October 29, 2018

Book review: “Guards! Guards!” by Terry Pratchett

  The high point of Terry Pratchett’s eighth Discworld novel Guards! Guards!, published in 1989, comes when Carrot Ironfoundersson, the six-foot-six-inch dwarf and probationary member of the Ankh-Morpork Watch, arrests the Dragon which is approximately the size of a small battleship and has been terrorizing the city. Which comes before the Dragon’s romantic pas de deux in the sky. But after Captain Sam Vimes has gotten drunk, again. But before Vimes falls in love. But after Discworld readers have been introduced for the first time to Sgt. Fred Colon, who “was the sort of man who, if he took up a military career, would automatically gravitate to the post of sergeant…[or else] looked cut out for something like, perhaps, a sausage butcher; some job where a big red face and a tendency to sweat even in frosty weather were practically part of the specification,” and Cpl. Nobby Nobbs, “a small, bandy-legged man, with a certain resemblance to a chimpanzee who never got invited to tea parties” and about whom “the only reason you couldn’t say…was close to the animal kingdom was that the animal kingdom would get up and walk away.” But before Colon, Nobby, Carrot, Vimes and a growing […]
October 23, 2018

Book review: “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens

  Among the many distinctive characters in David Copperfield, I have a soft spot in my heart for Jane Murdstone. Actually, that’s wrong.  It’s not so much a soft spot for her.  It’s for the way Charles Dickens makes it clear who this woman is. David is still a very young boy.  His mother Clara has just remarried.  His stepfather — one might as well say “evil stepfather” — Edward Murdstone has Clara under his thumb.  Even so, he calls in his spinster sister as a reinforcement: It was Miss Murdstone who was arrived, and a gloomy-looking lady she was; dark, like her brother, whom she greatly resembled in face and voice; and with very heavy eyebrows, nearly meeting over her large nose, as if, being disabled by the wrongs of her sex from wearing whiskers, she had carried them to that account. She brought with her two uncompromising hard black boxes, with her initials on the lids in hard brass nails. When she paid the coachman she took her money out of a hard steel purse, and she kept the purse in a very jail of a bag which hung upon her arm by a heavy chain, and shut […]
October 22, 2018

Book review: “The Christ of the Miracle Stories: Portrait through Encounter” by Wendy Cotter CSJ

  Twice in her 2010 book The Christ of the Miracle Stories, Wendy Cotter tells this story about the Roman emperor Hadrian: He was on a journey, and a woman on the roadside asked him to speak to him. “I haven’t time,” he said, brushing her off. “Cease, then, being emperor!” she cried out with sharp sarcasm. He stopped, went back and talked with her. This, Cotter says, is an example of the virtue of epieikeia, the willingness to hear — really hear — the words of someone else, even someone considered by society inferior in some way, and to recognize the wisdom in the person’s words. As the leader of the Roman empire in the early 100s, Hadrian was the most powerful man on earth.  Yet, in this and other incidents, he showed an open-mindedness in dealing with other people, a readiness to take in opinions and ideas that were different from those he held.   “Spunky, noisy, pushy and outrageous” It may seem odd to start off a review of a book about Jesus with an anecdote about a Roman emperor.  Yet, this story is an example of the way that Cotter has mined the documents of the […]
October 18, 2018

Book review: “The Mouse that Roared” by Leonard Wibberley

The Mouse that Roared, a comic, satirical, even silly novel by Leonard Wibberley, was published in 1955, a decade after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. As one character notes, however, the end of the war didn’t bring peace. Indeed, Cold War tensions were high and getting higher, and everyone around the world was living under the pall of nuclear threat. So, this seemingly frivolous book with its outlandish premise — that the Grand Duchy of Fenwick, the smallest nation in the world, hoping to reap a miniature Marshall Plan, attacks the U.S. in a war it plans to lose, but unaccountably wins — is an oddly unsettling read for a citizen of 2018. The Q-bomb That’s because the plot centers on the Q-bomb, the only one in the world, developed by an American scientist and grabbed by the duchy’s invasion force when, as luck would have it, the couple dozen soldiers landed in Manhattan during a major air raid practice when virtually everyone was dutifully underground. One of the few exceptions is Dr. Alfred Kokintz who is taken as a prisoner of war along with his bomb. When the force and […]
October 17, 2018

