Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Books read, week of 11/8

I finished two books in the last week, both of them on the depressing/tragic side.

Tecumseh: A Life, by John Sugden, is a biography of the Shawnee leader who tried to create a confederation of Native Americans from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, and who died in the War of 1812 fighting in alliance with the British. I read it as research for the WIP, and found it slow going because Sugden was so determined to stick to facts over speculation that much of the first 2/3 of the book was necessarily vague. The War of 1812 section, being better documented, was more compelling.

History is full of what-ifs for me, but what makes Tecumseh's story such a tragedy is that I can't find any way for it to have ended differently. The man was brilliant--charismatic, politically savvy, far-seeing, courageous. He was probably the equal in ability to just about any man of his generation (and he was born in the late 1760's, like Napoleon, Wellington, and Andrew Jackson, to name just three of his most famous peers). But there was just no way it could've been enough. The odds were far too stacked against his confederacy. They didn't have the numbers, the divisions between and within tribes were too strong, America was insatiably land-hungry, and Tecumseh's cause was never going to be that high of a priority for his British allies. There is no What Might Have Been. But I still admire what he was and what he tried to bring into being.

An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison, is a memoir of the author's life as a professor of psychiatry who has bipolar disorder. I read it as part of my grieving process for a friend...and it was as harrowing and difficult as I expected it to be, though I'm glad I got through it.

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