Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Part I of II

First, I have two books to recommend. The first is The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans. It is long, and dense with facts, but worth the slog for anyone interested in the Second World War. Evans has two premises to establish, and does so by marshalling fact, after fact, after fact.

1. There were no Germans who did not know that Hitler was killing the Jews and others, and very few who even complained, let alone acted to save victims. The myth of The Good German is just that.

2. It wasn’t only the Germans who acted badly; so did the Poles, the Russians and most of the other peoples of Eastern Europe. Sadly that includes many Jews who were later themselves killed.

The second book is Stone's Fall: A Novel by Iain Pears, which I have just started. It is also a heavy weight at almost 800 pages, but both a satisfying mystery and a journey through Victorian England, France and Venice, exploring the world of business and finance. He wrote a similar book some years ago called An Instance of the Fingerpost: A Novel. This one is also a mystery, set in 1663, in Oxford, England, during the height of Restoration political intrigue. When Dr. Robert Grove is found dead in his Oxford room, hands clenched and face frozen in a rictus of pain, all the signs point to poison. Rashomon-like, the narrative circles around Grove's murder as four different characters give their version of events.

Second, Alex has awarded me the speaking slot for 3rd on 3rd in November. I am thinking about talking about The Decline and Fall of the Golden Age in Fernandina. The conventional story is that Flagler offered to put a spur of his railroad into Fernandina, but the city fathers spat upon his offer, and he then bypassed the town, whereupon all the tourists went further south.

That may have been part of the story, but not all. I have come to believe that the longshoremen’s strike in 1888, and the dredging of the St John’s to create the port of Jacksonville were more significant. I would love to hear from anyone as to their theory.

Third, Amelia Island had brief visits from two of America’s greatest naturalists – William Bartram and John Muir. I have put together a draft of panels that could be part of the natural history exhibit, or could be mounted as part of the permanent exhibits, or could be trashed, if they aren’t that interesting. They are to follow shortly.

-Jim Longacre, Local Historian