Book review: “Murder on the Links” by Agatha Christie

Much of Agatha Christie 1923 mystery Murder on the Links seems, nearly a century after its publication, pretty hokey. There is a drawing-room, stage-set feel to its scenes, and Christie’s characters always seem to be over-acting: the loveable doofus Captain Arthur Hastings; Monsieur Giraud, the supremely arrogant Parisian detective who flashes his modern methods with the same élan as he does his disdain; the mysterious young woman Hastings dubs “Cinderella” with her “modern girl” manners and brightness; and, of course, Hercule Poirot, the retired Belgian detective who, as a private investigator, is persnickety in solving unsolvable crimes through the application of his “gray cells.” Murder on the Links has many more characters than those four, more than a few with more than one name, and they come across as roles that are being filled rather than as human beings. Indeed, the formulaic quality of the story and Christie’s writing had me wondering midway through the novel how she put her puzzle together so that it would be attractively puzzling. I wondered if she came up with the ending and then worked backwards to make things so muddy that no one could come up with the answer until Poirot pontificated. I […]
October 15, 2018

Book Review: Two Books about Dying — 2 — “Advice for Future Corpses (And Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying” by Sallie Tisdale

  Over the years, I’ve read a fair number of books about death, but I found Sallie Tisdale’s Advice for Future Corpses so rich and powerful that, by the time I got through the first couple chapters, I’d ordered a copy for my wife. I wanted her to read the book so, together, we could think about the questions and issues that Tisdale raises.  And I wanted her to have her own copy so she’d have it handy when needed. Note, I didn’t say “if and when.”  Death is a “when” for me and for you and for all of us.   “Hard to deny” Tisdale doesn’t let the reader forget this. When it comes to the process of dying, she doesn’t flinch from talking about pain and intrusive friends and loose bowels and fear and burial and denial and coercive family members and cremation.  Consider this paragraph: “Despite many costs, for a grieving person cremation can have a kind of stark beauty.  George Bernard Shaw watched his mother’s body enter the crematorium, feet-first: ‘The feet burst miraculously into streaming ribbons of garnet colored lovely flame, smokeless and eager, like pentacostal tongues,” he wrote, “and as the whole coffin passed […]
October 10, 2018

Book Review: Two Books about Dying — 1 — “How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter” By Sherwin B. Nuland

Samuel Johnson, that great English expert on words, once wrote: “Hope is itself a species of happiness, and perhaps the chief happiness which this word affords.” Sherwin B. Nuland highlights that quote in his 1994 book How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter. He highlights the idea of hope in a book about the inevitability of death. But how can human beings be hopeful — how can they be happy — when they know that, sooner or later, they will die? That’s the beautiful paradox of Nuland’s great book.  Death helps us be hopeful.  Death helps us be happy. Without death, we would be bored.   We’re not eternal Think of it:  If you had an eternal existence, what difference would it make if today is sunny?  Or if the tree outside your window is blooming?  Or if you took a trip to Paris this year?  Or if children were playing on the sidewalk outside your home? A sunny day would be just another of an infinite series of sunny days to come, and the tree would be just one of an infinite series of trees that will bloom.  Paris will always be there, anytime.  And the children?  Youth […]
October 8, 2018

Essay: In praise of the backup catcher

  Throughout this major league baseball season, I’ve been cheering on one particular player — Austin Romine. Never heard of him?  Not surprising.  He’s the backup catcher of the New York Yankees and rarely gets featured in a television highlight or in a print or online headline.  Nonetheless, after each Yankee game, I’ve looked at the box score with burning questions:  Had Romine gotten a hit, perhaps a homer?  Had he gone 0 for 4?  Had he even played?   Smart and tough Like many major league catchers, Romine is both tough and smart.  He runs the bases with a stiff back reminiscent of catcher Carlton Fisk’s baserunning during his Chicago White Sox days.  Romine had a bumpy time finding a place on the Yankee roster and, at one point, was offered on waivers to every other team.  No one wanted him. I’ve watched his career partially because — to the mystification of my friends and family — I, despite being a lifelong Chicagoan, am a Yankee fan.  (Let’s leave that story for another time.)  If I were a White Sox fan, I’d probably be cheering for backup catcher Kevan Smith. In the last couple seasons, Romine has found himself […]
October 5, 2018

