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Post “Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: “But for the Lack of a Cloak” February 20, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in crusades, history, medieval period, Middle Ages, Saladin, the crusades, third crusade.
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(This is another bonus post following the series of 820th anniversary highlights of what history now calls the “Third Crusade.” My novel, The Swords of Faith, tells the story of this legendary clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.)

*****

820 years ago today, Saladin rode out from his palace in Damascus to greet pilgrims returning from the year’s Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims within their lifetimes. Saladin had considered going on this trip. With the truce he had established with Christians the previous year, the time was finally available for the great Muslim sultan to complete the Hajj, an obligation he had not yet fulfilled. But shaky health and instabilities in the realm he ruled, developed over nearly six years of fighting, required to him to put off his own Hajj, hopefully just one more year.

The day was rainy and cold. But Saladin went out to greet the returning pilgrims even though he could not find his quilted cloak normally worn on such occasions. Accounts indicate a wardrobe servant failed to have the cloak available for him. The returning pilgrims certainly drew inspiration from Saladin’s greeting, and the sultan wanted to bring that inspiration to these pilgrims, regardless of weather. But sadly, his magnanimous nature leading to this ill-advised greeting in bad weather triggered a fatal exacerbation of his chronic ill health.  By midnight he developed a fever and the news spread—Saladin, the noble defender of Islam, was gravely ill.

Links to every single one of the 820th anniversary posts concerning the “Third Crusade”:

July 4th – The 820th Anniversary of the Launch of the “Third Crusade”

October 4th – Richard the Lionheart Sacks Messina

November 3rd – Queen Sibylla Dies

November 11th – Richard the Lionheart Signs a Treaty with King Tancred of Sicily

November 15th – Queen Isabella’s Marriage to Humphrey of Toron is Annulled

November 19th – Archbishop of Canterbury Dies

November 24th – Conrad of Montferrat Marries Queen Isabella

December 25th – Richard the Lionheart Feasts at Christmas

December 31st – Shipwreck at Acre; Muslim Defenders Lose Resupply

January 5th – A Wall Comes Down, Presenting an Opportunity

January 20th – Frederick of Swabia Dies; Leopold of Austria Becomes Top-Ranked German Royalty at Acre

February 2nd – A Playful “Joust” Gets Out of Hand in Sicily

February 13th – Saladin’s Forces Relieve the Garrison at Acre

March 3rd – Richard the Lionheart Settles the Alice Marriage Controversy—Sort Of

March 30th – Philip II Leaves Sicily; Berengeria Arrives

April 10th – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Sicily for “Outremer”

April 20th – Philip II of France Lands at Acre

April 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Lands at Rhodes After His Fleet Scatters

May 1st – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Rhodes to Rescue His Sister and Fiancée

May 8th – Richard the Lionheart and His Troops Storm Limassol

May 11th – Crusaders Opposed to Conrad Visit Richard the Lionheart on Cyprus

May 12th – Richard the Lionheart Marries Princess Berengeria

May 30th – Fighting Intensifies at Acre

June 5th – Richard Leaves Famagusta for the Eastern Mediterranean Coast/Saladin Moves his Camp

June 6th – Richard the Lionheart Refused Admittance to Tyre

June 8th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives at Acre

June 11th – Saladin’s Relief Ship Sinks

June 25th – Conrad of Montferrat Leaves Acre; Saladin’s Receives Reinforcements

July 12th – Acre Surrenders

July 31st – Philip II of France Makes a Promise and Leaves for Home

August 2nd – Envoys Discuss Acre Surrender Terms

August 11th – Date for the First Installment of the Acre Ransom Ends in Stalemate

August 20th – Richard the Lionheart Orders the Executions of the Acre Hostages

August 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Acre to Move South Toward Jerusalem

September 5th – Richard the Lionheart Meets with Saladin’s Brother al-Adil

September 7th – Christian Forces Win the Battle of Arsuf

September 11th – Saladin Gives the Command to Dismantle Ascalon

Sepember 29th – Saladin’s Troops Nearly Take Richard the Lionheart Prisoner

October 20th – Richard the Lionheart Proposes that His Sister Marry Saladin’s Brother al-Adil

November 1st – Saladin Learns of the Death of his Nephew Taqi al-Din

November 8th – Al-Adil Hosts a Banquet for Richard the Lionheart

November 11th – Saladin’s Council Discusses Recent Negotiations with Western Christian Factions

December 12th – Saladin Falls Back to Jerusalem

December 28th – Richard the Lionheart Moves Into the Judean Hills Unopposed

January 3rd – Richard the Lionheart Moves to Within Twelve Miles of Jerusalem

January 6th – Richard the Lionheart Orders a Retreat

January 20th – Richard the Lionheart Decides to Move on Ascalon

February 20th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives in Acre to Make Peace Between Christian Factions

March 20th – Al-Adil Brings Serious Peace Offer to Richard the Lionheart

April 5th – French Army Leaves the “Crusade” After Easter Feast

April 20th – Conrad of Montferrat Is Designated Undisputed King of Jerusalem

April 28th – Conrad of Montferrat Is Assassinated in Tyre

May 5th – Henry of Champagne Becomes the New King of Jerusalem Designate

May 23rd – Richard the Lionheart Takes Darum

June 7th – Western Christian Forces Start Out from Ascalon for Jerusalem

June 11th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives at Beit-Nuba; Saladin Waits in Jerusalem

June 24th – Richard the Lionheart’s Forces Take a Huge Caravan Bringing Supplies to Saladin

July 1st – Saladin Holds a War Council in Jerusalem

July 4th – Richard the Lionheart Withdraws a Second Time Before Besieging Jerusalem

July 27th – Saladin Moves from Jerusalem to Attack Jaffa

July 31st – Richard Storms the Beaches at Jaffa with a Minimal Force

August 5th – Richard Defends Saladin’s Counterattack at Jaffa with a Minimal Force

August 28th – Al-Adil’s Courier Brings Saladin’s “Final Offer” for a Peace Agreement

September 2nd – A Peace Agreement Between Christians and Muslims is Signed

September 5th – Saladin Leaves for Latrun After He Meets Hubert Walter (Not Richard the Lionheart) in Jerusalem

September 29th – Queen Berengeria and Richard’s Sister Joan (Joanna) Leave for Europe

October 9th – Richard the Lionheart Leaves the Middle East “Holy Land,” Ending the “Third Crusade”

December 25th – Post “Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: The First Christmas After the End of the “Third Crusade” for Richard the Lionheart and Saladin

To review a comprehensive catalog of historical fiction set during the medieval time period, go to http://www.medieval-novels.com:80/.

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Book Commentary/Review – THE BURNING CANDLE by Lisa Yarde February 16, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in book review, books, historical fiction, Lisa Yarde, medieval period.
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The Burning Candle by Lisa Yarde is a compelling historical novel recreating the life of Isabel de Vermandois, a young woman who finds herself thrust into the early days of Norman rule over newly conquered England—just before the era of Ken Follette’s Pillars of the Earth. Yarde brings accurate history and informed speculation together with a mastery of plot and dialogue to offer an entertaining and informative read.

The Burning Candle is historical fiction/biography. We follow Isabel de Vermandois’ life from pre-pubescence to middle age—every event is depicted from her point-of-view. This brings us deeply into her character. We feel her frustration with her parents’ abuse and her frustration as her life seems but a tool for others, with Isabel having no control over what her life will be. Here she is, with regal blood coursing through her veins, with talent and intelligence, but subject to the whims and desires of others, mainly older men. At first her marriage to a man her father’s age seems an improvement in her situation. But it is actually a descent into torment as her husband hides a life-affecting secret, and brutalizes her in ways that make her parents look benign in comparison.

Years later, after giving birth to a number of male heirs for older husband, she finds herself finally with a choice, a choice brought to her with a daring move made by a man she had reviled as nearly evil incarnate. Does Isabel finally make her own choice, or does she succumb to duty? This is the dramatic question at the climax of The Burning Candle.

Lisa Yarde demonstrates a command of her craft as she weaves an entertaining story out of a lesser-known bit of history. The depth of her research is evident in the detailed historical note at the end of The Burning Candle. If you are a reader looking for a slice of history presented in an entertaining way, every bit as worthy as a book by masters like Sharon Kay Penman or Elizabeth Chadwick, The Burning Candle will be a great choice for your next book to read.

Book Commentary/Review – THE CONTESSA’S VENDETTA by Mirella Patzer February 10, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in book review, books, historical fiction, medieval period, Mirella Patzer.
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The Contessa’s Vendetta by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer is a well-crafted story of love-betrayed, revenge-realized, with twists and turns for readers who will know where they are going, but will not get there along the path they expect. The novel is great escapist entertainment, giving readers a completely convincing immersion into an exotic past time and place.

