Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Fascinating Forensic Case History

Ain't Nothing But a Man:  My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson
(Hisotry Lovers)
When I first got this book, I wasn't too excited by the front cover or the description.  But the old adage proved true in this case--don't judge this book by the cover! 

William and Mary professor Scott Reynolds Nelson has written a fascinating study of what happens when we follow the threads of history to a fascinating conclusion.
I'm sure we've all heard the old song or story of John Henry, "the steel driving man". Back in the days of railroad building, Henry was the man who battled a steam drill and won.  Then, he laid down his drill and died.
"Well John Henry went up on the mountain
On the mountain lord so high
Well he drove so hard he broke his poor heart
And he layed down his hammer and died
Laid down his hammer and he died"

Nelson took this story and traced the threads through history, reading and researching hundreds of songs and stories.

His conclusion is chilling and fascinating at the same time.  What started as a idea in his head turns up with an unmarked grave holding 300 men.  It is a forensic case history that was fascinating from the first chapter.  It is a quick read disguised as a picture book but well worth the read.  I guarantee you won't look at legends and myths the same way you did before!

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