"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

—Muriel Rukeyser

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A.M. Adair Featured Author at University Club of Washington D.C. 30th Annual Book Fair


SHADOW GAME.  It’s a world with no set rules and where the game is driven by will. This sometimes means acting more like the villain than the hero, because it could mean the difference between life and death.


About A.M. Adair

A. M. Adair is an active duty Chief Warrant Officer in the United States Navy with over 18 years in the Intelligence Community. She has been to numerous countries all around the world, to include multiple tours in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Her experiences have been unique and provided her imagination with a wealth of material to draw from to give her stories life. A lifelong fan of the genre, she is an associate member of International Thriller Writers. Shadow Game is her debut novel.

Sound is an aspect of life, but is life an aspect of sound? John Stuart Reid Author of Conversations With Dolphins

In October 2019 John Stuart Reid gave an imaginative presentation on the subject of abiogenesis—the origin of life—at the Water Conference, in Bad Soden, Germany. He hypothesizes that the structuring and organizing principle of pre-biotic compounds in the primordial oceans was sound. In his presentation he proposes that Faraday Wave (cymatic) patterns on the surface of microscopic bubbles, emerging from hydrothermal vents, were instrumental in creating the first proto-cells, from which more complex cells evolved.



In August 2019 physics Professor and Nobel Laureate, Brian Josephson, visited the CymaScope lab and was shown several videos, including that of submerged air bubbles in water, excited by low frequency sound. The bubbles exhibit life-like behaviour in that they appear to chase each other around the CymaScope’s cuvette while a cymatic pattern forms on their spheroidal surfaces, providing a safe haven for solutes in water. The research video captured Professor Josephson’s interest and he commented, “This may help to clarify the way intelligence emerges in nature”.

One of John Stuart Reid’s interests is researching the biological mechanisms that underpin sound therapy and he commented that, “If sound was the creative principle for life in the primordial oceans it is logical to consider that sound should hold the power to create the conditions for healing life.”


Story Merchant Author Ama Adair Featured in VIRGINIAN-PILOT!

Virginia Beach Navy chief warrant officer pens first novel: ‘No damsels in distress or princesses here’



Ama Adair stands next to a bookshelf at her home in Virginia Beach, with a copy of her book "Shadow Game" in the background. (Courtesy of Ama Adair)

Ama Adair first got the idea for her book series on a dark, narrow road in Baghdad, Iraq, as her military convoy drove past seemingly abandoned buildings and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end.

A Navy chief warrant officer specializing in counterintelligence and human intelligence, Adair didn’t begin writing until about six years after that 2010 deployment. But her vivid real-life memories helped shape her thriller “Shadow Game,” published in October under the name A.M. Adair. The book is the opener in a planned three- or four-part series.

“Shadow Game” features a strong female protagonist named Elle Anderson, a CIA operative who leads an elite team charged with destroying a terrorist organization.

“No damsels in distress or princesses here,” says Adair, a Virginia Beach resident. “She is a powerful, intelligent woman who is not very emotionally driven. She certainly doesn’t need rescuing. I would love if my daughter and other girls could see more characters like her.”

Ama Adair's book, which published in October, is the first book in a planned three- or four-part series. (Courtesy of Ama Adair)

As a first-time author, Adair, 40, had a steep learning curve with the writing, editing and publication process. And as a mother with a full-time job, she had to squeeze much of her writing into two- to three-hour sessions on evenings and weekends. Her husband Jake, an active-duty Navy chief, took over parenting whenever he could.

“Luckily, military life trained me for not sleeping a whole lot,” Adair says. “Things got easier once I let my characters take over and stopped trying to force the plot. A lot of my own ideas for how to get to the key scenes I wanted kind of disappeared, which made it more fun.”

Although the series is fictional, Adair’s 10 overseas deployments — including four in Iraq and one in Afghanistan — served as background research. In fact, creating Anderson’s story helped Adair address some of her own feelings: “Elle goes through some post-traumatic stress and a lot of physical and emotional challenges. I found it very therapeutic for me.”

An Ohio native, Adair joined the Navy shortly after 9/11 and has lived in Virginia Beach since 2005. While always interested in reading and journaling, she had no writing training beyond school classes and the formal military papers required in her job.

