Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Scholarly Addition

I have added a link to one of Paul Arblaster's blogs, Beyond Brussels, to my blog links. Dr. Arblaster is a literature expert and translator who wrote A History of the Low Countries. This book is notable for several reasons, the most important of which, is that it's not horrible.

Let me explain. Literature experts tend to write history badly, even when their methods and research are sound. A well-known example of history by a literature expert is Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station, a perfect storm of all things that could possibly be wrong with a history book. Wilson was an obvious admirer of Lenin, and so deliberately only consulted sources that would give a complimentary picture of him and communism. It is too long for what it purports to show, and it is badly focused. An additional trait shared by Valerie I. J. Flint's much more historically sound The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe is the odd inability (for a literature expert!) to write clear, simple, strong sentences. Their prose reminds me of my own in high school, or the way I write sometimes when I'm extremely tired, but trying to make a deadline.

In any case, A History does not suffer from these faults. While it does not have endnotes or footnotes, this will certainly make the material more approachable for the interested layperson.

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