Monthly Archives: December 2011

In Red Blood & Black Ink David Dary makes a strong case for the importance of the press in settling the West and helping to knit the nation together, making us into the country we are today.

Red Blood and Black Ink : Journalism in the Old West David Dary Journalism  History American newspapers  New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1998 Hardcover. 1st ed. xiv, 345 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [309]-330) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.   VG/VG

For the first time, the long, exciting, often surprising story of journalism in the Old West – from the freewheeling days of the early 1800s when all the news was an expression of the editor’s opinion, to the more balanced reporting of the classic small-town weeklies and busy city newsrooms of the 1920s.

Here are the printers who founded the first papers, arriving in town with a shirt tail of type and a secondhand press, setting up shop under trees, in tents, in barns or storefronts, moving on when the town failed, or into larger quarters if it flourished.

Using many excerpts from the early papers themselves, Dary shows us the amazing ways the early editors stretched the language, often inventing new words to describe unusual events or to lambaste their targets – and how they sometimes had to defend their right of free speech with fists or guns. We see women working in partnership with their husbands or out on their own, and tramp printers who moved from place to place as need for their services rose and fell.

Here, too, are Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Horace Greeley and William Allen White writing on the death of his young daughter. Here is the Telegraph and Texas Register article that launched the legend of the Alamo, and dozens of tongue-in-cheek, brilliant, or moving reports of national events and local doings, including holdups, train robberies, wars, elections, shouting matches, hyperbolic vegetable-growing contests, weddings, funerals, births, and much, much more.

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His locked, lettered, braw brass collar Showed him the gentleman and scholar… Robert Burns

Reading the man : a portrait of Robert E. Lee through his private lettters       Elizabeth Brown Pryor Generals Confederate States of America Biography, Lee Robert E. (Robert Edward) 1807-1870 Correspondence New York : Viking, 2007 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxiv, 658 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [619]-640) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Robert E. Lee’s war correspondence is well known, and here and there personal letters have found their way into print, but the great majority of his most intimate messages have never been made public. These letters reveal a far more complex and contradictory man than the one who comes most readily to the imagination, for it is with his family and his friends that Lee is at his most candid, most engaging, and most vulnerable. Over the past several years historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor has uncovered a rich trove of unpublished Lee materials that had been held in both private and public collections.

Her new book, a unique blend of analysis, narrative, and historiography, presents dozens of these letters in their entirety, most by Lee but a few by family members. Each letter becomes a departure point for an essay that shows what the letter uniquely reveals about Lee’s time or character. The material covers all aspects of Lee’s life — his early years, West Point, his work as an engineer, his relationships with his children and his slaves, his decision to join the South, his thoughts on military strategy, and his disappointments after defeat in the Civil War. The result is perhaps the most intimate picture to date of Lee, one that deftly analyzes the meaning of his actions within the context of his personality, his relationships, and the social tenor of his times.

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A fascinating, intelligent, and sometimes funny tour of the human relics at the root of the world’s major religions.

 

Rag and bone : a journey among the world’s holy dead  Peter Manseau Relics New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2009 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. ix, 243 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

By examining relics—the bits and pieces of long-dead saints at the heart of nearly all religious traditions — Peter Manseau delivers a book about life, and about faith and how it is sustained. The result of wide travel and the author’s own deep curiosity, filled with true tales of the living and dubious legends of the dead, Rag and Bone tells of a California seeker who ended up in a Jerusalem convent because of a nun’s disembodied hand; a French forensics expert who travels on the metro with the rib of a saint; two young brothers who collect tickets at a Syrian mosque, studying English beside a hair from the Prophet Muhammad’s beard; and many other stories, myths, and peculiar histories.

With these, and an array of other digits, limbs, and bones, Manseau provides a respectful, witty, informed, inquisitive, thoughtful, and fascinating look into the “primordial strangeness that is at the heart of belief,” and the place where the abstractions of faith meet the realities of physical objects, of rags and bones.

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The man who saved Galveston and Texas during the War of Northern Agression.

