‘Saratoga’

Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary WarSaratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War by Richard M. Ketchum
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Occasionally, frayed. For instance, you find yourself wondering why Ketchum is bringing up, say, some rube of a farmer, who is tucked in the back ranks of whichever army. But the loose ends always lead somewhere interesting. Ketchum’s threads tie everything together, from mealy, bone-tired conscripts on up to the generals, their buttons bulging and claret glasses tinkling.

Perhaps the highlight (definitely the highlight) is Ketchum’s learned, almost exasperated, criticism of the main characters. Looking back through the centuries, you find yourself, too, asking, What were they thinking?

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‘Three Letters From the Andes’

Three Letters From The AndesThree Letters From The Andes by Patrick Leigh Fermor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Typical. That is to say, excellent.

[Pause.]

Not that it is particularly related, but I observe that Fermor has a peculiar, sometimes-maddening, often-perplexing knack for stumbling into sublime, almost preposterous, encounters. His wit and wisdom, his polymath existence, his seemingly boundless charm, generate plenty on their own, of course, but his life is riven with out-and-out flukes. Like when, late at night, after pulling himself, sodden sweater and flooded boots and all, from an icy pool on a seemingly barren, rocky shoreline, he discovers a cave glowing with campfire and the good cheer of large party of rustics. They naturally take to Fermor as if he were a brother (“A Cave on the Black Sea” in “Words of Mercury”). Instead of shivering the night away under a scratchy wool blanket, Fermor gets drunk with shepherds and fishermen, who eventually indulge in a bawdy dance performance that is perhaps best left to be discovered on one’s own.

In “Letters,” this eye-rolling moment occurs after six weeks in the dazzling glacier white of the Andes. Fermor attends a dinner at the British embassy and is seated next to a woman who he learns over the succeeding hours is the sister of one of his comrades in arms from World War II Crete. Never mind that the ambassador’s wife happens to be Bulgarian, an ethnicity squarely in Fermor’s ample wheelhouse. Wine-soaked hours pass, and when Fermor isn’t telling war stories to the sister, he is crooning Bulgarian folk songs with the “ambassadress.”

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Endangered Species

“The danger is potentially reversing the laws that it’s taken us decades to get in place and the further erosion of my rights,” said Mr. Mayfield, an Air Force veteran who served in the Persian Gulf war of 1991. He offered a hypothetical confrontation to explain why he carries a gun: “I’m a 61-year-old fat guy with a bad back with a little bit of shrapnel in my leg. There’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to run away from a 20-year-old.”

via Trayvon Martin Case Felt at N.R.A. Convention – NYTimes.com.

But It Is Still All Hell

Most vitally, war decides which ideal gets to be fought for again. War is regrettably a part of the human condition, and it is many awful things, but it is never meaningless.

via The new old lie by Thomas Bruscino – The New Criterion.