What a small world we live in sometimes. I am currently reading Colonel David Hackworth’s “About Face.”. I was on a plane from Nashville to Chicago today and a kindly gentleman noticed what I was reading. He was a vet who served in a unit adjacent to Hackworth’s in the battle of Dak To. We spent the flight, much to the dismay of our neighbors, with him talling stories from the war and of Hack. I didn’t get any readin done on my book, but I think I learned more and gained more perspective by listening.Posted by Owen at 1533 hrs
I just finished reading The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I can’t believe I’ve never read it before, but I so rarely read fiction any more that it must have been an unfortunate oversight on my part. In any case, it’s a fantastic book and actually makes you appreciate the skill with which the movie was made even more.
Here’s a PSA for my fellow history buffs. If you haven’t read this book, go get it. One of the most amazing stories you’ll ever read.
Okay, who has it? Who wants it? Who doesn’t want anything to do with it?
Decision Points arrived on my Kindle this morning, and I’ve read just a short amount so far. I have never in my life bought an autobiography of a living person before, but I was intrigued by some of the comments made in President Bush’s interview last night with Matt Lauer and bought the book during the show.
Owen and I are always on the look out for “new” old books for our collection. In fact, we just added a book of Thomas Jefferson’s writings published in 1857. UWM is having a used book sale this week. Here’s the info:
The Friends of the Golda Meir Library will hold their fall used book sale October 11-13.
Over 6,000 books in a wide variety of genres — including contemporary fiction, foreign languages, history, literature, and poetry — will be offered. There will also be LPs available, mostly classical music.
The sale will be held in the fourth floor Conference Center of the library.
Days and hours are:
• Mon., Oct. 11, noon to 6 pm UWM students, faculty and staff only (with valid ID)
• Tue., Oct. 12, 10 am to 6 pm Open to the public
• Wed., Oct. 13, 10 am to 4 pm Open to the public
Prices of most items range from 25¢ to $3. On Wednesday, Oct. 13, a bag of books will cost just $3.
Proceeds benefit the UWM Libraries. For more information, call (414) 229-4786.
I’ve begun reading George III, A Personal History, by Christopher Hibbert. One of those fun little tidbits of history was revealed on the 8th page.
... the future King George III, was born on 4 June 1738 at a home in St. James’s Square rented from the Duke of Norfolk.
and in the footnote:
Norfolk House was demolished in 1938 and the present house, No. 31, was built on the site to the design of Messrs Gunton and Gunton. A plaque on the front of the building records that it was there that General Eisenhower formed the first Allied Force Headquarters, and planned the North African campaign of 1942 and the invasion on north-west Europe in 1944. There is no plaque recording the birth of King George III.
On an unrelated note, on page 43 the author is relating the voyage of the future queen to England. It references two of her companions as such:
These were the Duchess of Ancaster, her Mistress of the Robes, and the Duchess of Hamilton, First Lady of the Bedchamber, the discomfort of the first being exacerbated by her being pregnant and ‘subject to hysteric fits’, and of the other by concern for the lactation of the ass that she had insisted on taking aboard with her.
I googled “lactation of the ass” and the results were… unpleasant. Surely there is another meaning, but I can’t seem to uncover it. Does anyone know?
I love reading old books. One of the reasons I love it is because the writing is as interesting as the story being told. It reveals the perceptions, biases, and perspectives of the author and the time period as much as the information being conveyed. For example, I have a history book of WWI written in 1919. It has a vastly different perspective and uses starkly different language than one written in 1998.
I’m currently reading the Memoirs of Robert E. Lee. Of course, Marse Robert never wrote his memoirs, so it’s a bit of a misleading title. In fact, this is written by General A. L. Long, Lee’s longtime secretary and friend. Long wrote the memoir with the input of many of Lee’s contemporaries and after Long went blind. The original publishing date was 1887.
On page 61, in reference to the conclusion of the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Long writes:
The terms on which the peace was granted, as is well known, were highly advantageous to the United States, and perhaps in no just sense disadvantageous to Mexico, for the provinces which were ceded to the United States, though they have been raised to such a high value by Anglo-Saxon enterprise and energy, were almost worthless in the hands of the supine Mexicans.
(Do you see where I get my love of commas?) Agree with it or not, a sentence like that, would not be written in a modern history book. Old books are like two treasures in one.
The first volume covers the nomads to the last Roman emperor. The kids are just loving it. We’re about 2/3 of the way through the book, and we’re reading about the Roman gladiators. Before that, we learned about the Roman gods, and before that, Alexander the Great.
It’s written in a nice, kid-friendly style, but not in a way that treats them like dummies. When we see something interesting, we look for more info online or in other books. All of them look forward to reading “our book,” and it’s been rewarding to share this time together.
But we never would have even heard of the book if Cate hadn’t mentioned it. Thanks, Cate!Posted by Wendy at 2156 hrs
Posted by Wendy at 2102 hrs
Read Michael Caughill’s provocative new book, The Abortionist.
