". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, April 4, 2014

Weather + Art + Music + Food + Historical Fiction + Biography

Yesterday nearly 70 degrees and sunny. Today barely forty, overcast, with spritzs of cold water out of the sky, and a mean frigid wind. Unpleasant as heck.

I'm not allowing el V to leave home today. He has some voice back, but it is croaky. In the interests of the Voice, with the Whitney Biannele performances coming right up I'm making a soup of yams, carrot and acorn squash puree for tonight's dinner. Sautéed mushrooms, zucchini to put on top and swirl through, with asparagus on the side, and roast turkey. One does what one can, when one isn't a medical person.  The upside is, not being a medical person, but merely a cooking one, I get to hear Stax music alternating with the beats for Robert Ashley's opera while I'm cooking, as el V continues working on his NYU course and doing self-directed practice and rehearsals for Las Vidas Perfectas.

Recreational, escapist fiction -- I finally have some! Sharon Kay Penman's latest installment in the Plantagenet Dynasty is out and I have it.  King's Ransom, as can be intuited from the title is the Holy Roman Emperor's imprisonment of the Lion Heart, and John's shenanigans. At least Queen Eleanor isn't dead. Yet.

In history, we've begun the bedtime reading aloud of T.J. Stiles's Pulitzer Prize winning bio (2009), The Last Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. I read it when it came out, but I have so much more to bring to the life of the first modern corporate monopolist-plutocrat: born (1794 -- Washington was still POTUS); starting his career right before the outbreak of the War of 1812; effectively a part of the antebellum nation -- filibustering in Nicaragua -- and the Civil War nation -- railroads! -- living until 1877.  Back in 2009 I didn't have the history, geography and politics of the War of 1812 in such detail, as firmly in place, as I do now -- now that I have tracked the War as when and where it played out in the Chesapeake, while living there 2010-2011.

Stiles is such a good researcher and writer. His earlier book,  Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War is also highly recommended. It's not as big a book as the Vanderbilt, though James too was a robber, but James didn't live as long.

One of the sure ways to find if a writer writes well: read her/him aloud to another person before bedtime. A badly written book is impossible to listen to or to read aloud for any length of time or not at least with any pleasure for either reader or listener. There are worthwhile books, well-written, that don't work for reading aloud, of course, due to the nature of the subject, structure or other reasons, but generally this is a dependable rule of thumb. The Last Tycoon proved itself last night to be an excellent reading aloud book. Or I merely proved myself a terrible reader: el V was asleep after six and a half pages. But that's part of the reading aloud ritual for us: lulling us easily into sleep.

No comments: