Friday, September 9, 2016


Pumpkin Spice Smellovision
Via Schmutzie, a seasonal visit with our guinea pig pals:

Bundle up
We're having rain and steamy temperatures in the 80s. It could be worse I suppose (90s). Tonight is supposed to be the big cooldown and I am full of anticipation. It's possible that a light layer could be required first thing tomorrow morning. [gleeful clapping]

French Ham
I was widening my Hamilton interests by reading about the Marquis de Lafayette. First I found Sarah Vowell's book Lafayette in the Somewhat United States . It appears to have started life online as she refers to her readers as "dear Internet" at one point. It's a quick read and a good use of her deep appetite for American history and using it to understand our current government. I had some burning questions: what happened to the Marquis in the French Revolution? Did he keep his head? As an aristocratic military man he would seem to be on the wrong end of many of the factions. The book has some info about this although it's mostly about his American Revolution experience and his nostalgia tour in the 1820s. During the French Revolution he rushed around Paris trying to get the mobs to stop executing priests and minor nobles for a while. He wrote that this was temporarily effective but that after he left them, the crowds went back to arson and murder. Eventually he had to leave for his own safety. He ended up in an Austrian prison for several years. And I have questions about this experience and what else happened for him in France.

I thought those questions would be answered by a 'serious' biography I snatched up at the library by Bris. But Lafayette: Hero of the American Revolution turns out to be a terribly translated book by a determined name-dropper. I read the first two chapters and decided that was more than enough. George Holoch's translation retains so much of the original French construction and word choice that it staggers woodenly down the page. I will try again with something composed in English.

This blog post describes the wow that most of us get from the musical. It also does a good job of discussing the ticklish issues of race and Founders' glamour that are necessarily woven through the work.

Red rubies
The great tomato thickets are starting to drop their leaves. The still vast ranks of cherry tomatoes are easier to find now. It's been quite a successful tomato patch.


Lucy said...

Asked my Quiet American pal what he'd recommend, knowing Lafayette to be one of his enthusiasms - they went out to Brest to see the replica of the Hermione earlier this year. He said

'I have two books on Lafayette which I found good. One is "Lafayette" by Harlow Giles Unger and the other is "Adopted Son" by David A. Clary. The second is about his close relationship with George Washington. Both were good reads. It was one of the pities of history that he was such a dedicated democrat and never succeeded to make his mark in France's democracy.'

Don't know how you are with Hilary Mantel but 'A Place of Greater Safety' is one of my all time best reads on the French Revolution, or indeed almost anything really, though I was kind of glad to step away from it by the end. So was she, I think, said she found after spending so much time with Robespierre it was good to be with someone as hearty and robust and free from neuroses as Thomas Cromwell. It mostly focuses on Robespierre, Danton and the Desmoulins, but there's quite a lot in the first part about, and from the POV of, Lafayette. I'm afraid I can often digest history as fiction better than the straight stuff, though I have to feel I can trust it.

Burke's 'popular general...master of your assembly, the master of your whole republic' though often seen as prophesying Napoleon, was more likely Lafayette he had in mind. The latter was sometimes known as Washington Pot-au-feu, it seems, the archness of which is a bit opaque to me, I must admit.

It's so nice to put on a layer in September, isn't it. I put wool socks on yesterday evening, very cosy, though I had to take them off after an hour or two.

Nimble said...

Thanks for these recommendations! I saw good reviews for the Unger book and will put a hold on our library copy. Glad to hear about the other.

I haven't read any Mantel so I'd be glad to start with APoGS. The first half may be enough for what I'm looking for. Any study of French history in school seems very long ago.

Anonymous said...

For a glancing fictional view of Lafayette, Diana Gabaldon has put him in a couple of scenes in her last Outlander novel, which has now reached the American revolution. Have you read her massive tomes? I quite love them, and the tv series has been wonderful, too. Juicy historical fiction with a smart, sassy, strong woman at the heart. And redhead Scottish men in kilts.
-the Danish