“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Good books

I did some reading these past few days. First, I read "The Spanish Civil War" by Hugh Thomas again. People always say that if you look at the American Civil War, you'll find a lot of similarities in the lead up to events today. But I think the Spanish Civil War is much closer. On the one side, you had Socialists, the university students, communists, anarchists (think Libertarian on steriods), labor unions, and a whole array of left wing societies, clubs, and other organizations.

On the other side, you had most of the professional Spanish military, the church, the land owners, big business, and the bourgeoisie.

The Russians supplied and assisted the "Republicans" as the left called themselves. The Germans and Italians assisted the "Nationalists" under General Franco.

It was a war to the knife.  Each side shot prisoners as a matter of course, and Thomas thinks the number of people put up against the wall or simply shot in the bull rings or any other convenient place by both sides surpassed 500,000. That doesn't include battlefield causalities, just the liquidation of anyone associated with, or rumored to be associated with, the other side who had the bad luck to fall into the hands of their opponents.







I also read William Manchesters "The Last Lion."  It's one of my favorite books.  Churchill has always been a man for whom I have great respect.  Most books deal with him during that phase of his life when he was Prime Minister during WW2.  But people don't know that as a Lieutenant in the British Army, he fought in Afghanistan, the Sudan and South Africa. When I say fought I don't mean he was with the gear in the rear. He was out doing the hand to hand version, in both Afghanistan and Africa. In South Africa he was a correspondent and was involved in combat but that was not his primary concern there.



William Manchester was a Marine in the Pacific War, and he was up front , as an infantryman.  He was a great historian in his latter years, but psychologically he was severely damaged by his experiences during WW2 and he never got those issues under control.  At the end of his life, he went back to the islands where he served  and tried to straighten himself out.  When you read his book about that , "Goodbye Darkness" you can tell he wasn't successful. But at least he made the attempt.


Sometimes,  a few days with good books you really are interested in ,  in a congenial setting, is just what the doctor ordered.  I have noticed that I don't read new books much anymore, I tend to gravitate to those that I have read several times before.  Doesn't decrease my enjoyment of the reading, though.

14 comments:

  1. I read a lot, but tend to avoid most war books. Unless they are set in medieval times and are more about the time period than the war. I did love Catch 22 though. If you consider that a war book. I guess some would not.

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    1. I think Catch 22 is more of an anti-war book. But, like All Quiet on the Western Front, it's still a good read.

      I like military history, particularly the Crusades in time period that interests you.

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  2. Harry,
    If you have not yet read "West With The Night" by Beryl Markham, get yourself a copy.
    I read it about once a year. Ernest Hemingway had this to say about this particular book: "Did you read Beryl Markham's book, "West with the Night"? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and some times making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories, are absolutely true. . . . She omits some very fantastic stuff which I know about which would destroy much of the character of the heroine; but what is that anyhow in writing? I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book." He also thought she was an unpleasant b____, but that does not come through in the book. Beryl was a contemporary of Karen Blixen ( Out of Africa) and Denis Finch Hatten with whom she had a brief affair. You might find a really affordable copy at Abe Books on line. My favorite spot to buy used books on the cheap!
    Julie

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    1. Julie, I've never heard of Beryl Markham. If Hemingway didn't like her that's a point in her favor from my point of view. I'll see if I can find the book, maybe they have it for Kindle.

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    2. Ya, i never understood the near hero worship of Hemingway. Not really an admirable man all in all.

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  3. They all sound interesting! I like history.

    My parents handed us over some really old history story books. Some are adult ones, and some are children ones. I'm interested in old books, so I wanted the adult ones! Mica must have liked some of the kid ones. He's already read about Abe Lincoln and Johnny Appleseed. I know he wants books on Thomas Edison and Ben Franklin to.

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    1. Your son is advanced for his years in terms of subjects. When I was his age, I was reading about Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, et al. Ben Franklin is an interesting character. I don't know anything about Thomas Edison except he had a weird middle name like Alva.

      Most of what I read these days are histories. Churchill said the further into the past you go, the further into the future you can see. I believe it.

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  4. I was really, I don't know what word I am looking forward is, 'deflated' when I saw Winston Churchill grave. I felt that such a man deserved more. I know it is his families plot. But I think he needed more. I think all Veterans deserve more.

    From a different perspective if you ever wanted to read what it was like for a normal person or see the TV programme of the book, I have read many times, Nella Last, house wife 49. if you watch it, no more will people think it was some how glamourous. yes, people pulled together, but for many it was hell.

    There is also another book, called stranger in the house, which is also about when the men come home from years away and their kids and wives don't remember who they are, nigh on.

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    1. Well, I guess his real memorial is his place in history. His family goes back to before the English Civil War as "somebody" and there's still Blenheim.

      In the woods here there is a veterans cemetery. It's well kept up, but there's nothing out there and it's hard to get to. I have no idea who maintains it.

      The problem with people coming back from long service and not being able to reintegrate into the family is an old one. It's still going on. That book sounds like something I would like. I have not heard of Nella Last but I can probably find the book on Amazon unless it was never published here. Thanks for the heads up.

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    2. you can see the programme on you tube or iplayer. its about 1 woman who wrote a diary for the government for all of the war and well after I think up to the 1960's. I find all of it fascinating. I have my grand parents ration cards and ID

      it might be a bit girly for you as it is mostly from a womans view

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    3. I don't mind that. I'm interested in the home front, too.

      During WW2 my grandfather worked for the railroad. He was in the black market and was involved in stealing tires and things like that off the train and selling them. He got religion when he got old and regretted it. He told my brothers and me all about it, but when I told my mom she went spastic and said he never did any of that. Family history can be "revisionist" too.

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  5. Have you read Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars Of Wisdom'? Someone recommended it to me and I was hoping to get an opinion from someone who has read it.

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    1. Yes, I've read it. Might have been me who recommended it. He was "mad" but in a refreshing way and it's a great story.

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  6. Just wanted to plug Hillibrand's "Unbroken". Quite possibly the best WW2 survival story I have read. Looks to be a movie next year also.
    --Troy

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