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agincourt There is a review in the WSJ today by Ron Maxwell (who wrote the Gettysburg and Gods & Generals screenplays) of Bernard Cornwell’s latest foray into historickal fiction, this time focusing on the Battle of Agincourt as seen through the eyes of an English bowman:

With his novel “Agincourt,” Bernard Cornwell leads us into this world with the hypnotic skill of an old seer seated about an ancient campfire. Of course Shakespeare, with “Henry V,” has already taken us on this journey, as seen through the eyes of England’s young king. Mr. Cornwell selects for his protagonist a man as lowly as the king is exalted, as powerless as the king is omnipotent. By the end of this gripping novel we understand that it was the common soldier — personified by a man named Nick Hook in Mr. Cornwell’s telling — who embodied the English character and in large measure determined the outcome of its military adventures. Revealing as well is the fact that Hook is exceptionally skilled at a particular kind of warfare — shooting arrows with a longbow.

Anyone who has ever held a bow and arrow will savor Mr. Cornwell’s affectionate descriptions of designing, crafting, maintaining, transporting and fighting with this weapon. He emphasizes that it was the English archer who often made the critical difference in 15th-century battle. He was trained from youth to develop the muscles of his arms, chest and back in order to acquire the reserves of strength to repeatedly draw a bowstring that most strong men could barely pull half-way — and trained as well in the art of guiding the arrow’s flight to his prey.

I would be inclined to pick up this book purely out of interest in the mechanics of longbow archery, but I’m a bit dubious about Mr. Cornwell’s “hypnotic skills”.  Indeed, I have to admit that I find his storytelling style to be somewhat hit or miss:  As fond as I am of dipping into his Richard Sharpe series from time to time, the stock almost-superhuman villains;  arrogant shhnobs and dastardly double-crosser within the Allied ranks; and strong, ravishing heroines all start blurring together after a while.  And I have found the samples of his Stonehenge and Saxon series I have tried to be border-line funny in an unintentional way.

Certainly not in the same league as, say, Patrick O’Brian or George MacDonald Fraser.

Still, as I say, I’ll probably pick up the book anyway……..

The cranium is full of little bits and pieces today, so here goes:

♦   I had a bizarre dream last night that started with my being a part of a settler family retreating down a river for fear of Indian attacks and ended up with my sitting in a hotel in Nashville, where I was employed as a news reader for NPR with no copy in my hands except cut-out newspaper ads.  After stumbling through as best I could, I finished my broadcast with, “This is NPR News?”  Somebody near me said, “Don’t worry, it’s always like that.”

♦  Somehow in the last couple days the expression, “I’ve got a baaaaaad feeling about this”  has seemed ever so much more relevant.

♦  How can anyone not like the overtures of Franz von Suppé?

♦  The eldest gel wanted some help with a writing assignment the other evening.  The topic was “Things that make me angry.”

I said, “Well, just think for a bit and list some topics. Should be easy for you.”

The gel said, “But, Daaa-ad, it’ll make it look like I’ve got a bad temper!”

“Well, you do sometimes,” I gently replied.

I know that,” she said, “But I don’t want Mr. [Teacher] to find out!”

“Um, I’ll bet he’s probably figured it out by now.”

♦  I am just about positive (because he spoke of it so enthusiastically at Christmas) that the small package my brother sent for my upcoming birthday is a copy of Blazing Angels for Wii.  I’ve not played a WWII flying game since we got our new computer and I couldn’t figure out how to attach the joystick to play my old Microsoft program.  Despite the goodish bit of bad press this one seems to have garnered, I am not enough of a gamer geek to worry about the flaws in it and probably will spend an inordinate amount of time blasting Nazis out of the sky.

♦  The streets around the National Mall are still covered with grit and goo from the festivities this week.  It occurred to me this morning that Dee Cee probably can’t hose them down simply because of all the problems associated with sub-freezing temperatures, and is likely waiting for Mother Nature to do her thing and wash them off herself.  Until then, walking about is making me feel faintly grimey.

♦  When’s my birthday, you ask? Why, it’s coming up on Monday.  I’ll be 44, in case you’re interested, but I don’t plan any particular celebration this year.

♦  Speaking of celebrations, I owe an immense apology to several of my on-line friends who sent real life dead-tree Christmas cards this year.  I had thought that my bloggy-friend list had been incorporated into our main one and only found out at the last minute that it wasn’t.  And what with one thing and another and all our travel, I never got round to sending responsive cards either.  Mea culpa.  I’m horrid about that sort of thing, but please do not take my sloppy correspondence habit personally.

♦  And speaking of Christmas cards, I got a very nice Madonna and Child one from Father M.  I’ve put it up on my office bulletin board just to get folks to think a bit.  Of course, it’s right next to a card of a cat about to purree a blender full of goldfish, so I’m not exactly sure what they’ll think. But that’s their lookout.

♦  My sister is about to give birth any day now.  She’s having a second girl.  This will make four nieces along with my three daughters.  My brother’s boy is (and likely will remain) the single male in his generation of my family.  Among these seven female kin and my two God-daughters, I feel more and more the humor behind God’s response to my ardent wish as a younger man to be surrounded by gels.


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January 2009