Tuesday, July 29, 2008

#12 Geeking, Part 2

Time for the answers to Weekly Geek post #12 -- questions about the books I haven't reviewed. There were two books (out of thirteen) that generated some interest. I'm going to hit both books, separately, but in the same post.

Questions about Facts the Historians Leave Out: A Confederate Primer by John S. Tilley:

bkclubcare's questions: I don't know a thing about it so, do tell. Did you learn a LOT? was the tone condescending? What prompted you to read this?

Bookfool's answers: Facts the Historians Leave Out is what I'd call a "factoid book" as it's very, very short (76 pages) and doesn't go into any great detail about its claims -- such as the fact that the Southern states were well within their rights to secede from the Union. But my Civil War knowledge is even skimpier; so, I can say I learned quite a bit -- certainly enough to whet my appetite for more. The tone isn't so much condescending as self-assured and extremely pro-Confederate. In case you're interested in reading about Tilley and his books, there are several paragraphs about him, here (skip down to about the 14th or 15th paragraph to begin).

What prompted me to read Facts the Historians Leave Out? I recently read The Disagreement by Nick Taylor, a novel that takes place during the Civil War. The protagonist in The Disagreement is a doctor but it almost seems like he lives in a bubble -- even as he's treating people who have been wounded in battle, the reader gets no real sense of the war that's raging around him. I closed the book hungry for information about the Civil War -- enough to ensure that I was ridiculously excited when I found Facts the Historians Leave Out on my mother's shelf. I sat right down and read it on her sofa.

Carrie K asked: Do the facts left out change the political outlook? What was the most interesting fact you learned from the book? Did you know any of the facts he included before reading the book?

Bookfool's sort-of answer: Carrie, I'm not sure I know enough to respond well to that first question, although I think the answer is probably "yes". Let me say this much: Tilley really made Abe Lincoln sound like a Bad Guy. He claimed Lincoln deliberately held back supplies from Fort Sumter and then sent war ships rather than regular supply ships with aid when Fort Sumter's inhabitants were on the verge of being starved out of their post . . . in order to provoke Confederates into making the first move -- which, of course, they did. Holding back supplies virtually ensured that Major Anderson and the rest of the Yankees at Fort Sumter would not be able to hold out for long, if attacked. I have a slightly altered opinion about the Confederate attack after reading the section on Fort Sumter in a different book, The Words of War (which I'm in the midst of reading, right now). I'll share my thoughts on that, when I finish the book.

Of all the bits and pieces brought up in Facts the Historians Leave Out, I found the entire story about Fort Sumter the most fascinating. It's amazing how little I knew! I didn't bring the book home, so I can't flip through it to see if there's anything I recall already knowing, but I'd say most of what's in the book was new information. The vast majority of the books I've read about the Civil War have been focused on the Siege of Vicksburg. In fact, I have to wonder if I even would have gotten around to reading about the Civil War at all, had we not moved to Mississippi. As an example of my ignorance, all I knew about Vicksburg when my husband came down here for a meeting, while we were still living in Oklahoma, was that it was a significant location during the Civil War . . . like Gettysburg. The name rang a bell, but it was a distant one. We still laugh about the fact that I kept asking my husband to remind me where Vicksburg was located. I repeatedly asked him, "Which state did you say you're in?" I probably shouldn't admit that. Here's a photo of the interior of Fort Sumter (under the Confederate flag):

Questions about Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

bkclubcare, Chris and Les all asked similar questions (I'm choosing bkclubcare's wording): Which side did you end up on? (love it or not) Did you have any expectations about loving it or not? Which section did you like best and would you read more from Ms. Gilbert?

Bookfool's answers: I ended up on the loving side, for the most part, although there were sections about which I had mixed feelings. Since Eat, Pray, Love has received such polarized reviews, I went into the reading leaning toward the thought that I'd probably hate it. Quite a few people have described it as "selfish" or "self-indulgent". In fact, I think it is pretty self-indulgent. Gilbert begins the book by describing her utter despair as her marriage was falling apart -- and then goes on to say that she had an affair. I thought that was pathetic, but I didn't let my personal notions of marriage and fidelity interfere with what I really wanted to take from the reading. Nor did I let envy intervene, although I honestly think timing is everything with this particular book. I'm almost certain there have been times I couldn't have gotten through it. It just happened that I was more interested in the sense of place, the unique characters she met and her spiritual journey than I was put off by her stunning good fortune, her emotions and personal life. She was one messed-up chick; but, her experiences were pretty amazing.

