When Robert Louis Stevenson Was One Of Us

Out of an agonizing American experience, the frail Scots author mined a treasure and carried it away with him



Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Scotland and spent the last years of his life in Samoa, but for a year he lived in California, and that year was a turning point in his life. It is not too much to say that he belongs at least as much to us as he does to Scotland or to Samoa. Read more »

The Great Love in the Life of Emily Dickinson

For many years one of the most fascinating mysteries of American literature has been the personal Iife of Emily Dickinson. Of no other major American poet lias there been so little positive information. Thus far, indeed, there has not even been a wholly reliable text of her works, and the question of the great love-interest of her life and its connection with her poems lias remained a romantic enigma. In 1950 Harvard University became the owner of the Dickinson papers and pnl its collection in charge of Thomas H.

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The Civil War 1861 To 1865

No one has ever come up with a satisfactory count of the books dealing with the Civil War. Estimates range from 50,000 to more than 70,000, with new titles added every day. All that can be said for certain is that the Civil War is easily the most written-about era of the nation’s history. Consequently, to describe this 10-best list as subjective is to stretch that word almost out of shape. Indeed my association with 2 of the 10 may be regarded as suspect. My reply is that this association made me only more aware of the merits of these titles. Read more »

10 Great American Business Novels

A student of an underappreciated literary genre selects some books that may change the way you see what you do.

It has always struck me that the best business novels are interactive. In them, the world of commerce is driven by people whose reality is made palpable to us but whose values, attitudes, and biases often compel us to question our own: As a businessperson, how would I relate to the kind of complex, unpredictable circumstances in which all-too-real fictional characters commonly find themselves?Read more »

Speaking Of Business

A sampling of the wisdom of Americans from Ben Franklin to Cameron Crowe

All the perplexities, confusions, and distresses in America arise… from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation. —John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, August 25, 1787


Nothing but money is sweeter than honey. —Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1735

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The Texture Of Time

In attempting to tell the story of our century by retrieving the subtlest nuances of the past, a historian makes an audacious foray into a new sort of literature

“Very early,” writes the distinguished historian John Lukacs in the introduction to A Thread of Years , his twentieth—and certainly his most unusual—book, “I was inspired by the recognition of the inevitable overlapping of history and literature, that not only what a Balzac but what a Jane Austen described—indeed, what they dealt with—belong not only to the history of literature but to the veritable history of a period: that is, of a place and a time.Read more »

Why These Three Men Are Part Of Your Soul

“Of late the American character has received marked and not altogether flattering attention from American critics.” The comment, from the opening page of Constance Rourke’s great, unjustly ignored book American Humor , bears one of her trademarks, a gently ironic understatement. “Not altogether flattering”—a muted characterization, indeed, of the jeremiads hurled against their homeland by the members of Rourke’s generation, the American writers who came of age just before World War I. Read more »

Toward The Little House

A LIFELONG FASCINATION with the stories of a famous pioneering family finally drove the writer to South Dakota in hopes of better understanding the prairie life Laura Ingalls Wilder lived there and later gave to the world.

When she was a little girl in Wisconsin in the 1870s, her father would take her and her sister on his knee after supper in their log house and tell them wonderful stories about bears and panthers and little boys who sneaked out to go sledding on the Sabbath. Then later she would drift off to sleep in her trundle bed hearing her father play his fiddle. Even after they left their comfortable house, and meals became unpredictable, the stories went on, as did the fiddle music. It was too good to be altogether lost. Read more »

The Omni-american

ALBERT MURRAY SEES AMERICAN CULTURE AS AN incandescent fusion of European, Yankee, frontier, and black. And he sees what he calls the “blues idiom” as the highest expression of that culture.


WHEN HE WAS SEVENTY, ALBERT MURRAY SCUTTLED AROUND MANHATTAN with the energy of a far younger man. A decade later, two spinal operations having cruelly diminished his orbit, Murray needs one of those four-pronged aluminum canes to inch down a sidewalk, bitter punishment for a naturally impatient man. Albert Murray’s big, handsome grin, which turns a listener into a coconspirator in whatever iconoclasm he is hatching at the moment, gets flashed less often now. Read more »

U. S. A.

People have been waiting for the great American novel ever since Civil War days. But John Dos Passos may have written it sixty years ago.

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