Rags a lot of outdated Freudian theory into the scene to try to make sense of the unknowable Lee Blount winks at it several times suggesting to the reader that he finds what he s writing faintly ridiculous but he writes it anyway The most ludicrous moment comes in Blount s rumination on how Lee came to lose at Gettysburg Union General Meade s headuarters was a thousand ards or so from the Balti Pike Lee s was about the same distance from the Mummasburg Road When Light Horse Harry Lee was just about Lee s age at Gettysburg he came to grief in Balti It was a man known to history only as a giant of a man named Mumma who tried to cut off his noseMaybe something in Harry s son decided this is the place To win his war or lose it to resolve his oedipal conflict or not 132 Fortunately this kind of thing is sparse within the body of the biography itself but its presence is silly and pulls the narrative up short whenever it intrudesTied to the psychoanalytic strains of the biography are the strangest parts of the book the three appendices that make up the last forty pages These three sections are independent essays on different facets of Lee s personality and are of wildly varying uality The second Lee s Humor is full of personal tidbits that could have been sprinkled into the narrative or excised entirely without damaging the book It shows a human side of Lee a man capable of joking and acting silly with his family The third Lee s Attitude Toward Slavery is essential to understanding the man and it makes no sense to have affixed it as an appendix This is material that should have been incorporated into the main textBut the most idiosyncratic ridiculous passages of the entire book are in the first appendix Speculation Much of it is taken up with idle conjecture Lee had small feet Blount notes He liked it when his children tickled them He reuested fresh socks a lot in letters Could it be Blount suggests and one involuntarily imagines a wry grin that Lee had a foot fetish Could it have been an oedipal thing too Robert was presumably pleased to ease his mother s aches by massage 167 Blount brings in the psychology of gifted children titters over the contents of a Richmond prostitute s diary compares Lee to other mother s boys like Elvis rates actors who have depicted Lee on film and ponders how other men s admiration of Lee s looks affected him as a oung heterosexual man 181 It s a freeform dump of non information that offers next to nothing beyond prurient leering at a dead icon That s my deepest reservation the psychologizing and the rambling appendices detract from this otherwise fun and engaging short biography When Blount rises to the level of his subject the book is excellent Some of the discursive passages provide enlightening new angles from which to view Lee But the book s flaws don t recommend itRecommended only to those already familiar with Lee and seeking a little distraction I recently watched Ken Burns series on the Civil War and was inspired to learn about some of the key players Lee is wrapped in so much mystiue and I recently visited Arlington so I decided to start with him I enjoyed this brief and modern take on Lee from Southern humorist Roy Blount Jr It is part of a series called Penguin Lives that are biographies written by modern authors but not necessarily historians Written in the early 2000s before our current spate of history erasing the biography takes a critical but not destroying look at Lee and spends time in the book and in a separate appendix parsing out the evidence for his feelings about slavery details are scant which come down to no he wasn t a harsh slave master but he was firmly part of the slave owning South Of note Union general and later president US Grant s wife also owned slaves The biography dealt with much of course including Lee s pet hen his complicated relationship with his father Rev War hero Light Horse Harry Lee and the fact he never carried a weapon during the war borrowing the sword he wore to the surrender to Grant It was an interesting and short read about a pivotal person in America s history who was just as flawed as the rest of them This book has been part of my larger foray into reading about Lee and with that context I would say this was a helpful short biography Blount gives plenty of facts but also lots of opinion which is fine especially as he is fairly upfront about his occasional psychoanalyzing My take on Lee isevolving Perhaps coming up with uestions than answers. Bition and courage but also his humility and humor and his sorrowful sense of responsibility for his outnumbered outgunned half starved army Robert E Lee the first succinct biography of this American legend will appeal to history and military buffs proud Southerners and every reader curious to discover the man behind the military leader.
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Read thoughtful and in light of a modern insistence that the Civil War was simply about slavery courageous point of view Professional historians many of whom do to muddy the waters with thinner speculations rooted in denser thickets of verbiage should take note Having heard Roy Blount on NPR discussing his new book on onomatopoeia in prose this little volume called to me from my shelf It is an entertaining and fair appraisal by an intelligent Southerner about one of the region s major personalities I had always heard that Lee freed his slaves before the war but this book has taught me Lee s gradualist abolitionist tendencies put far too much emphasis on the gradual It is hard not to think of the carnage that would have been avoided if this one man had rated liberty of all people above defense of his state All in all this is pleasantly written human portrait of a large figure from a morally confused time Mixed feelings on this Clearly not intended to be an all inclusive history of the man I appreciated the short form but so much of Blount s offering is but speculation We get it emotionally overbearing mother the shadow of his fuck up father and the desire to protect his home of Virginia led him to his position with the Confederacy Presenting Lee as a decent slave owner and conflicted defender of the succession doesn t change who he fought for the Blount s biography of Robert E Lee is short general and weird It s ideal for a casual reader who doesn t know anything at all about Lee aside from his leadership role in the Army of Northern Virginia Having read uite a few histories of the eastern campaigns and gleaned the general details about Lee s life through those books background information I found this mostly useful for information on Lee s father and early childhood The book is largely complimentary of a figure whose aura rivals even Washington s in the South even as Blount devotes an entire appendix to Lee s difficult relationship with slavery Lee s attitude was one of deep disdain rather than public condemnation I found the biography strange for its freuent sidebars however Blount goes off on tangents about spelling and Lee s encounters with men of letters and enjoys trying to make connections to Freudian psychology I suppose media personalities are allowed a few uirks when they attempt a serious piece of work It s enjoyable reading just a trifle odd Roy Blount Jr s short biography of Robert E Lee is an idiosyncratic book It s broadly organized into two parts a biography running a brisk 160 pages and a 45 page section of appendicesThe biographical half of the book is good