“The Reading Pile.”

David McCullough working in his 'writing shed' with his Royal KMM typewriter. Photo from wsj.com.

David McCullough working in his ‘writing shed’ with his Royal KMM typewriter. Photo from wsj.com.

by Dick Loftin.

I have little and not-so-little piles of clippings, articles and interviews of writers I respect. When I need some inspiration, or simply want something to read just to relax a bit, I’ll get into the pile and pull something out. The other evening, I came across a Paris Review interview from 1999 with author David McCullough, arguably one of America’s greatest historians. Let me say here, that for me, he is America’s greatest historian. He rekindled my interest in history, in books and in writing. I hang on every word he says. He has written ten books since 1968. All of them on his 1940’s era Royal KMM typewriter and all of them are still in print.

Several years ago, Mr. McCullough gave a speech at the Harry Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. My wife and I went up to hear him speak, and it was truly a wonderful experience. I had read his “John Adams” and Truman biographies, and through McCullough’s work, I learned more about writing, how to write, and what to write, and how history is really storytelling. The subjects of history were as alive then as we are now. We tend to look at historical figures as people from ‘the past,’ – it made me wonder – what about us? At some point, we are living in ‘the past’ right now. So, Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Lincoln became real to me, as living, breathing human beings any time I would read stories about them. Their stories are our stories.

In the Paris Review interview, David McCullough talks about his love of history, how he writes, how he does his research, rewriting and polishing and how important it is to read out loud what you have written. You have the ‘hear’ what you write.

It’s a terrific interview, doesn’t take much time to read and you’ll get a lot out of it. Enjoy.

Read the Paris Review interview with David McCullough from Fall 1999, Here.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her books.

by Dick Loftin.

Respected historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was profiled in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal. There were pictures of her home, and her wall-to-wall books. She’s my kind of book lover; as she acquires more books, she simply adds on shelves to her home to store them. An excellent profile of a remarkable writer.

Read the January 17, 2014, piece from the Wall Street Journal, Here.

Two Compelling Reviews of “The Letters of Robert Frost, Volume 1, 1886-1920.”

'The Letters of Robert Frost, Volume 1, 1886-1920,' Harvard University Press

‘The Letters of Robert Frost, Volume 1, 1886-1920,’ Harvard University Press

by Dick Loftin.

Letters can be tricky. They are written in private, intended for no other eyes except the recipient, and can reveal our most unguarded and possibly reckless moments. So many of us have uncountable things we have said that we wish we could pull back into our mouths, only to have it slip out. Imagine how one can cut loose in a letter. Some letters would be thought of as important to history only to have them burned and left to smoke. Bess Truman and Martha Washington burned their personal letters, much to the dismay of historians and family members, but it brings to account the depth of privacy often laid out in letters. They can be tricky, they can be difficult, they can be a little too truthful. Why on earth would one want to have them published?

For years of my reading life I thought it wouldn’t be very interesting to read someone else’s mail. Why would I want to? They weren’t written for me. But it wasn’t until I read some of the letters of Robert Lowell that I became interested in this common form of communication. I have been reading the Letters of William Styron, and now I have grown to appreciate what letters are to literature and what they can reveal about the writer and the people they have written to. I realized I would have liked to have known Styron. Very much.

Now, ‘The Letters of Robert Frost, Volume 1, 1886-1920,’ have been published. This is a big book of over 800 pages. In these two reviews, from the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker, the life of the poet takes shape in his struggle to get his writing career off the ground, while making his way around the people near him.

In the Journal review, Christian Wiman quotes a letter written by Frost from 1914. It discusses how important it is to write for the ear. How people, even while reading, are ‘listening’ at the same time. I have long held the view that we write for people to listen, and when I discuss writing with others, I always tell them to read their work out loud. By doing that, flow and structure will reveal itself, and you will find out quickly if what you have written makes any sense in the first place. Frost writes, “The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.” This is as true a statement about the writing craft that I have found in some time.