Poem: “How puzzle the prayer”

    How puzzle the prayer   Walking seminary fields, silent-hour recollection days, calloused caress of color and blaze, sharp tender bright air slicing wet morning grass.   Filled with wide light.   How steel my legs? How blade the grip lack? How bell the jerk and jag of breath?   How pipe the foreign? How altar the yearn? How street the knowledge of death?   How ocean the benediction? How rosary the examination? How sculpture the confession?   I confess.  I crucify. I abjure. I sacrifice.   Prophet’s blood off rawed skin to splat road dust, paste for blind eyes and full stomachs. Blessed are the lost.   Lauds. Compline. Psalm-song. Psalm of David. Psalm of the great empty white.   My God, my God, why?   How architecture the touch?   I will go to the table of the Lord. Break my bread. Spill my wine. Wash my sins. White my garments. Angel my innocent’s neck. Good news, good news. Call me blessed.   How ghost the surrender?   Patrick T. Reardon 10.5.18   “How puzzle the prayer” was originally published on 6.21.18 by Under a Warm Green Linden.  
October 3, 2018

Essay: Why write?

  Since the age of 12 when I had my first byline on a Father’s Day essay in the neighborhood newspaper, I’ve been addicted to writing. Over the years, I’ve loved seeing my byline on literally thousands of Chicago Tribune stories, and on countless freelance pieces, and on the covers of my eight books. But that’s not what I’m hooked on.  I’m addicted to the challenge of taking some aspect of the chaos of our existence and making sense of it by putting a bunch of words down on a page, whether physical or digital, in a manner that is clear and maybe playful, pleasing and informative. I enjoy the idea that stuff I write helps readers better understand the world in which we all live.  That’s an important reason I write, but, even more, I write to help myself better understand the world, better understand life.   Hard work and delight Norman Mailer once said something to the effect that he didn’t know what he thought about anything until he wrote about it.  That’s the experience I have.  I get to know myself, and to define myself, in the act of writing. Writing is hard work.  It’s a strain […]
October 1, 2018

Book Review: “The Plan of Chicago” By Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett

  I’m a card-carrying nerd and a guy who, during a long career at the Chicago Tribune and later in other forums, has written much about cities and demographics.  And I just love reading reports, statistics and plans. There are two reasons for this: First, I can mine these documents for facts that reveal to me, in some way, how people go about or have gone about their lives. Example: a collection of maps showing the changing settlement patterns of various immigrant groups in Chicago over a series of decades. Second, most offer an analysis of some aspect of life and a vision, at least implicitly, of how it can be better. For instance: reports on the hypersegregation of whites and blacks in Chicago. One report, however, rises head-and-shoulders above all the others I’ve read — the 1909 Plan of Chicago by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett, known also as the Burnham Plan.   A touchstone I’ve dealt with it as an important historic document, but also as a living document since it has been a touchstone for all sorts of plans for Chicago and the metropolitan region over the past 100-plus years. Virtually every attempt to analyze […]
September 28, 2018

Book review: “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” by Christopher Moore

  As usual, Christopher Moore is goofy and silly in Island of the Sequined Love Nun, his fourth novel, published in 1997. Consider the back story of his central character Tucker Case who, Moore tells us, grew up in Elsinore, California, the only son of the owner of the Denmark Silverware Corporation.  Tuck’s girlfriend was Zoophilia Gold, the daughter of his father’s lawyer, “a lovely girl made shy by a cruel first name.” Tuck was away at college in Texas when he got the call from his mother: “Come home.  Your father’s dead.”  He drove home in two days and called Zoophilia who “informed him that his mother had married his father’s brother and his uncle had taken over Denmark Silverware.” If this is sounding at all familiar, it’s supposed to.   Twisting to his own purposes This, I think, was Moore’s first foray into paying homage to — well, let’s be honest, absconding with, beating over the head and twisting to his own purposes — some of the greatest stories in Western civilization. He followed these Hamlet references here with an entire book of his wacky version of King Lear (Fool), a mash-up of the Merchant of Venice and […]
September 26, 2018

