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Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:57

Zombie lore, one bite at a time

If you are literate and moderately aware of what passes for entertainment in film, popular novels and comics, then you are acquainted with of the strange “zombie” craze that is currently dominating much of the popular arts. In recent years,…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 13:39

To be (born) or not to be

Since reading Ben Wattenberg’s The Birth Dearth 25 years ago, the subject of demography has fascinated me. This past week I finished Jonathan Last’s What To Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster (ISBN 978-1-59403-641-5, $23.99), a look…
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:01

1967 novel sheds light on obscure mass drowning

In recent years, I have become interested in an obscure incident that occurred in Jackson County in 1882 — the accidental drowning of 19 chain gang convicts who were working on Cowee Tunnel near Dillsboro. Who were they? Where did…
William Manchester, author of a number of best-selling books, including The Death of A President, American Caesar, and Goodbye, Darkness, spent nearly 30 years writing a three-volume biography of Winston Churchill. Still a young man when I read the first…
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 16:04

Rash’s Appalachia is both rich and flawed

Ron Rash’s latest collection of short stories echos a theme that runs through all of his works: an awareness that Appalachia is in transition, that it is becoming something else. Of course, this is a quality that is shared by all things…
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 13:49

An insightful look at guerilla warfare

Since the Second World War, Americans have lived by the old dictum that only the dead have seen the end of war. For almost 70 years we have served as the world’s policeman, opposing the Soviet Union in a cold…
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:41

The unforgettable life of Nancy Silver

Recently, when I was surfing through a depressing collection of nighttime TV programs — religious rants, psychics, cooking shows and weight loss commercials — I stopped on a “true crime” channel with a provocative title: “Dangerous Women.” Before I could punch…
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 19:48

To bee or not to be

With its title Colony Collapse Disorder taken from a recent mysterious collapse of honeybee populations in North America, Keith Flynn’s new collection of poems, while being entirely prescient in terms of the current social-political-economic situation here in the U.S., is…
They were known as the West Memphis Three: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., three teenagers who were accused of murdering three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas in 1993. Their trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony and public…
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 13:28

History of Cherokee War is top notch

We Americans sometimes forget how new we are to the history of the world. Here in Western North Carolina, for example, we live like other Americans. We drive cars on expressways, live in towns and cities, buy or build homes…
Mark Powell’s The Dark Corner is probably the best Appalachian novel that I have read in the last decade. It is also the most disturbing. In this, his third novel, Powell captures both the natural beauty of northwestern South Carolina and…
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 01:48

For your culinary and reading pleasure

Most booklovers have suffered that “Oh, no” moment when a friend, with nothing but the best of intentions, presses an unfamiliar book into their hands with the words, “Read this — you’ll love it.” We receive the book with a…
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 00:00

A rural bookstore that beat the odds

“Bookshops are magic.” This quotation, buried in the middle of Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book (ISBN 978-1-250-01063-6, $24.99), could serve as the banner…
Stephen Dobyns has written 20 novels and more than 10 volumes of poetry; however, he is difficult to “classify.” His writing is praised by big league names as varied as Francine Prose and Stephen King, but he is most famous for…
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00

A fast look at a few worthwhile tomes

Here they are, books yammering for review: a hillock of books on the floor by the desk; more books stacked on the desk itself, squeezed between a basket of spectacles and a coffee cup filled with pens and pencils, the…
My decision to read this “docudrama” (part memoir, part history and part detective story) was prompted by my genuine wish to gain a better understanding of the history of racial conflicts and violent conformations that took place in North Carolina…
Wednesday, 16 May 2007 00:00

The first lady of the South

First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis’s Civil War by Joan E. Cashin. Belknap Press, 2006. Civil wars are marked by a bitterness and a bloodlust that go beyond their conventional counterparts. The vicious fighting in Iraq serves as only…
First, the tomatoes. Then the applause. Rob Neufeld’s Mountains, Heroes & Hootnoggers: A Popular History of Western North Carolina (The History Press, ISBN 978-1-59629-183-6, $19.95) is not, as its title suggests, a popular history of Western North Carolina, but is…
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 00:00

Southern Comfort

Cornbread Nation 2 by Lolis Eric Elie. The University of North Carolina Press, 2007. In the last 50 years, home cooking has given way to frozen meals, microwaves, and fast foods. Restaurants in many cities are jammed, even on weekdays,…
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 00:00

Livingroom predators

Relentless Enemies: Lions and Buffalo by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. National Geographic, 2006. 176 pages. Four years ago, my family visited the Knoxville Zoo. It was February, and the cool weather seemed to make the animals unusually active, particularly the…
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 00:00

