2nd American Revolution

By Ken Reynolds

a review of The Quartet by Joseph Ellisbook cover the quartet ellis web

The Quartet is remarkably clear and smooth reading history. In only 220 pages (plus notes and appended documents), Ellis explains how four men took the initiative to transition thirteen sovereign countries into a nation united by one government. He gives his reader a flavor of the conflict of opinions and the politics by focusing our attention on the desires and machinations of his quartet.

In The Quartet, Joseph J. Ellis vividly explains how four men, convinced that government by The Articles of Confederation would fail to protect America from incursion and subjugation by the powerful seafaring nations of the world, lead the political effort that resulted in The Constitution of the United States of America. Those men were George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Continue reading

Why Go To Houston In July?

by Marty & Ken Reynolds

Newly transplanted, eight year old Katie at swim practice.

Newly transplanted, eight year old Katie at swim practice.

Who would want to leave the cool mountains of North Georgia to spend a hot July week in Houston?

Had it not been that our daughter, a kidney transplant recipient, was competing in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America we would have stayed here. But parental love prevailed, and we braved the mid-summer heat in Texas.

In 1982, our eight-year-old daughter, Katie, swam in a meet in Richmond, Virginia. As she got set to dive into the pool, faces turned toward her. We heard voices murmuring, “That’s the little girl who had the kidney transplant this winter!” Continue reading

Candice Millard writes thrilling and chilling history

by Ken Reynolds

Author Candice Millard earned a place on my book shelves with two fascinating books about American presidents. The first, River of Doubt, is an incredible journey down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River with Theodore Roosevelt. The second, Destiny of the Republic, is a more intricate tale of the brief presidency and early death of James A. Garfield.

Millard’s books read like novels. They are good examples of historical writing that cause readers to say, I wish history had been written like this when I was in school. Continue reading

Playing solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one

by Ken Reynolds

Playing video games makes it easy to accomplish nothing, but playing them is still doing something. I try to resist video games, because time ceases to matter and inevitably I regret wasting it on an unrewarding activity. A few nights ago while I was engrossed in a session of computer solitaire Lew Dewitt and The Statler Brothers popped into my mind.

In the mid to late 1960s Statler was one of the most well-known names around Staunton and Waynesboro, Virginia. Not because a lot of people were named Statler. There may have been none, but it was difficult to find anyone in our part of the Shenandoah Valley who did not claim to be a personal friend of at least one member of the Grammy Award winning Statler Brothers quartet. The claims may have been true. The singers were extraordinarily popular and exceptionally civic minded and reputedly were friendly and outgoing fellows. However, only two of them were brothers and none were named Statler. They chose the name from a tissue box in a hotel room. Continue reading

Thirteen American Arguments

Howard Fineman’s The Thirteen American Arguments

Review by Ken ReynoldsTurned Pages
Do Americans have an innate national need to argue? Howard Fineman, author of The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country, says we do. Fineman contends the founder’s design of our government left it to be refined and improved through an endless series of arguments. He believes voicing our differences sustains our national identity and makes us an ever-renewing nation.

Whether the national design was deliberate, or an inevitable result of the need to meld thirteen separate and disparate governments into one nation, he leaves for academics to debate. Fineman bases his premise on more than thirty years of observing, reporting and commenting on national politics. He says there are issues that, under our form of government, will not be resolved. Continue reading

Something Like a Walk

by Ken Reynolds

 When we moved to these mountains fifteen years ago we were newly retired and we both liked to hike. North Georgia had more trails than I could have walked even if the trail system had not grown longer every year and those same years had not wrought havoc on my ability to go up and down hill. I was a lot younger then. Martha has not aged.

Our dog often accompanied us on short walks and long hikes. But he also has gotten older and the years have taken a toll his ability to cover the distances we once did. Twice each day he demands an opportunity to sniff over what he sniffed over the last time he was outside, so we spend a lot of time in a small area. Whatever I once might have labeled our outings I can no longer call them hikes, or even long walks. I don’t hike anymore and I miss it.

There has been a lot of rain this year. Rainy days, achy knees and stiff fingers remind me how old I really am. Four rainy days in a row made getting out of bed this morning particularly difficult. But beyond our bedroom window sunlight beckoned, so I struggled to get myself upright, went through what Martha calls my pre-amble, then hobbled into the bathroom. Continue reading

No Fiction Pulitzer

The Pulitzer Prize Board did not select a fiction prize winner. Ann Patchett, author and bookstore owner eloquently expresses her disapproval of the board’s non-award. I recommend her April 17 N Y Times Op-Ed “And the Winner Isn’t . . .”

Patchett says, “Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.”

The author and Karen Hayes are co-owners of Parnassus Books in Nashville. Together they are demonstrating that physical bookstores are not of the past.

To read Patchett’s full column follow this link http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/opinion/and-the-winner-of-the-pulitzer-isnt.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120418