This week’s reading (#SFWApro)

Like The Burglary, THE LOST BATTALIONS: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationalism by Richard Slotkin is eerily familiar in portraying a WW I America where anything less than “100 percent Americanism”—i.e., absolute unquestioning loyalty and support for the war—was regarded as treasonous and where many whites (“Nordics” in the language of the time) were convinced that nonwhites simply couldn’t be true Americans. Slotkin follows the heroic wartime exploits of the Harlem Hellfighters (a black NYC battalion) and the Melting Pot Battalion (composed of Irish, Italians, Jews and Chinese, also from New York) as they performed spectacularly despite white skepticism and lack of support. Unfortunately, of course, the conviction that dedicated military service would confirm them as Americans proved tragically false as the country veered towards anti-immigration, anti-labor and accepted lynching as a necessary element of white supremacy. Reminiscent of my Screen Enemies of the American Way in showing the WW I era’s fear of enemies within.
EXCELLENT WOMEN by Barbara Pym has a wryly humorous spinster (“I am not at all like Jane Eyre, who must have given hope to so many plain women who tell their stories in the first person.”) coping with the disruptions caused by a quarreling couple moving in next door to her and a manipulative widow moving in on the local minister. The kind of low-key serious novel that usually doesn’t work for me, but Pym does very well, and unusual even today in suggesting a life unmarried isn’t a fate worse than death (though that said, the protagonist does come across awfully self-sacrificing at the end).
1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth was one of the first history books I read that discussed how the big events such as William’s invasion are influenced by variables including weather (the Normans not being skilled sailors, the successful channel crossing was largely luck), culture (Harold’s army relied much more on untrained levies than William, who had a large mercenary force) and faith, Howarth arguing that William getting Papal blessing not only made it easier to rally troops but psychologically crippled Harold. Though that latters theory shows the downside of the book, even given the lack of hard information (there are at least nine different stories about whatever promise Harold may have made William during his 1064 stay in Normandy) Howarth likes to speculate too much about what was going on in people’s heads. Still a good job, and a good feel for life in England pre-invasion and how isolation was the norm for many of them (it’s quite possible many of the English had no idea their world had changed until long after the invasion).
THE WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman and multiple artists tells how a cop wakes out of a coma to discover while he was sleeping, the world was overrun by zombies. Reuniting with his wife and child, he finds the struggle for existence requires increasingly brutal choices, and that living humans are often the nastiest of all. In many ways this is an old-school post-apocalypse thriller (you could substitute mutants for zombies without much changing) but it’s a good post-apocalypse thriller. That said, the sequence with the drifter Michonne getting caught and raped by one villain, then getting payback, is about the I Spit On Your Grave level of revenge porn.

3 Comments

Filed under Comics, Reading

3 responses to “This week’s reading (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Books and TPBs (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Graphic Novels and Books (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Right-wing defense: telling women of color to go “back where they came from” isn’t at all racist | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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