Monday, November 24, 2008

Blogging Lull, Reading

Blogging productivity has been down of late. So sorry, but what with disappointment over the admittedly not unexpected outcome of the election; the financial conniption; real life; and a generalized desire for 2008 to just be done with, I haven't wanted to write much. But I'm sure this will change.
Meanwhile, I am presently trying to finish reading Shelby Foote's The Civil War. These are beautifully written books -- so well done and worth the attention of anybody really interested in this subject. Probably the best general work out there. I am in the middle of the last of three volumes. Volume III has been slower than normal sledding for me, because the subject is the fall of the Confederacy, and my own sympathies are very Southern. Despite the somewhat dampening nature, for me, of Mr. Foote's subject matter in Volume III, I confess to paying closer attention, with maps and order of battle close by, when the story gets back to Sherman's campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas, which was what won the war for the North.
Sherman figures a good deal in Volume III of Foote -- as well he should -- he won the war for the Union. Much as the thought makes my ancestors propeller in their graves someplace, I think William T. Sherman was an exceptionally good general, certainly the best that his side produced. Sherman properly used the superior resources his side gave him; did not shrink from making war on the Confederate home front -- the only strategy which would work; did not complain overmuch to his superiors about political and resource constraints above his pay-grade; paid close attention to the political implications of strategy; learned from his mistakes, and did not repeat them.
I'm also re-reading Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series of books, about the fall of the Roman Republic. I've worked through the earlier books and am presently finishing up The October Horse, which I previously reviewed, here. I love these books: they are among my favorite works of historical fiction, and unusual because, although fiction, they stick fairly closely to what we think happened, and fill in gaps in our knowledge with reasonable inferences. It probably helps that Ms. McCullough's perspectives as to heroes and villains are pretty close to my own.
In 2007, Ms. McCullough finally heeded the demands of fans and published Antony and Cleopatra, a badly needed sequel to October Horse. October Horse left off with the destruction of Caesar's assassins and their faction at the Battle of Philippi. A and C takes up the story after Philippi: when the winners of that war, Caesar's adoptive son Octavian (better known to us as Augustus) and Mark Antony, have their prolonged estrangement and falling-out. The ending is well known -- Augustus becomes undisputed master of the Roman world after Actium, and Queen Cleopatra gets the asp -- but it didn't have to necessarily be that way. The smart money might well have gone with Cleopatra's boyfriend Antony.
I haven't read this book yet, and (being curious what Ms. McCullough would do with the subject) I've have been very much looking forward to it. I thought I would re-read the others first, and that objective is almost accomplished, and perhaps I can start A and C this week.
Beyond that, El Jefe has a few other books on the reading list waiting for some attention: Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar: Life of a Colossus; Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy; and either Philip Dwyer's Napoleon: The Path to Power, or General Sir David Fraser's Frederick the Great ; and, for something lighter, Jonathan Kellerman's Compulsion (the latest of his Alex Delaware mysteries in paperback).

1 comment:

Donald Douglas said...

Fabulous reading list!

I should be reading that stuff!