Monday, February 15, 2016

The Savannah Book Festival, the death of a Supreme Court Justice, and my advice for the President

Friday night I was able to hear Eric Larson at the Savannah Book Festival.  It was an enjoyable lecture, even if I felt it was a bit canned.  He could have given this lecture anywhere in the English speaking world, but that’s okay, for it my first time hearing it.  His talk had appropriate humor, often directed at himself along with some insights into his methodology, which I most appreciated.  He also got a hardy laugh when he announced his next book (Killing Bill O’Reilly).  There was a good question and answer section afterwards, but I wish someone would have asked him what he thought about Bill O’Reilly’s Killing (you add the name-Jesus, Patton, Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan) books and about O’Reilly as a historian.

I was a bit surprised to learn that Larson doesn’t think of himself as a historian.  Instead, he sees himself as an animator of history, trying to weave a historical accurate story together in a manner that allows the reader to feel as if he or she was there at the time of the event.  Instead of trying to inform, he’s trying to create a rich experience for the reader.  As with his latest book, Dead Wake, which is about the Lusitania, Larson said it was harder for we all know the ending of the story (the ship sinks) but he wants his readers to feel as if maybe this time it won’t.  Certainly, those who were on board did not think the ship would be sunk until after it was struck by a torpedo.  Larson acknowledges a desire to write about things that are not as well know and that while there was much written about the Lusitania, most of it focused on the sinking itself and the aftermath (the hearings and the court battles).  If you’ve read the book, you’ll remember that Larson focuses mostly on the passengers and life aboard the ship as it crossed the Atlantic (along with the life of the crew of the U-boat).  This allows him to create a different perspective from much of what had already been written about the ship.

After the lecture, I was invited to a party which where there were a lot of other authors at the Savannah Book Festival.  I met a few of them.  I would have enjoyed listening to more of them, but the Saturday of the festival events are in a half-dozen different venues downtown and with my limited mobility, I just couldn’t see myself hobbling from one venue to another (and I still am unable to drive)


In other news, as you all heard, Antonin Scalia died this weekend.  He’s the only Supreme Court Justice that I have meet personally.  In 2003, I heard him speak at Calvin College and was at a wine and cheese reception with him afterwards.  Needless to say, I didn’t always agree with him, but my condolences goes out to his family and those who do.  However, our country has a unique opportunity and I hope Obama seizes the moment.  Ted Cruz said that if Obama nominates a successor to Scalia, he personally will filibuster the nominee.  What a great idea.  I hope the President nominates someone this afternoon.  Send Cruz back to Washington where he can be relegated to C-Span…  Now what can we do to shut up the rest of the candidates and find a bit of peace?   The eternal election cycle that has taken over American politics needs to stop!  

53 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you, and I've been running away from as much as I can! But we all know it's only going to get worse! Enough on that, your Friday (although not as comfortable yet I'm sure) but you are on the road to healing and what a fun night out.

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    1. Sadly, Savannah media covers both SC and GA markets, which means we're getting double doses now, not just national news but local...

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  2. Glad you were able to enjoy the lecture. How cool to have met a Justice. I can still picture their small chamber when I visited the Supreme Court in high school. I guess I pictured it a lot bigger.

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    1. You know, as many times as I've been to DC, I've never been into the Supreme Court building (at least not that I remember)

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    2. I'm not sure it's open to the general public. I went as a Close Up student.

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    1. Hang around the right circles long enough...

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  4. Glad you had a good time at the book festival. I've never even been to one before. I like his take on the ending for Dead Wake (that it might not sink this time). I haven't read it but now I'm intrigued.

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    1. Oh, you have to go to a book festival, Chrys!

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  5. My copy of Dead Wake is now in the mail. I had enough things to order on Amazon that I decided to add that to my shopping basket before checking out. Onto the pile it will go and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    I like having a constitutionally conservative Supreme Court so I was saddened that Scalia couldn't wait to die until after the election. It was very inconsiderate of him to say the least! All kidding aside, even wanting a conservative court, I do think it Obama has a right to nominate a replacement. If the shoe were on the other foot, I think Cruz would be indignant at liberals saying that he should wait until after the election to nominate a replacement. Normally I wouldn't think twice about such things but it seems in modern times, the Supreme Court has done a lot of what I think is legislating and that is what scares me.

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    1. I think Scalia politics often influenced his interpretation of the constitution--but then I really find the capital punishment repugnant and you can't throw everything back on the states (ie, Bush's election by the Courts in 2000)

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  6. It was shocking to hear about Justice Scalia's death. And somehow I knew politicians and the media would be all over his replacement right away. Sigh.

    Lovely that you got to go to the festival, albeit briefly.

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    1. There is always next year :) Sadly, I missed it last year as I had an out of town meeting

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  7. We hosted Larson here a couple of years ago. He didn't seem very keen on speaking or signing books, but he did have some good laughs for us during his speech. I like the way he describes his work, and I love reading it even though it makes my heart heavy at times. History isn't all that glorious at times.

    I'm sick of this political circus. I'm all for one week to tell me why I should vote for a candidate, and then the election. Enough already.

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    1. I like the one week of campaigning rule!

