Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In Which Our Heroine Allows You To Follow Her Train of Thoughts, Leading from Gibson Girl Hair to a WWI Bleg, As Is So Often The Case

1) Today, over my morning coffee, I read the weekly "Worst Movie of All Time" review on Videogum. This week's movie was The Road to Wellville, which takes place at the turn of the 20th century (one of my favorite fashion periods).

2) After watching the accompanying clip, I thought to myself, "Bridget Fonda had really pretty red hair in that movie." (see right)

3) Pondering further her pretty red hair, I thought to myself, "I've seen her real hair. It's pin straight. Did she wear a wig? Otherwise, I wonder how did her hair get so gloriously big and wavy?"

4) I then thought to myself this was the same question I used to have about Megan Follows' hair in Anne of Avonlea, which was also very pretty and red (see below, and I've made sure Gilbert is in the shot for the ladies):

5) Then I thought to myself how it was a shame I am too old now to read and enjoy the Anne books as I did in high school, and I wondered if I would perhaps like rereading Anne of Ingleside, which takes place later in Anne's life, (closer to my age) when she has been married to Gilbert Blythe (!) for many years.

6) Then I thought to myself how I appreciated that L.M. Montgomery included tragedy in Anne's later life. How it made the books (and Anne) more real for me, and less like fairytales set in Canada. I recalled that Anne lost her first baby, Joy, and how she is described as never being the same after that.

7) Oh, but then, still thinking about those books, I said to myself, "Something else sad happens to her, but what was it? Oh, right, now I remember, in a later book, she loses her son Walter in the First World War."

8) THEN I got to thinking about Walter, the handsome, dreamy, poet son of Anne, and how tragic it was that he was the son who was afraid to go to war (unlike Jem and Shirley, her other sons who enlist right away), who delayed and delayed enlisting, but finally did enlist, and died doing something spectacularly brave and heroic.

9) Which finally got me off the books, and got me thinking about World War I, and how I'd been told somewhere (I think in a lecture of Professor Evans, talking about P.G. Wodehouse) that somehow, something about the pointlessness and brutality of that war broke the souls of the people who survived it, and how we have inherited the fruits of that brokenness.

10) That got me considering World War II, and how World War I must have been very different, because no one says World War II was pointless, even though it was brutal.

11) Then I thought to myself that I'd also read somewhere that World War II was a direct result of the Europe that World War I created. If we'd avoided the First World War, we need never have fought the Second World War.

12) Then I thought, "I know we fought the Germans in World War I, but somehow I know it was different, I don't think they were bent on world-domination likethey were under Hitler. And somehow Serbia was involved?" I couldn't really remember anything about it except it involved trenches, mustard gas, and someplace called Ypres.

13) Then I was deeply ashamed, my ignorance betraying a shocking ingratitude to the brave men who fought in that war.

14) So I determined then - and am still determined - to read a book about it.

15) But then I remembered I don't know any books about WWI that are well researched, informative, not driven by ideology, and also engaging (actually I don't know any books about WWI at all.). SO, I thought I would write this all out on my blog and maybe Little Brother or Frank or Dad or BMT or SLB or someone would have a recommendation.

So, y'all, if anyone has a recommendation for a good, non-fiction account of the roots and causes of World War One, the course of the war itself, and/or the aftermath and results of the war, I am all ears. Please keep in mind I am a fiction reader usually, so I'd prefer something written to be engaging for the girl who is just dipping her toe in, something like what Shelby Foote would have written if he hadn't been busy being awesome about the Civil War.

Many thanks!


RK said...

You mean you have never read All Quiet on the Western Front? Of course the protagonists are Germans if I recall, so not sure if it qualifies as a way to remember the men of "our side" so to speak. But it's sort of like the Shiloh of WWI to go with your Shelby Foote comparison. For non-fiction you can try Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War by Robert Massie. It's ostensibly about the naval arms race between Great Britain and Germany pre-WWI, but really uses that to explore the origins of the conflict.

Our Heroine said...

I have NOT read All Quiet on the Western Front! But you are right, I have to read about our guys first before I wade on over to the other side of the pool. I've heard of Dreadnought, and I have this weird feeling I've seen it around. Was it on your bookshelf in Vermont?

Frank said...

I think you read Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror". That is a fine book- but her real tour de force was "The Guns of August".

It won the Pultizer Prize for general non-fiction (the book was not elegible for history because it is not American history) and is very readable and digestable (NY Times best seller for 40+ weeks). Also, the first part is all about kings and princesses and giant royal funerals (you'll like that).

Our Heroine said...

Whoa! You have totally peaked my interest with the keywords, "kings," "princesses," and "royal funerals." Plus, I have great respect for Tuchman after The Distant Mirror.

Thanks, boys, I KNEW you'd come through!

Brian Visaggio said...

You have hit my sweet spot. The First World War is among the dearest of my pet topics, especially for how it sets the stage, not just for the *second* world war, but for the entire twentieth century. There are so many good books about the war, be they fiction or history, but if you want, I can run down the basics of the conflict for you.

Basically, Germany didn't start the war, but they got saddled for the blame. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Oddly enough, he's not in the band) in Serbia was one of many disputed factors leading to the war; it was, in most historiography, simply inevitable, a sort of fatalistic slide into half a decade of death.

The causes are many. Look up the July Crisis for the actual process.

But no, Germany didn't start the war, and neither were they out to conquer the world. They basically decided that they'd give a free hand to Austria to punish Serbia for the assassination, which led to Austria mobilizing its troops. Because of a war doctrine called "the cult of the offensive" and obscenely efficient German-style mobilization schedules, in order to quash Serbia, Austria had to mobilize its entire army. Because Austria mobilized, Russia, the "defender of the Slavs," mobilized. Because Russia mobilized, Germany mobilized. because Germany mobilized, France and Britain mobilized. These countries all had standing policies to be fully mobilized within a set time period after other states did the same.

Basically, things just got really out of hand very quickly, and nobody seemed to know how to stop it from spinning out of control.

Our Heroine said...

Brian, so WWI is your sweet subject, as Richard III and the end of the Plantagenet dynasty is mine? It's funny how lots of people I know have those. I wonder what the particular draw is for the person to the time-period/event.

Anyhow -- I appreciate the awesome outline! I will begin my readings and report back. I have sehr mixed feelings about Prussian Militarism!

Our Heroine said...

Oh! Speaking of war fiction, of course I've seen Gallipoli. But the movie depicts that battle as such a distinct and discrete event, I forget that it was a whole campaign attached to a greater war.

"What are your legs?"
"Steel springs."
"What are they gonna do?"
"Hurtle me down the track."
"How fast can you run?"
"As fast a leopard."
"How. Fast. Can. You. Run?"

SLB said...

May I recommend wikipedia for a quick, and no doubt accurate, summary of WWI and Bumble and Bumble Curl Cream for the hair?

Our Heroine said...

SLB, perhaps more useful and appreciated than all this WWI advice, is your hair product suggestion. Fantastic! I can't wait to try it and see if I can reproduce Gibson Girl body at home.

quba said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Our Heroine said...

Thank you, Patricia, for commenting. I'm so glad you are enjoying the blog. I hope we meet again soon in the comment boxes :-)

pharmacy said...

I also agreed, that was one hell of a bad movie, I couldn't finish the movie.

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You have hit my sweet spot. The First World War is among the dearest of my pet topics, especially for how it sets and I have this weird feeling I've seen it around. Was it on your bookshelf in Vermont?

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