My favorite section was the first, the part about her stay in Italy. I think part of the reason I liked it best is that Italy appeals to me -- the food, the relaxed lifestyle, the beautiful language and history. India and Indonesia . . . not so much. The change of environment when she left Italy and began her stay in India was actually quite jarring, in my opinion. I had a terrible time getting into the second section. But, I set it aside for a few days and let Italy roll around in my head. Then, I picked it up, again, and enjoyed the rest.

Would I read more by Gilbert? Definitely. But, I really, really hope her sex life isn't mentioned in her other books. That was one of the few aspects of Eat, Pray, Love that I found utterly repellent. I don't know why so many authors think readers give a flying petunia about who they've slept with. Not my business; I don't care. Actually, that may be one of the reasons I liked the section on Italy so much. She chose to become celibate during her journey and, at first, she succeeded. In Italy she was chaste (although still tempted). It's apparently a self-control issue with Gilbert; she's a bit of a sex addict and eventually abandoned her enforced celibacy. But, at least we were spared the details of her sexual romps while she was in Italy (since there were none). And, India. India made me feel hungry and fat, though, and the idea of sitting around meditating for hours on the hard ground almost made my bones ache. So, Italy won. On the positive side, I really liked her chatty, accessible writing style.

My husband traveled to Italy without me, last year. So unfair. Just look at what he got to see:

In other book news:

I finished Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese, last night. Review will appear in a few days.

On this day in Bookfool's reading history, in 1997:

I finished reading Wild Horses by Dick Francis (just after finishing Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl) and began to read Time and Again by Jack Finney.

Right now in my reading travels:

I'm immersed in the Civil War in The Words of War by Donagh Bracken and hiking around Alaska in a three-piece suit in Travels in Alaska by John Muir. Coolness. Where are your reading travels taking you, today?


  1. I love love love Florence--you must make him take you next time he goes... Hubby and I had hoped for a trip to Europe before we start having kiddos, but with the exchange rate it just doesn't make much sense right now. :(

  2. Trish,

    Hubby actually wanted to take me along to Florence, but the timing just wasn't right. We had a very sick kitty and my mother had just found out her cancer was back. If we'd tried a little harder, we might have been able to find someone to take the kiddo to school but we're such hermits that neither one of us gave it any effort. Maybe next time. :)

  3. Really enjoyed your thoughts here on EPL. The negatives outweighed the positives for me overall, but I can see your point. I laughed a bit when you mentioned her being a sex addict - so true!

  4. Tara,

    Thank you! I can see how the balance could have been tipped the opposite way. I was just in the mood for going on the virtual jaunt, I guess. LOL

  5. What a FUN post! I loved your thots on EPL... I'd agree.

    and... I visited Charleston last year and really enjoyed learning about so much about its history.

    Have you always given your 'what I was reading when?' VERY COOL. I haven't been tracking this until recently and even now am not doing a good timeline/datestamp. (did you get a lot out of the Frankl book? I thought it amazing...)

  6. I'm glad you ended up liking Eat, Pray, Love. I'm still not terribly inclined to pick it up. Maybe someday if it crosses my path.
    As for Europe, we're both missing it right now, wishing we could be there instead of here.

  7. bkclubcare,

    Thank you! So, you had mixed feelings about EPL, too?

    Oh, I'd love to visit Charleston. But, maybe not in the summer. It's too hot to drive through the South, in my humble opinion.

    That book-history snippet is a new thing. I just happened to come across a stack of old calendars, this week, and I've been recording my reads in monthly calendars for over a decade. What really startled me is that I used to read about a book a week and sometimes only one or two per month, not that long ago. I read around 9-14 a month, now. I didn't realize my habits had changed so much!

    I did get a lot out of the Frankl book (I'd also use the word "amazing"). It's one that I periodically reread when I need to regain my equilibrium and be reminded that nothing I've been through can even begin to compare to life in a concentration camp.


