Friday, November 2, 2018

No Spoilers, Please!

I hate reading cliffhangers. In fact, I prefer to buy a whole series at once to make sure I don't have to deal with cliffhangers.

That doesn't always work. Sometimes the hype is too great, and sometimes I get lured in, not knowing I will be waiting in suspense for a year while an author does his/her job.

One of my most tense experiences was with Phillip Pullman. I started reading The Golden Compass, because a student of mine was reading it and her weekly reading journal was so wacky, I had to find out if she really was understanding the book. (She was.) After that, I had to suffer waiting first for The Subtle Knife and then The Amber Spyglass.

I really appreciate J.K Rowling for ending each Harry Potter book with a sense of completion. The reader knows more trouble awaits, but nobody is in immediate peril at the end of a book.

Of course, suspense and  a feeling of longing to get back into the world of a book was not what I expected from a non-fiction series about politics before the Civil War.

I've recently read A Self Made Man and Wrestling with His Angel by Sidney Blumenthal. He is writing a series of books about the life of Abraham Lincoln and his development as a person and politician.

The books are compelling and complicated. Blumenthal's goal is to explain the entire political life of the nation in the fifty years leading up to the Civil War. The second book ended in the 1850s at the birth of the Republican Party and during a time when Lincoln is doing well as a lawyer and as a supporter of others' campaigns, but is frustrated in his own political ambitions.

I only have two issues with the book so far.

The first is probably my problem. I am really struggling to juggle all the names, so many names, so many old white men. (Not that my own politics are leaking into my reading.) I know my brain is absorbing less than half of what is available. Maybe a young adult version of the series will be written some day so I can read again and review.

The other criticism is more legitimate. There is a whole chapter about the Mormon War" in Illinois because both political parties (Democrat and Whig at the time) competed for the Mormon vote and all politicians had opinions about and positions on these strange people who were becoming a large chunk of the new state's population.

The Lincolns shared a love for attending the theater.
As he does with every other issue, Blumenthal gives a ton of background information, in this case about Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Unfortunately, I think he only used sources negative toward Joseph Smith. There were weird things going on back then,  polygamy chief among them. Our prophet was young, poor, and usually figuring things out as he went along. Some criticism is certainly warranted, but the negative and perhaps even angry tone that came through in that chapter seemed excessive to me. At very least, Joseph Smith should not be presented as a greater villain than John Calhoun and Jefferson Davis.

After this chapter, I will take the author's opinions with a little more salt than I would have previously, but I won't stop reading.

I am anxious to see how Lincoln moves from somewhat obscure political operative to the presidency.
Unfortunately, the next book won't be available until July.

Don't tell me how the story ends.

I fell down on the job last week and didn't get the blog written, so there are two podcasts to report. The first is on an early Dickinson poem "Through lane it lay—through bramble—" It talks about dangers in the world of children that adults cannot see. 

Then this week, as we've swung through a wild range of temperatures, I shared a poem about beautiful autumn days like today. It is called, "These are the days when Birds come back—".
The humming birds are long gone, but the birds who don't bother to leave are quickly emptying my feeders.`

THE KNITTING has been fairly productive and I've caught up with some of my backload. The items in the pictures are now available in my shop. 

Personally, we are still in a painful state of limbo in Husband's job search. That is not good for anyone's health.

On the positive side, Youngest is currently at his first day of work.
And I've adopted a new pet.

He came in with my geraniums and is eating away at them heartily. Any idea what he will grow up to be?

1 comment:

  1. This past year I read the history of the civil war by Shelby Foote. It is an amazing history in three volumes. It is an amazing series. The outcome was in doubt almost to the vary end.