After years of considering a novel, Adair typed the first chapters of “Shadow Game” on her laptop during downtime on a 2016 deployment in Italy. A self-described introvert, she found the solo pursuit a perfect fit.

Back home, Adair often settled down to write in a favorite recliner after her kids Arya, now 7, and later baby Finn, born last April, were asleep for the night. She also has juggled work toward an online bachelor’s degree in intelligence studies through American Military University.

The 300-page “Shadow Game” took about nine months to finish, followed by a similarly long editing process. “It was often me being too wordy,” she says. “I discovered that having too many details actually slows down the tempo.”

Since Adair is active-duty military, the Pentagon had to screen her thriller before publication. “Shadow Game” was released through Kindle Direct Publishing with representation by Story Merchant Books, a company that facilitates such independent publishing. It is currently for sale exclusively on Amazon.

“I was a complete nerd when it came out,” Adair says with a laugh. “I immediately ordered like five copies of it, plus the Kindle edition. I was in awe holding it.”

Adair is almost finished with book two of the series, “The Deeper Shadow,” which she started in 2017 but put on pause during her most recent pregnancy and Finn’s newborn months. She hopes to publish it in the summer and then immediately dive into book three. Once she retires from the military, her dream is to be a full-time writer.

“In a perfect world, I’d do a lot of hanging out with my laptop and some good cups of coffee,” she says. “I just want to let my imagination keep taking off.”

Alison Johnson, ajohnsondp@yahoo.com

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Guest Post by Dr. Dave Davis Author of "A Potter's Tale"

Take a gander at the old guy in the mirror ... 

It kind of creeps up on you, doesn’t it? Aging, I mean. Until the arthritis hits, or the dosette starts to fill up, you hardly notice it, writes Dave Davis.


The secret to aging well, to living healthily as long as we can is laughing every day, according to Dave Davis. - Gary Yokoyama,The Hamilton Spectator file photo

The cake was as big as a little kid's toboggan, large enough to hold a long greeting, something like, "Happy Birthday to a Grand Old Man!" with little candy-grams of fireworks, and champagne bubbles on top. There were dozens and dozens of candles, too many to count, enough to warm the room. They certainly warmed your heart. We were in one of Burlington's first modern nursing homes, and the birthday celebrant was a much-loved grand old man, my patient. I'll call him Mr. Andrews.

He was turning 100, as in a hundred years old. Quite a milestone. He was triple my age at the time.

He was a little guy, maybe five-foot-nothing when I got to know him, the burr in his voice telling me he had grown up in Scotland (the wee north he said; the Shetlands, I think). You could almost see him wearing a kilt. I loved talking to him. The day before he joked with me that he had achieved a lifelong dream — to be a "dirty" old man, easily forgiven for off-colour jokes and even behaviour because of his age. He wasn't a dirty old man, not off-colour or inconsiderate of others in the least. Instead, he was one of the nicest, with-it men I've known, without an unkind bone in his body. And funny. His conversation was peppered with phrases that began with, "Have you heard the one about ..." His daughter, then in her late 70s, said, "He laughs every day. That's the secret."

The secret to what?

The secret to aging well, to living healthily as long as we can. That year, I watched a famous geriatrician as she demonstrated the hoped-for lifeline of the elderly — the goal of geriatrics, maybe all medical care. It was a graph, with two axes, the horizontal displaying years of life, and the vertical, which portrayed quality of life and freedom from illness or disability. The goal, she said, was to keep the quality of life line as high as possible, as long as possible, into our 90s or, like Mr. Andrews, even beyond. The evidence is stronger all the time about longevity and maintaining that vertical line: don't smoke; watch your diet, particularly red meat, sugar and salt; and, especially, exercise. Studies vary but the bottom line (pun intended) is get up off your duff. Walk. Don't take the elevator if it's only one or two flights. Leave the car at home when you head to the corner store. Take yoga or tai chi. Get a dog and walk him. Park as far away from the Costco door as you can. Like that.

For sure, there are lots of stories of the old that don't abide by these rules and live to be centurions like Mr. Andrews. You've probably read about some guy who lived to be 150 somewhere in the Ural Mountains. The guy who smoked like, I don't know, a dozen cigars, and knocked back 12 fried eggs and a large pig, all before lunch. Every day. OK, maybe 10 eggs. They're the exception though, and maybe they count years differently in the Urals, who knows?

