Monday, April 4, 2011

Magnificent History...


I recently finished reading two magnificent pieces of historical writing, one a "history" by a scholarly Historian, the other a first person account by a remarkable Explorer.

William H. Prescott's lengthily titled "History of The Conquest of Mexico, with a preliminary view of The Ancient Mexican Civilization and the life of The Conqueror Hernando Cortes," weighs in at 652 pages with another hundred or so pages in appendixes, and was published in 1843.

Captain James Cook's "Voyages," or more precisely the compiled accounts of all three of his expeditions from 1768 - 1779 "Captain Cook's Voyages," runs about 516 pages (with another 50 or so in appendixes and an Afterword), and were published variously in 1773, 1777 and 1780ish. Cook never actually wrote the published accounts of his voyage; his journals were turned over to Dr. John Hawkesworth (who wrote the account of the first Voyage), and later Dr. John Douglas (who wrote the accounts of the second and third Voyages), adding the journals of ship's surgeon William Anderson and James King to the body of the account of the third Voyage. The version I read is my personal copy of The Folio Society of London's 1997 edition Selected and Introduced by Glyndwr Williams (the "selected" accounting for the distilled 516 pages out of what amounted to thousands of pages in the original books. Wish I had those!).

To compare the two works is to compare apples and doorknobs. Both histories, yes, but they could not be more different in style and more importantly intent. So I starting thinking about ways in which they were similar, and it occurred to me, and this holds true for every history I've ever read (assuming they were well written), that all things being equal (scholarship, facts, an adequate distance between the writer, his opinion of the material and the material itself) both of these works had me turning pages and asking, "What next?"

With Cook the What next? is like shielding your eyes from the sun while looking toward the horizon in wonder and imagining what might be there.

With Prescott the What next? is more like having been traumatized by witnessing a murder and then being present at a human sacrifice. A matter of degree.

Other things I've been thinking about is finishing the current script my writing partner, Paul Jaconi-Biery and myself are working on entitled The Long Walk Home. We're writing this with the blessing of Peter Fonda whom I hope will like it enough to agree to play the lead role. I think he will.

In my next post I'll answer some FAQ's concerning what happened to Bobby at the end of Radio Flyer. I've been asked that countless times and have answered it before, but I thought I'd answer here so that once and for all the question is put to bed.

Thanks for reading and check back soon.

DME

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