For the long version…Posted by Wendy at 1950 hrs
You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was “Din! Din! Din!
You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! slippery hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao!
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”
The uniform ‘e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ‘e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ‘eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted “Harry By!”
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ‘im ‘cause ‘e couldn’t serve us all.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?
You put some juldee in it
Or I’ll marrow you this minute
If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!”
‘E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ‘e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
‘E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.
With ‘is mussick on ‘is back,
‘E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made “Retire”,
An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide
‘E was white, clear white, inside
When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was “Din! Din! Din!”
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-files shout,
“Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!”
I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a’ been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
‘E lifted up my ‘ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ‘e guv me ‘arf-a-pint o’ water-green:
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
‘Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ‘is spleen;
‘E’s chawin’ up the ground,
An’ ‘e’s kickin’ all around:
For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!”
‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
“I ‘ope you liked your drink”, sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ‘im later on
At the place where ‘e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
As some of you might know, I read almost exclusively non-fiction, and 70%+ history. The latest book that I finished was Rick Atkinson’s “The Long Gray Line.” This is the fourth or fifth book of Atkinson’s that I’ve read. I consider him a brilliant writer, masterful storyteller, and informer extraordinaire.
After finishing the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I moved into my next book: Rosamond McKitterick’s “Charlemagne.” I have long been in search of a biography of Charlemagne that was worth a bucket of spit. Most of them are so riddled with legend and conjecture as to be no better than a fairytale written by Andersen (not that there’s anything wrong with fairy tales).
I’m about 50 pages into my new book and it is exceptionally detailed and excruciatingly sourced. So far, it’s what I’ve been looking for. But at the same time, it a laborious read. Instead of cruising through it like a dolphin through the surf, it’s more like pulling a plow through rocky soil with a lame ox.
It just goes to illustrate the incredible rarity of an author who can take detailed historical information and weave it into a story that’s a delight to read. Atkinson and McCullough come to mind.
I love to gain knowledge, but it’s so much nicer when it’s done in such an effortless manner.Posted by Owen at 2035 hrs
Well, it was in 1975, but it’s an entertaining story. This is from Rick Atkinson’s The Long Gray Line. For background, Ford is the chaplain at West Point (a civilian) and had a goal of sailing across the Atlantic. He bought the boat, but didn’t have money for everything else (life boat, food, radio, etc.). He struck a deal…
Again, Bucha stepped in. Bucha knew a certain Annapolis graduate, class of ‘53, who had done well for himself in the business world. In fact, the man was a billionaire, and he recently asked Bucha for a favor. The 1975 Army-Navy game was approaching; H. Ross Perot, the Texas industrial magnate, wanted to play a prank on his rivals at the Military Academy.
“Surely,” Perot insisted, “there is someone at West Point who is corruptible.”
“There is,” Bucha agreed. “The chaplain.”
Shortly after midnight on the eve of the big game - with embers from the pep rally bonfire still glowing on Abner Doubleday Field - Perot, Ford, and the academy bell ringer entered the chapel. Ford unlocked the main door and switched on the lights. On the table in front of the vestibule, Perot carefully placed his trademark Stetson. The three men climbed the winding stone staircase that led from the narthex to a long vault concealed above the nave ceiling. Clambering along a wooden catwalk that ran the length of the chapel, they came to a brick chamber directly above the alter. In the middle of the belfry sat a contraption with a dozen wooden handles. Slender cables connected the handles to seven tons of chapel bells in the loft overhead. “Here you go.” Ford said cheerfully, before backing into a hidden alcove beneath the eaves.
At 12:30 A.M., the tranquility of the Hudson Valley was shattered by the deafening peal of a tune that turned any decent Army man’s blood to froth:
Anchors, aweigh, my boys,
This unholy din was followed by “The Marine Hymn” - From the halls of Montezuuuu-ma, To the shores of Tripoli - and the obnoxious trill of “Sailing, Sailing.” Within minutes, hundreds of cadets raced up the hill from the barracks. Cursing and shrieking, they stormed into the chapel like avenging Crusaders, vowing to smite the interloper. Perot, who had locked the gate to the belfry, taunted them briefly before surrendering. The cadets manhandled him out of the chapel to the north portico, where they surrendered the intruder to the military policy. Ford crept from his hiding place just in time to see the flashing red lights of the MP car recede down the hill, hauling H. Ross Perot to jail.
The next day, after quietly obtaining Perot’s release, Ford held a special church service. The chapel, so heinously defiled by the infidel, was solemnly reconsecrated. (The chaplain’s true role in the affair remained secret for years.) And in exchange for Ford’s complicity, Perot happily paid the bill for a life raft, sextant, plane tickets to England, food, and the Sailor shortwave. “When I get to heaven,” Perot later said, chuckling, “I’m not so sure I’m gonna find Jim Ford there.”