Grammar Rules

Grammar rules rule—or do they? They certainly did in my day. As a grade school student many decades ago, I would anxiously approach the blackboard when called upon to diagram sentences. The challenge back then was analogous to completing a crossword puzzle in The New York Times today. Years later when I was teaching English […]

50 States, 50 Novels – Part 10

Virginia – Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron (1951) Published when he was just 26 years old, William Styron’s first novel immediately launched him to literary fame, receiving extremely enthusiastic reviews. Following the dysfunctional Loftis family, this Virginia-set novel borrowed numerous elements from Styron’s childhood hometown in Newport News, Virginia. Washington – The Absolutely […]

The Iceberg Man

In the pantheon of great American writers, Ernest Hemingway is probably the only one whose life was more exciting than his writing. Hemingway saw World War I as an enlisted ambulance driver. He covered the Spanish Civil War, the European theater in World War II, the Normandy Landings and the Liberation of Paris, earning a […]

Reading Writers’ Letters & Diaries: What’s the Draw?

When we are young, our diaries and journals are filled with the silly and the dramatic, heartbreak and humor. Our letters to pen pals and grandmothers are much of the same, recounting our adventures and missed opportunities, sharing our crushes and cringe-worthy moments. But at some point in our lives, our private notes and correspondence […]

Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Horrors of Salem

On images of the Salem Witch Trials in historical romance, horror, and collective memory. Nathaniel Hawthorne famously complained, in the Preface to his novel The Marble Faun (1859), about “the difficulty of writing a romance about a country where there is no shadow, no antiquity, no mystery, no picturesque and gloomy wrong.” It’s easy, and […]