Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Some Rambling Thoughts on Failure and the Mail Bag

Bossoli's Battle of Solferino
I haven't done one of these in a long time. I've been rereading - Glen Cook's Black Company and James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux books - so I haven't picked up any new fiction until today. Later on I'll show you what was in the mail bag.

On the other hand, a recent question from a friend about the unification of Germany sparked a flutter of a memory. Oh, yeah, my utterly failed Long Nineteenth Century project from a couple of years ago. You know, the one where I replaced the banner with Carlo Bossoli's awe-inspiring painting of the Battle of Solferino and claimed I was going to read a great big stack of history books. The thing I failed at almost completely. I only managed to review two books - Alistair Horne's Price of Glory about Verdun and Trevor Royle's The Great Crimean War - and make a few ancillary posts before getting distracted by others things.

3rd Bastion in Sevastopol
I really was distracted. I was getting bored with swords & sorcery (really, it can happen). In search of something to write about for Black Gate, my eyes fell on epic fantasy. It was fun, but the bigger books stole any extra time had for reading non-fiction. I mean it stole time if I wanted to keep writing for Black Gate AND spend hundreds of hours playing Civilization.

So I bailed. After all the hullabaloo I made about it I just ditched the Long Nineteenth Century like a hot potato - a dirty, smelly, hot potato. Later I did the same thing with the Western project. In the end I just signed off on blog projects, changed the name to Stuff I Like and started posting whatever caught my fancy. The thing is, I'm lazy, too lazy by half. It's really my greatest fault and I don't see myself overcoming it any time soon. I really do wish I'd succeed at the 19th century stuff. Heck, I've got something going on at my Staten Island blog I was really hoping I'd get a move on this summer, but you can guess how well that went.

I'm not proud of my laziness, but I really don't see overcoming it. Maybe if anything other than my reputation as a slacker depended on me accomplishing any of these things I would change. I'm am starting to discipline myself a little bit, so I'll see how that goes. Until some future better moment, though, I'll just keeping on keeping on the way I'v been going.

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to attempt anything like that. I am saying I'm going to finally finish Geoffrey Wawro's The Prusso-Austrian War and review my notes on Harold C. Wylly's Campaign of Magenta and Solferino. I'm really interested in fall of Austria and the rise of Prussia as the leaders of the German-speaking world.

Cavalry at Konnigratz
Between the clobbering by the French and Sardinians in 1859 and then the Prussians in 1866, Austria was knocked out of the running for control of the Germans. The Prussians, victorious in Denmark in 1864, against Austria in 1866, and finally against Germany's long-time nemesis, France, in 1870, became the natural leaders of the Germans. In 1871, under Prussian direction, save for Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and Austria, the assorted German nations were finally united. How this heady moment of Teutonic triumph led to the cauldron of the First World War and then the Second is a story for another day.

Mail Bag

On my birthday, I always order a stack of stuff, mostly from Amazon. This year is no different.

I'm a huge Tim Powers fan, and he, along with Glen Cook, is one of only a few writers I still get in hardcover. Even though I'm like two books behind on his catalogue, there's a new one out and I'll get it on Friday.

Then there are the history books I bought (all ebooks). I envision having a significant library dedicated to the military insanity that shaped the last few centuries, particularly in the West. I think I'm pretty well along, but there's always more to go. Our history of slaughtering one another is lengthy.

I know a little about the English Civil War, mostly from a book, whose title escapes me, on the period's radical factions. This is the first full history of the whole period and I hope to actually read it soonish. 

Other than a vague idea of who the Duke of Marlborough was and that the Battle of Malplaquet was a important, I know little about the war. I vaguely recall it involved Louis XIV finagling to get his grandson on the Spanish throne, but beyond that, I've got nothing. These seems to be a solid treatment of the whole war and not just the British part as many other books do.

I've got a little cash left to spend but I'm going to sit on it for a bit. Ideally, I'd love to find a history of Russian imperialism in the Caucasus, but I haven't come across one yet. If you know of one, please, let me know. Imperial Russia appears to have been one of the most thoroughly militarized societies to have ever existed. There appear to have been wars going on constantly from mid-16th century straight up until the Revolution. Of course the Soviet Union had its own imperial period, but again, that's a story for another time.

A good one volume survey of the Latin American wars of independence would be a score too. If you know about one of those, drop me a line.

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