John Updike’s Pennsylvania Interviews by James Plath

John Updike’s Pennsylvania Interviews edited by James Plath Lehigh University Press, 294 pp., cloth $85 Born in Reading, Berks County, and raised in nearby Shillington and Plowville, author John Updike, like the main character Harry Angstrom in his Rabbit series of novels, often tried to escape Pennsylvania in his literary work, but he always seemed to come back home. This book, with its...
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Updike by Adam Begley

Updike by Adam Begley HarperCollins, 558 pp., cloth $29.95 “No, no, no, no, no, to paraphrase King Lear,” John Updike told me 12 years ago when I suggested he consider authorizing a biographer. “Please don’t ruin the rest of my life with any talk of a biography, that living death.” Updike’s opposition to literary biography was so fierce it’s no surprise his widow, Martha Updike, refused to...
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Stability and Change: Culture During Three Periods

“Religion, … the best bond of human society, provided man did not err in the meaning of that excellent word.” – William Penn   Culture, broadly de­fined, is the way of life of a group of people; it includes all their behavioral patterns, beliefs and ar­tistic expressions. Culture is not static; it varies over time and place. Culture does not arise in a vacuum; it...
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Driving Team In The Big Woods

During the early days of lumbering in Pennsylvania, small water-powered, up-and­-down sawmills were located wherever the best trees stood in the stream valleys. Only the best, most accessible trees were cut and hauled to the mill by oxen or horses or occasionally floated on the stream which powered the mill. The saw­ed boards were then carried out of the woods on wagons or sleds to villages...
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“Little Doc”: Architect Of Modern Nursing

Lavinia Lloyd Dock (1858-1956) labored long and hard as educator, settlement worker, historian, author, editor, columnist, pacifist and radical suffragist. Beyond this, she strove to internationalize the public health movement while continually elevating the status of women. But her contributions to the field of nursing­ – which helped transform what was then a despised trade into a...
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Schuylkill County: Built on Coal

The history of Schuylkill County is inextricably bound to the story – and drama – of the great anthracite industry in the United States. Despite nearly two centuries of active mining, the county’s 783 square miles still boast the largest accessible reserves of hard coal known in the world. Its lives and lifestyles have been quasi-fictionalized by two of the county’s best...
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Pittsburgh’s Park of a Century

Currently ranked first as the Most Livable City by the Rand-McNally annual survey, Pittsburgh is reveling in media exposure comparable to the boosterism of the town of Zenith which writer Sinclair Lewis satirized in his novel, Babbit. Accompanying the zealous, self-proclaimed promotion, however, has been a healthy dose of self­-examination, with the city’s less enviable qualities suddenly...
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The Wissahickon Valley: To a Wilderness Returned

The rural Wissahickon Valley, near center-city Philadelphia, typifies the rugged landscape which greeted the first white settlers. Today, its huge hem­locks and towering sycamores contrast markedly with the busy factories and row houses only a mile away. But this valley of contrasts has always been different from the sur­rounding region. A century ago, when most of America was rural or wild, the...
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The Man Who Bought Alice in Wonderland

On April 3, 1928, a slightly tipsy world, still reeling through the heady Twen­ties, focused its attention on Sotheby’s in London, where one of history’s most famous and beloved of all books was about to be auctioned. Through Sotheby’s dark pas­sages, an excited throng tum­bled into the large auction gallery to see who would offer the winning bid for Lewis Carroll’s...
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Pomp, Pageantry and a Parade: Celebrating the Constitution’s Centennial

With the thunder of a one hundred gun naval salute at precisely ten o’clock on the morning of Thursday, September 15, 1887, the nation’s centennial celebra­tion of the adoption of the United States Con­stitution opened with great fanfare in Philadelphia. The booming cannon blast from a naval squadron on the Delaware River launched three jubilant days of parades, military marches,...
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