I deliberately left behind on our current trip anything looking like serious reading. Experience tells me that such books will have many unopened miles on them on return. I did bring some light detective fiction, The Daughter of Time, a 1952 book by Josephine Tey. It has been a joy, surprising sections that remind me that I need to read more fiction. I think it was Norman Mailer who said that journalists use the truth to tell lies, while novelists use lies to tell the truth.
Here is one quote that jumped out at me, only incidentally. Grant is a police detective.
“It was Grant’s belief that if you could not find out about a man, the next best way to arrive at an estimate of him was to find out about his mother.”
My wife and I each had excellent mothers. We rented a car while here, and put a very small parking lot scratch on it. There was no question between us that when we returned the car, we would fess up. The end result, €488 euros and clean consciences. It was my mother who told me that if when walking down a sidewalk I spotted a quarter lying there, that I was to leave it. It was not mine.
I would pick it up, of course. That is kind if extreme, but that was Mom. I am far from perfect, and only desire to be more like my mother. She rubbed off on me far more than my Dad, and author Tey is saying that this is true of most of us. Our mothers influence our character more than our fathers. Maybe so.
Here is another character from the book, Carradine, an American, speaking to Grant as they try to solve the mystery around the murder of two young boys, allegedly by or at the command of Richard III:
“Well, I discovered quite by accident, when I was looking up something at college, that the Boston Massacre consisted of a mob throwing stones at a sentry. The total casualties were four. I was brought up on the Boston massacre, Mr. Grant. My twenty- eight inch chest used to swell at the very memory of it. My good red spinach-laden blood used to seethe at the thought of helpless civilians mowed down by the fire of British troops. You can’t imagine what a shock it was to find that all of that it added up to in actual fact was a brawl that wouldn’t get more than local reporting in a clash between police and strikers in any American lock-out.”
“That’s partly why I like to research so much.”
The four casualties of the Boston Massacre were most likely bloodied noses, by the way. [Now that I think of it more, a scared young kid with a musket might have shot some of the rock throwers, maybe a death or two.]
That was written in 1952. I wonder if anywhere at any time that American school children are ever taught to question history. I doubt it.
Yesterday we travelled by train from Bolzano to Salerno, Italy. We changed trains in Bologna, and that reminded me of what is now known as the Bologna Massacre. I remember reading about it long ago, when I still thought even “alternative” or “revisionist” history to be believable. I looked around at the train station, which is a massive complex, for any signs of what had happened. Apparently I missed it, as there is, according to Wikipedia, a memorial in place. I did see modest police presence, something otherwise absent in our travels in Italy.
According to historical references and to Wikipedia, on October 2, 1980, a bomb was set off in the Bologna train station, killing 85 people and wounding over 200. I read the Wiki account this morning and reviewed photographs, and it all has about it what author Tey says, through Grant, a “Tonypandy” quality about it.
Tonypandy is a place in South Wales where in, according to historical sources, British government troops (in Ludlow fashion) fired on striking miners, killing an unstated number (in Tey’s account). What really happened was that Winston Churchill, Home Secretary, wanted to avoid a bloody confrontation, and so sent in unarmed Metropolitan Police to quell the disturbance. There were some bloodied noses on both sides. That was it.
(For American readers, the concept of “unarmed police” is probably incomprehensible. Just think of the motorcycle cop who pulls you over for speeding not having a holstered revolver at his side. They do that elsewhere.)
“The point is that every single man who was there knows that the story is nonsense, and yet it will never be contradicted. It will never be overtaken now.”
When I get back stateside, I intend to have a look at the nonsense of the Bologna Massacre. It smells like large pile of steaming baloney.