The main character is the good-hearted but also naïve and gullible Contessa Carlotta Mancini. She is sauntering through her comfortable life when she contracts the plague. In a matter of hours, she is given up for dead and buried in the family crypt. The only problem is—she is not dead! She extricates herself from her internment and returns to her home only to discover that her husband and best friend are not and never have been the loving companions she thought they were. In fact, both of these characters, the closest companions of her life, are quite despicable creatures, who have been betraying the contessa for years with casual malice. This allows readers to enjoy what the countess hatches to right the wrongs.

Two quirks of fate give Countess Carlotta her chance to take her time with her plot to carry out her vendetta. Her ordeal with the plague has changed her appearance enough to disguise her from those who knew her before, and she stumbles onto the resources needed to execute her plan. As Countess Carlotta’s plan evolves, readers will turn pages to find out exactly how she will enforce her revenge. And the unredeeming nature of the countess’s husband and best friend magnifies as the story unfolds, goading readers into wishing for the revenge to pay off. With the craft of a story-teller in command of her art, Patzer masterfully weaves the deeper discovery of the natures of these characters into the approaching moment of the contessa’s final justice.

The Contessa’s Vendetta climaxes with the full blossoming of Contessa Carlotta’s revenge. But the ending leaves us asking if anyone really won, or if Contessa Carlotta simply lost less severely. With this question reverberating, Patzer’s novel concludes with a deeper question—does revenge, even a just one, ever really balance the scales?

Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness – Commentary on Dr. Eben Alexander’s book PROOF OF HEAVEN February 1, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in afterlife, consciousness, Eben Alexander, metaphysics, nature of reality, nde, near death experience, Proof of Heaven, spirituality.
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At the beginning of the year 2000, at the outset of the new millennium, I wrote about my predictions for the next one thousand years (published in an on-line journal “New Works Review.” My most “out-of-the-box” prediction was that science and religion, physics and metaphysics, would join—the spiritual world would come together with the material. Since then, I have gone into my own speculations about the subject, very conscious of the daunting nature of the subject and how I am trying to skip centuries ahead of my own prediction. But I have seen signs that this predicted union inches closer and closer. Proof of Heaven, written by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, brings us a piece of the puzzle. I found this book invigorating, inspiring and a harbinger of what I hope will be a spiritual leap forward for humanity, as elaborated in my year 2000 prediction for the year 3000.

Basically, Proof of Heaven is a chronicle of Dr. Alexander’s near-death experience when he becomes deathly ill with E. coli bacterial meningitis. Of course, near-death experiences have been described in diverse publications for many years. What makes this one different is that Dr. Alexander is a highly trained specialist in the human nervous system and human brain function. He acknowledges he would have previously explained near-death experiences as the final convulsions of dying brains, illusions, spiritual mirages tantalizing the fading consciousnesses of purely material beings. His transformation from that point of view into his certain embrace of a spiritual component of reality, and of “life-after-death,”—with all his training and indoctrination into a material medical way of thinking—makes this story compelling. If he was a different person, we might offer some explanations as to why he would offer this story. Maybe he is a person easily fooled by his brain’s malfunction. Maybe he is a person looking for money or attention. But the truth is, this is an individual who would be extremely unlikely to be fooled by brain malfunction. This is a prosperous person not in need of a bestseller for money or status. In fact, Dr. Alexander specifically refers to people “with medical degrees” as the most likely to be skeptical of the description he gave of his experiences. So this book could well hurt his status as a still-practicing doctor.

Of course, I recommend reading the entire book, and I’m hoping most people who come across this post have already read the book and are interested in discussions about the joining of physics and metaphysics this book is certain to generate. This post is not intended as a book review—I am relating Dr. Alexander’s book to some of my own thinking on the potential unification of science and religion, of physics and metaphysics.

During this post I will refer to two of my previous blog posts about the issues raised by Dr. Alexander’s book:

Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness – August 30, 2011

Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness II – October 7, 2011

Some thoughts:

  • Dr. Alexander makes it clear he was not suffering from a sick, poorly functioning brain—“the neocortex was out of the picture” during his experience, he “existed completely free of the limitations” of his physical brain. This refutes any theory that Dr. Alexander simply experienced the sensations of a brain in its death throes.
  • Dr. Alexander discusses the difficulties of communicating his experiences, what he learned, within the limitations of human communications capabilities. He describes for us imagery and sensations, but we sense his frustration as his words are clearly inadequate to convey the full scope of his recollections. He says “I’m struggling to give you the vaguest, most completely unsatisfactory picture of… the single most real experience of my life.” As I discussed in Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness II, we are interacting energy fields with the limitations of our unique human sensory abilities. Dr. Alexander refers to entering what I call in Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness the “all-consciousness.” He cannot relate this entire experience to us because of human perceptive limitations. A challenge we have as humans, on our journey toward unifying the material and the spiritual, is to identify what is knowable and pursue that knowledge with all our ingenuity and creativity, and to identify what is unknowable, and not chase the unknowable or even worse, argue or fight about it. This, of course, is much easier said than done.
  • Dr. Alexander mentions instant knowledge and understanding. I believe this addresses another issue I have previously discussed. Time, time’s forward arrow, is a perceptive tool reserved for humans. I believe time, in the ultimate reality, in the all-consciousness, does not exist as we perceive it—in arrow form, in strings of causes and effects. Everything exists always—simultaneously. Dr. Alexander experienced this. Knowledge exists always. There is no time needed to learn. Learning is a time-dependent, time-arrow activity. Instant knowledge comes from immersion into the all-consciousness.
  • Dr. Alexander says “certain members of the scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist. They are mistaken.” Thank you, Doctor. Well said. For most of humanity’s existence, we have sensed a higher power. Now, in a few centuries, we are rejecting all of that? Are we really so much smarter than all those past human beings? Should we really be so smug and arrogant that we discard spirituality, with a casual dogmatism, with a narrow-mindedness that adherents to the scientific method should categorically reject?
  • In my meditations on these issues, I have wondered why we are treated to such a small slice of consciousness, and why we can’t tap into more of it during our lives. More disturbingly, I wonder why the death of the brain should free us to tap in to more of the all-consciousness—common sense points to the opposite idea. Dr. Alexander offers an answer. From his near death experience, he learned “the brain itself doesn’t produce consciousness… it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the nonphysical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.” He goes on to explain the advantages of this. In my words, the interconnected energy fields that make up our physical reality are full of gigantic amounts of information. We need filters to simplify all of this so we can function in our narrow human existences. Life is a gift of intense, narrow sensations, captivated into three/four-dimensional space/time. Dr. Alexander hints at an “afterlife” existence that blends us with the all-consciousness, but which would surely lack some of the focus our narrow perceptive abilities require—and grant to us as a result of that requirement.
  • Dr. Alexander now understands explanations for “dark matter” and “dark energy.” Good luck with that one, folks. We only know about these phenomena by implication, by mathematical calculation. Right now, no one can even find this stuff to study it.
  • Dr. Alexander also discusses good, evil and free will. Free will seems an elemental part of the gift of life. But if there is free will, good and evil have to follow. The ability to make choices make it absolutely unavoidable. He says he became aware of much more good than evil. I hope he is right. I’m not sure this necessarily follows logically, at least from the information we are working with. He does say “beings” in the “worlds above” are watching us as we “grow toward the Divine.”
  • How do we “grow toward the Divine?” Love. I was gratified to read this, because I wrote specifically about this in the seventh paragraph of Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness. I mentioned the difficulty of maintaining that love. Dr. Alexander’s experiences may help guide us toward a way to find it more often, and more widely. Perhaps confidence in an afterlife of the type described by Dr. Alexander could help humanity in that direction.
  • Dr. Alexander mentions religion and discusses an important distinction: “I didn’t just believe in God; I knew God.” He describes an incident after stepping up to take communion with tears streaming down his cheeks. I couldn’t help but think Dr. Alexander, with the experiences he describes, would not limit God to one religion. I think his experiences also argue there could well be more than one path to God. I mean, do we really think that God, the Divine, the all-consciousness, has finished revealing Itself/Himself/Herself? That just a few spiritual sages from humanity’s past, pre-scientific revolution sages, have given us our religions and there is no more spiritual discovery to come?
  • Dr. Alexander takes on quantum physics, cutting edge knowledge science has to offer us on the elemental nature of our physical reality, bringing those ideas into the context of his experiences. He says “on the subatomic level… this universe of separate objects turns out to be a complete illusion. In the realm of the super-super-small, every object in the physical universe is intimately connected with every other object. In fact, there are really no ‘objects’ in the world at all, only vibrations of energy and relationships.” This, to me, leads to the inevitable conclusion that everything exists always—I go into details on this in Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness II. Why should we assume an interconnectedness only at the quantum level? I think Dr. Alexander’s spiritual experience, and his insights linking his cutting edge spiritual experience with cutting-edge physics, leads us to this conclusion.
  • Dr. Alexander discusses our still barely rudimentary understanding of consciousness. He suggests “we live in the dimensions of familiar space and time, hemmed in by the peculiar limitations of our sensory organs and by our perceptual scaling within the spectrum from the subatomic quantum up through the entire universe.” My suggestion—the all-consciousness may well exist as a single point. Our own piece of consciousness creates our perceptions of size and dimension beyond that point.

