Literature is a form of human expression. But not everything expressed in words even when organized and written down is counted as literature. Those writings that are primarily informative technical, scholarly, journalistic would be excluded from the rank of literature by most, though not all, critics. Certain forms of writing, however, are universally regarded as belonging to literature as an art. Individual attempts within these forms are said to succeed if they possess something called artistic merit and to fail if they do not. The nature of artistic merit is less easy to define than to recognize. The writer need not even pursue it to attain it. On the contrary, a scientific exposition might be of great literary value and a pedestrian poem of none at all.
The Greeks thought of history as one of the seven arts, inspired by a goddess, the muse Clio. All of the worlds classic surveys of history can stand as noble examples of the art of literature, but most historical works and studies today are not written primarily with literary excellence in mind, though they may possess it, as it were, by accident.
Another on my current hero list is a certain Lindsay Shepherd, age twenty-two, a grad student and teaching assistant in one of Ontario’s fifth-rate universities. Under cowardly attack from the faceless wonders who impose “political correctness” on campus life, she had the wit to sound-record their disciplinary “hearing,” then post it without comment on YouTube. She sobs at one point during the inquisition, from the stress of their grilling, but she stands her ground. (One might start searching .)
Now, Rees-Mogg has been noticed by a fairly large public, who love or hate him in the usual partisan ways. Within the British Commons I see that, according to some poll, he is the man most Conservative members would choose as their leader, were it up to them. In the old days of Westminster, party leaders were chosen by the sitting MPs — by the people most familiar with the candidates, and thus best able to make a sound judgement. Today, they are chosen by immense electronic mobs, who don’t know the candidates at all, and are drawn towards the puffiest bladders.
The popularization of all arts and sciences has played a significant part in our civilizational disaster. I may claim to be among the victims; “me too” let me tweet. Our cockiness has gone to extremes, as our cultural heritage has been journalized by hacks. We were tricked into self-destructive glibness.
We encounter the same problem whenever we reverse time. It changes everything going forward. We enter an entirely new time series, in which the shares we buy in, say, the Apple corporation, turn out worthless. Gold will rise and fall in different order, and so our scheme to get stinking rich quickly ends in the usual bankruptcy. Similar things happen on all other channels, so that our plan to fix history also comes apart. This is a problem with alternative worlds; bigger than we guess in any Faustian bargain. Best leave God in charge of this one; and the young to endure the advice of the old.
Part III Total War: Conciliation and its failure, 1861?62, Mark Grimsley; Shutting the gates of mercy: the American origins of Total War, 1860?80, Lance Janda; Was the Civil War a Total War?, Mark E.
Part I The Commanders In Chief: Lincoln as military strategist, Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones; Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln as war presidents: nothing succeeds like success, Ludwell H.
+ This is a Printing Office / Crossroads of civilization / Refuge of all the arts against the ravages of time / Armoury of fearless truth against whispering rumour / Incessant trumpet of trade / From this place words may fly abroad not to perish on waves of sound, not to vary with the writer’s hand but fixed in time, having been verified by proof / Friend, you stand on sacred ground +
" On April 30, 1975, Saigon and the government of South Vietnam fell to the communist regime of North Vietnam, ending -- for American military forces -- exactly twenty-five year of courageous but unavailing struggle. This is not the story of how America became embroiled in a conflict in a small country half-way around the globe, nor of why our armed forces remained there so long after the futility of our efforts became obvious to many. It is the story of what went wrong there militarily, and why. The author is a professional soldier who experienced the Vietnam war in the field and in the highest command echelons. General Palmer's insights into the key events and decisions that shaped American's military role in Vietnam are uncommonly perceptive. America's most serious error, he believes, was committing its armed forces to a war in which neither political nor military goals were ever fully articulated by our civilian leaders. Our armed forces, lacking clear objectives, failed to develop an appropriate strategy, instead relinquishing the offensive to Hanoi. Yet an achievable strategy could have been devised, Palmer believes. Moreover, our South Vietnamese allies could have been bolstered by appropriate aid but were instead overwhelmed by the massive American military presence. Compounding these errors were the flawed civilian and military chains of command. The result was defeat for America and disaster for South Vietnam. General Palmer presents here an insider's history of the war and an astute critique of America's military strengths and successes as well as its weaknesses and failures.
Ferozsons (on The Mall) was a real bookstore. It had intelligent, knowledgeable, helpful staff, who treated each customer as a special case, including red-haired six-year-olds. I remember this from having been one; remember it as one does first love. My father taught in the College of Art; we lived in Nedous along the same road. It was the first bookstore with which I ever became acquainted, and the atmosphere of the place, even the peeling plaster, and a smell as if mixed from ink and barley broth, stays in my spiritual clothing — together with that old chestnut of a manifesto by Beatrice Warde, etched into Ferozesons’ front window:
The more glitzy chain branches remain open, scattered through the city’s middle-class enclaves. Many of this world’s more famous bookstores have hollowed out in this way. Most started as serious publishers, more than a century ago. (Ferozsons began thus in the 1890s, and still publishes in English and Urdu.) They discover that selling other people’s books is more remunerative. The imprint gives the retail brand cachet; the store becomes a landmark. Then, with the metastasis of modern half-education, it opens those branches. It is a business model that has, only recently, begun to fail. The big main branch with its big overheads is first to close, then the little candles snuff one by one. For the chain stores are mere utilities; each carries the same shortlist of (mostly lurid) bestsellers, now available cheaper from Amazon. They become magazine shops, and coffee shops, and trinket shops, and anything but book shops. They hire people who know nothing about books. By the time they terminate, there seems no cause for mourning.
Western missionary attempts to convert Muslims were a multi-generational, abject failure. They worked against the seed of the Christian religion within the Muslim world itself, associating it with something foreign and “imperialist.” While the missionary enterprise in sub-Saharan Africa was more successful, little was achieved there, either. It was when Africans themselves took up the cause, that the Christian religion began to spread like wildfire: from less than a million to hundreds of millions in a few brief generations. And as Muslim loyalists decry, this wave keeps pushing northwards.