Links for the Wall Street Journal review and the New Yorker are below. Enjoy.

Read the New Yorker review [February 10, 2014] by Dan Chaisson, Here.

Read the Wall Street Journal review [February 22-23, 2014] by Christian Wiman, Here.

Wikipedia profile of Robert Frost, Here.

Publishers page of ‘The Letters of Robert Frost,’ Harvard University Press, Here.

“Harper Lee Settles Lawsuit with Museum.”

Harper Lee. From USA Today.

Harper Lee. From USA Today.


by Dick Loftin.

Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” has settled a lawsuit with Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, Alabama over trademark issues. Monroeville is the author’s hometown and was the inspiration for the novel. The issue was over unlicensed merchandise trading on the “Mockingbird” name. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Read the story from February 19, 2014, issue of USA Today, Here.


“Your E-Reader is Watching You.”

Nook E-Reader. Photo by Endpaper Review.

Nook E-Reader. Photo by Endpaper Review.


by Dick Loftin.

So, you sit down with your e-reader for a quiet night of rest and relaxation alone with a good book. Not so fast. You’re not alone. Your e-reader is watching you. An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal tracks the use of e-readers, what people are reading, and what the e-reader is saying about your reading habits. The takeaway for me was the growth in e-reader activity–or lack of it. 23% of readers read an e-book in 2012, 28% in 2013. That’s only 5% growth. That sounds a little light to me, since the story also says half the population in the U.S. owns an e-reader, including me, but I don’t use it much. Maybe e-readers still haven’t caught on yet. I think e-readers are tools of convenience. I think people are more likely to use an e-reader when traveling or when they know they will have some time to kill, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, for example. You can quickly change from poetry to fiction, depending on your mood. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in 2014.

“What Your I-pad Knows About You,” From the Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2014. Read it Here.



Pew Research: Print Books Here to Stay.

Photo of deckled edge corner of John Updike's "Higher Gossip" by Endpaper Review.

Photo of deckled edge corner of John Updike’s “Higher Gossip” by Endpaper Review.

by Dick Loftin.

Many book lovers have been wringing their hands over the past few years over the end of the book. The personal, comforting, hardcover or paperback book that sits proudly on a shelf and identifies you as a person with a close relationship with the written word. The dog-eared pages, the penciled underlines, the dedicated note from a friend or loved-one. The book. The good old-fashioned, handed-down-for-generations, bought at flea markets, and by the bag at books sales, book. A real book. One that doesn’t need a reboot or even a battery. It just needs you to be interested. The book, it seems is in good shape.

A new survey by Pew Research says more adults than ever may own an e-reader. I even have one [note that… one], but print books have many years of life left [I have hundreds of these]. Pew says 50 percent of respondents say they have an e-book of some kind and that’s up 43 percent in September. ¬†Three out of 10 have read an e-book over the past year [including me, Christopher Hitchens book on Jefferson, Author of America], compared to 23 percent in 2012. Here’s the big number for me: Only 4 percent read e-books exclusively. Four percent. E-books sales are growing, but have leveled off in the past couple of years.

So, there is hope for the book. The good book, I might say. No, the better one.

Source material: Original story from Associated Press. Read the Pew Research article along with other research articles related to books, e-books and reading, Here.

25 Book-loving Websites.

Inside ABC Books, Springfield, Missouri. Photo: Endpaper Review.

Inside ABC Books, Springfield, Missouri. Photo: Endpaper Review.

by Dick Loftin.

As is all things on the net, one thing can lead to another. I’ve heard this called ‘aggregating content,’ when content is bundled on a site. ¬†And so it is with a great link to ‘The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers.’ Full disclosure: I originally found this on BookRiot.com, a great site I discovered on Facebook, and it linked to Flavorwire.com, which originated the ’25 Best’ link last August [2013].

No matter how or where you find it, the world of books is a wide one, and those of us who love to read, love everything there is about books and book life. So, here is another one.

Read “The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers,” Here.


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