August 7, 2008

Nothin' better than the real thing

I've bought a series of books on the black regiments that served honorably and bravely in the Civil War because it's always been a side interest of mine. Seeing the Battle of Olustee re-enactment in Florida rekindled it for me.

I've finished one of the books so far and it didn't take to me. The style was pompous I thought and the only really interesting sections were the quotes from the original sources.

It brings up a continual challenge--working with original sources. It's that balance between preserving the spark of the original words and complementing them with context and splicing them together with even more original text. At times, you wonder whether you can ever improve on the original--whether you're talking about a series of letters or a diary or an official document. Why commentate at all? But we know that the sum is often greater than its parts. So the work of biography keeps rolling along...