We all enjoyed reading—and finishing (well, except Jack)—Shaara’s The Killer Angels, but some of us had reservations. Shaara brought us to Gettysburg and captured a moment in the Civil War that proved pivotal. The weapons and the tactics were nicely displayed, but the characters were hopelessly one-dimensional (Pickett=eager; Longstreet=inarticulate; Lee=painfully decisive; Chamberlain=inspiring; Jeb Stuart=MIA). Maybe that's the problem with fictionalizing real people while also staying true to history.
Peter captured my frustration when he likened it to a well-executed script or screenplay. It had the detail but not the richness of, say, Andersonville (another Civil War Pulitzer winner that none of us brought up but which I couldn’t get out of my head all the time I was reading The Killer Angels).
Nevertheless, Shaara brought the battle at Gettysburg (if not the participants) home to us and, gulp, induced Tom to research Civil War casualties (120,000 killed, plus another 60,000 dead from wounds and infections…did you make that up, Tom?). Doug’s details from the Ken Burns series and George’s observations from the film he helped produce gave us further context for this gruesome battle.
While we reflected back to Vietnam and forward to the Gulf War, it was notable that none of us has served in the military. (Roy never explained why he was ineligible for the draft, but clearly it had to do with his sobriety at Cornell, as opposed to Tom and Larry whose obvious intellect got them 2S deferments.)
Looking ahead, Dan proposed Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Nick Hornby’s memoir Fever Pitch, and Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography…, which I’m sure is a fascinating expose on cod fishing (yawn!). He also threw in A Confederacy of Dunces, but since we’re all out of college and can’t impress anyone by saying we’re reading it, that choice fell by the wayside. We selected Steinbeck, despite Doug’s warning that it may feel dated as a travel piece.
We also agreed to do a book exchange at the next meeting. Bring a book you really like (appropriately wrapped in brown paper, of course), and we’ll have fun dodging the obvious white elephant (aka, Dean’s Among the Thugs).
PS: I don't know why/how, but we did veer away to discuss whether men or women are better killers, the Bronze Bow controversy at DMS, drive-ins as "passion pits" (thanks, Tom--George and I will advise our marketing departments), horse meat in California and Gettysburg, etc. Don't hesitate to weigh in on what I've missed or purposely misrepresented.