Wednesday, August 2, 2000

The Gettysburg Nobody Knows, edited by Gabor S. Boritt

This is a collection of essays about Gettysburg, some of which are good, and others are not.
We started with “The Common Soldier’s Gettysburg Campaign” by Joseph T. Glatthaar, which I didn’t think quite lived up to its name. Its point was interesting, building on Lee’s famous comment that generals have, in reality, very little to do with who wins and who loses battles. All generals can do is get their men to the right place at the right time—it’s up to the men to slug it out. After building that premise, however, the author seems to focus more on the decisions of generals than the actions of the men they command.

Next was “Joshua Chamberlain and the American Dream” by Glenn LaFantasie, which also kind of missed its mark for me. He argues that we remember Chamberlain as the hero of Little Round Top in exactly the way Chamberlain wanted to be remembered, even though there is some evidence to support the idea that Chamberlain didn’t play the exact role history ascribes to him. The author also admits, however, that there is also no evidence to show that Chamberlain lied or exaggerated his role, or reported it as anything separate from what he believed it to be. I’m left with the conclusion that we remember Chamberlain as he wanted to be remembered, and that way is also likely the truth about him. Not too shocking is you ask me.

“Old Jack Is Not Here” by Harry Pfanz got better in his analysis of Ewell’s actions at Gettysburg and whether or not he deserves the scorn usually heaped upon his name for not taking Cemetery Hill. Pfanz argues no, that although he may have made mistakes at Gettysburg, not attacking Cemetery Hill was not one of them. In fact, by not attacking, Ewell may have been following Lee’s orders not to bring on a general engagement until the entire army was up. His command was divided and tired, and the Federals were heavily fortified on that hill, despite what General Trimble might have said in the movie. I have a biography of Ewell on my shelf by Pfanz. It’ll be interesting to get a more complete analysis there.

“The Chances of War: Lee, Longstreet, Sickles and the First Minnesota Volunteers” by Kent Gramm, is the best one in the book, and I’m not even finished with all of them yet. After reading it, I added another book by Gramm, a biography of Sickles, a biography of Hancock, and the regimental history of the First Minnesota to my reading list. The argument that the First Minnesota did more to save the army and the Union than either the 20th Maine or the regiments who repulsed Pickett’s Charge is a persuasive one. Or even Sickles and his Third Corps for that matter. If he hadn’t advanced to the peach orchard and clashed with Longstreet, would the Confederates have had the momentum to carry the Union position that day? Interesting question. The fact that Sickles was such a character makes it even more interesting. Here’s a passage that’s worth transcribing. It has nothing to do with Sickles.

We students of war rightly do not like violence, so we try to eliminate it from battles. It is a matter of maps and movements, in our books; it is a matter of ballistics and tactics, failures and brilliance—but from Marathon to Gettysburg we are shown men and women who fought, who endured and perpetuated chaotic violence, men and women who sweated and stabbed and bled and were shot, who slashed and screamed and shouted, who lived and died like us, contingent and dependent not on plans or anything we can think through, but dependent on the dark, the beyond, we being not gods but mortals subject to accident or intention or chance or absurdity that we cannot see through. This is how we live, for as Martin Luther said on his deathbed, “We are all beggars.”

- - - - - - - - - -

“Eggs, Aldie, Shepherdstown, and J.E.B. Stuart” by Emory Thomas comes to Stuart’s defense in his actions during Gettysburg. Much maligned for abandoning Lee, Thomas argues that Stuart may have been too tired to do anything else. His ride from Virginia to Pennsylvania was one continuous battle, evidently, and lasted longer than any similar excursion he’d ever been on. Confused orders, rude behavior at dinner, and a fixation on protecting the captured wagons at all costs when he should’ve left the damn things behind and gotten back in touch with Lee—they all lead Thomas to believe that Stuart might have been sleepwalking through the entire campaign. And that scene from the movie when Lee confronts Stuart—“I told you there is no time for that”—evidently that never really happened.