Yes, I know at times during his post, I seem to be saying “Hey, I mentioned this in my previous blog posts.” What I am really saying is “Hey, Dr. Alexander, I get it. Not at a level of direct experience like you, but I get it. It makes sense to me.” I invite others to comment if they “get it” too.

Dr. Alexander has a website set up for further development of these ideas:

http://www.eternea.org/index.htm

Books-Into-Movies: “Anna Karenina” (based on the novel ANNA KARENINA) January 21, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in Anna Karenina, book synopsis, books, books compared to movies, books into movies, Leo Tolstoy, movie commentary, movies, movies based on books.
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(Richard Warren Field wrote the award-winning novel,
The Swords of Faith. Read why this book will make a great movie.)

Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” is largely faithful to the epic-length classic novel by Leo Tolstoy. The book is just short of 350,000 words so many choices had to be made. The choice to focus the majority of attention on the Anna Karenina storyline effectively trims a significant portion of the book that focuses on character Konstantin Levin. Wright also spends less time on details in the lives of peripheral characters, and leaves out entire characters. And out of necessity, he stays clear of Tolstoy’s long discussions of Russian contemporary issues and the inner spiritual reflections of the characters. (These aspects, of course, deepen the richness of the novel, but would be difficult to film without voiceovers or long-winded, on-camera discussions, both bound to be unpopular with contemporary movie audiences.) These choices allow Wright to keep most of the essential elements of the Anna Karenina storyline.

Another cinematic choice Wright makes is to use a stage-play framework that allows him to flip scenes quickly, with little exposition. This approach gives the story a sometimes surreal quality, allowing diversions into character interiors at choice moments. The stage-play framework also allows Wright to hint at Tolstoy’s satirical elements, like the robotic bureaucracy scene. And it also allows us to view the horse race with close-up, personal views of the characters and their reactions to events.

Some Tolstoy background is of interest before I get to specifics of the movie:

  • Tolstoy viewed the corpse of a woman named Anna Pirogova, the mistress of a neighbor of Tolstoy’s, who had thrown herself under a train after her lover ended their relationship. So not only does the movie accurately portray this event from the book, but the event is based on a true occurrence witnessed (the aftermath was witnessed) by Tolstoy himself.
  • Konstantin Levin is clearly autobiographical, containing 1) specific events from Tolstoy’s own courtship of his wife, 2) Tolstoy’s own efforts to manage his estate after the liberation of the serfs in 1863 and amidst the turbulent changes in Russian society, bubbling with political and revolutionary thinking and 3) Tolstoy’s public conversion to Christianity not long after Anna Karenina.
  • The novel was offered at first in installments (as was War and Peace, word count around 587,000). This explains how the public could initially digest the length of these novels, offered to the public in smaller, more manageable sections. The final section, Part Eight, was not offered by his publisher; Tolstoy had to bring it out himself at his own expense. (Little of Part Eight from the novel is dramatized in the movie.)
  • Tolstoy does go for satire with some of the peripheral characters. Wright seems to make an effort to capture this tone with the rigid choreography depicting the bureaucracy Oblonsky works for, possibly functioning as comic relief. But in the movie, for my taste, this seems joltingly out of place considering the larger, life-changing struggles of the main characters.

While Wright does stay true to the basic story, he uses stylistic diversions and invented scenes to sharpen and condense the plot, and for efficient exposition of the characters. The novel is lengthy with many strands of character and plot. As with my other Books-Into-Movies posts, I will pick and choose comparison points that I find interesting (and so anticipate readers will find interesting as well). I will not attempt to comment on every difference (or similarity). I invite readers to offer their comments if they feel I missed something. I will then end this post with a synopsis that attempts to offer highlights of the book, not an incident by incident description, and that focuses on characters and plot depicted in the movie.

Comparison points between the book and the movie:

  • The start of the movie, with back-and-forth cuts among principal characters, is not explicitly in the book, but is faithful to the basic story and serves to set it up. There is no statement from Alexey to Anna that “sin has a price, you may be sure of that” before she goes to visit her brother.
  • Anna’s meeting with Vronsky’s mother on the train is straight from the book.
  • The worker at the train station mangled by a train, with the aftermath witnessed by Anna, and with Vronsky handing out money for the family of the worker, is also directly from the book.
  • Konstantin Levin’s failed marriage proposal and Kitty’s awkward rejection is from the book.
  • Anna Karenina convincing “Dolly”/Darya to forgive Anna’s brother, Stepan/“Stiva” Oblonsky, is directly from the book and brings us a conspicuous irony to start this story.
  • Vronsky’s flirtation with Kitty, abandoned when he becomes infatuated with Anna at the ball, is right from the book. Kitty definitely feels hate for Anna after the ball. The movie’s phasing into Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky dancing alone and focused on each other captures the story’s essence.
  • Levin’s brother Nikolay, the sickly revolutionary, is from the book. An elder brother of Levin’s, a politician, is not portrayed in the film.
  • Alexey’s impersonal, detached persona is directly from the book.
  • Vronsky’s pursuit of Anna with her initial reluctance, asking him to stop his attentions, is from the book. But as in the book, Anna does not really want him to stop, and when put on the spot, cannot banish him from her life. The interior monologue of the Anna character in the book has her disappointed, even pained, when she goes to an event and he is not there even though she has asked him to stop his attentions.
  • In the novel, Tolstoy only gives us an oblique indication that Count Vronsky and Anna Karenina have consummated their relationship. There are no explicit sex scenes in the novel.
  • “Stiva” Oblonsky’s visit to Levin in the country is from the book.
  • In the book, Kitty leaves town with her family because of illness after her disappointment with Count Vronsky. This is not depicted in the movie. An entire section of the book, with Kitty in Germany, is not depicted in the movie.
  • The events of the horse race, including Vronsky taking a fall (in the book, clearly as a result of his own negligence) with Anna screaming out and the horse destroyed as a result of a broken back is straight from the book.
  • The carriage scene with Anna confessing she is Vronsky’s mistress is similar to the book. In the book, Anna does not mention the child. And in the book, Alexey’s reaction comes in two stages. The movie condenses his reaction. In the book, Alexey says he will communicate with her—“as I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate them to you.” He tells her in a later letter that she should return to him, that he assumes she has “repented… of what has called forth the present letter.” The letter has the same emotionless detachment present in the Alexey character.
  • Konstantin Levin cutting grass with the peasants at his estate is directly from the book.
  • The scene with Alexey seizing Anna’s letters and telling her he will “take measures to put an end to the state of things” after Alexey sees Count Vronsky has visited Anna at their home against his wishes is straight from the book.
  • The scene with the blocks, during which Kitty and Konstantin Levin come together is similar to the book—in the book, the letters are written on a chalkboard, but with very similar results. Both seem to know what words the starting letters refer to as they go back and forth. It is as if they are seeing their situation with one mind, with one heart. It is a sweet scene in both the book and the movie.
  • “Dolly”/Darya tries to convince Alexey to forgive Anna in the book as well, prevailing upon Alexey’s Christian beliefs.
  • Anna contacting Alexey indicating she is ill is from the book. His reluctance to go to her, followed by his visit to her and ultimately reconciling with her when she recovers is also from the book. However, in the book, Vronsky, humiliated by the affair’s developments, shoots himself in the chest. So Vronsky is also in a state of compromised health. The result is the same—they are to part permanently, with Vronsky prepared to take a post away from the city and Anna initially refusing to see him even to say good-bye. But they cannot stay away from each other, and renew the relationship again.  In the book, they leave the area and travel abroad, living together in Italy for a brief period.
  • Kitty insisting on nursing Konstantin Levin’s dying brother is from the book, but takes place in Moscow, not at Levin’s country estate. In fact, they quarrel over whether Kitty will go to Moscow with Levin, but when she insists, he agrees.
  • Anna seeing her son on his birthday against Alexey’s wishes is from the book. But some details are different. Anna’s son has been told in the book that Anna is dead. This certainly factors in to Alexey’s decision to refuse Anna’s request. And in the book, Anna sneaks into her old home in the morning, getting past a servant who does not know her, as opposed to barging in as she does in the movie. In the book and movie, Alexey’s silent presence causes Anna to run out of the room.
  • Anna does indulge in opium/morphine in the book, as also shown in the movie.
  • Anna goes to the opera and is snubbed socially, as in the book. Vronsky disbelieves that Anna has decided to go to the opera and does not understand her position well enough to know how awkward her attendance will be. In the book, Vronsky also does not go at first, and arrives in the middle of the opera to discover what has occurred.
  • “Dolly”/Darya, in the book as in the movie, is one of only a few of Anna’s old friends who welcome her and remains affectionate with her.
  • Anna’s irrational jealousies are straight from the book. She constantly questions whether or not Vronsky continues to love her.
  • In the movie, Alexey remains indecisive about the divorce. In the book, after some indecision, he refuses to grant the divorce he offered earlier in the story.
  • Vronsky does leave after yet another quarrel—what turns out to be their final quarrel—after which Anna says “…you will be sorry for this.” She visits “Dolly”/Darya and has an awkward interaction with Kitty who is in town after having her first child. Kitty is not directly rude to Anna, but is clearly not affectionate toward her or even comfortable with her.
  • As in the book, Anna rides the train for awhile, then kills herself by throwing herself onto the tracks. In the book, she seems to have last-moment second thoughts, but it is too late.
  • Part Eight of Anna Karenina concerns mainly a debate between Konstantin Levin and his older brother over a war Count Vronsky is reportedly going to fight, a war between Serbs and Turks that does not directly involve the Russian government. This section also concerns Konstantin Levin’s emerging embrace of Christianity (coinciding with Tolstoy’s own real-life experience). We do get a brief summing up when Konstantin Levin’s older brother encounters Count Vronsky and his mother on a train. There we learn Vronsky became ill after Anna’s death and now says “… as a weapon I may be of some use. But as a man, I am a wreck.” Alexey brings Anna Karenina’s and Count Vronsky’s child into his family as we see portrayed in the film. In the book we get the impression that he feels he has no choice. In the movie we see him smiling with his son and Anna’s daughter interacting, a slightly different take on Alexey’s reaction. Levin’s statement to Kitty that he had realized something profound, but with him deciding not to elaborate on it with her, is straight from the book, and ends the book as it also ends the movie.

