Reading & Writing

Famous Last Words

    Years ago, I snagged a job as an associate editor of Saint Louis University’s alumni magazine because my predecessor had suffered a fatal aneurysm crossing Grand Avenue. A thin, sharp-witted Brit, her last words were, “Something untoward has happened in my head.” When I was told, I was speechless, humbled from the start. […]

Book Fairs Prove We Might Make It After All

        Yesterday I felt a great disturbance in the metro area, as if a million books had cried out at not being read. Then I remembered it was the afternoon of the preview for the annual Greater St. Louis Book Fair, now in its 74th year, billed as the Midwest’s largest charity […]

Will Our Hyphens Join Us or Divide Us?

    Hours of my life have been wasted dithering over which compound phrases should be hyphenated, which separate, which mushed together. When Angus Stevenson, an editor of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, braved scandal by yanking the hyphens out of 16,000 words, I yelled “Woohoo” at my desk. The act honored aesthetics (hyphens annoy […]

How a Science Fiction Writer Reinvented St. Louis

      On one side of the river, an ancient civilization that has never lost its hold on our imagination. On the other, a faded, self-defeating city that could have been so much more. St. Louisans live in a place caught between past and possibility, and lately, that tension is inspiring novelists. After reading […]

The Latest Chapter in the Reading Wars

    “The kids were sitting there going ‘Bah, Meh, Duh,’” groans a retired reading teacher, explaining that the pendulum of teaching theory has swung yet again. The way she learned, which fanned the love of reading and presented whole words for kids to gobble up, has given way to “the science of reading,” which […]

Bill Watterson’s Wisdom Literature

      Once upon a time an artist made something entertaining but true about life, friendship, and imagination. The medium he used to communicate was often not taken seriously, and the money men tried to dictate his and everyone else’s design and content. Many readers found it remarkable that he used his “comic,” which […]

Cahokia Jazz Revives Our Lost City—and Our Best Music

      Praise is building fast for Cahokia Jazz—a 1920s noir detective story that is also an alternative history spiked with anthropology, romance, and social tension. Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and Mick Herron (Slow Horses) blurbed the book with genuine enthusiasm, and critics have compared it to […]

In Memory of Writer Stanley Crawford

        Stanley Crawford has died at eighty-six. Stan published eleven books of fiction and nonfiction, including the wonderful novella Log of the SS the Mrs. Unguentine, and the memoir A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm. RoseMary, his wife, passed away almost exactly three years ago. Together they owned […]

Magazines: Lively, Smart, Radioactive, Dead

    Having devoted a chunk of my life to writing for and editing magazines, I wondered whether Jeff Jarvis’s smart little chronicle, Magazine, would feel like nostalgia or PTSD. He opened so well, it ceased to matter. The pages of books, Jarvis wrote, “give the tactile impression of a dowager’s fine linen stationery.” The […]