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Books read in 2017 # 89 - Finally done with this fucking book - Tim Lieder [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Tim Lieder

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Books read in 2017 # 89 - Finally done with this fucking book [Jul. 3rd, 2017|11:12 pm]
Tim Lieder
89. Patriotic Gore by Edmund Wilson - Edmund Wilson came of age during WWI and in keeping with the times, he became an extreme pacifist. Pacifism is awesome but Wilson takes it to the point that he can't conceive of any conflict where entering the conflict is a better option than letting things play out. His supposedly classic introduction lays out his philosophy which tends to skew towards WWII revisionist history and material about the Civil War where you know that you are in for a lot of bullshit about the lost South. This book was written in 1961 and it is certainly a product of its time and by that I mean that it's one of those books that thinks that it's very liberal but full of racist assumptions. Edmund Wilson also adheres so close to his cynical/idealistic take on war always being bad and corrupt that he writes such howlers as "no one know what caused the Civil War" when it's pretty fucking obvious what caused the Civil War. Another aspect of the book is that even though it's about the Civil War and the literature that came out of the Civil War, no slave narratives are in the mix. Not even Frederick Douglass who should have been known to Wilson as he wrote extensively after the war as well. So while claiming that slavery had nothing to do with the war but there was discussion concerning slavery, Wilson neglects to find writers who were most affected by slavery. In fact, there's only one black writer in the mix and she's a New England woman who attempted to help during Reconstruction and moved back home.

This book is a mixture of fascinating finds in literary history, interesting insight and a cavalcade of nasty stupid shit. I should have turned it into a drinking game whenever he mentioned the Radical Republicans who wanted to reform the South in the negative. It certainly would have helped. His critical assessment of many writers has a definite tsk tsk way, especially when he finds Ambrose Bierce to be a crappy human being who treats death in a cavalier manner (which is why he is still appealing) and a lot condemnation for the most hardcore abolitionists.

There are other moments when the editing becomes just fucking evil. For example, he's got a chapter on Southern writers and he writes about the rather melodramatic Cable who seems like a mediocre writer and then FINALLY gets to Kate Chopin, spends two pages on her and then returns to this Cable asshole. Same goes for John W. DeForrest who was supposedly a big deal in the 60s but is again forgotten. Oh maybe there are scholars for this guy but Wilson certainly didn't sell him.

Anyhow there was a point where I just felt like it was a chore to get through. Other moments, I felt like I was getting an interesting insight into what the 60s thought of the Civil War. Mostly this book pissed me off and there was just enough good stuff to keep reading the fucking thing, but thank G-d it's over.