Heir to the King

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. William Morrow, 2007. 376 pages Although both the publisher and the author of Heart-Shaped Box seem reluctant to admit that Joe Hill is actually the son of Stephen King, there is ample evidence to support…
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 00:00

Today’s writing smacks of sameness

The 1920s were a golden age for American fiction and poetry. F. Scott Fizgerald helped give the decade its name — the Jazz Age — and another writer, Thomas Wolfe, capped off the decade with his masterpiece, Look Homeward, Angel.
Wednesday, 04 April 2007 00:00

Stories from the dead

In the small Southern community where she lives, Finch Nobles, the narrator of A Gracious Plenty, easily qualifies as a “quare woman.” Disfigured by a household accident at the age of 4 (a pot of boiling water), Finch finds that…
Wednesday, 28 March 2007 00:00

The rise and rise of the American empire

H.W. Crocker’s Don’t Tread On Me: A 400-Year History of America at War, from Indian Fighting to Terrorist Hunting gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly versions of popular history.
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 00:00

War can be murder

Recently, a distressing bit of information surfaced on CNN about the war in Iraq. There has been a significant increase in the number of civilian rapes and murders in Iraq and Iran (and correspondingly in West Africa). New evidence indicates…
Wednesday, 14 March 2007 00:00

Fascinating as Lewis himself

Among Christians, C.S. Lewis has a reputation that runs in several directions. As the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and a shelf of other novels, apologetic works, and Renaissance studies, Lewis…
Back in the 15th century, when Europe underwent a remarkable surge in creativity, the word “Renaissance” (meaning “rebirth”) was frequently applied to England, Germany, Italy and France where music, art, literature and the sciences were suddenly thriving.
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 00:00

Thankfully, some books are short

Ludie’s Life by Cynthia Rylant. Harcourt Children's Books, 2006. 128 pages. Sometimes bad things come in small packages.
In The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer, and Throttle Your Inner Child (ISBN 0-465-05486-2), renowned neuropsychologist Paul Pearsall turns a jaundiced eye to the world of self-help books.
Wednesday, 21 February 2007 00:00

Locked away

Coventry by Joseph Bathanti. Novello Festival Press, 2006. 261 pages. When 30-year-old Calvin Gaddy finds himself working as a guard in Coventry Prison, he is plagued by the memory of the promise he had made to his mother: that he…
Wednesday, 14 February 2007 00:00

Two outta three ain’t bad

Snow and falling temperatures — we’ve had little of the former this winter, and some of the latter — provide for book lovers the same pleasures as the sand and sun at the beach. Both meteorological extremes grant their own…
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 00:00

The Stone Raft: Surreal of so real

If you remember those wonderful fairy tales in which the hero acquires the aid of “helpers” in their journey to acquire some prize — usually, three or four creatures with remarkable powers — then you have the basic plot of…
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 00:00

History 2 - Food 1

The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days that Changed the Nation by Howard Means. Harcourt, 2006. 304 pages Americans are often of two minds in regard to history. Henry Ford once famously proclaimed that “History is…
Wednesday, 24 January 2007 00:00

Revenge rising

Well, dear readers, modern pop fiction’s most famous killer, Hannibal the Cannibal, has quietly returned. For those of you who thought you had seen the last of Thomas Harris’ deadly (but cultured) gourmet murderer, brace yourselves.
Wednesday, 17 January 2007 00:00

Snowed in and booked up

“I never trusted happiness,” Robert Duvall says in “Tender Mercies.” I have begun to feel the same way about vacations.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard. $12.95 – 288 pages. Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. New York: Doubleday and Company. $22.95 – 292 pages.
Wednesday, 03 January 2007 00:00

Steps towards manhood

I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan. Gotham, 2006. 208 pages. Dear Chris, Your questions about manhood and manliness following your first semester at the university, questions raised in the light of discussions both inside…
Wednesday, 20 December 2006 00:00

Frankly eye-opening

Militant Islam in America by Marshall Frank. Fortis Books, 2006. 198 pages. This morning (Dec. 9), I sat down to write my next review for this paper. Before writing, I often scout out several familiar Web sites while I think…
Wednesday, 13 December 2006 00:00

A darkness that resides

Coronado by Dennis Lehane. William Morrow Publishers, 2006. $24.95 — 232 pages.
Wednesday, 06 December 2006 00:00

