I've been away from the blog more than usual lately because of my reading habits. Not only am I in the last chapter of "The Sign of Four," in company with my own characters, but I've been reading a great and suspenseful biography.
That's right, a suspenseful biography -- to be exact, "The Last Lion : Winston Spencer Churchill Alone, 1932-1940," by William Manchester (1988, Little, Brown and Company -- I'm reading a Laurel paperback edition).
I am so wrapped up in reading it that sometimes I'll look around, at my own apartment or at Chicago in general, and feel shocked that I'm not back in the house in Britain where I did my most serious study of the years in question. I think that's one of the great reasons to read biography and history -- to see the present with new perspective.
I get so caught up in what might happen, thanks to Manchester's masterful writing, that I start wondering how it's going to turn out. Beyond a basic Western Civilization course, I enjoyed all the studying involved in two more courses in British history alone, plus one in European geography. I know what's happening in these years -- and the present tense feels correct as I read.
Manchester's genius is that he isn't a lecturer. While I'd have loved to have his biography as a resource when I was being graded on my study of Winston Churchill, I enjoy it now simply as a story. I'm as enraptured by Winston's doings as I am by Sherlock Holmes', as enraged by Hitler as I am by Professor Moriarty.
That's gotten me thinking about the word "history." It's related to the French word "histoire" -- the same word the French use for "story." ("Roman," the word for novels -- fiction -- is, of course, related to "romance.")
If more writers were aware of that, we'd have fewer people groaning about studying history. Tell me that story about Winston again -- we need him.
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