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  8. Haha. I was nervous upon reading the start of your post. I didn't want another dose of political venom from the right (wasn't sure where you stood). Alas, I agree. Send Cruz much, much further than Washington on a one-way ticket, please.
    Be well, Sage.

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    1. I'm not very right (probably more ways than one). If you go back to when I was writing satire and parody, you'd see plenty of evidence of that.

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  9. If the Democrat's haven't a JoSCOTUS ready to go from the day they set foot inside the Oval Office they are idiots. It is truly the one job a POTUS has that can reach long after they're gone or/and on a speaking circuit making gazillions.

    Of course he's writing History. If it fits to the Herodotus definition then it's history. Events can be an opening rather than a closing. They can track and trace people within the context of their society and the different sections on a ship like Lusitania can both connect and divide the wider societies within two continent's. Remember it was going 'to' Europe.
    But I don't blame him from distancing himself from the 'official' historians. They've gone a bit nihilistic over the last 30 or so years with their 'revisionism'.
    Delighted to hear you are out and about.

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    1. I think he'd agree that he's writing history (and striving for accuracy), but he doesn't see himself as a professional historian. Larson's background is in journalism.

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  10. I'm getting sick of all the politics and we have so much more of it ahead of us.

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  11. I didn't agree with anything Justice Scalia said. but I'm sure meeting him was quite an experience.May he RIP and condolences to his family. Our political situation hasn't been able to do much but create some interesting late night comedy. It's sad that the politicians can't work together to make the country a better place.

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    1. Scalia was funny and it was interesting to be in his presence. Of course this was before the Supreme Court decided to allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts on elections... I'd like to be able to ask him about his support for that.

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  12. I'm not a political guy and I too detest the terrible manners and new lows this campaign year has taken. Continued best to you, Sage, as you gradually heal! :)

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    1. Yeah, it is interesting how ever cycle digs lower...

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  13. The eternal election cycle that has taken over American politics needs to stop!

    Heard recently that many Americans in their 20's don't have a high regard for democracy. I think they realize that quite often the political agendas both parties endorse are just window dressing to hide their pursuit for power and reelection.

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    1. I do wonder if these kids are different that the baby boomers... Will they really change the world or will they change themselves inside?

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  14. This Supreme Court vacancy could well make for much better television than the presidential campaign.

    I enjoyed your comments on the subject - read them aloud to my wife.

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  15. Sounds like an awesome time. Animator of history is a new phrase to me. Sounds intriguing. I'm with you on the Scalia issue. I didn't agree with him on things but am sorry to hear of his death, particularly for his family. I agree on President Obama moving quickly to make an appointment.

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    1. I do like the sound "Animator of history" as it relates to what "creative non-fiction" tries to do.

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  16. The lecture sounds like it was a good one. I am also tired of the never-ending political campaigns. Enough already.

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    1. The lecture was good! I enjoy listening to authors discuss their research/writing process

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  17. You came up with a great added bonus to Obama nominating someone right away. I, too, I'm tired of all the BS. The New Yorker had a great cartoon this morning - we'll be down to only two branches of government if the parties continue in this direction.
    Sounds like an interesting talk overall. I love book festivals. Ours is coming up in April. I wonder if Larson is making the rounds this season.

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    1. Where is your book festival? This is the year from Calvin College's "Faith and Writing" festival which I will miss this time :(

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  18. I agree with your last line! My Twitter feed is full of people making fun of the endless rounds of debates, at which no ideas or coherent thoughts ever seem to be expressed, just lost of name calling and pointless accusations.
    Can't find your Australian poet post :-(

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    1. The post is four posts back (on Feb. 3), at least I see it in my feed. If you can't find it, let me know and when I am on a computer, I'll send you a direct lenght to it.

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    2. Aha! It doesn't show up under your poetry label :-)

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  19. So agree with the political spewing! Does the Constitution mean nothing in the 21st Century?

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    1. Don't you know, winning is everything :)

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  20. I'm glad you were able to attend the book festival and hear Larson speak.

    Scalia will be a tough one to replace.

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    1. I wish I could have spent more time at the festival!

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  21. Politics seems hot nowadays, with a lot of hotheads too. I don't recall it being like this when I was younger, or maybe it's with age that I notice this more. I know about canned presentations. I've seen them myself, but they can be enjoyable and worthwhile.

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    1. There has always been a nasty side to politics, but it seems to have gotten worse

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  22. I haven't read any of Eric Larson's books, but now maybe I will.
    I am so tired of our system. Doesn't it seem like the political season is now NEVER-ENDING?

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  23. The mud slinging of this election has just gotten to a point where I don't want to watch them anymore. Trump is the worst of all of them with his mouth. My gawd someone make this guy think before he speaks form now on.

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    1. Think before he speaks... a radial concept! :)

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  24. From an outsider's point of view the US election is one in which I would not like to have a say on, given the chance. For me Trump's ascendancy is scary. Nice post.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. There are times i wish I was watching from the outside!

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  25. the election is crazy...so entertaining ! Trump's scaring the bejesus out of me though lol

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  26. Beth Ellyn, it's scary to the point that you realize one of the yo-yos will be president

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  27. I was so busy with work stuff (go figure! and me "retired" now) that I totally missed the Book Fair! I knew it was coming, but somehow missed the fact that Eric Larson was going to speak! *facepalm* xo

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