12 July 2007

More Hero Bashing by the Moderns

More hero bashing here, which is a review of *Elizabeth Brown Pryor's "Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters" (Viking, 2007, 658 pp.). The last sentence of the last paragraph in the "review" says it all:

"We need to see Lee and other heroes as they really were or are, because we need to see human beings as they really are, not as we fantasize them to be. And yet, something inside of us aches with a sense of loss when heroic Great Ones are dissected like T.S. Eliot's etherized patient on a table, and we find them, opened up, just as diseased from being human as we ourselves are."

Yes, that's all you need to read about this review, which is really nothing more than a back door hit piece on Robert E. Lee. So transparent, so predictable, so clich├ęd, so pathetic. In my opinion, the only ones fantasizing here are those who think Americans have always been the hedonistic self-absorbed pleasure seekers that they are today. The truth?

"Robert E. Lee never existed [in the minds of some] because we don't have a Robert E. Lee today." ~ James I. Robertson, Jr.

“Social historians are often driven by activist goals. Historical research becomes not an attempt to understand the past but a propaganda tool for use in modern political and social power struggles.” (Tom Dixon, The Death of Truth, Bethany House, 1996, p. 133.)

The year of Lee continues, despite the anti-hero lobby's best shots.

*(Note: I have not yet read Ms. Pryor's book, so these comments are only my response to the reviewer's take, not an opinion about the book itself. I was sent a copy by the publisher to review and I hope to get to that very soon.)


mannie said...


I'd be interested in an approach to Lee in the context of his struggle with heart disease. Is there a thoughtful assessment of how this condition may have affected his decision making and wartime stamina?


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Mannie. I think that is an excellent question. My response is nothing more than an "assumption" as I've just started reading through Pryor's book and don't know if any of the recently discovered correspondence will reveal anything new along those lines. I would have to think that the pain and other physical characteristics of heart disease would have to have had some kind of impact on Lee's decisions; if nothing other than distracting him. However, Lee's command over his "self" is not just legendary, it is fact. I'll keep your question in mind as I read Pryor's book.

Tom said...

Will be most interested in your review as this book is receiving praise from certain circles which I do not trust.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Tom. I intend to dive in to this book this week. I'll reserve my opinion and hold comments until I've completed it . . . hope to post something by next week.