Book review: “Barchester Towers” by Anthony Trollope

  Barchester Towers, like the other five novels in Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barset, is characterized by psychological nuance and an affection for humanity in all its waywardness. There are novels written by authors who don’t like their characters — not a one of them.  Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom comes to mind.  Most writers like at least some of the people who populate their stories. Trollope likes all of his characters, even the bossy bully Mrs. Proudie who takes up a lot of pages of Barchester Towers, and Mr. Slope, the oily, conniving liar who takes up even more. When I say “likes,” I mean “understands.”  Trollope understands the weak bishop’s wife and the weak bishop’s chaplain as fully rounded, many-layered human beings.  They do a lot of bad and mean things, but none of Trollope’s characters is all bad.   Curious and lovable It’s a measure of the author’s affection for the human race that he can tell of the depredations of these two with more of a touch of humane forbearance, as if to say, “Aren’t people just so curious? And, at the same time, lovable?” Mean-spirited or gentle-minded, Trollope’s people can’t help but get themselves into trouble, can’t […]
September 24, 2018

Book review: “Pyramids” by Terry Pratchett

    So, it’s nearly the final page of Terry Pratchett’s 1989 Discworld novel Pyramids, and his recurring character, called Death (because he is), suddenly finds himself with a problem: THIS IS MOST IRREGULAR. We’re sorry.  It’s not our fault. HOW MANY OF YOU ARE THERE? More than 1,300, I’m afraid. VERY WELL, THEN.  PLEASE FORM AN ORDERLY QUEUE.   Small and dark and boring There is Pyramids in a nutshell.  For thousands of years, the kings and queens of Djelibeybi, the Discworld version of Egypt, have, upon death, had to put up with their bodies being locked up within pyramids. Each found himself or herself in a space that was small and dark and, worst of all, boring, dead but never freed by Death — that rather bony character with the hood and scythe — to go do whatever a spirit does after its body is finished. All this begins to come to an end when 19-year-old Teppic, having just won a degree from the Assassin’s Guild in Anhk-Morpork (which means he survived his final exam), learns that his father has died, and he must come home to be king.  Home to a nation that Pratchett describes in this […]
September 12, 2018

Book review: “Brunelleschi’s Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence” by Ross King

    Okay, I recognize that — as Ross King writes in Brunelleschi’s Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence — building the dome over the long-undomed Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral had become, by the early 15th century, “the greatest architectural puzzle of the age.” And I see that, in solving that puzzle, Filippo Brunelleschi not only fashioned a great work of art — the dome remains the tallest and widest ever created without modern materials — but also raised the status of architect above the level of manual worker to that of the artist.  King writes: Largely through his looming reputation, the profession was transformed during the Renaissance from a mechanical into a liberal art, from an art that was viewed as “common and low” to one that could be regarded as a noble occupation at the heart of the cultural endeavor. Even more, Brunelleschi’s feat gave new meaning to the word “genius.”  King writes: Before Filippo’s time the faculty of genius was never attributed to architects (or to sculptors and painters, either, for that matter).  But Marsuppini’s epitaph refers to Filippo as possessing divino ingenio, “divine genius,” marking the first recorded instance of an architect […]
September 10, 2018

Book review: “Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling” by Ross King

It’s a daunting task to write the story of the creation of a work of art and, even more, for one that comprises a multiplicity of art works. After all, the work — Shakespeare’s King Lear or Emily Dickinson’s “I taste a liquor never brewed” or Joyce’s Ulysses or Piano Sonata No. 11 by Mozart — speaks for itself. To know about Lear, you watch Lear.  Any prose written as a commentary runs the risk of sounding like so much wasted breath. How much more intimidating is it, then, to write a book about how Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, came to be? A masterpiece with 150-plus pictorial units, including more than 300 individual figures, many of which are considered masterpieces in their own right? Masterpieces that are among the most popular and ubiquitous of art images in the Western culture?   Delightfully interesting In Michelangelo & the Pope’s Ceiling, Ross King faces these many challenges, and he triumphs.  His 2003 book is delightfully interesting, informative, inspiring and thought-provoking. King’s book explains without being boring.  It gets into nitty-gritty details without bogging down.  It gives the larger-than-life personalities of its three main characters, Michelangelo, Raphael and Pope […]
September 5, 2018