Blount s account is readable and nicely summarizes Lee s life beginning with the legacy of his wastrel father a one time comrade in arms and friend of George Washington Blount depicts Lee s father casting a shadow over the entirety of Lee s life a point explored by other biographers but made central to the story here Blount even ascribes to Lee an oedipal complex at least twice about which shortly Blount moves uickly through the early stages of Lee s life the difficult circumstances of his outh his time as a cadet and oung Army officer the Mexican War and his tenure as commandant of West Point The longest section as in most Lee bios is that on the Civil War This section is very good given its brevity Given the constraints of space and a general readership Blount has to pick and choose and mostly chooses well He avoids bogging down in the nitty gritty of the Civil War campaigns and includes a lot of telling personal details throughout Lee s heart problems his pet chicken his self abnegation his platonic fondness for ladies his affection for his children and his concern for their discipline and morality drawing a decent sketch of Lee as a manThe book is writerly Blount s interests as a writer and raconteur peek through in a lot of odd ways including numerous references to Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren and a meditation on Lee s spelling Blount may be no historian but the book is again readable often witty and only occasionally marred by errors of fact As just one example Blount blunders in describing the Battle of Antietam as the war s bloodiest battle 105 That dubious distinction belongs to the three day Battle of Gettysburg Antietam was the bloodiest single day of the war An understandable slip but a slip nonethelessThe book has two serious flaws The first is Blount s endless psychoanalysis of Lee And I use psychoanalysis deliberately Blount Ader Blount delves into his family history and his personality He illustrates how descended from two illustrious families Lee embodied the best of all their traits and became Lincoln's first choice to lead the Union troops in 1861 But Lee's Virginia roots drew him instead to the Confederate command Blount vividly conveys not only his am.
An excellent short biography of Lee Blount doesn t portray the general as either a hero or villian but as someone who felt that he had no choice but to take the path he did Lee had a somewhat negative view of slavery albeit in a paternalistic kind of way and thought that secession was a mistake but in the end his ties were with Virginia rather than the United States Blount s writing is usually filled with amusing digressions but there is little of that here or correctly he saves it all up until the end After the end of the biography proper there are three appendices Speculation on the psychology behind Lee s decisions Lee s Humor and Lee s Attitude Toward Slavery Until those appendices Blount pretty much leaves himself out of things his writing is straightforward and informativeI probably shouldn t even bother but I can t help commenting on another review here from June 2011 I don t understand it at all There are three or so pages in the Speculation appendix about feet and around 70 pages than a third of the book dealing with Lee s conduct of the war I think that one can be safely ignored Why do so many Americans consider Robert E Lee one of the good Confederates It is a phenomenon that started right after the Civil War and continues today Probably because he was not personally offensive Personally he was kind and genuinely religious and disliked slavery etc But his actions in the battlefield were responsible for prolonging the Civil War advancing the cause of slavery immiserating thousands and causing untold destruction At the same time his military successes ensured that the war would drag on the South would be ravaged and impoverished by the war and slavery would end Perhaps he was an instrument in God s hands This excellent short biography wrestles with those uestions It also delves into Lee s psychology the burden of a father who disgraced the family honor in a culture that placed honor above all else the overcompensation of being the perfect person the man received NO demerits as a West Point cadet he was literally the perfect student his relationship with his mother and his wife and lots of other minefieldsI ll be honest one of the reasons I liked this book is because it was relatively short I wanted to learn about Lee but I didn t need a blow by blow history of all his military exploits This book gave a good level of detail about the battles and Lee s decisions but it didn t bog down If ou are interested in the military history of the Civil War Laurus you should look elsewhere This is a good short introduction into Lee s life Growing up in Montgomery Alabama I only knew of Robert E Lee as a cement colored man sitting erect on a horse the name of a rival high school during football season and the reason for a state holiday This book opens up to me the boy and the man who loved his parents and his wife who doted over his darling children and won over all animals as personal pets I discovered Lee as a romantic gentleman who would have been just happy farming his land But his people had been Virginians longer than they had been Americans so he took command of his southern soldiers and lead them into what he always described as hell Some amateur critics complain that this isn t a comprehensive treatment but ultimately that s a complaint rooted in laziness Ifou want a fuller coverage of Lee s life s events most of the relevant materials are readily available Blount focuses on the hardest and most speculative component which is what Lee thought and felt Lee wrote little of conseuence or substance published no postbellum memoir He took over a uiet college that had been sacked by Union soldiers and spent his last days rebuilding in a uiet corner of his beloved VirginiaWe must therefore speculate to some degree about his character and motives This effort has been hampered by partisans for over a century Confederacy sympathizers who want to canonize him and mostly northern academics who seek to demonize himThe service Blount renders then is to bring compassion and empathy to his subject Lee was a man deeply flawed in some respects and emotionally distant but also committed to a code of honor that we can scarcely recall now and which we therefore struggle to understand Blount tries to give us some of that understanding And certainly some of his speculations especially the Freud besotted ones are probably errant but he has the intellectual honesty to acknowledge up front that he may well be wrongWhat we have then is an easily. Iconic Virginian brilliant general and complex human being it is this last facet of Robert E Lee that is rarely seen But now Roy Blount Jr combines acute character insight with lively storytelling and a full hearted Southern directness to craft this uniue personal portraitFascinated by what made Lee into such a great though reluctant le.
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Roy Blount Jr is the author of twenty three books The first About Three Bricks Shy of a Load was expanded into About Three Bricks Shy and the Load Filled Up It is often called one of the best sports books of all time His subseuent works have taken on a range of subjects from Duck Soup to Robert E Lee to what cats are thinking to how to savor New Orleans to what it’s like being m