Recent Reads

8 04 2008

OK: it looks like WordPress has its hands full trying to deal with all the complaints.  I think the only way for me to fix my particular problem (font types and sizes) is to purchase an upgrade to something called CSS (cascading style sheets), which will allow me to manipulate my fonts.  That’ll cost me $15 per year, which will bring my total costs for this blog to just about $15 per year.  But it may remove the two step Word to WordPress process I currently employ.

In the past few weeks, I’ve finished three books and will hip you to them now.

Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War, by Nicholas Lemann, was described briefly here in my post on Stephen Budiansky’s The Bloody Shirt (follow the hyperlinks, folks: they’re there for a reason).  Redemption more narrowly focuses on the program by white Democrats to take back, or redeem, the government of the state of Mississippi from the Republican majority.  While not as well written as The Bloody Shirt, Redemption does a better job of tying in to the overall program of Democrats throughout the south, and it also more directly takes on the role of the Grant administration – in fact, the front and rear covers of the dust jacket feature upside-down, negative images of Grant’s Tomb.  Lemann also presents a more rounded (nuanced?) picture of First Bull Run Medal of Honor winner Adelbert Ames than did Budiansky.  I recommend them both, but if you can only read one I’d go with Lemann for a better overall understanding of the time.  Next up on my list for Reconstruction reading is Brooks Simpson’s The Reconstruction Presidents.

Did Lincoln Own Slaves? by Gerald J. Prokopowicz is one of the best Lincoln books I’ve read (cover to cover or otherwise), and that’s more than a few.  Based on questions Prokopowicz has fielded or solicited over his years as a teacher, talk-show host and Lincoln Scholar, the book is broken down into chapters covering Lincoln’s boyhood, his early adult life and law practice, his years in Springfield, his development as a politician, his role as a speaker, his presidency, his performance as Commander-in-Chief, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, his physical appearance, his assassination, and his legacy.  Throughout Prokopowicz provides light and readable and at the same time thorough and scholarly answers to the questions, with responses ranging from one word to several pages.  He’s got a great sense of humor and the bits on Was Lincoln gay? and Speaking of JFK, what about the amazing coincidences between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations? will have you spitting Pepsi through your nose if you’re not careful.  Buy this book: I get the impression Prokopowicz had as much fun writing it as I did reading it. 

I finished Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering over the weekend.  You’ve already heard plenty about this book – it has received more press coverage than any non-Lincoln Civil War book that I can recall over that past 15-20 years.  It’s well worth your time but is pretty gloomy.  On a Bull Run note, Faust recounts the journey of the soldiers of the city of Charleston killed in the battle from that field to burial in the city’s Magnolia Cemetery, which gives me something else to look for next the next time I’m in town (I also need to track down the spot in the cemetery where the single Bull Run prisoner to die in Castle Pinckney was buried, according to Orlando Willcox – see here). 

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3 responses

9 04 2008
Brett Schulte

Harry,

As someone who uses the local version of WordPress, I’ve been following your comments and those of Jenny Goellnitz with some interest. I don’t know for sure because I have no experience with the WordPress-hosted version of WordPress, but my experiences with the new WordPress have been mostly positive. I’m still able to simply copy text and even pictures from Word docs, html files, and some other places and paste these into the “Visual” window and things work pretty smoothly. I’m going to have to go do some Google searches and read some more user comments on WordPress. I find this sort of thing pretty interesting as a former Tech Support person for an online brokerage firm.

I’ve been listening to Gerry P. talk a lot about his Lincoln book on Civil War Talk Radio lately. That combine with your mention above has led me to break down and pick this one up. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it from numerous sources.

9 04 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Brett,

I’m still pretty happy with WordPress, and as I said the negative reaction from the masses is to be expected when fundamental changes are made. I think I have gained much with the new dashboard, and so far the only thing I’ve lost is the ability to “cheat” with Word to get around the font style (I can still get around the font size problem), and spell check which they say they’re working on. I haven’t had any of the other problems that I see folks complaining about in the forums.

You’ll enjoy Prokopowicz’s book, unless you’re brain dead. I only took issue with his very traditional views on Lincoln as C-I-C and his relationship with one of his generals. But I can live with it.

9 04 2008
Brett Schulte

Harry,

Last time I checked, my brain was very much alive, so I suspect I’ll enjoy it! ;-)

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