Christmas stories aloud

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Penguin - 6th edition, 2006. 432 pages Of course, we cannot all read aloud with the same success as Charles Dickens, who brought not only Macready but entire audiences to outbursts of tears and…
Wednesday, 06 December 2006 00:00

Recommended diversions

Stand on Zanzibar In 1968, a British science fiction writer named John Brunner wrote a novel, a 50-year projection into the future entitled Stand on Zanzibar. Already the noted author of such books as The Crucible of Time and The…
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 00:00

Morgan conjures the past with a poet skill

Robert Morgan has a rare and cunning gift: he can sift through the detritus of the past, pluck objects and images from his memory (especially his childhood) and elevate them to the point where they become — in the sense…
Wednesday, 29 November 2006 00:00

Atypical King

Stephen King has written more than 40 novels now — books that are classified in the “horror/thriller/fantasy genre.” King is especially adept at molding plots that incorporate one or more trendy topics (serial killers, the paranormal, pyromania, schizophrenia, child abuse,…
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 13:48

The power of books to change lives

Here are the true stories of some young people, all of them still under the age of 35. For the sake of anonymity, we will call the young people Lisa and Mike, Kevin and Laura, Patrick and Emily, and Michael…
There is something about carnivals, amusement parks and shoddy summer circus operations that inspire a special kind of supernatural tale. Certainly, a reader who has read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) or Charles G. Finney’s classic work,…
In The Bridge (ISBN 978-1-4516-4701-3, $19.99), Karen Kingsbury treats readers to a tale of romance and tribulation centered on a bookstore in Franklin, Tenn. Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly meet at Nashville’s Belmont University, where they become best friends.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 13:57

Crowe wins prestigious poetry award

Tuckasegee poet Thomas Crowe won the George Scarborough Prize for Poetry during the recent Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.  The winning poem was “Here With Who-Shot-John.” Judge Maurice Manning has this to say about…
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 13:55

Oil thicker than blood in Texas

Reviewers of Philipp Meyer’s new novel, The Son (ISBN 978-0-06-212039-7, 561 pages, $27.99) have compared his epic story of the West to books as varied as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Blood Meridian, and Lonesome Dove. His account of Texas…
Wednesday, 17 July 2013 15:02

The hard truth about the Cold War

We Americans like to sidle around the truth nowadays, which we do by labeling ourselves relativists. Like Pontius Pilate, we ask “What is truth?” with the implication being that truth exists only in the eye of the beholder. In the…
Wednesday, 22 November 2006 00:00

Crucial issues facing America

Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad by Lorenzo Vidino. Prometheus Books, 2005. 403 pages. The Democrats now own the Congress.
Wednesday, 15 November 2006 00:00

A ghost in the city of angels

Ask the Dust by John Fante. Black Sparrow Press. $13 (paperback) — 165 pages. Back in Charles Bukowski’s youth (the 1940s), he spent most of his time wandering aimlessly about the skid-row sections of Los Angles in an inebriated funk.…
Wednesday, 08 November 2006 00:00

Occupational reading

Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers by Amy Stewart. Algonquin Books, 2006. 320 pages. Beginning a new occupation — whether as a grocery store cashier or a police officer, a teacher or…
Wednesday, 01 November 2006 00:00

Smith thrills in his new dark suspense

“The Ruins does for Mexican vacations what Jaws did for New England beaches.” — Stephen King The Ruins by Scott Smith. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 319 pages.
Wednesday, 25 October 2006 00:00

Sifting through the stack

For many people, autumn means more than colorful leaves and blue, crisp days. For them fall is, like spring, a time for cleaning, a time for putting the house in order for the winter. Homeowners clean the dead grass off…
Wednesday, 18 October 2006 00:00

Ashes to ashes

Before Cormac McCarthy’s nameless father and son have ventured more than a few yards down The Road, we realize that something is terribly wrong with their world. The only sound, other than the shuffling gait of these two creatures and…
Wednesday, 11 October 2006 00:00

Evolution in Europe

While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within by Bruce Bawer. Doubleday, 2006. 256 pages — $23.95 "If every young European could spend a year living with an American family and attending an American school, all…
Thirty some years ago, my wife and I announced to my mother that we were expecting our first child. After giving her enthusiastic congratulations, my mother said to me, “Well, having a baby will certainly bring some big changes into…
Wednesday, 04 October 2006 00:00

The way things could have been

Back some 30 years ago when I still had some tenuous claim to academic respectability (I taught literature), my teaching sometimes included the study of “picaresque novels.”
Wednesday, 27 September 2006 00:00

