Archive for the 'fluff' Category
A reader writes:
For a Christmas gift exchange, I’m buying a present for someone I don’t know very well . When I asked someone who knew her much better what would work, I was told, books, and history – “not too academic, but not dumbed down”. She’s read a lot about the (American) Civil War, and history generally. So I would like to crowdsource my Christmas shopping to your readers. What recent books would you put in the category of not dumbed down, but not too academic, interesting to a curious informed reader?
Well, friends: what do you think? I assigned Drew Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (2008) to a senior seminar a few years ago, and it went over really well. I found the book fascinating and *I* could see the interventions she made in the historiography, but I don’t think they would distract a non-academic reader.
(Whether or not one would want to give a book about death for Christmas–well, that’s another question, isn’t it? Maybe I should brace myself for a follow-up Dear Historiann letter, in which a reader wonders why a Secret
Satan Santa gave her a book about death and what it might mean about their relationship.) Continue Reading »
(That should be Santa’s Elves.) How can I ever return to my day job? Maybe I’ll try to pull a Runaway Bunny, and turn myself into a rare book to hide on the shelves of the Huntington Library, and hope that my Department Chair and colleagues don’t disguise themselves as librarians and pull me off the shelf! Continue Reading »
Historiann, Carla Mazzio, Mark Harmon, Kathleen Wilson, and Susan Juster
I took a little break from thinking about history yesterday to think about prehistory instead with a visit to the LaBrea Tar Pits and the Page Museum. The photo above shows what a dig there looks like–a jumble of different animal bones encased in solidified tar.
The open, ongoing digs were interesting, but I had no idea how active the site still is. The Page Museum’s perimeter is full of bubbling tar seeps that will still entrap small animals and permit your children to cover themselves in tar! For realz. Keep an eye out for traffic cones on the lawn alerting you to an open seep. It’s extra-cool, because this Yellowstone National Park-like seismic activity is all happening on Wilshire Boulevard in the middle of Los Angeles, on the same campus as the LACMA. Continue Reading »
Was Jeremiah “Jerry” Duggan The world’s only stylist and leader of a military insurgency? From “Journal of the Siege and Blockade of Quebec by the American Rebels, in Autumn 1775 and Winter 1776,” in Manuscripts Relating to the Early History of Canada, Fourth Series (Quebec: Dawson & co., 1875), and attributed to Captain (at the time, Lieutenant) Francis Daly:
Dec. 4th. Jerry Duggan, late Hair-dresser in Quebec, is stiled Major amongst them, and it is said commands 500 Canadians.
5th. Duggan (Jeremiah) disarmed the inhabitants of the suburbs of St. Roc without opposition. Some cannon shot fired from the Garrison.
Pretty badass for a hairdresser, no? I love the eighteenth century!
Duggan was a leader of the “rebels,” that is, of the American insurgents trying to rally Canadians to rise up against their British masters in Québec during Benedict Arnold’s ultimately unsuccessful siege of the city in 1775-76. (I had no idea that they ever rallied any Canadians to their side, as Daly reports here. For more on “The Martial Macaroni,” and other mid-eighteenth-century satires, see this informative blog post on Mary Darly’s The Book of Caricaturas, 1762, and her career as a London artist, engraver, and printer who satirized the Macaroni style). Continue Reading »
Hi-larious Benjamin Hart mansplains why mansplaining must be retired as a word in the English language. Apparently, some people misunderstand or misuse the term, so none of us can use it ever again. The evidence he furnishes for these crimes against language are the eminent, peer-reviewed scholars known as “some random a-holes on Twitter.”
If only this were true of other words people misuse all of the time! Like, for example, “irony.” Or my pet peeve, the nearly universal misuse of “flaunt” when “flout” is usually the appropriate word. Or people who say “based off” rather than “based on,” because they misunderstand the function of a base. You can think of others, I am sure. Yet I hear no choruses for striking irony, flaunt, flout, or off. Continue Reading »
Writing a book by day at an august institution like The Huntington, and re-reading Lucky Jim (1954) by night, it’s hard to be seduced by self-importance. Here, our lucky Jim Dixon considers the article he’s desperately trying to get published in the hopes of being renewed as a lecturer at a red-brick university:
It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. ‘In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool. “Let’s see,’” he echoed Welch in a pretended effort of memory: “oh yes; The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485.“
There’s another great line in which his fellow-boarder at his rooming house asks him what got him interested in medieval history in the first place, and Dixon responds to the effect of, “I’m not interested in this. I hate it! Don’t we all do what we hate?” But I don’t have my copy of the book with me now, and I couldn’t find the quotation on the internets. Continue Reading »