Tuesday, 9 July 2013

When writing, never stop reading

The thesis is hovering around 43,000 words at the moment. I write a bit, read it back, chop, pinch, style and rephrase. The intro, chapters three and four and part of chapter one are now there, with plans for all the other pieces of the jigsaw.

I've had good feedback on the two completed chapter drafts from the wise and exceedingly kind Dave Nichols, which will help strip out some of the chaff from the wheat (although the word count may well take a knock). In having a paper accepted for publication, I've also received good feedback from Andy Polsky at Hunter College, CUNY. Andy's editing the book I'll be published in, and sent back his comments with the advice: "Probably you will feel a little bruised and battered after you see the edits.  Ice helps, either applied directly or consumed in a stiff drink, American-style."

Actually, his editing was crisp, his cuts made sense - and other than the Americanization of some of my very British observation, we have very little to argue over. Compared to the evisceration I've seen applied to other colleagues' work by 'helpful editors', Andy's shaping of my work was relatively mild and positively beneficial.  

Anyway, while I write, I still read. At the moment, I'm working my way through Jeffrey Frank's 'Ike  and Dick' which is not bad on Nixon, but presents a rather hackneyed caricature of President Eisenhower. In fact, Frank might as well have called it 'Ike and Tina Turner' for all it contains that's new, interesting or particularly realistic about POTUS 34.

As I'm teaching an Eisenhower summer school at the moment, I'm also re-reading Dave Nichols' excellent 'A Matter of Justice'. In terms of Eisenhower, this is everything that Mr Frank's book isn't. While it's not as well known a title as Nichols' study on Ike and Suez, 'Eisenhower: 1956', it's a thoughtful, incisive and meticulously researched study that recognises that the 1950s were very different from the 1960s, and that Eisenhower's cautious steps forward towards ending racial inequality were very necessary in enabling the groundswell for change of the Kennedy/Johnson presidencies.

Having spoken at the Ike Reconsidered conference back in March, which was organised by Andy Polsky, it's perhaps not surprising that I'm also reading his 'Elusive Victories: The American Presidency at War.' It's a work that those currently in the White House and Pentagon would do well to read on their holidays this summer.