Sunday, December 30, 2007

New York: A Book Recommendation


On the Urban Caballero's recommendation, I've just started reading the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. It's much better than I would have thought - though a bit battle centric, as one might expect, it's also smart, thoughtful, cynical and modest. He also has a fascinating worldview in that his whole understanding of the universe is based in geography and land - how the land is formed, how it can be traveled over, who lives there, what natural resources exist. I guess that's part of what made him such a great general.

One excerpt I liked so much I typed it up by hand: Grant and a colleague are riding through Mexico and hear wolves howling on the trail ahead of them.

"The part of Ohio that I hailed from was not thickly settled, but wolves had been driven out long before I left. Benjamin was from Indiana, still less populated, where the wolf yet roamed over the prairies. He understood the nature of the animal and the capacity of a few to make believe there was an unlimited number of them. He kept on toward the noise, unmoved. I followed in his trail, lacking moral courage to turn back.... When he did speak it was to ask: "Grant, how many wolves do you think there are in that pack?" Knowing where he was from, and suspecting that he thought I would overestimate the number, I determined to show my acquaintance with the animal by putting the estimate below what possibly could be correct, and answered, "Oh, about twenty," very indifferently. He smiled and rode on. In a minute we were close upon them, and before they saw us. There were just *two* of them. Seated upon their haunches, with their mouths close together, they had made all the noise we had been hearing for the past ten minutes. I have often thought of this incident since when I have heard the noise of a few disappointed politicians who had deserted their associates. There are always more of them before they are counted."


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