Currently Reading : Snow-Storm in August by Jefferson Morley

Snow-Storm in August by Jefferson Morley

     Have you ever picked up a book only to scold it later with the thought: What in fresh hell was I thinking? While I love to learn about history, I try to learn in a linear manner, as in, starting from the very beginning of the inception of what I'm learning about, whether it's a time, a place, a cultural lesson, or a social construct or something of philosophical importance - I just don't want to miss the chance to learn anything about it. Therefore, I don't like to skip around. 😃

     While Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 is chock-full of information on an important, albeit a lesser-emphasized, time in Washington's history, at 55 pages in, I'm just not feeling the author's writing style. It's like he sleeps around with metaphor and feeling, much like a fictional writer would, and while there's nothing wrong with that, if I'm reading a non-fiction account of history, I need to hear an actual historian's perspective, and not something like this (and these are in my own words and my inner monologue as I read this book):

"Well, Beverly Snow was probably thinking/feeling/sensing this about his Epicurean eatery and why it wasn't getting as much business on such and such season, but then again, is this Epicurean philosophy really necessary for a restaurant? I mean, it's a freaking restaurant! Is it the name? People of an Epicurean mindset were probably less ass-hats and materialistic than those who didn't live by that philosophy. Hmmm...even though I sound unsure of these facts I'm writing, do they really contribute that much to the historical timeline of this period in Washington? Could I edit them out and just talk about historical facts I'm absolutely certain about? Oh and President Madison might have thought at one point to tell Key to get over himself about his failure as a lieutenant", etc.

     Might have, could have, thought, probably, felt - in my opinion, those words are pretty dangerous to allude to in a historical account. Not only that, but these first few chapters are shaky and jumpy as ever. While Morley is undoubtedly a good writer (his works as an editor and reporter include The New York Review of Books and The Washington Post Book World), it's going to take a lot 'five minutes I'll never get back, but I'll do it anyway' mentality for me to want to finish this novel...which, at this rate, probably isn't going to happen.

     I'm wanting to learn more about the cool stuff, like William Thornton and his French architectural inspirations and designs and blueprint ideas for the Capitol (something that the author started to go into, but quickly threw it aside). I also wish to learn more about the free man/former slave Beverly Snow as a person every once in a while, and less about the constant reiterations that he is a former slave, and also a little less about his Epicurean restaurant business ventures and the crap advertising (along with the good advertising) he received for it, and oh God, must we go into painstaking detail about Francis Scott Key and "The Star-Spangled Banner" so soon? Leave him for the latter half of the book, I want to learn more about people who weren't shady attorneys-turned lieutenants. Especially when I was just reading about the movement for abolishing slavery and Snow's voyage with his lady partner not even four pages earlier....

     Anyway, that's a wrap for the first 55 pages. I like Morley's writing style - just not for something like this. Maybe I'm being too hard on this book from such an early point, but I'd like to know more about the American abolition of slavery in New England in the 1830s, about American leadership and Jackson's presidency, and about the growth and evolution of Washington D.C. through this time. I just don't know if this is the right book for me, as it's seeming that every time I turn the page, it jumps to a different topic. I'll keep updates on whether or not I'll want to continue reading this book, or if I throw in the towel. So far, it's not looking too good.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like a good read so far!



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