    I wouldn't advise you to run right out and grab a copy of EPL. I waited until a copy became available through Paperback Swap, simply because I was afraid I'd end up hating it. There's much to enjoy, but people tend to feel so strongly about it that I'd wait and hope to find a discounted copy, just in case.

    Do you think you'll ever move back to Europe, or is Japan your permanent home?

  8. She was celibate in Italy? That seems wrong. ;)

    It figures Abe Lincoln was the bad guy. Usually histories that purport to tell the 'rest of the story' have some ax to grind. OTOH, it's true, the victors write the histories.

  9. Carrie,

    It does seem backwards, doesn't it?

    See, I'm so History Stupid that it never occurred to me that the Confederate side of the story was shushed in the history books. But, it makes sense that they glossed over some of the finer points that would have made the Confederates look less like the instigators and more like people who were simply trying to assert their rights, as stated in the Constitution. Abe as Bad Guy I have more trouble swallowing, but he was so full of pithy wisdom that you can't help but love him.

  10. Carrie,

    It does seem backwards, doesn't it?

    See, I'm so History Stupid that it never occurred to me that the Confederate side of the story was shushed in the history books. But, it makes sense that they glossed over some of the finer points that would have made the Confederates look less like the instigators and more like people who were simply trying to assert their rights, as stated in the Constitution. Abe as Bad Guy I have more trouble swallowing, but he was so full of pithy wisdom that you can't help but love him.

  11. Neither of us want to settle permanently in Japan but we haven't figured out where exactly we do want to end up. I think we'd both like to go back to Europe but that would likely depend on his getting a job there to get visas, at least at the beginning. If all else fails, I suppose we'll end up in Canada.

  12. Nat,

    I'll bet you'll be happy anyplace where the summers aren't quite so long and sultry!

  13. Great post, Nancy! I enjoyed reading all your thoughts about EPL. And what a fabulous photo your hubby took. Man, I really want to go to Italy! Hopefully, before I'm too old to enjoy it.

    I love your "On this day" blurb. I may have to steal your idea for a future post. You know, I've had Man's Search for Meaning in my stacks since about '97! Maybe I'll get my f2f group to read it next year. I definitely plan to read Time and Again sometime soon. I've heard nothing but great things about it.

    Hope you have a nice, cool, and relaxing weekend!

  14. Hi Les!

    Thanks. It was fun writing answers about those two books rather than doing the usual review method -- something different, I guess.

    Oh, Italy. Doesn't it kill ya? He had a little camera borrowed from work, nothing special, but Italy is just so freaking photogenic that you can't lose! LOL Note the pretty pic in my sidebar, which hubby took in Colorado. He gets to go to all the great places.

    Man's Search for Meaning is amazing. Time and Again is a little slow -- not my favorite Finney, but I enjoyed it. I love, love, love Jack Finney and wish I could find more of his books.

    Thanks, I hope you have a good weekend, too! "Cool" is unlikely to be on our agenda, but one can dream. :)

  15. I feel like cheering for your review of "Eat, Pray, Love." Your point about the timing of when you read it is right on. It becomes a different book, depending on what the reader's emotional and spiritual state might be.

    I also agree with you about the writing about her sex life, and will chuckle for days about "flying petunia" as a turn of phrase.

  16. Elizabeth,

    Exactly! I was totally in the mood for reading about a spiritual journey and interesting places. But, if I hadn't been, I think I might not have gotten through the book.

    "Don't give a flying petunia" or "a flying fig" is what we say in this house. We're rather silly people. LOL Glad you agree with me on the sex life comments. We're not alone! I think a lot of us feel like it's none of our business who sleeps with whom in memoirs.

  17. That's funny, I just stared Time and Again by Jack Finney. I found it at the Lambtown Festival in Dixon a couple of weekends ago.

    I just finished reading The Mirror so I thought I'd do a boy time travel story for balance.

  18. Carrie,

    How funny! I adore Jack Finney. Have you read any of his other books or stories?

    I've yet to read The Mirror. It didn't click with me, when I tried it for the RIP challenge, so I'll try again, another time.


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