It kind of creeps up on you, doesn't it? Aging, I mean. Until the arthritis hits, or the dosette starts to fill up, you hardly notice it. Out of the blue (well, kind of) my grandsons are now as tall as their grandma.

And I have other reminders. This summer, I met up with a handful of my former med school classmates, all guys (50 years ago, guys were just about all you got in a med school class; pity). We had a great lunch, one-part reminiscing (remember the surgeon who used to ...), one-part catching up (what ever happened to old Harry?). I enjoyed the lunch; these are awesome guys, friends from The Day. As the meal progressed though, I indulged in a little internal bragging. There they were — older, balder, greyer, heavier — as I was thinking, "Damn, Dave, look how they've aged. You, on the other hand, you're still looking pretty good!" Until, that is, we stood up to leave. I happened to glance in a mirror I hadn't seen when I was sitting down. There, in the mirror that framed all of us, I saw a new guy, standing with my old classmates — an older, grayer, balder, fatter guy — right in the middle of the group. A little stooped. Me. Damn.

Old Mr. Andrews would probably have made a joke about the guy in the mirror.

PS: By the way, I'm pretty sure Mr. A. got to celebrate his 106th birthday, though maybe my memory doesn't resemble reality very much. It happens when you get older.


Dave Davis, MD, is a retired family doc and medical educator. His first novel, "A Potter's Tale," published by Story Merchant Books, Los Angeles, is available on Amazon in Canada, CA and the US. You can visit him at www.drdavedavis.com, or follow him @drauthor24.


Dave Davis, MD, is a retired family doc and medical educator. His first novel, “A Potter’s Tale,” published by Story Merchant Books, Los Angeles, is available on Amazon in Canada, CA and the US. You can visit him at www.drdavedavis.com, or follow him @drauthor24.

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A new story from Dennis Palumbo In Mystery Weekly Magazine!

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“A Really Great Team” by Dennis Palumbo is a story filled with so many crimes—one thing leads to another …



Extortionists, robbers, embezzlers and sometimes the innocent …

Mystery Weekly Magazine December 2019 in print and digital @ Amazon @ Kindle Newsstand 

In Conversation with Marilyn Horowitz: 4 Magic Questions of Screenwriting



Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, TV show creator, producer, and Manhattan-based writing coach, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She completed her tenure as a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students in 2013 and as a judge for the New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) Ravenal Foundation Grant. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Listen to the Podcast here!


Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, TV show creator, producer, and Manhattan-based writing coach, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She completed her tenure as a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students in 2013 and as a judge for the New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) Ravenal Foundation Grant. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Horowitz has a created a revolutionary system that yields a new, more effective way of writing. She is the author of six books that help the writer learn her trademarked system, including editions for college, high school, and middle school. The college version is a required text at New York University and the University of California, Long Beach. Two of her books have been used in the Lights, Camera, Literacy! program taught to over 1,000 children in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public School System (a recent recipient of the “Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award” for outstanding scholastic performance).

Professor Horowitz writes articles for Script magazine, and she pens a monthly column for MovieOutline.com, an online magazine with 30,000 subscribers. She is featured in Now Write! Screenwriting anthology published by Tarcher/Penguin edited by Sherry Ellis and the 2014 edition of The Expert Success Solution. Marilyn’s latest novel, The Book of Zev, reached Amazon Best Seller status when it was released in December 2014.

Professor Horowitz has taught more than 100 classes, seminars, and workshops across the country for groups including the Writers Guild of America East, NYWIFT, Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, Script DC, Screenwriters World East, and the Great American PitchFest. In addition, she also hosts periodic writers retreats in Tuscany, Italy.

Professor Horowitz has written several feature-length screenplays. Her production credits include the feature films And Then Came Love (2007), starring Vanessa Williams and distributed by Warner Bros.; Caleb’s Door (2009), distributed by Around the Scenes; Found in Time (2011); Nocturnal Agony (2011); and The One(2011).


New York Times on Kennedy Detail Secret Service Agent Winston Lawson

SSA Win Lawson, the advance man for the Texas trip, he rode ahead of Kennedy’s limo, helped lift the president onto a stretcher and then lived a half-century with regrets.

