Saturday, March 6, 2010

Southern Politics and Mary Chestnut today's Virtual Book Signing topics

If you haven't watched a Virtual Book Signing from the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, you don't know what you're missing. Daniel Weinberg and Bjorn Skaptason always stimulate thought and interest as they interview authors live online during these book signing events.

Today, Saturday, March 6, at noon Central Time, they'll welcome authors Michael Perman and Julia Stern into the store. Perman will discuss his book, Pursuit of Unity: A Political History of the American South, and Stern will offer insight into her critical analysis, Mary Chestnut's Civil War Epic.

If you can't watch it live online - or make it to the store to see it in person - you can always view the signing later on the website. Earlier book signings with many notable Lincoln and Civil War authors are archived on the Virtual Book Signing website, so you can watch them when it is convenient for you. This one will be, too, in a couple weeks or so. Be sure to check it out.

Political history, the Civil War and me

Until just a few years ago, I was one who never wanted to read about the Civil War - or any war, for that matter. That may seem odd, considering my interest in Lincoln, and how interrelated his story is with the story of our country's conflict. But, it was the popular Lincoln who drew me in as a child, the Lincoln with ties to my native state and my hometown who tugged at my heartstrings, and the self-made man Lincoln who motivated me, like Galesburg poet Carl Sandburg, to pursue the study of the sixteenth president. Those ugly things - politics, slavery, war? I left them for others.

Yet, as I became more than just a casual Lincoln enthusiast and instead a student in earnest of his life and legacy, I realized that those things I'd avoided were necessary evils. Without understanding the political Lincoln, the injustice of slavery, the dynamics and logistics of the Civil War, I couldn't truly know the man whose story inspired me.

A Civil War book club at the McLean County Museum of History a few years ago helped to set me on a path toward greater understanding of the War Between the States. One of the books we read was The Private Mary Chesnut: The Unpublished Civil War Diaries. Suddenly, the conflict was more than the names of battles and generals which it had been in my high school and undergrad history classes. It was the stories of real people and the impact all this had on their lives.

It will be interesting to learn of Stern's critical work on Chestnut's piece - a project, that will surely move me ,as a regional literary critic, to take a second look at Chestnut's work. As for that political history stuff, thank goodness for people like Perman, who understand those things and, through their gifts as writers, work to make it more understandable for those of us who are political illiterates.


The Abraham Lincoln Observer said...

Ann: If you're interested in Mary Chestnut, the following might also strike your fancy. It's a look at black spies who provided intelligence to the Union Army, written -- and I don't know why this is so surprising and fascinating to me -- by someone with the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

Here's the link:

I was turned on to this by Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog at The Atlantic, which (as I've said on my own site) has become an absolute fount of interesting and unexpected takes on the Civil War.

Lincoln Buff 2 said...

Thanks, Mike, for sharing. Thanks, too, for your series of posts on the President's "Lincoln quote." Your first stimulated a great deal of discourse and interest among my friends, Lincoln and non-Lincoln enthusiasts alike. Keep up the good work.

I'll have to check out the link to the black spy info. Sounds interesting!