Book review: “Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution” by D. Peter MacLeod

  Most accounts of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, also called the Battle of Quebec — a turning point in the history of North America, when Canada became British — focus on the two commanders, both of whom died in the fighting. However, in his 2016 book Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution, D. Peter MacLeod takes a different tack. In the early morning hours of September 13, 1759, General James Wolfe sent his British soldiers climbing the face of the nearly 200-foot-tall cliff of the Quebec Promontory, a cliff that, to the French, had seemed unclimbable, especially with regular patrols along the cliff-edge. Nonetheless, through luck and energy, the British force got to the top and set up a battle line on the west side of the plateau, with some 2,100 troops. The French, once they realized that the British had snuck behind them, established their own battle line on the eastern edge of the plains, on and in front of the Buttes-a-Neveu. This was a raised mound that, MacLeod points out, would have provided the 2,000 French and Canadian militia troops with an advantageous higher-ground position […]
September 5, 2018

Book review: “Quebec: Historic Seaport” by Mazo de la Roche

  I was flabbergasted by Quebec: Historic Seaport, ostensibly a history of the Canadian city, published in 1944 by novelist Mazo de la Roche.  And my flabbergastation only grew greater the more I read the book until it evolved, near the end, into out-and-out disgust. Of course, I knew going into the book that it might be a challenge.  Novelists use different intellectual and artistic muscles than historians do, but, sometimes, this can result in a wonderful work, such as Son of the Morning Star, Evan Connell’s history of Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn. Not here. De la Roche writes her book as if it were a historical romance with manly men and daintily beautiful women.  And it isn’t really about Quebec.  It’s more a history of Canada in which Quebec plays an important-ish role.   “Their own doom” That’s not the real problem, though.  Ultimately, de la Roche’s effort is completely undercut by her deep and sharp prejudices. This reaches its nadir when de la Roche is discussing the Treaty of Versailles which ended the American Revolution, giving the colonies their independence.  She writes: In that treaty the New Englanders wrote their own doom, for in their […]
September 3, 2018

Essay: “God is the ocean in which we all swim

Patrick T. Reardon 9.4.18
August 27, 2018

Essay: Pope Francis teaches how to love those we see as sinners

  The death penalty is wrong in all cases.  That’s what Pope Francis proclaimed in early August, and that’s what the Church’s Catechism will be revised to say. It’s an important statement about faith and human rights.  And its impact extends beyond those convicted of serious crimes and threatened with execution. The Pope’s order, culminating of an evolution in church teaching that goes back to St. John Paul II, is a lesson to you and me about how to treat those we see as sinners. Under the revision, the Catechism will say, “The Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.” In 1992, John Paul II began to take strong stands against the death penalty.  There was one exception as he saw it — “cases of absolute necessity” when the death penalty was needed to protect other lives. The announcement from Pope Francis closes that “last remaining loophole” in Church’s stand against executions, writes Sister Helen Prejean, a longtime opponent of the death penalty.   “The dignity of the person” The Church […]
August 26, 2018

Chicago History: Haki Madhubuti, the most influential African-American leader you’ve probably never heard of

This is an expanded version of an article that appeared 8.29.18 in the Chicago Reader.   Don L. Lee was ten years old when his mother Maxine took him and his younger sister to visit the minister of one of the largest black churches in Detroit. It was mid-20th century America, and, abandoned years before by her husband, Maxine, a beautiful, vivacious woman, had been trying to keep the family afloat with the odds stacked against her. Suddenly, with the minister, she was in luck.  A man in his fifties, with a kindly demeanor, he offered her a job as a janitor at the four-story, twelve-unit building he owned next to his church — and free housing in a basement apartment.  During the week, she’d be responsible for cleaning and dusting the public areas and hauling the garbage cans down the backstairs. Oh, and one other thing — as the interview came to an end, the minister leaned over and whispered something to Maxine.  “I knew what was going on,” her son tells me. Thereafter, come Monday and Thursday afternoons, the minister would visit the family’s apartment “and she would service him.”  She was what was known at the time […]
August 21, 2018

