Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Confederates in the Attic

The Book: Confederates in the Attic

The Author: Tony Horowitz

The Dealio: Tony has tons of fond memories of time spent, as a child, in the attic with his grandfather reading, studying, savoring the world between the pages of a book on the American Civil War. And not just any book: the same book his immigrant grandfather used to learn English.
Decades pass, and, one day, Tony, now a grown 'family man', spots a gaggle of re-enactors as they wander past his Virginia home, looking for 'their' battlefield. What follows is an odyssey through towns sprawling and minuscule, attempting to duplicate what his new acquaintance Rob-(well-documented as the go-to guy for portraying dead Rebs)- dubs 'the wargasm': a free-wheeling, no holds barred, gruelling attempt to sweep through all the major battlefields, (including my all time fave: Gettysburg. Why, yes, my family has been dragged there too many times to count), within a handful of days. Along the way, he meets not only people whose business it is to re-create the battles as accurately as possible, (the diet! the bugs! the smelly, wet clothes! the inappropriately generic eyeglasses! Rob's infamous skill, 'The Bloat'!), but also, those who study the battles trying to learn from them, and those who still have vested interests in how the battles are portrayed and memorialised in history books.

The Grading Session: 4.71 pengies out of 5: Horowitz is a reliably entertaining and engaging writer with a self-deprecating streak of humor and a zest for unlikely adventures, (his Blue Latitudes turns the microscope on Captain Cooke- or Cookie, as we call him at Casa P+10- and is absolutely worth checking out), unusual in a self-professed eternal student, who loves comfort and convenience. Don't we all?

Lessons Learned: Even an eternal student need not be desk-bound when a beguiling adventure beckons. Get up, get out the maps, and get going! Plus this one: what, exactly do you do when your destination battlefield turns out to have been converted into a K Mart/Home Town Buffet combo. Should you be indignant and offended, or just stop, shop and grab a bite to eat? Decisions, decisions.

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