Ransom Notes, 1

Kellen Buckles wrote to TFF Facebook page:

A friend gave me a copy of Rebecca West's "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" and I was wondering if my time will be well spent negotiating those 1,150 pages.  Her prologue was full of intriguing ideas but I don't want to be led astray.  

TJF:  The simple answer is that it is a wonderful book, certainly the most insightful and entertaining volume on the Balkans that is available in English.  Nothing else comes close.  West does not know the language and makes historical mistakes, but her approach is humble and allows the various parties to speak on their own behalf.  It is the best way to write history, in my view, and I adopted it for my lectures on Greek history, where I took up each major Greek ethnicity and city-state and gave the history from the Dorian-Spartan/Corinthian point of view and then the Ionian-Athenian.

At one point my friend Ana Selic was working on a translation into Serbian, but until then you might just read the English original.

GC has asked me what I think of Jeb Bush’s position that the Confederate flag should be put into a museum, where it belongs.

TJF:  I think Jeb Bush should change his name and check into the Harold Stassen museum of failed presidential candidates.  Stassen, it will be remembered was a liberal Republican who, when he was not marching with Martin Luther King, ran for the Republican nomination ten times between 1940 and his death.  He was an early example of the falsely named Rinos who plague the Republican Party.  The name is false because Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan, like Stassen, Tom Dewey, and Wendell Wilkie, are the true Republicans, faithful to the Lincolnian creed of capitalist avarice, social destruction, and betrayal of the nation in the interests of big business interests. It is the self-described “conservatives” who are the odd men out in the GOP, but they usually end up persuaded to betray their constituents, as Ronald Reagan did, in order to pander to the party’s owners.

GC:  But why should Jeb Bush change his name?  Isn’t he an authentic Bush?

TJF: Of course he is a true-blue Bush, but a South-hating coward of his stripe should not be allowed to pollute the honorable nickname of a great Confederate officer, James Ewell Brown Stuart.

Mark writes in to ask:  If a sentence contains a question, followed by a clause that is not a question, does the sentence get a question mark at the end?

TJF:  No, if I am reading you right.  I assume you are speaking of such things as:  “Where are you going?” his wife asked.

Mark:  I may be speaking of grammatically incorrect sentences, such as:  Are you going to the park, because I am.

TJF: Incorrect may be a bit harsh, but it is not a sentence worth writing in formal prose.  The problem lies with a colloquial use of ‘because” which does not really give the cause for the preceding clause. It is shorthand for saying, “Are you going to the park?  I am asking because I am going.   Perhaps in fictional dialogue, one would punctuate:  Are you going to the park?  Because I am.

This column is intended to help readers to work toward our goal of ransoming (redeeming) the time.  Please send your questions or comments to Thomas@Fleming.foundation.

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

1 Response

  1. Kellen Buckles says:

    A teaser from the book:
    From “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon”
    by Rebecca West 1936, pg 137

    She is visiting the island of Rab off the coast of Dalmatia, Croatia and has been describing its poverty and its impoverishment from long years under the tyrannical thumb of the Venetian Republic which crushed the economy of Rab and Dalmatia.

    “The Venetian Republic did not always fight the Turks with arms….. (instead) payment of immense bribes….. drawn from the people of Dalmatia. (After great economic exploitation) the last ducat was extracted to pay the tribute to the Turks. These people of Dalmatia gave the bread out of their mouths to save us of Western Europe from Islam; and it is ironical that so successfully did they protect us that those among us who would be broad-minded, who will in pursuit of that end stretch their minds till they fall apart in idiocy, would blithely tell us that perhaps the Dalmatians need not have gone to that trouble, that an Islamized West could not have been worse than what we are today.

    “Their folly is certified for what it is by the mere sound of the word “Balkan” with its suggestion of (impossible to repair) disorder…. I could confirm that certificate by my own memories: I had only to shut my eyes to smell the dust, the lethargy, the rage and hopelessness of a Macedonian town, once a glory to Europe, that had too long been Turkish.

    “The West has done much that is ill, it is vulgar and superficial and economically sadist; but it has not known that death in life which was suffered by the Christian provinces under the Ottoman Empire. From this the people of Rab had saved me: I should say, are saving me. The woman who sat on the stone wall was in want because the gold which should have been handed down to her had bought my safety from the Turks. Impotent and embarrassed, I stood on the high mountain and looked down on the terraced island where my saviors, small … as ants, ran here and there, attempting to repair their destiny.”