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Exiles of the New York Times
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Author Topic: American History  (Read 29508 times)
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weezo
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« Reply #1695 on: December 21, 2007, 08:14:24 AM »

Dzimas,

Yes, I am still remembering the assassinations over Menzies and wondering why Adams is so much more acceptable than he was. I'm not sure how a memoir qualifies as a book on history, and more than some of you were not sure how a book that speculated on other alternatives to standard history could qualify as history. I fail to see how having famous ancestors qualifies someone who write a thoroughly negative book to deserve more consideration than one who is searching for new possibilities in history.

I have pointed out the places where Adams was dead wrong in some of his assertions in the same manner (albeit with less vehemence, I thinK) than what was used with Menzies, such as when he misstated a mountain as a volcano. When the group was considering reading Education, it was touted as a history, not a memoir. I recall those in the Menzies discussion who insisted that it would have been impossible for the Chinese to have more advanced ship building technology than that of Europe with the same sneer as Adams used to characterize education in the south.

So, as you have been discussing the wonders of this book, I have been comparing it to Menzies and wonder why Adams is taken so seriously and Menzies remanded to the dust bin. Adams did not take a wide view of his time, and, in truth, Menzies put a lot more effort into researching his version of history than Adams seems to have done. Adams wrote on the coattails of his worthy ancestors whereas Menzies explored virgin ground and asked us to question our previous assumptions.



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thanatopsy
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« Reply #1696 on: December 21, 2007, 08:44:50 AM »

The Modern Library Top List:




   1. THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS by Henry Adams
   2. THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE by William James
   3. UP FROM SLAVERY by Booker T. Washington
   4. A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN by Virginia Woolf
   5. SILENT SPRING by Rachel Carson
   6. SELECTED ESSAYS, 1917-1932 by T. S. Eliot
   7. THE DOUBLE HELIX by James D. Watson
   8. SPEAK, MEMORY by Vladimir Nabokov
   9. THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE by H. L. Mencken
  10. THE GENERAL THEORY OF EMPLOYMENT, INTEREST, AND MONEY by John Maynard Keynes



Education is at the top of the list and it must be for good reason!
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« Reply #1697 on: December 21, 2007, 11:18:25 AM »

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Education is at the top of the list and it must be for good reason!

Why? What is the reason? I can't figure it out....it's  a good book, but I can think of many more influential and better written books. Why is this book at the top of the list?

SILENT SPRING and the GENERAL THEORY had a hellava lot more influence on society, SELECTED ESSAYS is better written....What is the fascination with EDUCATION?
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« Reply #1698 on: December 21, 2007, 11:31:31 AM »

Bob,

I suspect it is Adams' credentials from his ancestry that put him at the top of the list. Nothing in the discussion the past weeks has suggested to me that the book is a good read. I have no idea how well it is written, but have not seen any quotes that suggest it is.

Americans have a fascination with "royalty" that persists in the elevation of the Founding Fathers to that status, right up there with the Hollywood crowd.

To be honest, I think Silent Spring was the only book on the list I may have read, and I don't recall it being a significant read. Maybe it's just my taste in reading. At the time that Silent Spring came out, my favorite reads were how-to books on everything from gardening, sewing, crafts, and furniture making.

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Dzimas
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« Reply #1699 on: December 21, 2007, 03:19:02 PM »

It is at the top of the list for the same reason De Tocqueville's Democracy in America is at the top of many persons' list.  It is a widely influential book.  Plus, it must be read as a memoir not as a history.  He is writing about historic persons and events shaping his life.  I had my criticisms of De Tocqueville, but I think his assessment of America's burgeoning young democracy is fascinating to read, especially as it was written during the "Age of Jackson."  I think there are better books.  I'm partial to Francis Parkman myself.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2007, 03:32:20 PM by Dzimas » Logged
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« Reply #1700 on: December 21, 2007, 03:19:55 PM »

Dzimas,

Yes, I am still remembering the assassinations over Menzies and wondering why Adams is so much more acceptable than he was. I'm not sure how a memoir qualifies as a book on history, and more than some of you were not sure how a book that speculated on other alternatives to standard history could qualify as history. I fail to see how having famous ancestors qualifies someone who write a thoroughly negative book to deserve more consideration than one who is searching for new possibilities in history.