The rest of the essays weren’t as interesting. One about Pickett’s Charge that says everything we think we knew about Pickett’s Charge is wrong. Another about what the town of Gettysburg was like before and after the battle, and how the battle changed it. Another about the overall Confederate military strategy that led to the circumstances that allowed Gettysburg to happen. This one had some interesting insights. Davis was evidently his own Secretary of War, actively ordering generals and armies around, but had no real control over anything except Virginia because of slow communications, slower travel times, vague orders, and arrogant generals. Without Lee, according to the author, the war might have been a ninety-day fight after all.
Finally an essay about the legacy of Gettysburg which, even after having just read it, leaves no lasting impression on me other than we remember Gettysburg as a turning point it really wasn’t, and our memories are framed more by Roosevelt’s words in 1938 rather than Lincoln’s words in 1863. For Roosevelt it was all about peace and coming together. For Lincoln, war and coming apart.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
The Gettysburg Nobody Knows, edited by Gabor S. Boritt
on Amazon
Gabor S. Boritt on Wikipedia
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Monday, July 10, 2000

The Whirlwind of War: Voices of the Storm, 1861-1865 by Stephen B. Oates

I really like this book. I know, I said that about the last one, but there’s no comparison between that one and this one. I really enjoyed Oates’ first book in this series—it gave me information and insights into what led up to the war like nothing else has—and, so far, this book is setting the same standard.

For example, I know that in the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln only freed the slaves in states or parts of states currently in rebellion against the U.S. where the Confederacy was in control. That I picked up from numerous sources and, even though it never seemed to make sense to me, none of those sources ever explained why Lincoln only did part of the job. Well, I’m not even to that point in the book yet and I know why Lincoln phrased it that way. If he had freed to slaves everywhere slavery existed, the four Union states where slavery was still legal—Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri—would have quit the Union and joined the Confederacy. That would’ve put Washington, DC in the middle of Confederate territory and the northern border of the Confederacy on the Ohio River.

Other unique insights so far include how desperate the Union situation was when the war first began—no army to speak of, no armed force in Washington, enemy territory right across the Potomac River, and Marylanders sympathetic to the Southern cause fighting with Northern troops moving through Baltimore—and the episode in which Sherman was accused of being crazy and drummed out of the service happened before Shiloh. Sherman, in fact, had fought at First Manassas and was temporarily in command of all Union forces in Kentucky. When asked how many men he needed to invade and conquer Tennessee and he said 200,000, he was relieved of command and reassigned to the West, where he eventually wound up as part of Grant’s command, actually in charge of all forces in the opening hours of Shiloh until Grant arrived from Pittsburgh Landing.

The whole episode reminds me of how I want to start following individuals through the war—to start reading books about the people instead of the battles. The battles are interesting, but I get the impression the real insights came from knowing the people. I don’t think I’ll find too many that are written in the first person like this one is. Oh, I guess there are probably autobiographies and memoirs out there (Grant and Sherman being two obvious examples) but will they be as honest as a historian would be? Guess I’ll have to read them to find out.

- - - - - - - - - -

Lee was really hobbled at the battles of the Seven Days. I guess I never realized that before. When people talk about the Seven Days they talk about how great Lee was, about how he drove the vastly superior forces of McClellan from the gates of Richmond and clear off the peninsula, about how he took hold of the offensive and never let go, about how he executed one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of military combat. That may all be true, but what more could he have done if his army was organized the way he organized it after the Seven Days, what more could he have done if he had known the ground as well as he did at Second Manassas, what more could he have done if Jackson had only done what he was told? He could’ve bagged McClellan’s entire army instead of just pushing it out of the way.

The organization of Lee’s army fascinates me more than it did before. I knew that after Chancellorsville, after Jackson’s death, when Lee reorganized it into three parts, it was never quite what it had been before. Now I know that before Second Manassas, before Lee had organized it into two parts, it wasn’t yet what it was going to be. The two wings, with Jackson at the head of one and Longstreet at the other, that was the secret, that’s what gave them the successes they had. But why? Why was that so special? Was it the two parts or was it the men who commanded them? Would two other commanders have done the same things, would they have been able to accomplish as much? You probably know what I think about that one. Was Ewell able to take that hill at Gettysburg? There was some kind of bond between those three men—Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet—and that’s what enabled them to do what they did. I believe that, and to me, that’s one of the most interesting things about that war.

I wonder if there are any books written about those three men—not the battles they fought, but them. How they related to each other, what they thought about each other, what they did when in each other’s company and how many times the three of them were actually together. If that book is out there, I want to read it. If not, maybe I’ll write it some day.

