LA Times story about West Point professor and author Elizabeth Samet


Today, Jeffery Fleishman of The Los Angeles Times published “At West Point, Warriors Shaped Through Plutarch and Shakespeare,” an interesting story about West Point English professor Elizabeth Samet.

She’s the author of No Man’s Land: Preparing for War and Peace in Post-9/11 America, which I reviewed for The Washington Post on November 7, 2014 in “Can Ovid and Harry Potter Guide Us Through This Era.”

Having read Fleishman’s article (linked to above), I stand by my judgment that Samet is “clearly an extraordinary and inspiring teacher.”

West Point is lucky to have her.

U.S. Military Academy

(Thanks to Tessa Kaganoff for bringing this story to my attention.)

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China’s Wings… in Chinese


Coming soon to a bookstore near you… if you live in China:

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Snowblind by Daniel Arnold, reviewed by Gregory Crouch


Slippery Slopes,” my review of Daniel Arnold’s new short story collection Snowblind: Stories of Alpine Obsession, was in The Wall Street Journal last weekend (April 4 & 5, 2015).

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Good effort from Arnold.

I’ve linked to a Google search, because linking directly to the review runs into the WSJ paywall; from the search, if you click the link to the review, it should take you to the full text. I’ve used the same trick for all the WSJ reviews below.

Here’s the list of other books I’ve reviewed.

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Bonanza Queen, by Zola Ross


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Two stars out of five on Goodreads.

It wasn’t as bad as I expected.

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Weapon of Mass Instruction


This is classic:

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KTSF News spotlights Moon Chin and the CNAC exhibit at the SFO Museum


More glory for the China National Aviation Corporation. Here’s a nice television news clip featuring Moon Chin and the Legends of CNAC exhibit at the SFO Museum.

Legend of CNAC exhibition at SFO copy

(102-year old Moon is looking pretty spry, and he’s interviewed in English.)

Here’s my post about the exhibit opening celebration.

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Rescued World War II photographs


Very cool story on Huffpost:

Recovered Film Gives An Amazing First Look at Scenes from World War II

About a photographer who recovers and develops old and abandoned rolls of film.

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Gigantic China’s Wings photo gallery


China's WingsA consolidated gallery of photographs pertaining to the life and times of the China National Aviation Corporation, a Chinese-American civil aviation partnership that flew and fought in China during the 1930s and 1940s–and the subject of my book, China’s Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight (Bantam, 2012).

Click on one of the pics and scroll through… they’re fabulous.

My China’s Wings & CNAC related posts are archived in my China’s Wings category. The page “Good points of entry to the China’s Wings category” provides a fine starting point.

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1868 baseball advice (that is not a typo)


The Weekly Alta California, October 10, 1868:

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Hints to Base Ballists

Now that the national game is so universally played, the following hints and suggestions may not prove inopportune. They are the result of long and arduous study of the game–practically and theoretically, and are worthy, it is thought, of the attention of all players:

1-Never admit a grocer to your “nine” lest your Club be denominated “butter fingers.”

2-Admit no furriers; they are suggestive of “muffs;” nor bakers, for they are redolent with “muffin.”

3-Never charge your “bases;” as a matter of military necessity this is sometimes advisable, but in ball-play, never.

4-Don’t stop short in a match because your “short stop” muffs a ball.

5-Don’t accuse your catcher of chicken stealing because he catches a “foul.”

6-If your “long field” catches a “fly” don’t laugh at him because he held his mouth open.

7-If a newly married member makes a “home run,” don’t accuse him of being hen-pecked.

8-When you “whitewash” your opponents don’t get any into their eyes; it might hurt.

9-A bricklayer or two would be valuable acquisitions; they would be sure to be good “strikers.”

10-A detective would be useful as a “catcher.”

11-As a “pitcher,” we would recommend Bob Brettle, the pugilist; he may not be much of a ballist, but he says he always “pitches in.”

12-If you can prevail on Billy Edwards to join your club, you may be sure of having a “heavy hitter.”

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I spent yesterday physically reading several issues of The Daily Alta California and The Weekly Alta California from the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s in the San Francisco History Center on the 6th floor of the San Francisco Public Library. Among many gems, I fished out the one posted above. A thoroughly delightful day, since I love doing research, but my eyes were about to fall out of my head by the end of the afternoon.

Newsprint was tiny in those days.

The contents of most California newspapers are available on-line through the California Digital Newspaper Collection organized by UC Riverside. It’s an excellent tool, but reading online isn’t the same thing as holding an actual copy of the paper, and I wanted that experience, hence the trip to the SFPL.

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Links to good writing advice I’ve been collecting


Possibly the truest thing ever said about writing:

“My writing is perfect, I don’t need an editor.”

Said no serious writer, ever.

“A to X Writing Advice,” courtesy of Random House Copy Chief & Executive Managing Editor Benjamin Dreyer. He helped with China’s Wings, and is thanked within.

I absolutely love having editors, copy editors, and fact checkers comb over my work. The world needs more of them. A lot more.

And here is Mr. Dreyer’s List of Common Mistakes. All of them very, very easy to make.

(Both on Biographile. Here’s their Craft of Writing category.

Here’s Paul Krugman’s Fantastic Advice to Everyone Who Writes at Business Insider, which, although more than a year old, is perennially relevant.

No less an authority than Ernest Hemingway serves up Seven Tips on How to Write Fiction.

(Here’s a China’s Wings outtake that features Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, his third wife. They hung out with the CNAC gang in Hong Kong in 1941. Hemingway was so taken with the pilots that he gave them props in his novel Islands in the Stream.)

6 Tips on Reading to Train the Writer’s Eye” from Litreactor.

I consider “being a reader” to be the qualification that ever writer absolutely must have. (If you aren’t a reader, I don’t see how you can possibly compete with those who are.)

Here’s “A Simple Way to Create Suspense” from thriller author Lee Child and The New York Times.

Although I must confess that I think withholding information from readers is a cheap way to create suspense. I find suspense more genuine (and much less annoying) when the reader knows more than the characters.

Here are “Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck.”

And here are “6 Tips on How to be a Better Writer from Harvard Linguist and Cognitive Scientist Steven Pinker.”

What’s with the 6 tips? Are we not capable of assimilating seven at a time?

German literary critic and essayist Walter Benjamin seems to have more confidence in us. Here are his Thirteen Timeless Tidbits.

The Art of Nonfiction, an Interview with John McPhee” at The Paris Review. Long but good. And I love John McPhee.

Do you have any favorite pieces of writing advice? If so, please share them and I’ll add them to the post.

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