Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Booknotes: Entertaining History

New Arrival:
Entertaining History: The Civil War in Literature, Film, and Song edited by Chris Mackowski (SIU Press, 2020).

The "collection of essays and feature stories" in Entertaining History: The Civil War in Literature, Film, and Song "celebrates the novels, popular histories, magazines, movies, television shows, photography, and songs that have enticed Americans to learn more about our most dramatic historical era." Though organized into the three main media themes referred to above in the subtitle, the volume consists of twenty-five standalone pieces. To make reviewing it manageable, perhaps I'll just choose some particular favorites in each section to talk about. We'll see.

The following excerpt from the description offers an idea of the range of topics discussed in the essays: "From Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, from Roots to Ken Burns’s The Civil War, from “Dixie” to “Ashokan Farewell,” and from Civil War photography to the Gettysburg Cyclorama, trendy and well-loved depictions of the Civil War are the subjects of twenty contributors who tell how they and the general public have been influenced by them. Sarah Kay Bierle examines the eternal appeal of Gone with the Wind and asks how it is that a protagonist who so opposed the war has become such a figurehead for it. H. R. Gordon talks with New York Times–bestselling novelist Jeff Shaara to discuss the power of storytelling. Paul Ashdown explores Cold Mountain’s value as a portrait of the war as national upheaval, and Kevin Pawlak traces a shift in cinema’s depiction of slavery epitomized by 12 Years a Slave. Tony Horwitz revisits his iconic Confederates in the Attic twenty years later."

The book also has supplements available online through accessing the QR codes placed at the end of the introduction and beginnings of the three parts. There is an alternative URL but I couldn't get it to work just now, so perhaps it's not finished yet.

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