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I have mentioned Bulfinch before in the context of Greek myth. His is a standard source for finding the scattered bits of Greek and Roman myth gathered into a single coherent narrative. Edith Hamilton is also very good, and superior for my purposes in that my edition has an index. Bulfinch is very nineteenth century, […]

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I’ve always viewed the movie The Handmaid’s Tale as an unintended comedy. But I’ve been warned that the book by Margaret Atwood is actually quite well written, so this month I gave it a try. I admit: the writing is impressive. Atwood has a fantastic imagination, and the book is full of details that really […]

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After Milan, Durant then goes on to discuss the lesser centers of art in Tuscany, Mantua, and Ferrara. Again and again we hear of an artist who develops some reputation in his native city, goes to Rome to seek fame and fortune “… and then Raphael arrives” and he sinks again into obscurity. Ferrara is […]

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Having followed the progress of Florence to the 1530s, Durant then turns to the lesser cultural centers of Italy during the same time period, beginning with Milan. Naturally, he follows the fortunes of the Viscontis and Sforzas, and its arts and (missing from Florence) its letters (poetry was big in Milan). I knew of the […]

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A 1950s-Style Noir Mystery Set in 1950s New York

 

Jake August writes pulp fiction. He was a Navy Criminal Investigation Division officer, before he got shot in a brothel in Occupied Japan and got invalided out of the service. Now, in 1952 he writes paperback novels for Rattlesnake Books.

“Deadline: New York,” a mystery by Jim Lester, explores the emerging world of paperback publishing in the early 1950s. New York State Senator Benjamin McClellan is starting a crusade against paperbacks, arguing they are rotting the morals of America’s youth.  Rattlesnake Books is high on his list of offenders.

Jake is ignoring McClellan’s crusade. He has books to write. The adventure novels he churns out are not the Great American War Novel documenting his experiences in World War II. He is not yet ready to write that. Writing paperbacks pay the bills and keep him busy, and Jake is all for both.

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You know how it is. You’re rereading a Louis Auchincloss anthology, and you recall this is not the only book by this guy you ever read. You once read some literary criticism of his. But you can’t remember what he or anybody ever said about Edith Wharton. Not one thing. You know how it is. […]

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While historians usually peg the beginning of the Renaissance at the year 1500, the Renaissance in Florence definitely belongs to the 15th century (the quatrocento), from whence it spread to the rest of Italy, then the rest of Europe. In chronicling the Florentine Renaissance, Durant neatly alternates between history and culture. A bit of history […]

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As noted previously, Barbara Tuchman chronicles a fairly narrow time and place in history: Rome from roughly 1480 to 1530. I wanted to know more. Naturally, I turned to Will Durant. I used to own a full set of Durant’s Story of Civilization, but it took up a lot of shelf space, and I never […]

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A Fresh Take on an Old Classic

 

Daniel Carter is a London copper. It is today’s London, but a London inhabited by clans of underground monsters. They run criminal rackets: the Frankenstein Clan, with its surgeries, the seductive Vampire Clan, the drug-dealing Clan of Mummies and the Werewolf Clan, who serve as hit men and enforcers.

“Jekyll & Hyde Inc.,” a fantasy novel by Simon R. Green, opens with Carter, his partner, and two fellow cops raiding a Frankenstein chop shop. Their attempt to break up the illicit den where victims are cut up for transplant organs goes badly. One is killed, two others vanish in the building’s ruins and Carter is left crippled.

Carter is also suspended. The raid was supposedly unauthorized. The commissioner who organized and authorized it also disappeared. Carter’s career is in ruins, he is in constant pain, and his family has rejected him. Then his vanished partner appears. He has been absorbed into the underground, involuntarily turned into a vampire. Like the ghost of Jacob Marley, he appears to offer Carter a chance at redemption – or perhaps more accurately revenge.

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A digression: I was noticing that I was writing many sentences requiring that or which, without a guiding principle as to the proper use of either. This is where Fowler is at his best. I spent several happy hours diving into Fowler’s extensive articles on the use of that and which. Fowler is unfailingly clear […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” guest co-host Jason Bedrick and co-host Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Leon Kass, MD, the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago. Dr. Kass describes the important pieces of wisdom and humanity people today can still learn from reading the Book of Genesis, the topic of his 2003 work, The Beginning of Wisdom. They next discuss his newest book, Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus, and general lessons about the Israelites that leaders, teachers, and students could use in addressing the challenges of modern life. They explore the influence of the Book of Exodus and the themes of liberation from captivity on the Civil Rights Movement, and several of its major leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and what teachers and students today should learn from Exodus about deliverance from life’s hardships. Dr. Kass shares why he became interested in the Great Books, and their crucial role in helping 21st-century students receive a complete liberal arts education and lead fulfilling lives. They discuss Western education’s increasing focus on vocationally oriented and often technocratic skills at the expense of humanistic education, and why we should be concerned about it, especially in our hyper-technological era. The interview concludes with a reading from Dr. Kass’s newest book on Exodus.

Stories of the Week: Co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson discuss New York Times story on the plight of America’s nine million students in rural school districts that are underfunded, disconnected, and face myriad challenges. Pioneer Institute and other organizations submitted an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Carson v. Makin, to expand access to private and religious schools for families in Maine.

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A digression: In what for me was a wild extravagance, I purchased a 2/3rds sized reproduction of Giambattista Nolli’s map of Rome from 1748. Aside from its being a truly beautiful, astonishing, and fascinating work of cartography, I mention it here because just about everything that was Rome in 1500 can be found on Nolli’s […]

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Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with author and former MassPort CEO Virginia Buckingham about her recently released book, On My Watch: A Memoir, which chronicles her experience leading the organization through 9/11 and the life and leadership lessons learned from that tragic day.

Guest:
A native New Englander, Virginia Buckingham was the first woman to serve as chief of staff to two consecutive Massachusetts governors. She was subsequently appointed to head the Massachusetts Port Authority, operator of Logan International Airport. She has also worked as a deputy editorial page editor and columnist for the Boston Herald. In 2015 she was selected for the inaugural class of Presidential Leadership Scholars. She is a graduate of Boston College.

A Return to the Golden Age British Mystery

 

It is 1923. Kitty Worthington, completing a year in a Swiss finishing school is, returning to England for her debut year as she turns 21. An unmarried young woman of the upper classes cannot travel alone, so she is accompanied by her very stuffy older brother Edward.

“Murder on the Golden Arrow,” by Magda Alexander opens with Kitty discovering Ned much less stuffy than Kitty believed. She learns he had a paramour. Worse, traveling on the Golden Arrow from Dover to London the woman is poisoned. While sitting across from Kitty and Ned.

A Scotland Yard Detective Inspector aboard the train, Robert Crawford, takes charge of the investigation. Since Ned gave the poisoned woman medicine immediately before dying Kitty fears Crawford suspects Ned. The dead woman was blackmailing Ned. Kitty knows Ned did not commit the crime, but he seems the obvious suspect.

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I will treat these together because they are so similar in scope and method. There seems to be a consensus among historians to place the dividing line between the middle ages and the renaissance at the year 1500. I suppose it needs to be somewhere, but this tends to make the very interesting late 15th […]

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This is a massive tome covering the whole of Christianity. It is most useful, in the context of my investigations into the Italian Renaissance, for its brief lives of the principal characters during the decades around 1500, and for definitions of the more arcane terminology within the Catholic church. If you need to know the […]

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For over twenty years, Johann Burchard was the Master of Ceremonies at the Vatican, serving five of the Popes discussed by Barbara Tuchman in The March of Folly, and kept a diary the entire time. Mostly a detailed chronicle of the ceremonial protocols he managed, in later years the diary also included accounts of events […]

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