Mr. Lawson, left, was on duty during the burial of President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 25, 1963, three days after the assassination. Credit...Cecil Stoughton/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Winston Lawson had been a Secret Service agent for four years when, on Nov. 22, 1963, he was in an unmarked police car in Dallas just ahead of President John F. Kennedy’s open limousine.

Within an hour or so, Kennedy would be dead, leaving Mr. Lawson to wonder for the next half-century whether he had done everything possible to keep the president safe.

“At times I wish I had never been born,” he said in an interview in 2013 with WTVR, a television station in Richmond, Va., on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Mr. Lawson, who died on Nov. 7 in Norfolk, Va., at 91, had not only been guarding Kennedy in Dallas; he had been the advance agent for the presidential trip to Texas. Known for his attention to detail, he had planned security and travel routes for the trip, as he had for Kennedy in other cities in both the United States and Europe.

In Dallas, he worked with the local police to choose the route the motorcade would take from Love Field, where Kennedy had landed that morning from Fort Worth, through downtown Dallas and on to the Dallas Trade Mart, where Kennedy was to speak.

“It allowed us to go downtown, which was wanted back in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Lawson said in 1964 in testimony to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman. “It afforded us wide streets most of the way, because of the buses that were in the motorcade.”

He calculated that the trip from the airport to the trade mart, about 10 miles, would take 45 minutes, given how slow the motorcade would proceed.

Credit...Robert Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Mr. Lawson — who rode in the front passenger seat of the lead car, a light-colored sedan being driven by Jesse Curry, the Dallas police chief — scanned the thickening crowds for potential trouble and kept turning around to check on Kennedy through the rear window, he told the commission.

After the motorcade turned onto Elm Street along Dealey Plaza and passed the Texas School Book Depository, Mr. Lawson heard the first shot from behind. In his testimony he was asked by the commission member John J. McCloy, a banker and diplomat, if he had seen anyone in the windows of the building. (Oswald had shot the president from a sixth-floor window.)

“No, sir,” Mr. Lawson said. “Just as we started around that corner, I asked Chief Curry if it was not true that we were probably five minutes from the Trade Mart.”

When two more shots were fired, Mr. Lawson turned around to see another Secret Service agent standing in the car behind Kennedy’s limo holding an automatic weapon. Had the agent just fired?

A motorcycle officer then pulled up to the lead car, telling Mr. Lawson and Chief Curry that the president had been shot. An order immediately crackled over Mr. Lawson’s two-way radio: Rush to the nearest hospital.

When the lead car and the limousine arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Mr. Lawson dashed into the emergency entrance and saw medical personnel pushing two stretchers toward him — one for Kennedy and one for Gov. John B. Connally of Texas, who had been in the president’s limousine and also wounded.

When he reached the stretchers, Mr. Lawson testified, he “put one hand on each one as they pushed and I pulled.”

Mr. Connally was placed on the first stretcher. Mr. Lawson and three others, including the Kennedy aide Dave Powers, lifted the mortally wounded president from the back seat of the limousine onto the second stretcher.

“They really couldn’t do much,” Mr. Lawson recalled in the WTVR interview. “He was quite gray.”

He waited outside Trauma Room 1 as doctors worked unsuccessfully on Kennedy’s neck and head wounds. At 1 p.m. they declared the president dead.

Mr. Lawson later rode in a police car that escorted the Kennedy hearse — carrying the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, as well — to Love Field for Air Force One’s flight back to Washington. He stood guard outside the plane until it took off.


Returning from Love Field, Mr. Lawson went to the Dallas Police Headquarters. By then Oswald had been arrested and interrogated by detectives there, but Mr. Lawson arrived in time to observe as Forrest Sorrels, the Secret Service agent in charge of the Dallas district, interviewed the suspect.

“What was the attitude of Oswald during this period?” Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, a member of the Warren Commission and the future Republican president, asked Mr. Lawson.

“Oswald just answered the questions as asked to him,” Mr. Lawson testified. “He didn’t volunteer any information. He sat there stoically, not much of an expression on his face.”

Winston George Lawson (who was known as Win) was born on Oct. 15, 1928, in Dunkirk, N.Y., on Lake Erie, and raised in nearby Portland, N.Y. His father, Merle, was an accountant, and his mother, Cecile (Post) Lawson, was a schoolteacher who worked as a guard in a machine gun factory during World War II.

