Lee has been receiving increasingly threatening letters. The butler dies in what looks like an accident. Georgia Lee herself is pushed down a hillside. And the socialite’s errant son shows up, or has he been there all along?


A Temporary Ghost is the second of Michaela Thompson’s Georgia Lee Maxwell International Mysteries. Like its predecessor Magic Mirror, the reader gets both a mystery and a tour of the terrain, in this case Provence in southern France.


In addition to the Georgia Lee Maxwell mysteries, Thompson also wrote five other mystery novels. She grew up on the northwest Florida Gulf Coast. She worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance journalist, and she’s contributed short stories to a number of anthologies. She lives in New York City. 




Magic Mirror by Michaela Thompson.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

It’s Been a Good Year for Poetic Biographies and Anthologies

This year is shaping up as one of the best in recent memory for biographies, anthologies, and collected poems and diaries of poets and poetry. I’m tempted to credit the COVID pandemic for keeping a lot of writers occupied and focused. But I know, at least in some cases, the work has been underway got several years. 

Here are 10 major works published in the last 12 months, with most of them in 2022.


What tops my personal list is Eliot After The Waste Land by Robert Crawford. We reviewed it here at Tweetspeak earlier this year. It’s the second (and final) part of his biography of Eliot, and it’s every bit as good as the first volume, which was outstanding. The timing of Volume 2 was spot on – this year is the centennial of the publication of The Waste Land.

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

Monday, October 17, 2022

"The Battle of Jackson, Mississippi" by Chris Mackowski

As many times as I’ve driven through or visited Jackson, Mississippi, I never knew that two Civil War battles were fought within days of each other right here at Mississippi’s capital city. The first, the Battle of Jackson, happened May 14, 1863. The second, at nearby Champion Hill. happened two days later. Champion Hill was the pivotal action in guaranteeing the eventual fall of Vicksburg, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy in half. 

Chris Mackowski, in The Battle of Jackson, Mississippi, tells the story of that battle, one that ended in the city’s capture and eventual large-scale destruction. It was something of a pincers battle, with Ulysses Grant directing General James McPherson to lead his troops from the northwest and General William Sherman to lead his troops from the southwest. After the diversionary tactic of Major Benjamin Grierson’s raid through Mississippi from mid-April to early May of 1863, Grant successfully moved his army across the Mississippi River at three places as part one of the capture of Vicksburg.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Culture shock

After Daniel 1

To have everything,

family, wealth, position,

youth, privilege, and

in a moment all is

lost, wiped away,

taken to exile, 

the life before erased.


Given a new name,

a pagan name, implying

protection by a god

of clay and stone, 

identity stripped away

to be remade with

a new reality, worldly

cosmopolitan, sophisticated,

empire-oriented, internationalist,



Four resist, with respect.

Four resist, faithful not

to a nostalgic idea or

a memory of what was

lost, but to what they

knew in their heads and 

what they knew in their hearts

to be true.


Photograph by Jose Lopez Franco via Unsplash. Used with permission.