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Category Archives: Literature

Scots: Language? Or dialect?

Concise Scots Dictionary. Edinburgh University Press, 2017. Second edition; first published 1985. 852 pages. In the academic debate about whether Scots is a language or just a dialect, it had seemed more likely to me as a mere reader and non-academic that Scots is a dialect. This was only because I can understand it, or […]

We’re overdue for a Sir Walter Scott revival

I’ve written here in the past about how, when I can’t find newer fiction that appeals to me (often the case), I read a classic. It was back in 2013 when I read The Antiquary. Last year I read The Heart of Mid-Lothian, and earlier this year I started (but didn’t finish) Ivanhoe. I found […]

Stories about bad people

From “The Pale Horse” (BBC / Amazon Prime Video). Boring. Regular readers here know that there are certain kinds of stories that just don’t interest me. The largest category would be stories set in the here and now. But there’s another category as well: stories about bad people. “The Pale Horse,” from BBC One (2020), […]

Remember old library books?

When I was writing the post about Edna St. Vincent Millay a few days ago, I thought about the 1964 Rowse edition of the Shakespeare sonnets that I used to own. That book was destroyed in a house fire in 1974. Having recently gotten a new shelf to occupy the last remaining shelf space in […]


This series is British, but it comes along just when it’s needed in the United States: that is, as Republican states such as Florida and Texas try to invent ugly new laws designed to make the lives of young people miserable and to intimidate and punish anyone who dares to try to make the world […]

Millay’s diaries (and sonnets)

Rapture and Melancholy: The Diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Edited by Daniel Mark Epstein, Yale University Press. 390 pages. I’m not going to review this book. I couldn’t possibly top the New Yorker’s review: How Fame Fed on Edna St. Vincent Millay. One of the reasons the New Yorker review caught my interest is […]

1880 edition of Ivanhoe

Click here for high-resolution version. The way books are constructed has hardly changed in centuries. It’s daunting, though, to contemplate just how much human labor was required to publish a book in 1880. The Linotype was invented in 1884 (in the United States), but I’m sure it was years before they were widely in use. […]

Banned in Texas

Better Nate Than Ever, Disney+ If you haven’t watched a Disney feel-good flick for a while, then here are two reasons to watch Better Nate Than Ever. One, it’s very funny and very sweet. It’s even got Lisa Kudrow. Two, the book the film is based on is a good example of the kind of […]

Sir Walter Scott: a great writer, but oddly Frenchified

Once again, unable at present to find any newer fiction that seems worthwhile, I have turned to Sir Walter Scott — this time, Ivanhoe. Reading Sir Walter Scott can be hard work for contemporary readers. Even in the early 1800s when his novels were being published, Scott’s style would have been pretty florid, I think. […]

The annual spring poem

The bay window faces the south ridge and is the best-lit place in the house. The light makes it a poor place for a computer, but it’s perfect for a typewriter. This room is rarely needed as a bedroom now, so I’ve turned it into a little library and parlor, with a sleeper couch. After […]