Synopsis of Anna Karenina

(As indicated previously, this is not a comprehensive or even totally chronological synopsis.  The focus of the synopsis is on describing the main events as offered by Tolstoy in the novel. I have mainly concerned us with characters and events depicted in the movie, though I do mention aspects of the book that are prominent, but not offered in the movie. The main purpose of this synopsis is to aid in the comparison of the book to the Joe Wright movie, and not to provide a definitive synopsis of the entire novel.)

Part One
Anna Karenina travels to Moscow from Petersburg to help her brother, Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky who has cheated on his wife Darya/“Dolly” Alexandrovna. Anna is successful in convincing Darya/“Dolly” to forgive her brother. While traveling to Moscow, she rides with the mother of a dashing military man, Count Alexey Vronsky. While in Moscow, Anna attends a ball that Count Vronsky also attends. Count Vronsky becomes infatuated with Anna Karenina, who is married to a high-ranking, but not particularly dynamic nor emotional husband. She has an eight-year-old son. Anna attempts to distance herself from Vronsky, but he communicates his attraction to her.

We also meet Konstantin Levin, an awkward man from the country who owns a prosperous agricultural estate. He has business with Oblonsky, and also comes to Moscow to make a marriage offer to Kitty, Darya’s/“Dolly’s” younger sister. Kitty turns down Levin’s proposal; she is hoping for a marriage offer from Count Vronsky who has been paying attention to her recently. But Vronsky does not seem the marrying sort. At the ball, Kitty hopes to capture and retrain Vronsky’s attention and is visibly unhappy with Anna Karenina when Vronsky pays more attention to her. Levin also has a brother, Nikolay, who is associated with leftist revolutionaries. The relationship is odd, with Nikolay vacillating from ordering Konstantin out of his presence to expecting his brother’s approval and maybe even help.

Part Two
Kitty Shtcherbatskaya becomes ill after losing the affections of Count Vronsky. The family leaves Moscow for Germany where she befriends a feisty, intelligent girl named Varenka. Kitty recovers from the ill effects of events back in Russia and prepares to return.

Count Vronsky relentlessly pursues Anna Karenina, showing up at whatever engagements she attends. She resists him at first, asking him to stop his attentions. But when he is not present at a social event, she finds herself wondering where he is. She finally gives in to the attraction, and an affair between them begins. (Tolstoy depicts this in a very tame way by today’s standards. We know they have become involved as a result of the end of a scene when they part, with Anna expressing regret and remorse at the relationship, but no indication they will break it off. There is no sex scene at all.) Gossip and rumors swirl around them as their relationship becomes evident. The rumors come to the attention of Anna Karenina’s husband. He speaks to Anna, but in an odd, clinical way, almost as if he is talking about his detached prescription for someone else’s situation. He tells her she risks bringing public disgrace on her, on him, and on her son. He shows little emotion, almost as if anger and jealousy are beneath him.

Anna Karenina and her husband attend a horse race Count Vronsky is riding in. Vronsky rides well up until the end of the race when he makes a mistake and the horse stumbles, collapses, and the horse’s back fractures. Vronsky goes down as well, escaping serious injury. Anna Karenina does not hide her distress at Vronsky’s possible jeopardy. Her behavior is so emotional and unsubtle that her husband feels the need to talk to her. In the carriage ride home, he tells her she has behaved inappropriately, and that it should not happen again. She confesses the affair and tells him she hates him and wants nothing more to do with him. He tells her: “Very well! But I expect a strict observance of the external forms of proprietary till such time… as I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate them to you.”

Konstantin Levin stays at his country estate, busying himself with running the agricultural enterprises there. During a visit from Oblonsky, he finds out Kitty has left Russia to recover from bad health, and has still not married. He remains interested in her, and laments her rejection, but sees little hope for his wish to marry her.

Part Three
Konstantin Levin absorbs himself in the work at his farm/ranch, including the physical work of cutting tall grass with a scythe. “Dolly”/Darya has a conversation with Konstantin about Kitty, asking him why he is avoiding her, and whether he hates her. He does not hate her, but as a refused suitor, finds being in her presence awkward.

Anna’s husband writes, forgiving her, and telling her to return to Petersburg and to end her relations with Vronsky. “The family cannot be broken up by a whim, a caprice, or even by the sin of one of the partners in the marriage, and our life must go long as it has in the past.” Vronsky’s mother tries to get him to break off the affair which is obvious to everyone. Anna tells her husband she is a “guilty woman… a bad woman” but that she can “change nothing.” Alexey insists she conduct herself so that “neither the world nor the servants can reproach you… In return you’ll enjoy all the privileges of a faithful wife without fulfilling her duties.” He walks away. Anna bows “in silence” as he walks by her.

Levin continues to run his farm. His brother visits—it is evident to Konstantin Levin that his brother Nikolay is dying. Levin considers the ramifications of the recent liberation of the serfs, and the best way for Russian farms to be productive given the new circumstances.

Part Four
Anna continues to see Count Vronsky. She has Vronsky in their home against Alexey’s expressed wishes. Alexey discovers this breach of his wishes. He tells Anna he is going to Moscow and that his lawyer will contact her. Their son will go to his sister’s.

Oblonsky invites Alexey to dinner while he is in Moscow. Alexey resists, as the pending divorce will change the relationship between the families. But he agrees to go. The dinner includes a number of guests who discuss various issues. Konstantin Levin and Kitty are there. “Dolly”/Darya discusses Anna with Alexey. She wants him not to proceed with the divorce. She at first does not believe Anna has been unfaithful. Alexey says he would like to believe it is not true, but with his wife admitting to it, he has no choice. “Dolly”/Darya implores him to forgive. She cites Christian tenets—“love those who hate you”—to persuade him.

In a magnificently sweet scene, Kitty and Konstantin Levin come together. Kitty is drawing with chalk on a chalkboard. Levin takes the chalk and writes a series of letters, the first letters of words to a sentence. Kitty knows immediately what he’s asking and answers that her refusal of him is not permanent. Kitty also confirms she loves Levin and will agree to a marriage proposal.

Anna Karenina sends word that she is dying. Alexey suspects a trick, but comes to her sickbed. Anna is very ill. Alexey discontinues the divorce action and decides to forgive her (again). But she does not die. She recovers. Vronsky feels humiliated by the circumstances of his affair with Anna and shoots himself in the chest. He also recovers. Anna agrees not to see Vronsky and says good-bye to him. He is to take a post at Tashkent. They get together for what is supposed to be a final meeting. But they decide not to part—they will live together. Count Vronsky declines the Tashkent post and retires from the army.