Prince John Magruder : his life and campaigns  Paul D. Casdorph Generals Confederate States of America Biography Magruder John Bankhead 1807-1871 New York : John Wiley & Sons, 1996 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiii, 386 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 365-374) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

He was one of the most intriguing characters of the Civil War era. As famous for his courage as for his ornate uniforms and flamboyant style, he won intrepid victories on the peninsula of Virginia and successfully defended Texas during the long war’s waning days. Now, in the first full-length biography of Major General John Bankhead Magruder, acclaimed historian Paul D. Casdorph has created a brilliant portrait of the Confederate general dubbed “Prince John.”

Born in Virginia in 1807, Magruder attended the University of Virginia, where he dined with Thomas Jefferson and his classmates included a young writer named Edgar Allan Poe. These were the first in a long line of famous acquaintances. While at West Point, Magruder met the future Confederate leaders with whom he would ultimately join forces: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Joseph E. Johnston.

Graduating from West Point in 1830, Magruder embarked upon three action-packed decades of service in the U.S. Army, taking him from Florida during the Seminole wars to the frontiers of Maine, New York, and Texas. In 1847, his pivotal leadership of General Winfield Scott’s forces was instrumental in defeating Santa Anna at the gates of Mexico City.

It was in that conflict that Magruder introduced a young lieutenant named Thomas Jackson to the strategic value of deploying rapidly maneuverable artillery. Fourteen years later, at Bull Run, Jackson would earn a colorful nickname of his own: Stonewall.

By the spring of 1861, Prince John Magruder had risen to the estimable position of commander of the Washington garrison. Although he knew Abraham Lincoln and several cabinet members personally, when secession and war became imminent, Magruder resigned his duties as the president’s bodyguard to race home to Virginia to answer the Confederate call to arms. In the opening engagements of the Civil War, Prince John’s initiative and audacity earned him both admiration and acclaim.

His often outrageous behavior, spurred by heavy drinking, also brought notoriety. Magruder’s larger-than-life style was in sharp contrast to the rigid standards demanded by the Confederate leadership, and Prince John was transferred to the district of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Once out from under the eyes of his stern taskmasters in Virginia, the eccentric – yet unquestionably courageous – officer rallied his command.

His heroic defense of the Texas coast culminated in a great victory at the Battle of Galveston on New Year’s Day, 1863. When the war ended, he headed for Mexico, and yet another great adventure. Serving in the government of Emperor Maximilian, Magruder, once more, added his own unique flourish to a historic upheaval. With enemy forces closing in, he attempted to arrange an escape plot for the doomed ruler. When the plan failed, Magruder fled to Cuba. Prince John eventually returned to the United States, where he died in 1871.

As befits its bold and brassy subject, Prince John Magruder is a riveting – and overdue – portrait of one of the nineteenth century’s most charismatic military figures. It reveals new insights into the inner workings of the Confederacy, and sheds new light on lesser-known engagements in Texas and the American West. Daring military adventure and dazzling biography come together in this compelling chronicle of a dynamic individual who managed to create a few ripples of his own within the swirling tides of history.

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Coquetry whets the appetite; flirtation depraves it.

Poet of the appetites : the lives and loves of M.F.K. Fisher Joan Reardon Women food writers United States Biography Fisher, M. F. K. (Mary Frances Kennedy) 1908-1992 New York : North Point Press, 2004 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiii, 509 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [487]-490) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In more than thirty books, M.F.K. Fisher forever changed the way Americans understood not only the art of eating but the art of living. Whether considering the oyster or describing how to cook a wolf, she addressed the universal needs “for protection, food, love.” Readers were instantly drawn into her circle of husbands and lovers, artists and artisans they felt they knew Fisher herself, whether they encountered her as a child with a fried-egg sandwich in her pocket, a young bride awakening to the glories of French food, or a seductress proffering the first peas of the season.

Oldest child, wife, mother, mistress, self-made career woman, trail-blazing writer–Fisher served up each role with panache. But like many master stylists, she was also a master mythologizer. Her portraits and scenarios were often unrecognizable to those on whom they were based, and her own emotions and experiences remained cloaked in ambiguity.

To retell her story as it really happened is an important enterprise, and Joan Reardon has made the most of her access to Fisher, her family and friends, and her private papers. This multifaceted portrayal of the woman John Updike christened the “poet of the appetites” is no less memorable than the personae Fisher crafted for herself.

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