Notes for bookclub on McCullough's 1776Non-fiction books don't usually bring me to tears (well, the documentation and notes for Seabiscuit did), but there were times I had to stop reading David McCullough's breath taking 1776 and go for a walk--even the second time around this week. And this morning, I went out and bought the new boxed, illustrated, coffee-table 1776 with 140 images and 37 removable replicas of the sources he used. I had planned to loan it out, or donate it to the church library, but it is such a treasure, I may just hug it for awhile.
First a note about reviews and questions. Unlike most of the other books I remember reading for bookclub over the years, I couldn't find any questions for club discussions on the internet, although I found many clubs reading it and interviews with McCullough that included questions. Second, there are wonderful reviews available on-line, but I want to point you to two that are not so wonderful--one on the right and one on the left. Their distain for anything patriotic and dislike for a book about politics and war which isn't anti-war, political or flag waving is quite apparent--at least to me.
The first is "With God on our side," reviewed by Preston Jones for Christianity Today, in July 2005. Jones teaches at John Brown University, a small Christian college in Arkansas. This vacuous and inaccurate comment really turned me off:
- "Either you like this kind of history or you don't. Of course, it's possible to enjoy a well-told, well-documented tale while yet recognizing that it's couched in fluff. Even leisured academics, one hopes, can see that if books like McCullough's pull people away from the tube, then a good thing is happening."
The second is the review that appeared in The New Yorker, also in 2005, by Joshua Micah Marshall. He is best known as a blogger, who early on saw possibilities for moving from cyberspace to print, as long as he hung way left of center. 1776 is completely built on the character and leadership of George Washington, whom Marshall decides was half marble, a man who invented his own persona by copying "101 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior," as a child and reading deeply in the classics and history. God forbid that a gen-xer steeped in gaming, downloading and digital wing-dings would think books could improve a man! Apparently no one told him that most children for several centuries, even in the 19th century, used something very similar for learning good manners and deportment. There are several versions, and I think some homeschoolers (the kids who are beating the pants off the public school grads) are still using them. So far, no more Washingtons have emerged from exposure to these rules that I know of.
I also want to refer you to some important maps which you can find at Military.com. I printed The battle of Long Island, the Northern campaigns, Operations around Trenton, and the Battle of Trenton, and the Christmas Campaign. You'll see multiple maps on one page, but it only takes one page to print each selection, so I had 3 printed pages. They will be useful in following the important battles of 1776.
Finally, we have read McCullough before (John Adams) and most of us are acquainted with his works. If we had a national historian, it would be him because his writing is so accessible to the layman and the envy of the academic whose prose eludes most of us. One of the best sites on McCullough I found was "The Glorious Cause of America," where he lectures without notes on Sept. 27, 2005 at Brigham Young University. This is reprinted at http://magazine.byu.edu, and if you don't have time to read the book, I'll give you a pass and let you in with this article. If you read nothing else, it's worth it.
See you at Peggy's on November 5.