After graduating from the University of Buffalo (now part of the State University of New York) with a bachelor’s degree in history and government, Mr. Lawson worked as a carpet salesman and sales representative at the Carnation Milk Company before serving in Army counterintelligence.

After his discharge he returned to Carnation and had several other jobs before the Secret Service accepted him as an agent in 1959 in its field office in Syracuse, N.Y. He was assigned to the White House detail in 1961 and remained with the agency for the next 20 years.

He later worked for the Defense Department, doing background checks, and provided security for the evangelists Billy Graham and his son Franklin.

Mr. Lawson’s death, which was not widely reported at the time, was caused by coronary artery disease, his son, Jeff, said. Mr. Lawson is also survived by his wife, Barbara (Barrett) Lawson; a daughter, Andrea Lawson; four grandchildren; three step-grandchildren and his brother, Merlin.

Mr. Lawson said that his lingering anguish over Kennedy’s death had been assuaged by support from fellow agents.

“They would say to me — and it’s hard for me to say without breaking down or tears coming to my eyes,” he told The Dallas Morning News in 2003 — “‘Win, if it had to happen to anyone, we’re glad it happened to you.’

“Because I was known for doing the best, most thorough advance in the entire agency.”

Richard Sandomir is an obituaries writer. He previously wrote about sports media and sports business. He is also the author of several books, including “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic.” @RichSandomir

Reposted from The New York Times

NEW From Story Merchant Books! FATHER CHRISTMAS: A TRUE STORY by ROWDY HERRINGTON



Father Christmas is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that will bring families together with inspirational holiday cheer and nostalgia for the comfort of Santa Claus.

In the coal mining town of Brilliant, Ohio during the Great Depression, 10-year-old Annie O’Neill is finally allowed to stay up on Christmas Eve, bursting with excitement and wonder at finally catching a glimpse of Father Christmas himself! Though her family struggles to make ends meet, Santa Claus always leaves Annie and her siblings presents that bring joy and laughter for the whole family.

When Annie’s Father returns home from a long shift at the coal mine on Christmas Eve, Annie makes a life-changing discovery about who Santa Claus really is. As her heart wrestles with reality and make-believe, Annie’s profound discovery about the real Father Christmas will touch the hearts of people everywhere. As she gracefully releases her innocence, Annie learns the true meaning of Christmas is what lies in your heart.

“A beautifully-written tribute to fathers and their daughters, mothers and their sons, and the true spirit of Christmas. It will touch your heart.”— Malcolm McDowell

"This beautiful family story makes me believe in Santa Claus." — Norman Stephens, former head Warner Television, Village Roadshow

"Herrington is a born storyteller. His skills are in full display here as he reminds us all, in the tradition of O’Henry, Dickens, and the Grimms, how the Christmas season can restore our faith in each other." — John Harrison, writer/director Frank Herbert’s Dune


Op-ed: After 200 years, Herman Melville is still relevant By: Aaron Sachs, Cornell University



This issue of Classics Illustrated, published by the Gilberton Company, Inc. in April 1947, contains an adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The cover art by Louis Zansky depicts the crew of the Peoquod battling the white whale Moby Dick. (Gift of Olivia V. Crisson and Phillip M.S. Crisson in honor of Peter Bozzer, now in the collections of the National Museum of American History)
Outside of American literature courses, it doesn’t seem likely that many Americans are reading Herman Melville these days.

I propose that you pick up one of his novels, because his work has never been more timely. This is the perfect cultural moment for another Melville revival.

The original Melville revival started exactly a century ago, after Melville’s works had languished in obscurity for some 60 years. In the immediate aftermath of World War I, scholars found his vision of social turmoil to be uncannily relevant.

Once again, Melville could help Americans grapple with dark times – and not just because he composed classic works of universal truths about good and evil. Melville still matters because he was directly engaged with the very aspects of modern American life that continue to haunt the country in the 21st century.

Melville’s books deal with a host of issues that are relevant today, from race relations and immigration to the mechanization of everyday life.

Yet these aren’t the works of a hopeless tragedian. Rather, Melville was a determined realist.

The typical Melville character is depressed and alienated, overwhelmed by societal changes. But he also endures.

