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Jul 14, 2004 9:49 am

Noted Here and There ...

Much attention was given to sometimes misleading reports about the fate of Iraq's museums during the invasion by United States forces, but less attention was paid to its libraries and archives. At Informed Comment, Juan Cole reports that about 60% of the state records and documents were destroyed by fire and water damage and about 25% of its rare book collections were lost.

James Baldwin is a writer whose reputation and skill seemed to crest and wane with the civil rights movement itself. Still, his early work as an essayist largely survives the test of time. Few people knew Baldwin for so long as his high school friend and subsequent editor, Sol Stein. At Poets & Writers, Inc., Stein looks back on their friendship and the preparation of Nobody Knows My Name.

With no vested interest at stake, I enjoy a bit of MLA-bashing now and again. Its theoretical posing and pretense make a very tempting target. Both John Holbo at Crooked Timber and Scott McLemee think Gideon Lewis-Kraus's"In the Penthouse of the Ivory Tower" is worthy of your attention. I agree. Scott would have you know, however, that he is not short, that he is"avuncular" only in the premature sense that a teen-age Leninist must inevitably become, and that he does not look like a turtle. I agree. Whoever saw a turtle with a beard and glasses?

From his The Revolution of American Conservatism: The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy (1965) and Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (1970) to Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989), Paul Revere's Ride (1994), and Washington's Crossing (2004), David Hackett Fischer has been one of the most interesting and productive American historians. When I was still in graduate school, professors closed the office door behind them to check the index in Historians' Fallacies to find what blunder Fischer had used their work to illustrate. If their name wasn't in the index, it was even worse. The implication was that they hadn't published work worthy of criticism. It was a brilliant and courageous book for a young historian to publish. If you haven't read it, do. Fischer survived and, thirty-five years later, Alexander Rose interviews him for National Review. Thanks to Ed Cohn at Gnostical Turpitude for the tip.

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