Part Five
Konstantin Levin and Kitty marry. They have occasional quarrels, but are both happy and seem well-matched. One of the quarrels comes when Levin gets word his brother is in Moscow dying. Kitty wants to accompany him; Levin wants her to stay away. Kitty wins the argument and not only goes to Moscow but does hands-on nursing of Nikolay. Nikolay dies with Kitty and Konstantin Levin present. Kitty shows symptoms of being ill, but discovers she is pregnant.

Count Vronsky and Anna Karenina travel abroad, living briefly in Italy. Anna has a child, a girl they name “Annie.” Vronsky takes up painting and shows a little amateur talent but does not pursue it. They decide to return to Russia. Countess Lidia Ivanovna has fallen in love with Alexey (he seems unaware of it) and pitches in to help him maintain his household. (Servants actually keep the household running.) She tells Alexey and Anna’s son that Anna is dead. Alexey goes along with this. Anna writes the countess and asks to see her son. Alexey first indicates he sees no choice but to agree. But the countess argues “he looks on her as dead. He… beseeches God to have mercy on her sins… now what will he think?” Alexey now agrees with the refusal, which the countess writes to Anna. Anna resolves to see her son on his birthday. She goes to the home at 8:00 in the morning and gets past a servant who does not know her. The reunion is affectionate. Alexey finds out she is there, walks in, sees her and bows his head silently. Anna runs out of the room, taking the gifts she brought with her, never giving them to her son as intended.

Vronsky is not at their hotel when she returns. She starts to doubt his love, even wondering if he is seeing other women. Because he is accompanied by a friend when he returns, she cannot confront him with her concerns. She decides to go to the theater. Count Vronsky cannot believe she does not understand the awkward position she has put herself in. First deciding not to go, he arrives late at the theater to find Anna has been snubbed. Anna blames Vronsky for the incident, saying somehow if he had loved her more, this wouldn’t have occurred. Vronsky reassures her and they reconcile, then leave for the country. But though “he did not reproach her in words… in his heart he reproached her.”

Part Six
Darya/“Dolly” spends the summer with Kitty and Konstantin Levin. Konstantin’s older brother Sergei is also there and looks like he’s going to propose to Kitty’s visiting friend Varenka, but doesn’t. Stepan Oblonksky visits and they go shooting with another friend. They visit with peasants and eat with them. The guests cause some stress between Kitty and Konstantin.

Darya/“Dolly” visits Count Vronsky and Anna on Count Vronsky’s property in the country. Darya/“Dolly” accepts Anna’s awkward social position but understands that others don’t. Anna is grateful for the chance to talk to one of her old friends about people and events in the city. Count Vronsky approaches Darya/“Dolly” and asks her to convince Anna to push for a formal divorce, something she has been reluctant to do. He wants legal heirs, legal sons, to carry on his name, and cannot attain this under the current circumstances. Anna seems to cool to the divorce idea and says she does not wish to have any more children. A divorce will mean Anna will have to give up her son, and she clearly prefers her son over the daughter she has had with Vronsky. Anna takes no steps to get a divorce as she and Count Vronsky spend months at Vronsky’s country estate.

In October, Vronsky decides to go to Moscow for provincial elections. Anna says she will pass the time reading (and not go with him), but it is clear she is unhappy he is leaving her alone. Vronsky considers this an issue of masculine independence, and is annoyed with her apparent irritation. Levin and Kitty also come to Moscow. The elections take place, with Konstantin Levin’s brother involved, as well as Vronsky. Konstantin Levin awkwardly interacts with participants much to his brother’s dismay. He has no feel for politics. Levin particularly wants little to do with Vronsky and is inadvertently rude to him. Vronsky seems barely aware of Levin’s discomfort with him. Anna writes a testy letter to Vronsky when he is a day late returning. She fusses over what he might be doing while he is away from her. When Vronsky returns, he again reassures her, but also reproaches her for her clinginess. He reminds her he is ready to move with her to Moscow. Anna realizes she must obtain a divorce to move forward with her life with Count Vronsky, and writes to her husband asking for a divorce.

Part Seven
With encouragement from Oblonsky, Konstantin Levin meets Vronsky in Moscow. He is reticent about the meeting, but the meeting is cordial. Oblonsky takes Levin to meet Anna. Anna is very charming and Levin forms a favorable impression of her. Levin tells Kitty of the meeting, saying Anna is a “very unhappy, good woman.” Kitty replies with an outburst: “You’re in love with that hateful woman; she has bewitched you! I can see it in your eyes.” Levin reassures her, and they quickly reconcile, but Kitty’s reaction betrays a hostility to Anna going back to the time when Kitty had affection for Vronsky. Anna has deliberately “done her utmost to arouse in Levin a feeling of love—as of late she has fallen into doing this with all young men…”

Levin undergoes a tentative embrace of Christianity. After some nervous uncertainty, Kitty successfully gives birth to a baby boy.

Oblonsky asks Alexey for a divorce for Anna. Alexey says the issue has already been addressed; he will not give up his son, and Anna had made that a condition. Oblonsky tells him Anna no longer makes custody of her son a condition of the divorce. Now Alexey says he wants to do everything possible, but as a proper Christian, he is not sure what is possible. He says he will think it over, not committing to a divorce. A strange incident at a dinner involving Alexey, Oblonsky and a French nobleman influences Alexey to decline Anna’s request for a divorce.

Tensions grow between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky. Anna seems constantly upset, certain Count Vronsky’s love is waning. She loves him intensely and hates him intensely. She constantly challenges him when he is with her, demanding reassurance, never satisfied with the reassurances she gets. When he leaves her for any reason, even logical reasons, she is suspicious and angry he is gone. But when he is with her, she is difficult with him, fluctuating from occasional moments of intense affection to mostly complaints about his behavior and challenges that he does not love her anymore. In the midst of a quarrel, he leaves to go to his mother’s home for business. Anna tells him he will be sorry. She visits “Dolly”/Darya; Kitty is there too. Anna has an awkward meeting with Kitty. Though Kitty is outwardly polite, Anna senses Kitty’s discomfort around her. She goes to the train and rides it, continuing to reflect on her circumstances, finding no escape from continuous suffering and inner turmoil. She exits the train and kills herself by putting herself on the tracks into the path of an oncoming train. “…there, in the very middle… I will punish him and escape from everyone and from myself,” she says to herself as she ends her life. At the last moment, she seems to have second thoughts, but it is too late.

Part Eight
The main characters from the Anna Karenina storyline appear only briefly in this final section. Vronsky speaks to Konstantin Levin’s older brother in passing on a train. He has been deeply hurt by Anna’s death and after an intense grieving period is off to fight alongside Serbians against Turks (in a war not declared by the Russian government). Much of this section pertains to a debate about this war, a debate between Levin and his older brother (and a few others), and Levin’s emerging embrace of Christianity. Levin still reflects on whether other religions of humanity can connect to God. Alexey takes Anna and Count Vronsky’s daughter into his family. The book closes with Levin meditating about spirituality and almost sharing those thoughts with Kitty. But he holds back as Kitty brings some mundane household issue to his attention.

*******

Previous Books-Into-Movies posts (in reverse chronological order):

Books-Into-Movies: “Lincoln” (based on the book Team of Rivals)

Books-Into-Movies: “Water for Elephants” (based on the book Water for Elephants)

Books-Into-Movies: “the five people you meet in heaven” (based on the book the five people you meet in heaven)

Books-Into-Movies: “Moneyball” (based on the book Moneyball)

Books-Into-Film Commentary – “Birdsong” (Part One)/Books-Into-Film Commentary – “Birdsong” (Part Two)

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – Special 40th Anniversary Edition: “The Godfather”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Books-Into-Movies: “Tamara Drewe” (based on Tamara Drewe)

Books-Into-Movies: “Red” (based on Red)

Books-Into-Movies: “Secretariat” (based on the book Secretariat)

Books-Into-Movies: “The Social Network” (based on the book The Accidental Millionaires)

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Hugo” (based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret)

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Sarah’s Key”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – Special Easter Edition: “Ben Hur”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary: Jane Eyre

Books-Into-Movie Commentary: True Grit

Books-Into-Movie Commentary: Gulliver’s Travels

Books-Into-Movies: “Lincoln” (based on the book TEAM OF RIVALS) January 10, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in book synopsis, books, books compared to movies, books into movies, Daniel Day Lewis, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln (the movie), movie commentary, movies, movies based on books, Steven Spielberg, Team of Rivals, Tony Kushner.
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(Richard Warren Field wrote the award-winning novel,
The Swords of Faith. Read why this book will make a great movie.)

