A Hundred Years Too Soon

I was born a hundred years too soon. Or maybe it was fifty years too soon. I don’t math very well.

A hundred years would have put me right in the middle of the War of Northern Aggression, and I’m not inclined to want to fight that battle. At least not in this post.

Also, unless there’s any confusion, I am also not ready to give up my modern conveniences.

No, this is more something that I realized recently. Or maybe something I just hadn’t articulated.

A few weeks ago, my son and I saw 1917 in the theaters. A brilliant movie and one that I’m still not sure I’m really able to talk about. Other than to say that I was literally tense throughout the entire film. So much so that I felt the tension in my shoulders long after we’d left the theater.

People asked if it compared to They Shall Not Grow Old. Only in the sense that both were about World War I. The latter was a documentary. But both were very real, and both worth seeing.

1917 was my choice for Best Picture. Granted, I’d not seen the entire list, and I’ve yet to see Parasite.

I want to see Parasite, it’s just that subtitles are so…worky.

I digress.

“Bloomsday” by Steven Dietz. Chamberlayne Actors Theatre, 2020.

Last year I read Simon Tolkien’s book No Man’s Land. Tolkien is the grandson of the late J.R.R. Tolkien. (If I have to explain who that is, we can’t be friends).

Thinking about all of that I connected some dots and note that I recently concluded work in a production for a play entitled Bloomsday, which is based around the day celebrating Leopold Bloom’s walk through Dublin as told (and told, and told, and told) in Ulysses, by James Joyce.

As I’ve said, you’ve no idea how much you regret missing that show.

Likewise, I just finished reading A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 by Joseph Loconte.

Observant readers will also recall that I spent much of the last four years or so working on my script: Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy, based on my grandfather’s World War I diary.

I read, and learned, a lot about the war. One of my favorite sources was Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast. I listened to much of his World War I series, Blueprint for Armageddon on a drive to and from Atlanta.

I learned much more about that war than I ever thought that I would, and probably a lot more than I ever thought I’d want to know.

But it wasn’t until recently that I sort of realized that my interests have drifted toward that particular period in our human history. Throw in Downton Abbey and Titanic, and while it’s a few years later in history, even Chariots of Fire.

Why this fascination with the early 1900s?

In part, because of the time I spent with my grandfather’s diary. I learned about the war. I learned about what the country was thinking during that time.

I think maybe a bigger part of it was that I didn’t really learn about it during history classes in school.

Long time readers will remember that I’ve told this story before.

I grew up (and still live) in Virginia. For our Virginia history classes, we would start in Jamestown and by late May, roughly have made it through the Civil War.

The next year, in American history classes, we would start in Jamestown (where America began after all) and by late May, roughly have made it through the Civil War.

True story. I took an American history class in college. I was confused when the professor started in Massachusetts.

Don’t. Get. Me. Started.

The point being that by Memorial Day weekend, when I could already smell the chlorine from the local pool, I didn’t care much about what happened in the 20th Century.

And, I mean, when I was in school we were only a little more than halfway through it.

All this is to say that I’ve narrowed down the focus of what I’m reading this year.

I’d already decided that it was time to re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I do that every few years. And I just finished reading [insert book name] about Tolkien and Lewis and how they were influenced by World War I.

So, it just sort of all fit together that I’m going to be spending a lot of time this year reading early 20th Century History, along with the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis.

In my free time of course. Goodreads reminds me that I am two books behind on my reading challenge.

Maybe one of the attractions of the early 1900s is that we weren’t distracted by television, or even radio at that point. Not to mention the Innerwebz.

Even without distractions, I’m not sure that I would have time to read everything I want to read.

I only need about…say…100 years…


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