Back Porch Reading

Recommendations for short reading, as you escape your house/office for a mug of joe on the porch–a blog post, a short story, and a few speeches.

Photo by Thought Catalog on

Women Artists in Brittany

Stunning images and stellar research about women who produced art while living in Brittany. If you love art or history or both, check out this post.

The Devil and Daniel Webster

First published in 1936, “The Devil and Daniel Webster” , a short story by Stephen Vincent Benét is in the tradition of devil folklore, a previous topic in this blog (see Emphatically a Bon-bonist or The Devil Take Tom Walker). I reread it just this past week. What a story!

Take note of the publication date. Be aware there is much mention of people and events of the past. If you are unable to identify Daniel Webster, Judge Hathorne, or John Calhoun, you may want to make use of this Wikipedia article (spoiler alert). I recommend you read the story before looking up anything.

And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, “Dan’l Webster—Dan’l Webster!” the ground ‘ll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you’ll hear a deep voice saying, “Neighbour, how stands the Union?” Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper sheathed, one and indivisible, or he’s liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that’s what I was told when I was a youngster.

in the Devil and daniel webster by stephen vincent Benét

Three Speeches

Three former presidents spoke at the funeral for John Lewis on July 30. I read each of these speeches rather than listening to them. An orator’s greatest weapon is his or her voice. Often, when listening, I, distracted, do not catch all of the words.

We the people, including congressmen and presidents, can have differing views on how to perfect our union while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is a good and noble one. 

George W. Bush

Full text of President Bush’s speech here

I said: I would infect every American with whatever it was that John Lewis got as a 4-year-old kid and took through a lifetime to keep moving and to keep moving in the right direction and keep bringing other people to move and to do it without hatred in his heart, with a song and to be able to sing and dance. 

Bill clinton

Full text of President Clinton’s speech here

And that’s what John Lewis teaches us. That’s where real courage comes from. Not from turning on each other, but by turning towards one another. Not by sowing hatred and division, but by spreading love and truth. 

Barack obama

Full text of President Obama’s speech here

I have a standard reply to students who want to argue with me about a book they have not read. Read it for yourself.


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