Truer and grittier

If you remember Charles Portis’ wonderful 1968 novel, True Grit (and the subsequent Kim Darby/John Wayne film), you are likely to have a nostalgic regard for plucky Arkansas teenagers who just get up and go on when life smacks them…
Priscille Sibley’s The Promise of Stardust (ISBN 978-0-06-219417-6, 399 pages, $15.99) is a fine first novel by a woman who works as a neonatal intensive care nurse. This fact regarding Sibley is important, as she brings her knowledge of medicine…
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 13:00

Prickly but also extremely insightful

On June 24, 1993, David Gelernter, then an associate professor of computer science at Yale University, opened a package in his office that exploded, tearing off most of his right hand and damaging his hearing and eyesight. Gelernter, who had…
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 13:50

Tragic realism makes for a riveting read

Let me begin by saying that this is a remarkable novel, and I suspect that it will be around for a long time as critics debate its literary significance. In fact, there are passionate debates in some of the current…
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 13:53

Miracles and the miraculous in everyday life

Every once in a while, we encounter a situation so strange and so far removed from the natural order of things that we label the event a “miracle.” (In my own case, this would involve getting eight straight hours of…
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 14:41

A realistic, refreshing look at teaching

For most students, parents, and teachers, autumn rather than spring is the season of budding growth, new life, and hope.
By Newton Smith • Contributor Gary Carden, local bard, playwright, host of the Liars Bench and reviewer for The Smoky Mountain News, has once again come up with a surprising publication. 
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 14:42

The lost West in all its violent glory

I have always had a fondness for great, sprawling epics, especially if they chronicle the downfall of a family/dynasty that acquired great power and wealth only to destroy themselves through ruthless acts involving betrayal, greed and arrogance. Invariably, they build mansions, acquire…
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 14:18

New Burke novel is not to be

In Light of the World (ISBN 978-1-4767-1076-1, $27.99), James Lee Burke once again gives readers writing cut and polished like a fine diamond. Unfortunately, what he actually has to say and the story he has to tell is so flawed…
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 15:09

Another AT book, but a new set of lessons

An online visit reveals hundreds of books written on hiking the Appalachian Trail. These range from Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, which is the witty account of a man who hiked part of the trail, to Bill Walker’s…
Jim Harrison is an American phenomenon. Not only has he written more than 30 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction — the last category includes a fine cookbook, The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, and a…
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 02:40

A warts and all biography of a WNC original

I first encountered Robert Henry’s name some 30 years ago in Lyman Draper’s account of the Battle of Kings Mountain (Oct. 7, 1780). Robert (who was either 13 or 14 years old at the time) had been wounded when a British…
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 13:43

Some old-fashioned lessons for living

Google books on parenting, and you will find thousands — tens of thousands — of titles. There are books on parenting boys, books on parenting girls, books on parenting toddlers, adolescents, and teens, books on parenting the chubby and the…
I am convinced that author Daniel Woodrell is what is frequently referred to as “a writer’s writer.” In other words, although he may enjoy considerable popularity from the general public, it is other writers who speak with both envy and…
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 02:01

To those teachers who exacted excellence

Book reviews shouldn’t begin with dedications. But with Strings Attached (ISBN 978-1-4013-2466-7, $24.99) being the book under review, I feel compelled to commence by issuing a few long-overdue honorifics:
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 02:47

Vintage King is a frightening prospect

It has been more than 30 years since Stephen King published The Shining, but I still remember that little kid, Danny Torrance peddling his tricycle down the halls of the Overlook Hotel, and although the Overlook is supposed to be…
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 14:32

Hays’ new book succeeds on several levels

In What I Came To Tell You (Egmont Publishers, ISBN 9781606844335, $16.99), local author Tommy Hayes brings us the story of 12-year-old Grover Johnston, his family and his friends. 
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:00

Tarrt delivers once again — a decade later

I first encountered a Donna Tartt novel some 20 years ago when a friend reverently placed a copy of The Secret History (1992) in my hands, and said, “You will never forget this one.” 
By Joe Ecclesia My name is Joe Ecclesia, and I have a bone the size of an elephant’s thigh to pick with one of your reviewers, Jeff Minick. For 12 years or so, I have known Mr. Minick. We’ve shared…
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:24

‘Green’ text more relevant today than ever

Although this book was published over a decade ago, A Fierce Green Fire has grown steadily in popularity and is currently receiving maximum exposure, both as a required text in environmental courses in universities and as a provocative film which…
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 15:31

Santa and reindeer and drones… Oh my!