- - - - - - - - - -

I found another reason why Lincoln restricted the emancipation of slaves only to those states then in rebellion against the United States. It was because the Emancipation Proclamation as Lincoln issued it was an act of the president’s emergency war-time powers. It wasn’t something he could’ve done during peace time because the Executive ordinarily had no power over slavery in the states. But during war time, the Executive was empowered to take whatever actions were necessary to protect and defend the country. Using this as his rationale for issuing the proclamation, Lincoln didn’t think the freeing of the slaves in the states loyal to the Union could be termed an action necessary to protect and defend the country. Another nice explanation that should be included with any discussion of the proclamation.

Something else I wasn’t previously aware of was Jefferson Davis’ reaction to the proclamation, or at least the extent of it. He issued a proclamation of his own which, among other things, said that any freed blacks captured thenceforth by the Armies of the Confederacy would be sent back into slavery in order to help restore the natural condition of the two races. I think that reveals a lot about what men like Davis really thought about blacks. Oh, there might be legal mechanisms by which black men may gain their freedom, and there may be slave owners foolish and misguided enough to employ those mechanisms on behalf of their slaves, but when you come right down to it, the black was the slave and the white was the master—and that was the way things were supposed to be. That’s the way God intended them to be. I mean, we all knew the southern leaders were racist, but I at least had always been willing to consider that the cause may not have been, that the cause, fought for some other principle besides the continuation of slavery, wouldn’t have been so lost after all, and a lot more people might’ve taken it up. But when I read things like that, it really makes me second guess some of those assumptions about the Confederacy, that maybe it wasn’t as much about states’ rights as I thought, and maybe it was a lot more about keeping the black man down.

My wrist is sore, but I’ve got to say something about Gettysburg. It was just about the longest chapter in this book, all told from Lee’s viewpoint, and what struck me the most was how clear it was that Lee just wanted to war to be over, that he wanted that battle to be the last one and the war to come to an end. Yes, he overestimated the abilities of his men, we all know that, he thought they were invincible and asked more of them than men should be asked, but he also wanted that damn war to be over. He was so tired, at least as Oates portrays him. I wonder how he hung on for two more years after Gettysburg and more importantly, why?

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
The Whirlwind of War: Voices of the Storm, 1861-1865 by Stephen B. Oates
on Amazon
Stephen B. Oates on Wikipedia
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Thursday, July 6, 2000

Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency by John C. Waugh

Okay. So I skipped a couple of books. You knew as well as I did that this was going to be sketchy at best. In fact, given my history of journal writing, you’re lucky I’m even making a second entry. But I’m not going to backtrack over the books read between Pale Fire and this one. To set such a precedent would just about guarantee the failure of this project. So, onward.

I really enjoyed this book. Well, I really enjoyed the first part of it. It got a little tedious in the middle. It was supposed to be about the 1864 presidential campaign—and it was—but it was also about a lot of stuff that happened during the 1864 presidential campaign. The Gettysburg Address, Grant’s push on Lee in Virginia, Sherman’s push on Atlanta, etc. Sure, they’re all part of the story, but they all seemed a little distracting. The author started strong in Lincoln’s point of view, and I would’ve preferred that he stay there. The sketches he made of the other characters were good and interesting, but not as interesting as staying with Lincoln would have been.

What did I learn from this book? Lots. That Jefferson Davis, like Lincoln, lost a young son during the war and was given precious little time to grieve. That lots of people wanted Grant to run for president in 1864. That lots of people wanted Ben Butler to run for president in 1864. The Beast seems like a much more interesting person after this book than my previous studies had left me to believe. I think I’ll put his biography on my “to read” list. That Abraham Lincoln may have been a battered husband. Another topic worth exploring. I’d probably have more to say if I wrote night by night, but I guess that’s about it for this one. I’ll try to touch base more regularly on the next one.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency by John C. Waugh
on Amazon
Author's website, John C. Waugh
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Started it today. Read it for that 20th century fiction class in college, and haven’t really thought about it much since then. The format is difficult—the foreword, the poem, and the commentary—I get the sense that the characters are hiding somewhere beneath them and it’s up to me to find the clues to draw them out. So far, at least, Shade seems a lot more likeable than Kinbote, but maybe that’ll change. I’m only three pages or so into the commentary, but I already get the sense that it and his foreword is more about Kinbote than they are about Shade or Shade’s poem. I liked the poem—at least the parts that read like prose. Other times I had no idea what was being said—almost like it was written in French. Shade’s daughter gave me a snippet of a story idea—people who don’t fit in and the sad and lonely lives they lead.

She might have been you, me, or some quaint blend:
Nature chose me so as to wrench and rend
Your heart and mine. At first we’d smile and say:
“All little girls are plump” or “Jim McVey
(The family oculist) will cure that slight
Squint in no time.” And later: “She’ll be quite
Pretty, you know”; and, trying to assuage
The swelling torment: “That’s the awkward age.”
“She should take riding lessons,” you would say
(Your eyes and mine not meeting). “She should play
Tennis, or badminton. Less starch, more fruit!
She may not be a beauty, but she’s cute.”

It was no use, no use. The prizes won
In French and history, no doubt, were fun;
At Christmas parties games were rough; no doubt,
And one shy little guest might be left out;
But let’s be fair: while children of her age
Were cast as elves and fairies on the stage
That she’d helped paint for the school pantomime,
My gentle girl appeared as Mother Time,
A bent charwoman with slop pail and broom,
And like a fool I sobbed in the men’s room.

Another winter was scrape-scooped away.
The Toothwort White haunted our woods in May.
Summer was power-mowed, and autumn, burned.
Alas, the dingy cygnet never turned
Into a wood duck. And again your voice:
“But this is prejudice! You should rejoice
That she is innocent. Why overstress
The physical? She wants to look a mess.
Virgins have written some resplendent books.
Lovemaking is not everything. Good looks
Are not that indispensable!” And still
Old Pan would call from every painted hill,
And still the demons of our pity spoke:
No lips would share the lipstick of her smoke;
The telephone that rang before a ball
Every two minutes in Sorosa Hall
For her would never ring; and, with a great
Screeching of tires on gravel, to the grate
Out of the lacquered night, a white-scarfed beau
Would never come for her; she’d never go,
A dream of gauze and jasmine, to that dance.
We sent her, though, to a chateau in France.

And she returned in tears, with new defeats,
New miseries. On days when all the streets
Of College Town led to the game, she’d sit
On the library steps, and read or knit;
Mostly alone she’d be, or with that nice
Frail roommate, now a nun; and, once or twice,
With a Korean boy who took my course.
She had strange fears, strange fantasies, strange force
Of character—as when she spent three nights
Investigating certain sounds and lights
In an old barn. She twisted words: pot, top,
Spider, redips. And “powder” was “red wop.”
She called you a didactic katydid.
She hardly ever smiled, and when she did,
It was a sign of pain. She’d criticize
Ferociously our projects, and with eyes
Expressionless sit on her tumbled bed
Spreading her swollen feet, scratching her head
With psoriatic fingernails, and moan,
Murmuring dreadful words in monotone.


As you can probably tell, I had a hard time deciding where to start and end that one. The whole second canto is pretty powerful, and really leaves you with a vision of how disconnected and sad some things can be.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
on Amazon
on Wikipedia
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Tuesday, May 9, 2000

Things Read But Not Blogged: American Civil War

1. The American Heritage New History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton
2. The Approaching Fury: Voice of the Storm 1820-1861 by Stephen B. Oates
3. The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern: May 7-12, 1864 by Gordon C. Rhea
4. The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy by William C. Davis
5. The Civil War: A Narrative – Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby Foote
6. The Civil War: A Narrative – Fredericksburg to Meridian by Shelby Foote
7. The Civil War: A Narrative – Red River to Appomattox by Shelby Foote
8. Civil War Generals in Defeat by Steven E. Woodworth
9. Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins
10. Conceived in Liberty: Joshua Chamberlain, William Oates, and the American Civil War by Mark Perry
11. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz
12. The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth by Peter Cozzens
13. Echoes of Glory: Civil War Battle Atlas by Henry Woodhead
14. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War by James M. McPherson
15. Glory Road by Bruce Catton
16. Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln by Douglas L. Wilson
17. Lee and His Generals in War and Memory by Gary W. Gallagher
18. Life in Mr. Lincoln’s Navy by Dennis J. Ringle
19. Maps of the Civil War by David Phillips
20. The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman’s Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns by Joseph T. Glatthaar
21. Mr. Lincoln’s Army by Bruce Catton
22. Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory by Carol Reardon
23. The Pride of the Confederate Artillery: The Washington Artillery in the Army of Tennessee by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr.
24. Sherman’s March by Burke Davis
25. The Shipwreck of Their Hopes by Peter Cozzens
26. Six Years of Hell: Harpers Ferry During the Civil War by Chester G. Hearn
27. A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton
28. Tarnished Eagles: The Courts-Martial of Fifty Union Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels by Thomas P. Lowry
29. To the North Anna River by Gordon C. Rhea
30. We Are in For It: The First Battle of Kernstown, March 23, 1862 by Gary L. Ecelbarger
31. The Wilderness Campaign by Gary W. Gallagher

