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Member: Nodosaurus

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About meI'm an engineer with a BA in mathematics and have very eclectic tastes. I find almost everything of interest. I love science, art how-tos, and mysteries most, but am willing to read almost anything.

I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1984 and haven't looked back.

About my libraryJust too many books. I can't seem to cut back, I might want to read any one of them!!

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Real nameRandolph King

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Member sinceJun 20, 2008

Currently readingThe Creative Artist by Nita Leland
Absolute Beginners - Ukulele by Steven Sproat

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If I was a "real" historian, I'd first remind you that there's no such thing as "historical fiction." The concept is both a non sequitur and an oxymoron that was invented by librarians and/or the publishing industry for convenience in cataloging books.

But I'm not a real historian, and I'm a big fan of well-written historical fiction. An interesting novel for someone who wants to understand the composition and the worth of "historical fiction" is "Candlemass Road," by George MacDonald Fraser. It's not only a good, solid novel; it dares to go further and tell us where it came from and how it was created. In fact, it features an appendix expressly for that purpose.

The gist of it is that the entire novel is based upon ONE grain of fact (i.e.: Something, a very minor thing, actually happened in the 16th century. All the rest of the book came off the top of Fraser's head, the yarn-spinner working his imagination and his vast knowledge of context in tandem.)
Of course that quote makes sense. And as Fischer uses it, it's uproarious. Suppose Lee had seen the folly of attacking Meade at Gettysburg. Suppose he sneaked away during that first night and, in the morning, Meade found nothing there but a few pickets and some smouldering camp fires.

So we can suppose that Meade set off in pursuit -- or can we? Maybe Meade woke up with a case of the screaming fantods and was too filthy sick to travel. Suppose Meade couldn't figure out where Lee had gone. Suppose Meade looked around and said: "Phew! That was close. I nearly had to fight a battle." Suppose -- but there's no end to the suppositions and each of them is as likely as any of the others. Because there's just no way to know.

Guys like Gingrich might better spend their days jerking off in the barn. It would be more profitable to them (and better for the rest of us) if they'd leave off trying to be scholars, quit trying to run our country, and take up needlepoint or something. Moe Howard used to crochet. . . .
Thanks for wanting to be my friend. I'm glad to return the favor.

More about Newt's book:

Fischer illustrates the absurdity of all historiographical efforts similar to Newt's with a quote from Alice's chums, Tweedledee and Tweedledum:

`I know what you're thinking about,' said Tweedledum: `but it isn't so, nohow.'

`Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, `if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'
Nodosaurus, you asked for comments on a review of Newt Gingrich's book about Gettysburg. I just stumbled over that group while snooping around the other day. You wrote: "This book examines what would have happened if Robert E. Lee had taken a different tactic at Gettysburg."

The first thing you need to understand about that question is that it's a formal fallacy in historical composition. NOBODY has or ever will have the least idea what would have happened if Robt. E. Lee had played a different game at Gettysburg. Reason is that Robt. E. Lee played it as he did and his opponents reacted as they did and what happened happened. To suppose what would have happened had Lee done differently is to engage in endless speculation among endless uncertainties. NOBODY can know what would have happened, which means that my speculation in that regard is every bit as good as Newt Gingrich's (or that of anybody else on the planet).

The fact that Gingrich doesn't seem to know that fact testifies to his (total lack of) worth as a professional historian. In other words: It's no wonder that he went into politics, because he'd have starved to death as a historian. Tulane should have printed his PhD on toilet paper. Newt is a historical nitwit.

There is a book. It's called "Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought," by David Hackett Fischer. Poor Newt hasn't read it. You don't seem to have read it either, but you ought to do so at once. It will answer a lot of questions for you and it will give you plenty to laugh about while you laugh at the foolishness of others.

Best to you and yours.

Deacon Solomon
RE:Gettysburg review.

I think I was assuming that it was an attempt at non-fiction, and hence the device of altering decisions should have been made with some explained kind of reasoning. This obviously isn't quite so important in historical fiction.

Not that I've been to Tenerife yet, but I cleaned up the book cover image so it's available for all to use...
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