Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Monday, August 09, 2004

What's on the end of the bed.

You know, if I had a library full of fusty old books and a leather sofa, I could say something like, "what's on the reading table." But, given that most of my reading is done while facing the foot of the bed before going to sleep each night, I suppose you just have to pretend.

ANYway, not that anyone really WANTS to know, but at the moment I'm wading through Shiloh, The Battle That Changed the Civil War, by Larry J. Daniel.

Good book if you're a military buff, and doesn't read as if it were composed on a stack of 3x5 index cards that were dropped several times during the process. (vis. some of Stephen Ambrose's later work.) But one of the things that always gets to me in such dense books is the bewilderment of trying to figure out the movements of various troops as they relate to each other over a broader front. Maps, obviously, are what you need, but the maps in this book are at all different scales, with varying degrees of detail, and broken down into the various portions of the overall fight, with little sense of concurrent action on the flanks. Units are shown as discrete bits clustered around various objectives, but there is nothing showing context. I would like some larger maps, maybe even a fold out. Or a GIS-based interactive topographic map that would show the disposition of all units and allow a real-time 3-D action montage showing the ebb and flow of the battle. Kinda hard to fold that in a book, I suppose.

Add to this confusion the expedient of having to tell first one side of the story, then the other point of view of the action, and it becomes confusing whose side we're on, and what time it is, and what's going on. Further, the literary flourishes which can serve to enliven a book get to be an annoyance, such as the constant reference to P.G.T. Beauregard as "the Creole," repeated ad nauseum throughout; or the perceived need to speak of an officer at one point in a paragraph by his name, then mysteriously refer at other points to him as "the brigade (or regiment, or battalion) commander." Who? Wha? Then you have to go back and remind yourself who's being spoken of.

And then, pictures. There are just a few, and none of them really anything that help in understanding the action, although the ones taken a few years after the battle are spooky looking.

I know it sounds like I don't like the book, but I do--just wish some stuff had been handled a bit different. Anyway, for those of you with a hankering, here is a website that is relatively comprehensive (although its maps aren't so hot, either.)

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