Things Read But Not Blogged: Biography

1. Alexander Hamilton, American by Richard Brookhiser
2. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis
3. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
4. Arnold! By Tom Green
5. Crazy Horse by Larry McMurtry
6. Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Stephen E. Ambrose
7. Faith of My Fathers by John McCain
8. General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier—A Biography by Jeffry D. Wert
9. George Washington: Soldier and Man by North Callahan
10. Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans by Peter Richardson
11. Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw
12. It Doesn’t Take a Hero by H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Peter Petre
13. James Madison: A Biography in His Own Words by Merrill D. Peterson
14. John Adams and the American Revolution by Catherine Drinker Bowen
15. Napoleon Bonaparte by Alan Schom
16. Philip of Spain by Henry Kamen
17. Robert E. Lee by Emory M. Thomas
18. Steve Martin by Greg Lenburg, Randy Skretvedt and Jeff Lenburg
19. Stonewall: A Biography of General Thomas J. Jackson by Byron Farwell
20. Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend by James I. Robertson, Jr.
21. Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation by Merrill D. Peterson
22. TR: The Last Romantic by H. W. Brands
23. Truman by David McCullough

Things Read But Not Blogged: Business

1. Association Law Handbook by Jerald A. Jacobs
2. Knock ‘em Dead by Martin Yate
3. Principles of Association Management by Henry L. Ernstthal
4. Professional Practices in Association Management by John B. Cox

Things Read But Not Blogged: Drama

1. Comedies by Moliere
2. The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
3. Four Comedies by William Shakespeare
4. Four Plays by Henrik Ibsen
5. Four Tragedies by William Shakespeare
6. Greatest Plays by Anton Chekhov
7. The Late Romances by William Shakespeare
8. Measure for Measure, et al by William Shakespeare
9. Richard II by William Shakespeare
10. Selected Plays by William Shakespeare
11. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Things Read But Not Blogged: Fiction

1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
3. Afterglow by Rebecca Flanders
4. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
5. Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
6. The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr
7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
8. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
9. The Bachman Books by Stephen King
10. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
11. Body and Soil by Ralph McInerny
12. Bolt by Dick Francis
13. Brainchild by John Saul
14. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
15. Burning Bright by John Steinbeck
16. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
17. The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy
18. Carrie by Stephen King
19. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
20. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
21. Christine by Stephen King
22. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
23. Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
24. The Client by John Grisham
25. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks
26. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
27. The Complete American Graffiti by John Minahan
28. Congo by Michael Crichton
29. The Crater by Richard Slotkin
30. Creature by John Saul
31. Cujo by Stephen King
32. Dangling Man by Saul Bellow
33. The Dark Half by Stephen King
34. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
35. Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy
36. Deliverance by James Dickey
37. Desperation by Stephen King
38. Different Seasons by Stephen King
39. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
40. The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
41. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
42. Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton
43. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
44. Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
45. Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
46. Exploit of Death by Dell Shannon
47. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
48. Firestarter by Stephen King
49. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
50. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
51. Four Past Midnight by Stephen King
52. Free Fall by William Golding
53. From Here to Eternity by James Jones
54. Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
55. Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara
56. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
57. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
58. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
59. The Green Mile by Stephen King
60. The Gunslinger by Stephen King
61. Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
62. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
63. In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
64. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
65. Insomnia by Stephen King
66. Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner
67. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
68. It by Stephen King
69. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
70. Light in August by William Faulkner
71. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
72. Majestic by Whitley Strieber
73. Marathon Man by William Goldman
74. Misery by Stephen King
75. Mosquitoes by William Faulkner
76. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
77. Mr. Darwin’s Shooter by Roger McDonald
78. Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
79. Native Son by Richard Wright
80. Necroscope by Brian Lumley
81. Needful Things by Stephen King
82. Night Shift by Stephen King
83. Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
84. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
85. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
86. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
87. The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck
88. Patriot Games by Tom Clancy
89. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
90. Pet Sematary by Stephen King
91. Pirate Royal by John and Patricia Beatty
92. Primary Colors by Anonymous
93. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
94. Red Army by Ralph Peters
95. Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
96. The Reivers by William Faulkner
97. The Riddle of Raven Hollow by Mary Francis Shura
98. Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard
99. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
100. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
101. The Secrets of Harry Bright by Joseph Waumbaugh
102. The Shining by Stephen King
103. Shogun by James Clavell
104. The Shooter by Barry Sadler
105. The Short Novels of John Steinbeck by John Steinbeck
106. The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck
107. Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
108. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
109. The Source by Brian Lumley
110. The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
111. The Stand by Stephen King
112. Suspense Stories edited by A. L. Furman
113. The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy
114. Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald
115. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
116. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
117. Thinner by Stephen King
118. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
119. The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
120. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
121. Underworld by Don DeLillo
122. Vamphyri! By Brian Lumley
123. Violin by Anne Rice
124. The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever
125. The Waste Lands by Stephen King
126. Water Music by T. Coraghessan Boyle
127. Watership Down by Richard Adams
128. The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
129. A Widow for One Year by John Irving
130. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
131. Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
132. World’s End by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Things Read But Not Blogged: History

1. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier
2. The Ascent of Science by Brian L. Silver
3. Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
4. The Burning of Washington by Anthony S. Pitch
5. Burr, Hamilton and Jefferson: A Study in Character by Roger G. Kennedy
6. Calendar: Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year by David Ewing Duncan
7. Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany by Stephen E. Ambrose
8. The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought by Thomas S. Kuhn
9. D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose
10. Eyewitness to America: 500 Years of America in the Words of Those Who Saw It Happen by David Colbert
11. Fermat’s Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secrets of an Ancient Mathematical Problem by Amir D. Aczel
12. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
13. George Washington’s Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America by Robert F. Dalzell and Baldwin Lee
14. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity by Roy Porter
15. A History of Pi by Petr Beckmann
16. The History of Shipwrecks by Angus Konstam
17. A History of Warfare by John Keegan
18. Liberty! The American Revolution by Thomas Fleming
19. The Lion’s Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War by Edward J. Renehan, Jr.
20. Little Big Horn Remembered: The Untold Indian Story of Custer’s Last Stand by Herman J. Viola
21. The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson
22. The Reconstruction Presidents by Brooks D. Simpson
23. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed
24. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose

Things Read But Not Blogged: Literature

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
2. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
4. Astoria by Washington Irving
5. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
6. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
7. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
8. The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne
9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
10. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
11. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
12. Devils by Fyodor Dostoevsky
13. Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
14. Dracula by Bram Stoker
15. England in Literature by Helen McDonnell
16. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
17. Great American Writers: Classic Adventure compiled by Gallery Books
18. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
19. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
20. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
21. Home as Found by James Fenimore Cooper
22. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
23. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
24. John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose edited by Merritt Y. Hughes
25. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
26. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
27. The Odyssey by Homer
28. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
29. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
30. Paradise Lost by John Milton
31. The Pathfinder by James Fenimore Cooper
32. Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac
33. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
34. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
35. The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper
36. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
37. The Prairie by James Fenimore Cooper
38. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
39. Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
40. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
41. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
42. Rhetoric/On Poetics by Aristotle
43. Satanstoe by James Fenimore Cooper
44. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
45. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gentleman by Washington Irving
46. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
47. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
48. Tales of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
49. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
50. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Things Read But Not Blogged: Miscellaneous

1. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman
2. Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil by Bernard McGinn
3. Communion by Whitley Strieber
4. Danse Macabre by Stephen King
5. Hell’s Angels by Hunter Thompson
6. Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood by Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe
7. Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson
8. The New Male Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld
9. The Rape of Emergency Medicine by James K. Keaney
10. Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood by William Pollack
11. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with Your Baby by Tracy Hogg
12. The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman
13. Strangely Enough! by C. B. Colby
14. Thoreau on Writing by Eva M. Burkett and Joyce S. Steward
15. The Vampire by Montague Summers
16. Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices by Shelley Fisher Fishkin
17. The Weirdest People in the World by C. B. Colby
18. Who Wrote Shakespeare? By John Michell
19. Why Did They Name It? by Hannah Campbell
20. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway

Things Read But Not Blogged: Philosophy/Religion

1. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
2. Good News for Modern Man
3. Luther’s Small Catechism
4. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
5. The Psalms for Modern Man
6. Sometimes God Has a Kid’s Face by Bruce Ritter

Things Read But Not Blogged: Poetry

1. John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet

Things Read But Not Blogged: Politics

1. The Federalist Papers by Publius
2. See, I Told You So by Rush Limbaugh
3. The Way Things Ought to Be by Rush Limbaugh