I have pointed out the places where Adams was dead wrong in some of his assertions in the same manner (albeit with less vehemence, I thinK) than what was used with Menzies, such as when he misstated a mountain as a volcano. When the group was considering reading Education, it was touted as a history, not a memoir. I recall those in the Menzies discussion who insisted that it would have been impossible for the Chinese to have more advanced ship building technology than that of Europe with the same sneer as Adams used to characterize education in the south.

So, as you have been discussing the wonders of this book, I have been comparing it to Menzies and wonder why Adams is taken so seriously and Menzies remanded to the dust bin. Adams did not take a wide view of his time, and, in truth, Menzies put a lot more effort into researching his version of history than Adams seems to have done. Adams wrote on the coattails of his worthy ancestors whereas Menzies explored virgin ground and asked us to question our previous assumptions.


Let's see. Adams wrote this book in 1907, whereas Menzies wrote his book in 2007.  I think anyone can say that quite a bit of information has become available since then in regard to such topics as evolution and natural selection that Mr. Adams would not have been privy to at the time.  Besides, I don't think it really mattered to him, as he was not writing a dissertation on wolves, but suggesting that man has not evolved very far as a moral animal, where a wolf still retains its primordial soul.  On the other hand, Mr. Menzies chose to blatantly disregard any evidence to the contrary in regard to his speculations on the width and breadth of Zheng He's voyages.  As such, Menzies' book was relegated to travel.  Adams book is under the heading of biographies and memoirs.  Neither are regarded as history or science.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2007, 03:31:25 PM by Dzimas » Logged
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« Reply #1701 on: December 21, 2007, 08:39:11 PM »

I'm inclined to go along with you in your comparison with DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA.  Although I cannot  see it as the greatest piece of non-fiction in the twentieth century, nor the most influential, it remains a book to be read by all who want to study history, biography, memoir and who want to learn the the particular era covered. My favorite piece about the uniqueness of the book is found, of all places, in Cliff Notes--the essay presenting the book details what the book is really about and  talks about the stylistic features of the book (including the significance of the Pteraspis). It's not an easy book to read, its a necessary book to read. it's part history, part memoir, part just plain viewpoint and philosophy. Its just plain fascinating.


http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/The-Education-of-Henry-Adams.id-94,pageNum-101.html


The reason I posted so much on the reality of what went on is  just to paint a clearer picture and to remind everybody it isn't just history and to point out the very negative, pessimistic views of the man....

Above all, any comparison to Menzies is both silly and need not be gotten into. There is no comparison. Adams belongs on a bookshelf with history and literature. Menzie belongs on a bookshelf dedicated to speculation. He weaves a good tale and writes a good book, but it'll never rise to the level of EDUCATION. EDUCATION contains historical errors, Menzies, using legitimate historical background, tries to create history, and fails.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2007, 08:40:44 PM by Bob » Logged
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« Reply #1702 on: December 21, 2007, 09:25:33 PM »

Why is this book at the top of the list?



I am still trying to figure this out.  But perhaps a second reading of the book might help.

Recall from my earlier posts that it appeared HBA was a cynic whose chaotic ramblings bespoke of doom and gloom and whose view of the future was ultra pessimistic.

Well, surprise, surprise --- commentator Chalfant writes on p 416 that HBA was a genuine optimist.  WHAT?? Sez  I. But I did take a quick glance at a few passages and found that he was correct and that I misinterpreted HBA's intent as do so many others!

Consider how he sees a ''dynamic theory of history'' {ch 33} and how acceleration stimulates progress {ch 34} and how such laws ''tend to encourage foresight and to economise waste of mind. If it was not itself education, it pointed out the economies necessary for the education of the new American ... for the first time since man began his education among the carnivores, they would find a world that sensitive and timid natures could regard without a shudder''  {p 394, 397}

Somehow, I completely missed it in my first reading!

