Yesterday my computer finally died. I can’t tell you the amount of abuse that machine has taken over the last five and half years. I am now dictating this on my phone… Which is not going to be a good development for anybody — I was thinking about this this morning when I read a review of Mc Murtry’s biography of Custer in the LA Review of Books. The author first of all, referred to McMurtry as the greatest living scribe of the American West… I had to think about that for a moment and then realized that, perhaps it was true, as so many of the others that I’ve admired and loved have now died.
Then, in the course of the review… which was not particularly positive… One line bothered me. It was in the last paragraph:
Custer isn’t worthy of being the central figure in the story of the end of American settlement, yet that’s exactly what he is here. He isn’t complex enough to be an antihero, nor noble enough to be tragic, but that’s how he’s described. He is ineffectual as a villain, in that he dies so easily. In short, Custer was a pathetic careerist whose chosen field just happened to be the slaughter of innocents. As much as McMurtry wants a mustache-twisting villain, Custer doesn’t really ever step into the role of the archetypal bad guy. McMurtry seems to know all of this but doesn’t care to do the necessary work to reconcile the role of Custer as a historical figure with his own writerly estimation of his character. McMurtry creates a literary Custer who is in many ways much more real, and also much less satisfying, than the legend.
In short, Custer was a pathetic careerist whose chosen field just happened to be the slaughter of innocents.
That was the line in particular that bothered me. It is incredibly reductive about the history of the American West, in particular the history of the Indian wars. I think I am just getting old and crotchety. That one line robs Native Americans of their own agency… well, of course, there were many innocents on both sides…
The last 10 years of my life have been spent reading about the latter part of the 19th century and the “Indian question”. I should’ve been a historian. They should never let 18-year-olds choose what career path they are going to take. Well, I was almost a waitress so there’s that.
Anyway… Reading the review from Twitter this morning reminded me that my computer had died… And wait for it…
All of the research that I’ve done for the last number of years. And my Scrivner application with my novel research.
How do you retrieve data from a computer that has died?
Between that and my previous blog inadvertently having been totally trashed… Not a good year for me and my writing or conversely, a perfect year to start fresh.