Things Read But Not Blogged: Science

1. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
2. The Fifty-Minute Hour by Robert Lindner
3. The Jungle of Randomness by Ivars Peterson
4. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
5. Realm of the Universe by George A. Abell
6. A Sign for Cain by Fredric Wertham
7. Stephen Hawking’s Universe: The Cosmos Explained by David Filkin

Things Read But Not Blogged: Science Fiction/Fantasy

1. The Abode of Life by Lee Correy
2. An Alien Affair by L. Ron Hubbard
3. Battle Circle by Piers Anthony
4. Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 by L. Ron Hubbard
5. Bearing an Hourglass by Piers Anthony
6. Being a Green Mother by Piers Anthony
7. Black Fire by Sonni Cooper
8. Black Genesis by L. Ron Hubbard
9. The Black Unicorn by Terry Brooks
10. Blue Adept by Piers Anthony
11. Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings
12. Castle Roogna by Piers Anthony
13. Centaur Aisle by Piers Anthony
14. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
15. Contact by Carl Sagan328. Corona by Greg Bear
16. The Covenant of the Crown by Howard Weinstein
17. Crewel Lye by Piers Anthony
18. The Dark Lady by Mike Resnick
19. Death Quest by L. Ron Hubbard
20. Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings
21. Destination: Void by Frank Herbert
22. Disaster by L. Ron Hubbard
23. The Doomed Planet by L. Ron Hubbard
24. Dragon on a Pedestal by Piers Anthony
25. Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
26. Dragons of Spring Dawning by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
27. Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
28. Dune by Frank Herbert
29. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
30. The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks
31. Enchanters’ End Game by David Eddings
32. The Enemy Within by L. Ron Hubbard
33. Enterprise: The First Adventure by Vonda N. McIntyre
34. The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre
35. Executive by Piers Anthony
36. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
37. Fantastic Voyage by Issac Asimov
38. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
39. The Final Reflection by John M. Ford
40. The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen
41. The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells
42. The Food of the Gods by H. G. Wells
43. Fortune of Fear by L. Ron Hubbard
44. Foundation by Issac Asimov
45. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
46. God of Tarot by Piers Anthony
47. Golem in the Gears by Piers Anthony
48. Guardians of the West by David Eddings
49. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
50. Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw
51. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
52. I, Robot by Issac Asimov
53. The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson
54. Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke
55. The Integral Trees by Larry Niven
56. The Invaders Plan by L. Ron Hubbard
57. Ishmael by Barbara Hambly
58. Juxtaposition by Piers Anthony
59. Killing Time by Della Van Hise
60. King of the Murgos by David Eddings
61. The Klingon Gambit by Robert E. Vardeman
62. The Legend of Huma by Richard A. Knaak
63. Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson
64. Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! by Terry Brooks
65. Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings
66. A Man Rides Through by Stephen R. Donaldson
67. Mercenary by Piers Anthony
68. Mindshadow by J. M. Dillard
69. The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson
70. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
71. Mute by Piers Anthony
72. Mutiny on the Enterprise by Robert E. Vardeman
73. My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane
74. Night Mare by Piers Anthony
75. Ogre, Ogre by Piers Anthony
76. On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
77. The One Tree by Stephen R. Donaldson
78. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
79. Pawns and Symbols by Majliss Larson
80. Politician by Piers Anthony
81. The Power That Preserves by Stephen R. Donaldson
82. Privateers by Ben Bova
83. The Prometheus Design by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath
84. Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings
85. Refugee by Piers Anthony
86. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
87. The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien
88. Ringworld by Larry Niven
89. Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future by Mike Resnick
90. The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks
91. The Second Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen
92. The Seeress of Kell by David Eddings
93. Shadow Lord by Laurence Yep
94. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
95. Sorceress of Darshiva by David Eddings
96. The Source of Magic by Piers Anthony
97. A Spell of Chameleon by Piers Anthony
98. Split Infinity by Piers Anthony
99. Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry
100. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan by Vonda N. McIntyre
101. Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock by Vonda N. McIntyre
102. Star Wars by George Lucas
103. Statesman by Piers Anthony
104. Stormblade by Nancy Varian Berberick
105. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
106. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
107. The Tears of the Singers by Melinda Snodgrass
108. Tekwar by William Shatner
109. Test of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
110. The Third Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen
111. Tides of Light by Gregory Benford
112. Time of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
113. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
114. The Trellisane Confrontation by David Dvorkin
115. Triangle by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath
116. The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
117. Villainy Victorious by L. Ron Hubbard
118. Voyage of Vengeance by L. Ron Hubbard
119. The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah
120. War of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
121. War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
122. Web of the Romulans by M. S. Murdock
123. White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson
124. The Widowmaker by Mike Resnick
125. Wielding a Red Sword by Piers Anthony
126. The Winds of Altair by Ben Bova
127. The Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks
128. With a Tangled Skein by Piers Anthony
129. Wizard at Large by Terry Brooks
130. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
131. The Wounded Land by Stephen R. Donaldson
132. The Wounded Sky by Diane Duane
133. Yesterday’s Son by A. C. Crispin

