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At opposite ends of history

Well, I still don't have the second bookshelf set up, but I went ahead and got the Bryan Ward-Perkins book on the fall of Rome that I was talking about a couple of weeks ago. It was good, if brief.

The one beef I have with it is that Ward-Perkins presents a ton of evidence about how the "quality of life" for citizens in the Western Roman Empire went down the tubes starting in the late fourth/early fifth century, but h never follows through to clearly link the breakdown of internal security in the provinces with the collapse of trade and consequent decline in the standard of living. Ah, well. At least the book is a clear shot across the bow to those revisionist scum who are trying to rewrite history and make the Alans, Franks, Goths, Huns, Vandals, etc. look like kindly if somewhat clumsy folks who quietly integrated into an already declining Empire and accidentally broke everything in the process. He does give the "late antiquity" school their propers for paying more attention to the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire than had formerly been done, but he misses the obvious point that from the viewpoint of modern Anglosphere readers, the Byzantine Empire is a sideshow. An interesting sideshow, mind you, but not really germane to the mainstream of western European history, any more than the post-WW2 history of Argentina or Paraguay. Also interesting is his take on the modern revisionists' fascination with ascetics and other "anti-establishment" religious figures, which echoes Gibbon's condemnation of Christianity as one of the factors contributing to the fall of Rome. Anyway, good book, highly recommended.

On the other hand, there's Wayne Terwilliger's Terwilliger Bunts One. "Twig" was much beloved of Twins and Saints fans alike. As the old but spry first-base coach who brought four decades of playing, coaching and managing experience at all levels of baseball with some of the greatest players in the game to the field with him, he did a lot to contribute to both of the Twins' World Championship teams, and then went on to do great things for the Saints after being shabbily cast off by the Twins organization. He's gone home to Texas now, where he continues to coach for his hometown Fort Worth Cats after managing them to a Central League title last season, and now has a fabulous book out that collects his reminiscences from a long and fascinating career that took him to just about every diamond in the country as well as the blood-drenched beaches of Saipan and Iwo Jima. It's a great read with a ton of history and some great stories; the best part of it is that reading it is like sitting down and talking to the old fellow over a beer after the game. A great book by a great guy and a fine baseball man. Very highly recommended, and with copies on Amazon for $12 you realy have no excuse for not getting one. (I have two, one autographed and one for donation to the county library.)

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