The credits for the 2012 film “Lincoln,” indicate the movie is “based in part” on the book, Team of Rivals. This Book-Into-Movies post (see below for links to previous Books-Into-Movies posts at this blog) will focus on comparing the “Lincoln” movie to Team of Rivals.

A few comments before I start specific points-of-comparison:

  • The book Team of Rivals covers a much wider period of time than the movie, and really does focus on the stories of Lincoln and the “rivals” who become the team. The book runs from the election year of 1860 (moving to background material predating 1860 as the story unfolds) to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April of 1865. The movie begins in January of 1865, in the middle of Chapter 25 (of 26 total chapters) in Team of Rivals.
  • Much more is depicted about the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in the movie than is offered in the book. The filmmakers obviously turned to other source material, though Team of Rivals is the only book credited. I know from discussions of the film in the media that expert consultations were involved in making the film.
  • This post concerns specific comparisons between the book and the movie. I am not a Lincoln scholar. I am not attempting to complete a historical fact-check here. I invite experts to add fact-check comments if they wish. My comments will involve only comparisons between the book, Team of Rivals, and the movie, “Lincoln.”
  • Team of Rivals is about so much more than the Thirteenth Amendment. As indicated in the title, the book is about the rivals for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination, rivals who compete vigorously against each other, and are then brought together in Lincoln’s cabinet. This also includes Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a Democrat who had snubbed circuit lawyer Abraham Lincoln years before in Ohio. The book details the story of Lincoln’s leadership of these men during arguably the most difficult days in the United States history. Team of Rivals is copiously filled with first-hand accounts that document every aspect of the story. Anyone interested in the accurate history surrounding Abraham Lincoln will enjoy this book, a book that widens the scope of the material offered in the movie by elaborating on the men, the former rivals—now teammates—with President Abraham Lincoln.

Comments comparing the book and the movie, roughly in chronological order from the film:

  • The film opens with black soldiers fighting in the Union lines. The issue of how to use blacks—slaves taken by the military, slaves escaping to the north, and freed blacks in the North—is an issue of concern throughout the war. Depiction of blacks fighting at this point in the war, in 1865, is consistent with facts documented in the book.
  • The Confederate decision to execute all black soldiers taken on the battlefield did result in Lincoln approving an order that for every black soldier “killed in violation of the laws of war,” a Confederate soldier would be summarily executed. Another part of this order mandated that for every black taken and re-enslaved, a Confederate soldier/prisoner would be “placed at hard labor.”
  • The issue of unequal pay is mentioned in Team of Rivals. It comes up when President Lincoln assures the great black abolitionist/orator/leader Frederick Douglass that blacks will “in the end” receive the same pay as whites.
  • The carriage accident involving Mary Todd Lincoln is addressed in the book. The accident takes place during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg and blunts Lincoln’s celebration of the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July of 1863. Mary Todd Lincoln is in a carriage following President Lincoln who is riding on horseback. Screws are apparently deliberately removed by an “unknown assailant,” screws “fastening the driver’s seat to the body of the carriage.” Mary Lincoln “landed on her back, hitting her head against a sharp stone.” This results in an exacerbation of the headaches Mary Lincoln suffered throughout much of her life.
  • I do not recall Team of Rivals referring to Abraham Lincoln dreaming about a ship. The book does document Lincoln’s comment that the pursuit of the Thirteenth Amendment is like “whalers who have been long on a chase.”
  • The push to pass the Thirteenth Amendment during the lame duck Congressional session after the 1864 Presidential (and Congressional) election is from the book.
  • Team of Rivals depicts Abraham Lincoln as a steady, even-tempered leader, a teller of stories, sometimes prone to private spells of melancholy/depression, but slow to immerse in passion or emotion. Daniel Day Lewis captures the Lincoln from Team of Rivals flawlessly. His performance has garnered him an Oscar nomination, possibly a statuette, for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as represented in the book, bringing him alive on the screen.
  • Democrats as the party opposing the Thirteenth Amendment is from the book.
  • William Seward as Lincoln’s chief adviser and confidante is from the book. The book details the evolution of the relationship—of Seward at first as a rival bitterly disappointed that he does not garner the 1860 Republican nomination for president to becoming a key adviser and admirer of President Lincoln. Seward moderates his views on ending slavery to join Lincoln’s understanding that to move too fast could be to lose the entire struggle to keep the Union together. Slavery would then continue to exist in a separate southern “United” States.
  • The movie accurately outlines the process for the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (for the ratification of any constitutional amendment); two-thirds of both houses of Congress, then three fourths of the states.
  • The fall of Fort Fisher, guarding the North Carolina port city of Wilmington at about the same time the Thirteenth Amendment passes Congress, is from the book.
  • The episode with Francis Preston Blair, a rich conservative supporter and adviser to Abraham Lincoln, is depicted in the book. Yes, he is adamant that with Lincoln’s reelection, another peace attempt should occur. Lincoln seems doubtful, but gives Blair a “pass for Richmond” with the understanding that “he was proceeding on his own, without authority to speak for the president.” Ulysses Grant does meet with the “peace commissioners” on their way north and recommends President Lincoln should meet with them. President Lincoln meets with them at Hampton Roads in a saloon on a ship called the River Queen. There is a weird proposal that the Union and Confederacy should join to fight the French dictatorship then installed in Mexico. The conference breaks up without any agreement, and seems doomed from the start when the Confederate envoys try to refer to two countries, and President Lincoln insists they must acknowledge one country only. Republican radicals are incensed when they hear of the conference, afraid Lincoln will be too generous in negotiations. But their distress turns to praise when reports of the details of the conference are communicated.
  • Team of Rivals does refer to “the story of the peace commissioners, whose presence almost derailed the vote on the new amendment.” But President Lincoln assures James M. Ashley of Ohio, the Congressman introducing the amendment, that “no peace commissioners are in the City, or likely to be in it.” On its face this is true—the “peace commissioners” are not in the capital city. The movie correctly describes the problem—Democrats needed to defect to get the two thirds vote for the amendment, and even some conservative Republicans, would probably have not voted for passage of the abolition amendment because it would be sure to end any prospects for peace. Lincoln cleverly satisfied his friend and supporter Francis Preston Blair while getting the Thirteenth Amendment passed.
  • Other notes about Lincoln’s meeting with the peace commissioners: He is previously acquainted with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, one of the “peace commissioners.” They share discussion of mutual acquaintances before getting directly to the business at hand. Team of Rivals does not document any proposal that Lincoln allow Southern states back into the union so they can vote down the Thirteenth Amendment. There is some discussion of possible reimbursement to slaveowners from the Federal government, but nothing comes of this idea, an idea sure to be unpopular with most of Lincoln’s base.
  • A word about political terms that have a different meaning now than they did then: “Radicals” were mainly Republicans who wanted abolition of slavery as quickly as possible and the toughest possible approach to the southern Rebel states. “Conservative” Republicans favored a slower, less definitive approach to slavery, and would consider maintaining slavery in exchange for peace. Democrats were primarily in favor of the “conservative” approach, with pro-war Democrats favoring the fight to maintain the Union, and anti-war Democrats favoring peace at nearly any price, including agreeing to two countries.
  • Lincoln’s legal assessment of the Emancipation Proclamation and how the Thirteenth Amendment was needed to end slavery legally is from the book. The Emancipation Proclamation was intended as an executive order at time of war, and might not have been legally binding once the war had ended.
  • Thaddeus Stevens (the Tommy Lee Jones character) is not mentioned extensively in Team of Rivals. The character in the movie is consistent with the few references to him in the book. Whether Thaddeus Stevens in truth had an intimate relationship with his black housekeeper is not addressed in the book.
  • Team of Rivals does mention patronage jobs given in exchange for votes in favor of the Thirteenth Amendment. The movie expands this part of the passage story beyond information provided in Team of Rivals. The book does documents that President Lincoln insists to his House allies that he is President of United States “clothed with great power,” and that the votes of two wavering members were of “such importance that those two votes must be procured.”
  • Many Lincoln supporters crowd the gallery for the House debate the day the Thirteenth Amendment passes. It is hard to get a seat. This includes much of his cabinet. I saw no mention that Mary Lincoln was in the gallery. Mary Lincoln was from a slave border state and had three brothers-in-law who fought for the Confederacy. Her presence for this debate seems unlikely.
  • Mary Lincoln’s devastation over her son Willie’s death during Lincoln’s presidency is documented in the book.
  • Robert Lincoln’s desire to serve in the army is also from the book. The book does not detail any of the emotional rancor depicted in the movie. There is no face-slap. President Lincoln writes General Grant and asks him to place his son in a position on his staff. Team of Rivals does tell us that Abraham Lincoln was not as close to his older son as to his two younger sons, Willie and Tad. When Robert was growing up, circuit lawyer Abraham Lincoln was spending long periods of time away from home.
  • Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s depiction as a serious man, demanding of everyone around him, including himself, is consistent with Stanton as depicted in the book.
  • Lincoln’s leniency with death penalties for Union deserters, issuing pardons for many, and Stanton’s belief he was too lenient, is also from the book.
  • Lincoln’s visits with wounded soldiers are also depicted in the book.
  • I do not recall any part of Team of Rivals hinting at the scene in the movie where Lincoln loudly exclaims to Mary Lincoln: “I should have clapped you in the madhouse.”
  • Lincoln communicating to Grant that he would not mind if Jefferson Davis slipped out of the country without his knowledge is from the book.
  • Stanton’s statement, after Lincoln’s death, that “now he belongs to the ages” is from the book (and is a well-known famous quote from Stanton).
  • Secretary of State Seward is not at Lincoln’s bedside at his death in the movie. This is accurate. The filmmakers did not have time to explain why. Seward had been in a carriage accident that left him bedridden at the time of the assassination. And on the same night, another assassin tried to kill Seward (this was a plot to kill a number of high-ranking Union leaders), and Seward’s life also hung in the balance as he recuperated from his carriage injuries and wounds inflicted by his would-be killer. Seward did recover. But he was not available to be at Lincoln’s death.
  • The movie ends with a flashback to Lincoln’s 1865 Inaugural Address and his famous quote: “With malice toward none; with charity for all.” Back then, Presidential inaugurations took place in early March. So this took place over a month after the Thirteenth Amendment passed Congress, but before the Confederate surrender.