Now I see that, indeed, HBA does not predict doom and gloom.  Instead, he is predicting accelerated ''education'' and progress. 

Could it be that because HBA predicted a society where morality, progress, tolerance, and where power would be accelerated but utilized in a positive sense, could this optimism be the real reason why the book  is so highly regarded?

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« Reply #1703 on: December 21, 2007, 09:38:05 PM »

Thanatopsy....don't know why, but every time I see your "headlines" I have to laugh.  Too funny, and one really can't laugh enough at this time of year.

But as I read into the book, I began to suspect that his real intent was to publish his dynamic theory of history.  The companion piece to Mont Saint Michele was a nice front, but you have to admit he seems much more excited and far less cynical about his theory than about anything else he records in the Education. 

« Last Edit: December 21, 2007, 09:43:46 PM by Lhoffman » Logged
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« Reply #1704 on: December 21, 2007, 09:48:05 PM »

Than and Laurie,

So, I gather, that since Than read someone else's thought, that the man was an optimist in theory but not in practice, or in the analysis of the progress of social culture, that maybe that someone else is spinning a myth about Adams' work? One-Two-Three - Does everyone now see optimism in this pessimistic book?

Oh, please, everyone, stick to your gut response to this book, and don't be misled by some "expert" who tries to fancy it up. That's what I always hated about "literature" classes. Some "expert" tells you what you are suppose to think about the work.
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« Reply #1705 on: December 21, 2007, 09:53:44 PM »

Nope....if you'll look back to my earlier comments, you will find that I always quite liked HA.  I was impressed that Henry worked not to filter his experiences through his age.  (Quite difficult)  And, I've known young people in their twenties and early thirties who seem to have an attitude much like HA's.  (or I think back to my own twenties....try it...bound to bring a shudder  Smiley )The best thing for it is to enjoy their youth while trying to help them not to take themselves too seriously.  (Thinking all the while....Thank the Lord I'm no longer 20-something!)
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« Reply #1706 on: December 22, 2007, 01:33:37 AM »

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I was impressed that Henry worked not to filter his experiences through his age. 


I think this is an important point, hoffman.  Adams wanted to illustrate to the reader how he grew as a person, so the views presented are more or less the views he had at the times he described.  I thought he did a very good job of this.  It is more a work of literature than it is history, as uses a wide array of literary techniques to express himself.  I think anyone who would read this book as history would be disappointed.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2007, 05:34:30 AM by Dzimas » Logged
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« Reply #1707 on: December 22, 2007, 07:01:34 AM »

as usual Dzimas, you hit the nail right on the head:

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It is more a work of literature than it is history, as [he] uses a wide array of literary techniques to express himself.  I think anyone who would read this book as history would be disappointed.

That's the answer to my question---it's not history, it's literature and the reason they rate it as "the best book..." is his use of all those techniques and his style---not his accuracy (although the section on his stay in London during the Civil War is looked on as some of his best historical work)

Several pieces I read about  the book brought out the point that College English Departments co-opted the book early on and have held it ever since...its one of those books which captures a legitimate place in more than one discipline--Grant's MEMOIRS does the same.
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« Reply #1708 on: December 22, 2007, 09:54:19 AM »

``Some "expert" tells you what you are suppose to think about the work.``


Not to worry --- no one has twisted my arm and, I'm sure, no one will try to do it to you.

The fact is that the commentator did point out a truth that I overlooked and which could be readily overlooked by anyone.  If you read the book and took a deeper look at the passages that I quoted you would have seen his point.

As a teacher you are obligated to keep an open mind.  Moreover, it is your duty to impart this idea to your students.  This is why so many of your colleagues continue to teach this book and to extol its many merits.  I respectfully suggest that you consider doing the same and that this effort will be well rewarded.
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« Reply #1709 on: December 22, 2007, 01:30:23 PM »

Bob, I agree with you about John Maynard Keynes.
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