Ultimately, “Moby-Dick” is about the quest of the narrator, Ishmael, the story’s lone survivor, to make meaning out of trauma and keep the human story going.

Ishmael goes to sea in the first place because he’s feeling a particularly modern form of angst. He walks the streets of Manhattan wanting to knock people’s hats off, furious that the only available jobs in the new capitalist economy leave workers “tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks.” The whaling ship is no paradise, but at least it affords him a chance to work in the open air with people of all races, from all over the world.

When the crewmen sit in a circle squeezing lumps of whale sperm into oil, they find themselves clasping each other’s hands, developing “an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling.”

Then there’s Melville’s novel “Redburn,” one of the author’s lesser-known works. It’s mostly a story of disillusionment: A young naïf joins the merchant marine to see the world, and in Britain all he finds are “masses of squalid men, women, and children” spilling out from the factories. The narrator is abused by the ship’s cynical crew and swindled out of his wages.

But his hard experience nonetheless broadens his sympathies. As he sails home to New York with some Irish families fleeing the famine, he remarks:

“Let us waive that agitated national topic, as to whether such multitudes of foreign poor should be landed on our American shores; let us waive it, with the one only thought, that if they can get here, they have God’s right to come…. For the whole world is the patrimony of the whole world.”

Melville’s fall and rise

In November 1851, when “Moby-Dick” was published, Melville was among the best-known authors in the English-speaking world. But his reputation started to decline just months later, when a review of his next book, “Pierre,” bore the headline, “Herman Melville Crazy.”

That opinion was not atypical. By 1857, Melville had mostly stopped writing; his publisher was bankrupt; and those Americans who still knew his name may well have thought he’d been institutionalized.

Yet in 1919 – the year of Melville’s centennial – scholars started returning to his work. They found a writer of grim, tangled epics delving into the social tensions that would ultimately lead to the Civil War.

It just so happened that 1919 was a year of labor strife, mail bombs, weekly lynchings, and race riots in 26 cities. There were crackdowns on foreigners, privacy, and civil liberties, not to mention the lingering trauma of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic.

Over the ensuing three decades – an era that included the Great Depression and World War II – Melville was canonized, and all of his works were reprinted in popular editions.

“I owe a debt to Melville,” wrote critic and historian Lewis Mumford, “because my wrestling with him, my efforts to plumb his own tragic sense of life, were the best preparations I could have had for facing our present world.”

"Moby Dick," a collection of nose art from B-24s from the 90th Bomb Group. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive) Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


Why Melville still matters

America is now dealing with its own dark times, full of foreboding over climate change, extreme class divisions, racial and religious bigotry, refugee crises, mass shootings, and near-constant warfare.

Go back and read Melville, and you’ll find apt depictions of white privilege and obliviousness in “Benito Cereno.” Melville paints consumer capitalism as an elaborate con game in “The Confidence-Man,” while excoriating America’s imperial ambitions in “Typee” and “Omoo.” He was even inspired to break his silence at the end of the Civil War and write an earnest plea for “Re-establishment” and “Reconstruction.”

“Those of us who always abhorred slavery as an atheistical iniquity,” he wrote, “gladly we join the exulting chorus of humanity over its downfall.” But now it was time to find ways for everyone to get along.

His 1866 book “Battle-Pieces,” though full of bitter fragments, has a final section dominated by idealistic nouns: common sense and Christian charity, patriotic passion, moderation, generosity of sentiment, benevolence, kindliness, freedom, sympathies, solicitude, amity, reciprocal respect, decency, peace, sincerity, faith. Melville was trying to remind Americans that in democracies there is a perpetual need to carve out common ground.

It’s not that society doesn’t or shouldn’t change; it’s that change and continuity play off each other in surprising and sometimes bracing ways.

In dark times, the rediscovery that human beings have almost always had to confront terrible challenges can produce powerful emotions.

You might feel like knocking someone’s hat off. But you might also feel like giving the Ishmaels of the world a gentle squeeze of the hand.

And in doing so, you might help to keep the human story going.


Dr. Aaron Sachs is a Professor of History at Cornell University, but his doctorate is in American Studies, which means he brings an interdisciplinary approach to his scholarship and teaching — History, English Literature, Science, Technology, Urban Planning and other fields. His views might not represent those of Navy Times or its staffers.


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