Last week when I was on my Oscars movie-watching quest, I had some down time between a couple of films. So, I hit the local Barnes-Noble store and found this incredible book in the "super discount" section. (I paid $6.98 for it!) The book was Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, a novel about the Battle of Gettysburg from the perspective of the principal commanding officers of both sides.
I've been a Civil War buff for a long time now, but hadn't really read anything about it in quite awhile. So, I thought, hey, for 7 bucks, I'll read it--after all, the guy won a Pulitzer for it in 1975.
Whoa. This is one INCREDIBLE book. The Pulitzer people and I aren't the only ones who think so. In fact Ken Burns, creator of all those amazing PBS films ( on jazz, the Brooklyn Bridge, baseball, the West, etc.) had this to say about The Killer Angels:
A book that changed my life . . . I had never visited Gettysburg, knew almost nothing about that battle before I read the book, but here it all came alive. . . . I wept. No book, novel or nonfiction, had ever done that to me before.
(Austin Baker, if you're going to be president of the U.S.A. one day, you really ought to read this!)
In our own time of struggle over the "war" in Iraq, this is a good book to help gain perspective about the tragedy of all war. In fact, one paragraph toward the end of the novel really stood out to me. Writing from the point-of-view of Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (commander of the Battle of Little Round Top) Shaara says:
In the presence of real tragedy you feel neither pain nor joy nor hatred, only a sense of enormous space and time suspended, the great doors open to black eternity, the rising across the terrible field of that last enormous, unanswerable question.
The Gettysburg Address - Lincoln autograph