August 27, 2004

Forgive Me Father, For I Am About To Sin

I hope I don't cause our readership to tank with this post, but really, I feel I need to say this - as much as I enjoy Victor David Hanson's writing, he really needs a more rigorous editor.

I am nearing the end of Ripples of Battle, Hanson's book about the ways in which specific individual's experiences in specific battles have wider implications on a societal, political and historical level. (If you remember the old television series "Connections" by James Burke, it's a similar cause and effect principle.)

Currently, I am reading Hanson's discussion of the battle of Delium in 424 BC, in which an invading army of Athenians was pulvarized by the Boeotians. Among the surviving Athenian leaders was Alcibiadis, a flamboyant nobleman who would later be the principal mover behind the disastrous expedition against Sicily. Another of the surviving members of the Athenian phalanx, a man who performed heroically that day, was none other than Socrates. On the other hand, one of the Athenian casualties at Delium was Hippocratis, a conservative who had been trying to find a brokered end to the then-ten year old war between Athens and Sparta. Hanson examines these three figures, tracing (in the case of the survivors) how Delium influenced their thinking and status and how these matters, in turn, shaped history. He also wonders what might have happened had neither Socrates or Alcibiadis survived or if Hippocratis had not been killed.

This is all fascinating stuff and well worth reading and pondering, but Hanson's presentation really needs some serious trimming. He's long-winded and repetative and has an odd way of dancing back and forth between dry analysis and history-for-the-masses flourishes. And all those damned exclamation points! It seems to me that someone should have sat down with him and said "Vic, baby. Tighten it up."

UPDATE: On the other hand, Hanson's columns do not seem to suffer from this problem. In today's, VDH suggests that Kerry's Swift Boat might have been named Nemesis. (He does make one floater that I can't help pointing out: Nemesis was a goddess, not a god.)

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