Shameless Self-Promotion (wink)



Get out the kleenex!

Posted in Christmas stories, fiction, Holidays, Literary Classics, Literature, Santa Claus | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” – Mark Twain

Apologies, I’ve already posted this in previous years, but it’s so funny, so witty that I succumb to the urge to promote its hilarity once again. Twain is the quintessential smart aleck-y American writer and social critic, a real national treasure.

Margaret Langstaff

turkey hen


This is from a 1906 issue of Harpers magagine.  Twain’s dry wit and lame brained (fake) susceptibility to always be out witted by any animal that ever tread the earth (so sweet, amusing) is in full flower here. Mama Turkey I can vouch for; yes, she is cunning, sly and usually makes fools out of her hunters (these ladies are all over my pasture every day, prancing, preening and eluding would be assassins!)

Yes, you guessed it, The Complete Works of Mark Twain from the Library of America arrived! All seven volumes. What a happy antidote to the universal unease and malaise in today’s fiction.

Twain’s youthful flummoxing at Mama Turkey’s wingtips is hilarious.  He so obviously respects her and doesn’t really want to shoot her!  And he’ll never eat a sardine again.


Hunting the Deceitful Turkey

By Mark Twain

Harper’s Monthly (Dec. 1906): 57-58.

When I…

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America Burning

burning flag


Okay, seriously.

In the last several months, my life has been strangely on hold in a sort of suspended animation as I became progressively more obsessed with the news, especially national political news.

My eyes have become stuck like suction cups to my computer and TV screens in glassy shock at what is unwinding in Washington. It’s put me in a hypnotized state of fear and dread similar to the effect of events in classical Greek tragedy. I have become riveted, frozen and fascinated at what is happening. Like so many thousands of Americans of every political persuasion, hue or situation, I am horrified and apprehensive at the seemingly hopeless inevitability of the doom awaiting the principle characters in our national drama and the corresponding civilian little people like you and me.

It’s been impossible to tear myself away. My work and social life have suffered as I intuitively responded to a higher call. Since the presidential election of last year, I have sat dumbstruck, paralyzed, and almost catatonic at the shameless trampling and desecration of basic American rights and values. Yes, in plain sight, in broad daylight, on camera, with no one gutsy or effective enough to ride in to the rescue.

“We the People,” like a Greek chorus, could only moan and mourn from the sidelines at what Fate had in store for the main characters. (I would call them heroes, as is the custom, but there are no heroes here).

           “Fake President”

trump hugging flag

For the fifth century Greeks, their busy whimsical mythology provided the basis or landscape and schadenfreude for their drama, which was a cultural and societal event that served to enlighten and purge the dread from the audience which itself was subject to the terrors of Fate.

In our case, the Constitution, the Judiciary, and our shared American history, if you will recall, form the bedrock foundation for our national drama and function as the guardians of our freedom and way of life. To our horror, decent citizens are enduring a daily drama of smirking violation and desecration of our sacred documents and form of government as they are piecemeal destroyed before our eyes as we watch stupefied from the sidelines. Today it’s a rara avis in Washington who has ever read the most revered and central documents of these United States, much less understood them. The prevailing ignorance afoot in D.C. among our elected officials is an embarrassment to all thinking citizens. The daily disrespect shown to the basic ethos of what it means to be an American, the degradation of our heretofore unassailled core beliefs, is astounding and  unthinkable just five years ago.

No joke, friends, the barbarians are at the gate.

On and on the travesties go. Now, even after ten months of these increasingly crude disgraceful attacks, I am still chilled and infuriated by each new assault on our judicial system and civil liberties. They are unrelenting, ever more numerous, and show no signs of abating. Cumulatively, if they continue unopposed, they will undermine our republic and transform it into—what? An oligarchy? A dictatorship? A laughingstock before other nations of the world?

Once that would have been a far-fetched if not ludicrous idea. No more.

Yet we continue to blink in disbelief as this apocalyptic scenario plays out everywhere in the media, and ask ourselves, doubting what we see and hear, is this really happening? How can this be happening? I never dreamed—did you? that our electoral and legal systems were so fragile they were vulnerable to a frontal attack by a manifest moron. Did you?

But there you go! Isn’t life grand and full of surprises?

What really curls my hair is the grinning self-righteous hypocrisy of the GOP as it tries to use Trump as a sock puppet to further its own agendas, shamelessly acting as a giant shill for the top two percent of the most wealthy segment of our society.

But enough belly-aching. It’s time to do something about this. Time to get off the couch and go for it. Every adult American citizen with a pulse has a duty to get fired up, extend him/herself, get involved, and protest the warping of our laws and the profaning of the tenets upholding our way of life. It’s a civic duty, a mandatory civic duty, to protect–to fight for– the rule of law, our civil rights and the separation of powers.

This isn’t a responsibility any decent American can shun. For with the privilege of having American citizenship and enjoying basic American freedoms and liberties come ethical and moral responsibilities, which must be discharged in the public sphere.