What's all this, then?

Welcome to That Inscrutable Thing, the blog for one aspiring novelist with a wife, two kids, and a day job.

Questions about me or the blog? Check out the links under About This Blog.

Interested in what I've written? Check out the Things Written sections. For my latest novel, Columbia: Reflections in Broken Glass, a full synopsis is included there. Spoiler alert! I do mean a full synopsis, since I am hoping to sell it to a publisher. Also, on October 1, 2009, I started posting my eleven short stories and six other novels in these sections. I started with my earliest story and will be going forward in chronological order, adding one story or novel chapter on the first of each subsequent month until they're all there.

Interested in what I'm reading? Not sure why you would be, but I certainly am. Check out the links under the Things Read sections, or search the blog for a specific author or title, for some short and some long dissertations on the strengths and weaknesses of what's already on my bookshelf.

Things Quoted brings together some collected thoughts, mostly from the books I read before I started blogging about what I was reading. I'm not sure where they fit in this puzzle called my life, but they undoubtedly fit somewhere.

Confused? You're not alone. If you think I can help, post a comment somewhere, or email me at eric.lanke@gmail.com. If you're not rude, I just might respond.

Who are you?

My name is Eric Lanke, and I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1968. I began writing fiction as an outlet for my creativity in high school, and quickly came to appreciate its potential as a mechanism for self-exploration and as a repository for the truth. I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and worked in outplacement services prior to building a career in association management.

I have written eleven short stories and seven novels. My fiction is characterized by the inner lives of sharply-drawn characters, often with competing motivations, and by a willingness to explore territory often ignored in mainstream works.

My latest novel, Columbia: Reflections in Broken Glass, is set during the American Civil War, and describes the intersecting lives of one central and ten supporting characters during one of the War’s climactic episodes. Several core themes are explored, including the subjective nature of justice, the overt and subtle oppressions of racism, the enduring truth of art, and the unending search for purpose in human affairs.

I currently live in Milwaukee with my wife and two children. I am employed as the executive director of a national trade association.

What's the title mean?

I finished it. Read Moby-Dick for the fifth time and am going to read it again. It was nice. I read the last four chapters, The Symphony and The Chase – First, Second and Third Days, all at once, reclined in my bed before going to sleep. And it’s that paragraph near the end of The Symphony, isn’t it? That paragraph spoken by Ahab just as Starbuck thinks he has talked the old captain out of his mad quest.

“What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike. And all the time, lo! That smiling sky, and this unsounded sea!”

That’s the one the sums it all up for me, that makes me think of this book as the book I could have written, as the book I have written, as the book I keep writing again and again. But there's more. When Starbuck chides Ahab, calling it blasphemous to be enraged by a dumb thing, Ahab says:

“Hark ye yet again,—the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ‘tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

Be the white whale agent or be the white whale principal. What is that inscrutable thing? Is it the whale? Or is the whale just a reflection of that which is inscrutable? And will we ever know? Will we ever be able to tell the difference?

At the most fundamental level, the search for that inscrutable thing is why I read and why I write, thinking that some combination of ideas I pick up from books will translate into some combination of words I write, and the inscrutable thing will finally be laid bare before my eyes.

Where'd you get that photo?

Sperm whale eye photo copyright © Brandon Cole; http://www.brandoncole.com/

Is everything on this blog copyrighted?

You bet it is. According to current copyright law, I don't even have to provide notice of copyright protection. It exists automatically as soon as I create something. And all the excerpts and occasional images from other people's works you'll find in some of the posts—well, I'm using those under the fair use doctrine. Those excerpts, images, and the photo in the title bar are the only things on this blog I don't own the copyright on. Everything else is an original work created by me and I reserve all rights.