Podcasts of the Week Ending August 3rd


Re:Sound :: Tsunami Song

The true and complicated story of the Confederate anthem, “Dixie.”  Also, tsunamis & migraines, and Romeo and Juliet texting in the afterlife.

Fresh Air :: Documenting Hate in America

Journalist A.C. Thompson’s investigative work into the white supremacist organizations of America.

The Truth :: Bonus: Everything is Alive

This is actually a preview of a new podcast where inanimate objects get interviewed, in this case a can of generic cola.  This sounded like a one-note joke, but the story went into some very odd places.

Hub History :: Boston’s Pickwick Disaster and the Dance of Death

A building collapse at a popular Boston nightclub in 1925 causes the death of 44 people and leads moral crusaders to campaign against the dangers of dancing the Charleston.

 

Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders


AuthorGeorge Saunders
TitleLincoln in the Bardo 
Narrator: Cast of Thousands
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2017)
Summary/Review:

This is a curious, experimental novel that is built upon the true story of President Abraham Lincoln making several visits to a crypt to hold the body of his recently deceased son Willie.  The “bardo” is a Tibetan Buddhist concept that of an intermediate state where a person doesn’t know if they’r alive or dead. The author gives voice to dozens of deceased people who comment Lincoln & Willie but also tell their own stories and interact with one another.  A third element to this novel are sections which are merely collages of writing, newspapers clippings, and historical works about Lincoln and his times. The novel is an oddly abstract attempt at understanding grief and coming terms to death, both on Lincoln’s personal level and the large scale trauma of the Civil War.  The audiobook is particularly interesting since each character is read by a different actor, several of them quite famous, lending it the quality of an audio play.

Recommended booksThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust  and Severance: Stories by Robert Olen Butler

Rating: ***

JP A to Z: M is for Monument #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


M is for Monument

At an island at the fork of two of Jamaica Plain’s “main streets” – Centre and South – stands a prominent landmark, the Soldier’s Monument, known to many as just The Monument.  Dedicated in 1871, the Monument is a memorial to the 23 men of West Roxbury (as Jamaica Plain was part of the Town of West Roxbury at the time) who died fighting for the Union in the American Civil War.  A smaller plaque remembers the locals who died in the Revolutionary War cause.  The Monument still serves as a place of memory and reflection, and is frequently decorated with flags on holidays and solemn occasions by local activist and Boston Marathon bombing hero Carlos Arredondo.

A few years back the Monument was restored and at the rededication ceremony they read off the names of the soldiers who died in the Civil War, all of whom are buried in the South near the battlefields where they died.  Several of the men are buried in Williamsburg, VA where I went to college and lived for seven years, making the Monument extra resonant for me.

The Monument is surrounded by prominent buildings including the First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist, Curtis Hall (once the town hall for independent West Roxbury), the Jamaica Plain library branch, and the Loring-Greenough House.  A colonial-era milestone by the Monument marks five miles distance from the Old State House in central Boston.

Post for “M” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.

Book Review: Civil War on Sunday by Mary Pope Osborne


AuthorMary Pope Osborne
TitleCivil War on Sunday 
Publication Info: New York : Random House, 2000.
Summary/Review:

In read this book aloud to my daughter who loves Magic Tree House books or “Annie and Jack books” as she calls them. In this story, Jack and Annie travel to the Civil War where they go to a field hospital and encounter Clara Barton, black soldiers, and a familiar looking drummer boy. I was impressed that this book explored the horrors of war and slavery at a level that kids can understand. 

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Fiery Trial : Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner


Author:  Eric Foner 
TitleThe Fiery Trial : Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Publication Info:  New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2010.
ISBN:   9780393066180
Summary/Review:

Every year on or around Lincoln’s Birthday I read a book about Abraham Lincoln, and this year I read this study about Lincoln’s evolving views on slavery.  Some people consider him the great emancipator while others think he was racist and never freed a slave.  Both views have an aspect of truth.  Foner shows that Lincoln was anti-slavery from early in his life but did not think freed black persons were equal or capable of living alongside white Americans.  Until late in his Presidency he held true to a plan of colonization and resettlement of freed blacks in Africa or Latin America.  Yet, even these views were modified over time as during his Presidency he was actually exposed to meeting and respecting black individuals on a regular basis.  It’s an interesting look at how a mind changes and how the country changes as Lincoln was often just a step ahead of popular opinion.

Recommended booksThe Radical and the Republican by James Oakes
Rating: ***1/2

  • The Fiery Trial : Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner