Attention Deficit and a fast mind is an awful combination, but it has its benefits. People who have gotten my castoff books LOVE it. My books are a delight to demanding people. You see, with my really crippling attention deficit, I have no patience at all. As the Brits say, “Get ON with it!”
So MY books fall into two general categories, 1) Those I get bored with fast and never pick up again, and 2) Those that literally, I mean literally, fall apart from my reading and re-reading them. Mind you, I like to read in the tub, so my books suffer a little more than usual wear. But when I go through twenty books and find one, I read that one numerous times. Slowly, thinking all the way. Things jump out at me that never occur to people who consume vast numbers of books.
I am always a bit surprised when I find someone, like my former prof Gordon Tullock, who has read several books a week, but can’t REMEMBER them. I have a lot of information, not because I go to a lot of places, but because I have absorbed a thousand or so books into my pores. But the books I read over and over are not to inform me, they are to entertain me. Since I have a lot of brain, that requires some depth. So I have read Eric Hoffer the way he wanted to be read. I have read CS Lewis beyond the limits of the way he wanted to be read, and so forth.
What is important to others is that it has to be one hell of a recipe to get me to put a book on my read-to-death list. If I read it, you will enjoy the hell out of it. I did not conclude this, I am quoting people who discover my book hoard.
Probably the best two historical writers I can think of are forgotten by the rest of the world. Elizabeth will wonder why I say Inglis Fletcher is forgotten. I say so because she is. But her historical novels about the settlement, and the PRE-settlement, of North Carolina are history at its best. She ties the English families who preceded the Lost Colony to the ones who did eventually settle the Old North State, and she know all the history in incredible detail and she makes it a fascinating story. Her histories were all written by the early 1950s, so she missed Political Correctness.
Today Inglis Fletcher would not be published at all.
W.E. Woodward is a name you will know even less than the forgotten Inglis. He was a big writer in his day, when history books were bet-sellers among Americans in general, not a specialty aimed at NYC and academia. First, let me level with you. Woodward was born in Lexington County, which begins about two miles from where I am sitting now. He was raised in a South Carolina mill town about twelve miles from August, Georgia.
But, as he said, that twelve miles may as well have been a hundred. He goes into detail as to why. You see, a mill town operates twelve hours a day six days a week. On Sunday people are tired. They don’t go wait for a train and go to August on a Sunday and then wait for another train and come right back. And this is the kind of thing that fascinates me about Woodward. He explains the SIMPLE stuff. You feel like he is sitting there leveling with you.
Woodward, like me, was a very smart kid and a test got him into the big world. You know the Citadel, which is in the middle of aristocratic Charleston? They held a statewide competitive examination for a cadet, and cadets got full expenses and got paid like West Point. It was competitive, which meant it didn’t matter if your name was Beauregard Wade Hampton Strom Thurmond, all you had to do was be the best. Woodward, down in his mill village, was the best.
I read his biography. He went to New York and became a big advertising man and made a fortune. THEN he began to write history. He wrote “Bunk” which made the word popular in the 1920′s. He knew all the literary big names.
The best historical book you will probably ever read is “How Our People Lived.” It is about OUR people, white people, from early colonial days to the Chicago ire of 1906 (?). It is a series of sketches of people, and each goes into details like what stage the umbrella was in a particular time. AND Woodward sneaks in “Life in a South Carolina Mill Village,” his own autobiographical bit, as one of the parts. It is one of those short books you wish would go on a lot longer.
Or at least wouldn’t fall apart so quickly when it gets wet.
Woodward’s biography of Washington makes you feel you know the man personally. Washington was NOT bright; he was something better. He was a man who awed the Big Brains. He was not afraid to HIRE the best brains of a time when genius towered any other age. After reading Woodward, I will never get over the fact that President Washington’s first cabinet of four men included Jefferson, Hamilton, and Franklin! Just how could you find intellectual giants like that anywhere else or at any other time?
But when Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin showed up, there was no competition with Washington. George Washington was, well, George Washington. There was no competition. WHY was there no competition? In every other time, a man with a big image and an average IQ would be terrified by smarter people, much less these three absolute mental mountains.
That never occurred to Washington. That never occurred to Jefferson. That never occurred to the one man who DID look down on the common man, Hamilton. It never occurred to Franklin. It never occurred to you. It never occurred to me.
I have a feeling it DID occur to Washington. But Washington WAS what the Greatest Generation says it was. Washington was an aristocrat. He would never consider letting his self-doubts make him consider lesser men when his country’s future was at stake.
Which brings us back to that COMPETITIVE examination W.E. Woodward took for the Citadel. You see, those Charleston aristocrats had said it was a COMPETITIVE examination. It is a totally out-of-date sentiment, but they MEANT it. They had given their word. Sloppy sentimentality, but hard fact.
Woodward made all his successes in New York City. But he never forgot the kind of totally forgotten mentality that goes with aristocracy.
Not naciocracy. Aristocracy.
Anyway, go to Amazon.com and buy a used Inglis Fletcher and a used WE Woodward. Nobody will EVER reprint them.
They’re good reads.