Book review: “Bone on Bone” by Julia Keller

  Julia Keller’s latest novel Bone on Bone is a story of misery and love. It is the story of people whose lives are full of misery.  Sometimes, for them, love ameliorates the pain.  At other times, it feeds the pain. Like Keller’s six previous books in this series focused on the fictional town of Acker’s Gap in West Virginia, there is a murder and mysteries in Bone on Bone.  There is a search for truth amid the chaos and confusion of existence. Yet, this isn’t a whodunit.  This is a literary work grappling with the existential pain of breathing, pain we all suffer.   The misery in Acker’s Gap The misery in Acker’s Gap has to do with the loss of jobs and potential and with the increasing use of illegal drugs by young people who don’t see a future, even young people with advantages. Not only are the teens and young adults in this novel eaten up by their drug addiction, but the lives of their parents are grotesquely twisted by the suffering of watching their children suffer. So grotesquely twisted that one mother seeks release in the bed of a pick-up lover as her husband, out of […]
August 20, 2018

Essay: The death penalty and the evolution of faith

    The Church’s understanding of what it means to live a Christian life has been evolving for 2,000 years and will continue to do so. For instance, the early Church accepted slavery as a permissible aspect of human society but later came to see bondage as immoral. Earlier this month, another step in the evolution of the Church’s teaching took place when Pope Francis announced that the death penalty is wrong in all cases.   “Inadmissible” At the Pope’s order, the Catechism will be revised to say: “The Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.” This shift in doctrine began in 1992 with St. John Paul II who took strong stands against the death penalty “except in cases of absolute necessity” to protect other lives. The announcement from Pope Francis closes “the last remaining loophole” in Church’s stand against executions, writes Sister Helen Prejean, a longtime opponent of the death penalty.   “The dignity of the person” While the new step has many ramifications, the important lesson for most of […]
August 15, 2018

Book review: “Wyrd Sisters” by Terry Pratchett

  That great and silly American writer Christopher Moore, in recent years, has mined the Shakespeare canon for sources for his comic novels. You could call this thievery.  Or you could call it homage.  Either way, the results are hilarious — Fool (a rip-off, excuse me, homage to King Lear) and The Serpent of Venice (Merchant of Venice and Othello). (And, after all, the great Will stole all his plots from earlier writers, right?) Two decades earlier, that great and silly English writer Terry Pratchett did the same thing in Wyrd Sisters.  This 1988 novel borrows a lot of the plot of MacBeth.  It’s got an evil Duchess to play the Queen part, and a Duke who takes the hand-washing bit way too far.  There’s a forest that moves, and a murdered king, and an unexpected heir. And, like many a Shakespearian effort, there are characters who are masquerading as other people. Quite a lot, actually. There’s a play within a play. And ghosts and “divers alarums” and witches. Ah, yes, Pratchett’s witches — the two old standbys, Granny Weatherwax, the crotchety uber-witch, and Nanny Ogg, an earth-motherish sort, as well as Magrat Garlick, the junior witch who’s still a […]
August 13, 2018

Book review: “Building A Revolutionary State: The Legal Transformation of New York, 1776-1783” by Howard Pashman

      For Great Britain, the late 18th-century conflict with its North American colonies was a civil war.  The colonists were in rebellion and needed to be policed. For the newly minted United States of America, the Revolution was a war for independence.  The colonists wanted to control their lives and fortunes. Either way you looked at it, however, the armies, officials and common people opposing the mighty British forces were insurgents.  They were the same sort of insurgents who, over the next 200-plus years, would rebel in France, Russia and Cuba, and in dozens of successful and unsuccessful attempts at achieving self-government. And, either way you looked at it, the time of the revolt, particularly in the early years, was a time of great chaos for new Americans. The history of the American Revolution, most frequently, has been portrayed as a story of great men who thought great ideas and brought about independence by the sheer weight of the righteousness of their creation — an early sort of manifest destiny. It was as if the new nation, as designed and proclaimed, made so much sense, how could anyone, except those dense Brits, ever think to question it?   […]