The “with malice toward none: with charity for all” quote, for me, captures Lincoln’s greatness. Team of Rivals, with its detailed account of how Lincoln brought sometimes hostile opponents into his inner circle for the greater good, and with its documentation of Lincoln’s political astuteness, knowing exactly what pace and what sequence of events to take to keep the fledgling United States together while extinguishing the new nation’s greatest evil, adds to the Lincoln legend. Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” captures a piece of this chronicle and puts it in front of the public in dramatic form, largely true to the tone and theme of the book. It reminded me that Lincoln’s accomplishments were not a given. If he had pushed for ending slavery too quickly, he would have lost slave border states to the Confederacy, including Maryland, and likely the Union would have lost the Civil War. If he had waited too long, the moral imperatives of the war would have been blunted. He made the right moves at the right times, and amidst terrible bloodshed and withering hatreds, held the United States together—the world would be a lesser place without the United States as the world power it is today. The reach of Lincoln is mentioned toward the end of Team of Rivals. Siberian tribesmen from the early Twentieth Century ask Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy to tell stories about Abraham Lincoln. His greatness had somehow reached remote corners of the planet. Doris Kearns Goodwin and Steven Spielberg have added to the long list of wonderful stories about America’s great treasure, our Sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln.

*******

Previous Books-Into-Movies posts (in reverse chronological order):

Books-Into-Movies: “Water for Elephants” (based on the book Water for Elephants)

Books-Into-Movies: “the five people you meet in heaven” (based on the book the five people you meet in heaven)

Books-Into-Movies: “Moneyball” (based on the book Moneyball)

Books-Into-Film Commentary – “Birdsong” (Part One)/Books-Into-Film Commentary – “Birdsong” (Part Two)

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – Special 40th Anniversary Edition: “The Godfather”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Books-Into-Movies: “Tamara Drewe” (based on Tamara Drewe)

Books-Into-Movies: “Red” (based on Red)

Books-Into-Movies: “Secretariat” (based on the book Secretariat)

Books-Into-Movies: “The Social Network” (based on the book The Accidental Millionaires)

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Hugo” (based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret)

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Sarah’s Key”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary – Special Easter Edition: “Ben Hur”

Books-Into-Movie Commentary: Jane Eyre

Books-Into-Movie Commentary: True Grit

Books-Into-Movie Commentary: Gulliver’s Travels

2013 – What I’ll Be Offering This Year at this Blog January 7, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in books compared to movies, books into movies, fusion jazz, historical fiction, Issa, Issa Legend, medieval period, movies based on books, music, music commentary, mystic jazz, Richard the Lionheart, Richard Warren Field, Saladin, the crusades, The Swords of Faith, third crusade, writers.
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2012 was a year of many posts here at CreativeEccentric, living up to the impulsive name I gave to my blog in 2010. My 820th Anniversary “Third Crusade” series, pertaining to my award-winning novel The Swords of Faith, came to its conclusion, followed by a bonus Christmas post. (There will be two more intriguing bonus 820th Anniversary posts coming up early in 2013—stay tuned.) My monthly posts on the selections from my “Issa Music” CD also concluded with my recent January 1st post on Track 13, “West Meets East” (the final track on the CD). My series on the nature of music and music’s possible link between to physics and metaphysics is coming to its conclusion—I ended up with a lot more posts on this that I had foreseen. (Here’s a link to the most recent post on this subject, which has links to all the previous posts.) 2013, I suspect, will be a year of fewer posts. But with traffic multiplying as the posts multiply, readers can be assured I will continue posting on popular topics for the foreseeable future:

  1. Books-Into-Movies posts will continue—they are among the most popular pages here. There are two coming up in January—on “Anna Karenina” and on “Lincoln.” I will pick and choose these as they strike me. They may pertain to upcoming movies (and television miniseries), or to past classic movies. They will usually have a historical aspect to them.
  2. I will be posting commentaries about books written by authors I know. This will expose my readers to books they may not have heard of anywhere else, but may very well enjoy.
  3. I will be producing one, maybe two CDs in 2013. This will lead to posts about music (in addition to my concluding posts on the nature of music).

Beyond that, there is always the unexpected. Anyone who has been with me over the last the 2½ years of this blog will attest to that!

I hope everyone has a happy and productive new year and enjoys what I have to offer here, and through other creative outlets.

*******

Previous “Personal Notes” Posts:

Issa Music – Featured Selection: (13) “West Meets East” January 1, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in fusion jazz, Issa, Issa Legend, jazz, Jesus in India, music, mystic jazz, new age jazz, Saint Issa legend.
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  • (Each month, I will feature a detailed description of one of the thirteen selections from my CD “Issa Music” with a link to the full piece. That link will remain up for one month. After that, the link at this post will be to a one minute clip. One minute clips of all the Issa Pieces are available at my website. Detailed notes on all the pieces are also available there. The full length pieces available with these blog posts are before mastering for CD release. The complete Issa Music CD is available for sale, along with downloads of individual mastered selections.)
  • (“Issa Music” is an East-meets-West mystic jazz CD released inspired by the “Legend of Issa.” Did Jesus journey to India and study Buddhism and Hinduism before his world-changing spiritual mission in Roman-occupied Judea? If so, are West and East spiritually connected in ways we have never imagined? “Issa Music” celebrates this idea with a blend of eastern and western modes and timbres.)

Play this month’s selection: “West Meets East”

Background on “West Meets East”: This was the seventh and last of Set Three, the last, the 23rd overall of the Issa pieces recorded between 1988 and 1990. This was a great way to culminate what I had been working on with these pieces. We have a ton of “classical” influences here, along with the jazz/Eastern instrumental component. I start off with a simple rhythmic statement, something akin to the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Yes, the ability of the equipment to pitch those tympani drums, and thunder them through the opening statement was a great option to have. I then wound that out into a full-blown classical development section with counter melodies springing out of the original theme and moving around each other through shifting harmonies. The thundering two-measure rhythm of the opening now becomes the soft underpinning of the development section, always there, if well into the background. That short development section comes back to the original statement. This is then followed by an Eastern development section, over the same harmonic structure as the Western “classical” development section, but with improvised lines of exotic woodwinds over pitched drums and syncopated rhythms. The woodwind lines are doubled with strings, bringing a little bit of that “West” into this “East” section. This shifts through timbres and harmonic progressions until we return to the opening statement a third time. After the third statement of the opening theme, there is a short development section that blends the first “Western” “classical” section with the second “Eastern” “improvisational” section. We then finish with a final statement of the main theme, topped off with a thin repeat before concluding. For most of the Issa pieces, I blended jazz and a little pop and rock, with Eastern instruments and modes. I hinted at “classical” style development but only hinted. With “West meets East,” I brought “classical music” elements into the music as a full partner. I was very pleased with the result. I’m not saying every new Issa piece will partner “classical music” techniques with jazz and Eastern as much as “West meets East.” But I will look to do more of this. I’ve begun collecting themes for future pieces.

I have well over enough themes for at least two or three more Issa CDs. I will try to build on “West Meets East,” and the other 22 pieces I produced just over 20 years ago.