Procrastination in assuming this responsibility could spell death to the United States and the American way of life. Today, right now, pick up the phone, send emails and write angry letters to your congressional representatives, write letters to the editor and op-ed pieces expressing your outrage, your  justifiable objections to the way things are going. Call the scoundrels out! Better yet, show up at their offices unannounced with a laundry list of grievances. Organize, get organized, and join up with the many opposition groups that have formed to root out this rot before it undermines everything we are and what we stand for!

Run for office. Support and get out and vote for honorable trustworthy candidates.

We all know there is strength in numbers of like-minded citizens joining forces for the common good. We can beat this if we will. We can turn it around. However, it will take great political will to redeem our country from the rapacious thugs. And heroes, many heroes.

So what are we waiting for? We can’t afford to let the treasonous pols become any more entrenched. Come on, let’s go! We’re burning daylight just sitting here. #




Posted in America, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

A Bit of Advice

A friend of mine sent this to me recently. BE THEGIRL ON THE RIGHT copy I can’t imagine why.

Posted in book reviewing, Editing, Literature, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

In the Game of Life, Bad Spelling is Like Bad Breath

Why You Should Bother About Spelling

I love the BBC.  They are so smart and always take time to do things right. They dot their I’s and cross their T’s, you know what I mean?.

I stumbled on this excellently reasoned and well substantiated piece on the perils of bad spelling on the BBC site today. If you think it’s not a big deal any more in this age of rampant typos facilitated by the dumbing-down  of social media, you are dead wrong.


As an editor I get darn tired of correcting spelling mistakes and lecturing writers about the importance of correct spelling, but, hey, it comes with the territory. Now I can at least save my breath, if not my red ink, by referring morphological derelicts to this masterpiece (link above) on the horrendous toll bad spelling can take on a life.

As in covfefe. Saaaad.


Posted in Editing, Literature, Margaret Langstaff Editorial, online communication, Spelling, writing | 9 Comments

Emily Dickinson’s Summer Reveries

(c) Copyright 2017 Margaret Langstaff, All Rights Reserved

Summer, The Dickinson Homestead, Amherst, Mass.

dickinson garden small

Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved and misunderstood poets was an astute observer and student of the natural world.  Nature’s changing pageantry, big bold and colorful depending on the season, was just outside her windows and just beyond the door. This was the 19th century; most Americans were still engaged in farming, horse- and-buggy was a common mode of transportation, and everyone had a kitchen garden and a flower garden.  Spring and Fall, planting and harvesting, were considered joyful times, times of celebrations and festivals marking nature’s bountiful fecundity and its reliable cycling through the underlying mysteries of birth, fruitfulness, decline and death, only to begin again.

Emily kept her eagle eye on this ever-changing scene, alternately mystified, rhapsodic, and pensive at what passed before and near the Dickinson Homestead. Not much escaped her line of sight that did not inspire her to record her impressions and interpretations in verse.  The natural parade of different multi-colored foliage, “slants of light” and the distinctive sound and sense of each season were on the one hand mighty in themselves, and on the other hand deftly used by the poet as metaphors, figures of speech–even as allegories.

Of all the seasons, Summer held particular fascination for the poet because it was the apex, the high point of the growing season, and wherever one looked there were vistas of ripening grain and lush green crops, images of the invisible hand of Providence supplying the provisions necessary for the continuation of life for another year.

In a tribute of sorts to Dickinson’s  innovative surprising “nature” poems, I feel honor bound as a life-long Dickinson understudy to exhibit them now and then, and to present, maybe introduce new readers for the first time to the teeming kaleidoscopic wonder of the world outside Dickinson’s family home. Some parts of them may seem somewhat obscure or her meaning opaque or enigmatic, but these poems repay frequent re-reading and soon unlock their secrets, yielding new and bountiful ways of seeing and feeling.



Further in Summer than the Birds
Pathetic from the Grass
A minor Nation celebrates
Its unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen
So gradual the Grace
A pensive Custom it becomes
Enlarging Loneliness.

Antiquest felt at Noon
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify

Remit as yet no Grace
No Furrow on the Glow
Yet a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now


[More to come.]


Posted in American Literature, Emily Dickinson Poetry, Literary Classics, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged , | 2 Comments

From the new and edgy digital mag “Real Life”

Worth Reading. Warning: Thought required.

“All My Ghosts”

The intensity and immediacy of online correspondence accelerate the intimacy of relationships — and the ghosting

A digital pen pal is not so different from a pen pal who uses ink. As the nuclear family is no longer the main formation for cohabitation, as villages bleed into suburbs of big cities, there are so many new ways of getting in touch, and we can keep a far greater number of people around for longer, and never be entirely sure, when they disappear, that they’ve disappeared for good. Throughout history, there have been relationships based mostly or entirely on correspondence, often stretching over months or years — certainly by the Victorian era, letter-writing had become a part of daily life. …. more

Posted in Digital Correspondence, Digital Journalism, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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