Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Grant a significant biography

Earlier this year a friend posted on Facebook about the bicentennial of Ulysses S. Grant (April 22). I quickly realized how little I knew about the 18th President. I knew he had been a general, and was the commander of Union forces who accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. He also had a reputation for being (depending on to whom you listened) a heavy drinker or a drunk. I also believed that his administration was wracked with scandal.

The book by Ron Chernow is massive. The copy I borrowed was in large print - and the text ran to 1,289. Those pages are followed by another 190 pages of notes, bibliography, and photo/illustration credits. (It is a pretty fat book at 1,479 pages!)

Grant was much more than just a general and a drunk. While this biography talks about his drinking issues, Chernow notes that whatever drinking Grant did was away from any significant activities. He was not ever drunk during a battle or a crucial time in his administration. Some of that credit belongs to one of his personal assistants, and to his wife Julia. He did have a "drinking problem," but especially at the end of his life, he seemed to be able to control it. According to this biography, he never drank leading up to and during a battle. He would occasionally go on binges. There were two people who helped reign him in, one was his wife Julia, and the other a long-suffering and long-serving assistant John A. Rawlins. It's a fascinating relationship, and there is one (much shorter) version of the story on History.net.

I strongly recommend the book. The description of Grant's political acumen and actions as President were not something I had known about. The election of his successor ushered in the era of Jim Crow, which undermined much of what Grant tried to do as both a General and as the President.

The very end of his life was sad in that he rushed to finish his memoirs (published by Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain) in order to leave funds for his wife. The next time I drive east, I will try to visit both his tomb (in New York City) and where he spent much of his final time writing in Saratoga Springs (NY). I suppose, his version of his life should be added to my reading list!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

ALA Annual - DC 2022

It has been a while! Here is the posting of my schedule ... Right now, this is still tentative, and a work in progress. My role in the Association has changed, and there are many fewer commitments. 

The schedule is dynamic and will change. And, I have not tried to move/copy the events I have chosen in the official ALA Scheduler - but I will be doing that.

I know that this time will feel different. Fewer hard commitments - and I get to look at programs. I will also be going more slowly through the exhibit hall.

And do note the time zone note on the bottom. I have entered the correct time zone in the calendar and seem to have  mastered the ability to have the events show in the time zone in which the conference is being held -- even when it is not the time zone in which I am working/entering the data.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

John Cheever: Complete Novels


More on Cheever! I have now finished reading John Cheever's Complete Novels, also in the Library of America edition (902 pages, plus notes and chronology). As I noted about his stories, I feel like this should count for more than one volume ... There are actually 5 novels in this compilation (in order of publication - and presentation):

  • The Wapshot Chronicle
  • The Wapshot Scandal
  • Bullet Park
  • Falconer
  • Oh What A Paradise It Seems

At times, the novels felt like short stories, and some of the characters from the novels either previously or subsequently appeared in the short stories.

I feel like the short story was Cheever's metier and real strength in writing. All of his works are "of a time and place." Because it represents both a geography and a time period with which I am familiar, it felt comfortable to me - and likely his writing was well received by "the establishment" since it was so much about them.

I am glad that I read all of his works, and have an appreciation for what he describes. 

Friday, May 06, 2022

John Cheever: Selected Stories and Other Writings - some notes

John Cheever: Collected Stories and Other Writings
 I just finished reading the Library of America's compilation of John Cheever's Collected Stories and Other Writings (1004 pages plus chronology and notes). The stories are more or less chronological in the order of publication, and are grouped by the collections in which they had appeared.

Many of the stories use characters and places which also appear in his novels - which gives a sense of continuity to his writings. He is clearly a gifted story teller. I had one friend ask (early on) if I had read "The Swimmer" (p. 726). I had not at that point, but it is an amazing story, and I commend it.

The Other Writings include works about other authors (Saul Bellow, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Malcolm Cowley) and a great little essay "Why I Write Short Stories." A sentence in that essay struck me a being very important:

"...they are read by discerning and well-informed men and women who seem to feel that narrative fiction can contribute to our understanding of one another and the sometimes bewildering world around us." (p. 996)

*Mic drop*

[In my list of books read this year, I feel like this should count for more than one volume!]

Friday, January 21, 2022

Books Read 2021

Here's the 2021 list:
    Death on Nantucket by Francine Mathews
    Ava's Man by Rick Bragg
    Home Before Dark: A biographical memoir of John Cheever by his daughter by Susan Cheever
    Tinderbox: the untold story of the Up Stairs Lounge fire and the rise of gay liberation by Robert W. Fieseler
    After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick ARC
    Note Found in a Bottle: My life as a drinker by Susan Cheever
    Death of a Diva at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison Hurricane read
    Antiques Carry On: A Trash 'N' Treasures Mystery by Barbara Allen Hurricane read
    The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough [Special note: cover is by my friend Wendell Minor]
    The Building of the Panama Canal in Historic Photographs by Ulrich Keller
    Panama: Yesterday and Today by Sue Core
    Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous by Ernest Kurtz
    The Awakening: complete, authoritative text with biographical and historical contexts, critical history, and essays from five contemporary critical perspectives by Kate Chopin edited by Nancy A. Walker
    My name is Bill: Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous by Susan Cheever
    The Library Book by Susan Olean
    Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction by Susan Cheever
    Couples by John Updike
    The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
    Gettysburg Pamphliets
      "Gettysburg" [National Park Service Booklet, 1992]
      "The Monuments at Gettysburg" by Thosmas A. Desjardin [1997]
      "Holding the Left at Gettysburg: the 20th New York State Militis on July 1, 1863" Seward Osborne [1990]
      "On the Bloodstained Field: 130 Human Interest Stories of the Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg" by Gregory A. Coco
      "'For God's Sake, Forward!' Gen. John F. Reynolds, USA" by Michael Riley [1995] signed