I have just finished reading Clive James' recently published book of essays, Latest Readings on the books he has revisited since he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia in 2010. "If you don't know the exact moment when the lights go out," writes James, "you might as well read until they do."
When you read James whether it be his Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts (2008) or Cultural Cohesion (2013) you can't help but start making lists of books and writers that require further investigation. This book was no different.
One of the especially enlightening chapters was Sir David Fraser's Alanbrooke, a biography of Alan Brooke, who later became Lord AlanBrooke. I pride myself on having a good working knowledge of World War II history having read Rick Atkinson's The Liberation Trilogy, but Alan Brooke's name drew a blank. Brooke was quite an influential figure (and Atkinson wrote plenty about him including his expertise in ornithology ). As a general, Brooke engineered the miraculous retreat of British forces at Dunkirk and for a time was in charge of England's island defenses, but later Brooke did the greatest service to his country as Winston Churchill's Chief of Imperial Staff, acting as a buffer between Churchill and the French and American allies. James quips, "...He (Brooke) was just in time to help save his nation from the deadly combination of Nazi barbarity and Churchillian enthusiasm."
It is doubtful that I will even get through a first passing at Fraser's voluminous biography on Brooke, but that's why I appreciate James so much. At least I get a taste of what's it like to be well-read.