“Issa Music is Coming” blog post, September 21, 2011.

Probable liner notes for the Issa Music CD.

Richard Warren Field music page.

Post “Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: The First Christmas After the End of the “Third Crusade” for Richard the Lionheart and Saladin December 25, 2012

Posted by rwf1954 in crusades, history, medieval period, Middle Ages, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, the crusades, third crusade.
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(This is a bonus post following the series of 820th anniversary highlights of what history now calls the “Third Crusade.” My novel, The Swords of Faith, tells the story of this legendary clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.)

*****

The first Christmas after the end of the “Third Crusade,” 820 years ago today, did not deliver pleasant gifts to either or the Christian king or the Muslim sultan who had been leaders of the opposing armies. For Saladin, years of war, almost nonstop since 1187, left his empire, extending from Syria across to Egypt and down the Arabian Peninsula, in disarray. Saladin considered going on a pilgrimage to Mecca—he had not yet fulfilled his religious obligation to complete a pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest location. But deteriorating health and issues of reestablishing control over his empire, including the challenge of replenishing a depleted treasury, forced his decision to hold off on the pilgrimage for at least another year. He settled in at Damascus in November for the winter, trying to recover his health and his authority over the lands he ruled.

Richard the Lionheart would have been grateful to experience just a few challenges within his home realm. The first Christmas after the conclusion of the “Third Crusade” did not deliver him home. Richard had decided on a land route for the return home. He hated sea voyages, and a fall/winter sea voyage was more than he could tolerate. He tried to sneak through areas under the control of his enemies, including Leopold of Austria, whom he had insulted at Acre (described in the blog post on Saladin’s surrender of Acre to Christian forces). But just before Christmas, Richard fell into Leopold’s custody. Richard the Lionheart spent the first Christmas after the end of the “Third Crusade” in chains.

Were these post-crusade troubles the result of divine justice of some sort, for shedding blood in the name of religion? I will not attempt an answer to that question here. We will, however, examine an even greater post-crusade irony for these two celebrated leaders during a blog post coming in March on the 820th anniversary of an occasion with immense post-Third Crusade relevance.

Links to every single one of the 820th anniversary posts concerning the “Third Crusade”:

July 4th – The 820th Anniversary of the Launch of the “Third Crusade”

October 4th – Richard the Lionheart Sacks Messina

November 3rd – Queen Sibylla Dies

November 11th – Richard the Lionheart Signs a Treaty with King Tancred of Sicily

November 15th – Queen Isabella’s Marriage to Humphrey of Toron is Annulled

November 19th – Archbishop of Canterbury Dies

November 24th – Conrad of Montferrat Marries Queen Isabella

December 25th – Richard the Lionheart Feasts at Christmas

December 31st – Shipwreck at Acre; Muslim Defenders Lose Resupply

January 5th – A Wall Comes Down, Presenting an Opportunity

January 20th – Frederick of Swabia Dies; Leopold of Austria Becomes Top-Ranked German Royalty at Acre

February 2nd – A Playful “Joust” Gets Out of Hand in Sicily

February 13th – Saladin’s Forces Relieve the Garrison at Acre

March 3rd – Richard the Lionheart Settles the Alice Marriage Controversy—Sort Of

March 30th – Philip II Leaves Sicily; Berengeria Arrives

April 10th – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Sicily for “Outremer”

April 20th – Philip II of France Lands at Acre

April 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Lands at Rhodes After His Fleet Scatters

May 1st – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Rhodes to Rescue His Sister and Fiancée

May 8th – Richard the Lionheart and His Troops Storm Limassol

May 11th – Crusaders Opposed to Conrad Visit Richard the Lionheart on Cyprus

May 12th – Richard the Lionheart Marries Princess Berengeria

May 30th – Fighting Intensifies at Acre

June 5th – Richard Leaves Famagusta for the Eastern Mediterranean Coast/Saladin Moves his Camp

June 6th – Richard the Lionheart Refused Admittance to Tyre

June 8th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives at Acre

June 11th – Saladin’s Relief Ship Sinks

June 25th – Conrad of Montferrat Leaves Acre; Saladin’s Receives Reinforcements

July 12th – Acre Surrenders

July 31st – Philip II of France Makes a Promise and Leaves for Home

August 2nd – Envoys Discuss Acre Surrender Terms

August 11th – Date for the First Installment of the Acre Ransom Ends in Stalemate

August 20th – Richard the Lionheart Orders the Executions of the Acre Hostages

August 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Acre to Move South Toward Jerusalem

September 5th – Richard the Lionheart Meets with Saladin’s Brother al-Adil

September 7th – Christian Forces Win the Battle of Arsuf

September 11th – Saladin Gives the Command to Dismantle Ascalon

Sepember 29th – Saladin’s Troops Nearly Take Richard the Lionheart Prisoner

October 20th – Richard the Lionheart Proposes that His Sister Marry Saladin’s Brother al-Adil

November 1st – Saladin Learns of the Death of his Nephew Taqi al-Din

November 8th – Al-Adil Hosts a Banquet for Richard the Lionheart

November 11th – Saladin’s Council Discusses Recent Negotiations with Western Christian Factions

December 12th – Saladin Falls Back to Jerusalem

December 28th – Richard the Lionheart Moves Into the Judean Hills Unopposed

January 3rd – Richard the Lionheart Moves to Within Twelve Miles of Jerusalem

January 6th – Richard the Lionheart Orders a Retreat

January 20th – Richard the Lionheart Decides to Move on Ascalon

February 20th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives in Acre to Make Peace Between Christian Factions

March 20th – Al-Adil Brings Serious Peace Offer to Richard the Lionheart

April 5th – French Army Leaves the “Crusade” After Easter Feast

April 20th – Conrad of Montferrat Is Designated Undisputed King of Jerusalem

April 28th – Conrad of Montferrat Is Assassinated in Tyre

May 5th – Henry of Champagne Becomes the New King of Jerusalem Designate

May 23rd – Richard the Lionheart Takes Darum

June 7th – Western Christian Forces Start Out from Ascalon for Jerusalem

June 11th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives at Beit-Nuba; Saladin Waits in Jerusalem

June 24th – Richard the Lionheart’s Forces Take a Huge Caravan Bringing Supplies to Saladin

July 1st – Saladin Holds a War Council in Jerusalem

July 4th – Richard the Lionheart Withdraws a Second Time Before Besieging Jerusalem

July 27th – Saladin Moves from Jerusalem to Attack Jaffa

July 31st – Richard Storms the Beaches at Jaffa with a Minimal Force

August 5th – Richard Defends Saladin’s Counterattack at Jaffa with a Minimal Force

August 28th – Al-Adil’s Courier Brings Saladin’s “Final Offer” for a Peace Agreement

September 2nd – A Peace Agreement Between Christians and Muslims is Signed

September 5th – Saladin Leaves for Latrun After He Meets Hubert Walter (Not Richard the Lionheart) in Jerusalem

September 29th – Queen Berengeria and Richard’s Sister Joan (Joanna) Leave for Europe

October 9th – Richard the Lionheart Leaves the Middle East “Holy Land,” Ending the “Third Crusade”

To review a comprehensive catalog of historical fiction set during the medieval time period, go to http://www.medieval-novels.com:80/.

Celebrating the Not-End of the World December 22, 2012

Posted by rwf1954 in doomsday prophecy, end times, Kravings, Mayan astronomers, Mayan calendar, prophecy.
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Hello? Anybody there? Did the world… really end? 

Nope! 

So, we can place this latest end-of-the-world nonsense behind us. That’s okay, you dreamers of the end-of-the-world will get new dire predictions soon. There is always a new doomsday theory. But for now, let’s celebrate. And I thank you doomsday predictors for another opportunity to celebrate the not-end-of-the-world. My family and I will be at Kravings in Tarzana for some great grilled meats and gourmet buffet. As it turns out, dire consequences of planetary/solar system alignment, or magnetic shift, or predictions of a long-gone civilization, simply did not happen (as any logical evaluation of the available evidence indicated). Someday, the world will end. That is the nature of the human perception of time. Some day, the doomsday mongers will be correct. Keep putting it out there—you’ll hit it eventually. But not today! By the way, the human sensation of time’s arrow may not be ultimate reality’s final verdict on this. But… no heavy metaphysics here today. (If you really want that, you can go to these previous posts: Meditations on Physics, Metaphysics and ConsciousnessMeditations on Physics, Metaphysics and Consciousness II) For now, thanks to the doomsday mongers for giving us a reason to smile!

The Two Previous Posts on the Mayan Calendar/End of the World:

December 22, 2012 – See You There

Mayan December Doomsdate – Never Mind?