"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
A movie on that theme I'd really like to see would be one of the book I'm listening to now -- George MacDonald Fraser's Flash for Freedom -- about the rogue Harry Flashman's colorful adventures in the slave trade.
For an unusual angle on the slave trade, I recommend Flash for Freedom, in which the incorrigible Harry Flashman encounters the Latin-quoting slave ship captain John Charity Spring. It is one of the better extracts from the Flashman Papers, that incomparable trove of 19th-century historical documentation.
It's an outstanding book, bringing history to life through the eyes of a Victorian cad, a poltroonish Zelig in cavalry whiskers. Amazon reviewer Daniel Berger describes the book as "layering dark satire onto the diciest of subjects":
Flashman is shown at his vile best in this installment of his saga. Signed unknowingly onto a slave ship by his malicious father-in-law to get him out of the country following a scandal, Flashman plunges up to his whiskers into that century's nastiest business. Sailing under an insane, Latin-quoting captain, who brings his tea-serving, equally insane wife along for the voyage, Flashy's misadventures take him from the Slave Coast of Africa to the whorehouses of New Orleans, from the back roads of Mississippi to the frozen Ohio River. Fraser's research into the slave trade is compelling; this is one of the more detailed fictionalizations of the slave trade in most of its horrors that I've ever read. The author gets credit for layering his dark satire onto this diciest of subjects, not something every author would have dared, and not sparing it in the least. It is, of course, almost the perfect vehicle for Flashman's unPC sensibilities, if the reader will forgive the anachronism. His encounter with Abraham Lincoln is absorbing even while satirical; Fraser presents a Lincoln with a frontier-tuned wit that penetrates further than can the capital's shallower sophisticates.
(I hope Steve M will allow me to claim a National Geographic-style dispensation from any Lenten RCBfA restrictions in running the cover art of the Dahomey Amazon above.)
For a recent column poking fun at W for including Flashman on his reading list, the NY Times' Maureen Dowd tracked down Fraser to quote him on the historic futility of invading and subduing Afghanistan. So what would she have done about Afghanistan after 9/11 -- given it a pass? For that matter, what would Flashy have made of MoDo?