Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day, 2010

In Flanders Fields
by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army

Written during the World War I battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Who's Son Is This?

Who's son is this?
Your boy or mine?
The fruit of love
plucked from the vine.

He's all our sons.

Who's son is this?
Your boy or mine?
From child to man in
too short a time.

He's all our sons.

Who's son is this?
You boy or mine
who rests in peace
for all of time.

He's all our sons.

"Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God"


Monday, May 24, 2010

Snobs, Bums, and Liars: Part One

Roxy the cat wasn't the only creature dozing her days away last week. Cut down in my tracks by a nasty case of the stomach flu (seeing as how I can only guess as to what kind of creepy little bug invaded my digested tract, I figure that's as good a name as any for what ailed me), I spent a whole lot of time curled up either in bed or on the couch, sometimes sleeping, most of the time reading.

I've been on a Terry Pratchett jag lately, totally immersed in the doings of Discworld and its inhabitants. Pratchett's latest, Unseen Academicals, was so satisfyingly funny that it almost made me forget why I was lolling about on the couch with a heating pad on my stomach. I finished it way too quickly, though, and found myself staring at the bookshelf, trying to decide what to read next. I generally have a non-fiction book going at the same time I'm reading fiction, but given the condition of my stomach, I didn't feel up to tackling chapter six of Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce. Instead, I turned to three mysteries I'd recently bought but still hadn't read. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books in a series I'd begun reading last year, the novels were pleasantly cozy in structure while well plotted and nicely paced. None of the three disappointed me, but I did find myself occasionally grinding my teeth in frustration at the author's smug, if not downright snobbish, attitude towards those of us who don't share her Southern heritage.

Now, I've enjoyed many a mystery novel set in the South. Anne George's Southern Sisters' series was a joy to read, mainly because the main characters were genuinely real; with their individual mannerisms, eccentricities, and foibles, the two women could have been anyone's sisters. Carolyn Haines' Bones series is just as delightful because, again, it's easy to emotionally connect with Sarah Booth Delaney and the other series characters.

Like George did with her novels, Carolyn Haines lets her affection for the South show in her writing. Neither Haines nor George, though, ever resort to belittling or stereotypical descriptions of non-Southerners to prove that their region of the country is better than all others.

Unlike George and Haines, the author of the three books I was reading seemed to take real pleasure in portraying Northerners as rude loudmouthed Yankees who stupidly failed to understand that the Civil War was less about slavery and more about the loss of individual Southerners' rights. As a Midwesterner and an avid student of history, I found the author's attitude offensive, and I was put off by the internal dialogue of her main character when it repeatedly mirrored such snobbishness.

Have you ever read a book where the author seemed compelled to continually flex his or her "superiority complex" muscles? Did you put up with it for the sake of the story, or did you find yourself hurling the book into a convenient garbage can while forever banishing the author from your TBR list? Let me know how you handled such an issue. I'd be interested to hear your story.