I was never a fan of drone missiles. Until now, I had always regarded drones as killing machines or mechanical spies. Their deployment by the military to eradicate enemies associated with terrorism does reduce our own casualties to zero, but during…
The times in which we live may someday be celebrated for our advancements in medicine, technology and education, but surely some future historian will designate our voluble times as the Age of Revelation.
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 00:00

Koch novel a hearty serving of words, plot

Back in 1981, a provocative film called “My Dinner With Andre” created quite a stir by reducing drama to the bare essentials. For more than two hours (an earlier version was three hours in length), two intelligent, gifted, but very…
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00

The remaking of a learned writer

The new year is a time when many people, dissatisfied with some condition of their lives, resolve to make changes. Often these attempted transformations involve shedding weight or unwanted habits like smoking or drinking. Depending on all sorts of variables…
In Voyage To Alpha Centauri (Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-1-58617-832-1), Michael O’Brien, Canadian writer and painter, gives us a grand tale of a space voyage to Alpha Centauri, the star closest to our own solar system. Voyage puts us on board…
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 15:21

Slave narratives an insightful collection

This remarkable collection of interviews with African-Americans in North Carolina who were once slaves is a fascinating discovery. Conducted by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930’s, the participating writers and researchers interviewed ex-slaves wherever they found them. All of the…
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:20

Raising youth in the digital age

Four years ago in November, a schoolteacher in Knoxville asked her English class to write a composition on family dinner together. With two exceptions, the class — a racially mixed, lower income group of students — hooted at her in…
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 15:40

‘Night Film’ is a tiring yet mesmerizing read

I did not like this book. My first response on finishing it was that I would not review it, but there is a paradox here. The author has an enviable and encyclopedic knowledge of the history of film, and this book is…
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:03

Mailer — a man of his time and shaper of it

In the Prologue to Norman Mailer: A Double Life (978-1-4391-5019-1, 2013, $40), biographer J. Michael Lennon writes that “Mailer’s desire for fame, and his distaste for it, never abated over his long career. Nor did his ability to determine how…
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:49

Of rhyme and reason, for better or worse

Poetry. Po-e-tree. A word with a lovely sound, but with bleak connotations.
I have always been fascinated by the folklore attending the too-short life of Robert Johnson, “King of the Delta Blues Singers.” For me, he was another doomed genius like James Dean, John Keats and Hank Williams — men who flashed…
Some books — novels, certain histories and biographies — deserve full immersion. We dive into them, plummet into their depths, swim through them from first page to last, and return to shore refreshed and satisfied by our explorations.
“Chick-lit” is, of course, the slang expression for those books appealing especially to women. Though not politically correct, most men and women use this moniker when thinking of romance novels, most Christian fiction, books that address feelings (Men Are From…
Some 30 years ago, a science-fiction writer named Whitney Striber wrote a novel called Wolfen, and it frightened me badly. The basic premise was that humanity had no purpose other than to provide a dependable food source for a terrifying species…
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:17

A well-written, lively look through history

In the first half of the fifteenth century, decades before Columbus set sail, the great Chinese admiral Zheng He commanded a fleet that seven times sailed across the Indian Ocean and reached the shores of East Africa. This talented admiral…
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 14:37

Bleak story has far-reaching implications

Russell Banks knows how to hook the reader’s interest. In the opening pages of Lost Memory of Skin, the book’s protagonist (known only as “The Kid”) enters the public library in Calusa (Miami) and asks the woman at the desk…
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 13:55

Curmudgeon offers words of wisdom

May is fast approaching, and with May comes the season of graduations. Daughters and sons, nephews and nieces, young people we’ve cherished for one reason or another: they’re about to embark on the next journey in their life, and we…
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

A story in which nothing is as it seems

Early in this novel, an old retired teacher with Alzheimer’s, mistaking a visitor for his son, gives the young man a copy of a novel by Charles Brockton Brown and suggests that he read it. The novel is Wieland (1798,)…
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 14:39

The Jane Goodall of sea turtles

As I write this, I am wondering if I should disqualify myself from writing a review about a book written by someone I know. But in this case I must write, and trying to be objective, let you know that…
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:25

The excitement in a bag full of books

Recently I returned from a trip to the library with a bagful of books. When handling these books in the library, flipping through the pages and reading the blurbs, I experienced a familiar excitement, that thrill felt by all booklovers…
In recent years, I have developed a growing discomfort with the Internet. Services like Facebook, Amazon, Linked-in have become increasingly ... well, personal. They want to know how I am doing, mentally and physically (at times they sound like a…
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