Magazine article Book

Talkin' about the Revolution Jimmy Carter & Robert Morgan: Call It Serendipity, Call It the Fulfillment of the Long-Standing Promise That the South Would Rise Again. This Fall, Two Writers with Strong Ties to the Region Are Coming out with Novels That Reexamine Its Underestimated Role in America's War for Independence

Magazine article Book

Talkin' about the Revolution Jimmy Carter & Robert Morgan: Call It Serendipity, Call It the Fulfillment of the Long-Standing Promise That the South Would Rise Again. This Fall, Two Writers with Strong Ties to the Region Are Coming out with Novels That Reexamine Its Underestimated Role in America's War for Independence

Article excerpt

THE WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE IS ONE OF THIS COUNTRY'S lest frequently examined conflicts. It has appeared comparatively rarely in works of the popular imagination--artists and writers having generally preferred the tragic grandeur of the Civil War, the righteousness afforded by the World Wars and the murky morality of Vietnam. The American Revolution, after all, was just a bunch of bewigged stiffs at tea parties in Boston, complaining about taxes. Who'd want to revisit that war?

Two distinguished writers, that's who.

North Carolina native Robert Morgan, a poet, essayist and author of seven earlier novels including Gap Creek, has written Brave Enemies: A Novel of the American Revolution; it primarily follows the travails of a sixteen-year-old North Carolinian who finds herself caught up in the events of 1780. Former President and Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter, debuting as a novelist at age seventy-nine after writing sixteen other books, has written The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War, which pays remarkable attention to historical accuracy while weaving fictional and historical strands together; Ethan Pratt, a made-up character who finds himself reluctantly drawn into the Revolution as a Georgia militiaman, and Thomas Brown, a character based on an actual loyalist military man, are its leading players. Each writer does an excellent job not only of reinvigorating this chapter of American history, but of pointing out that a great den of the critical action of the Revolutionary campaign had a distinctly Southern accent. Trenton and Valley Forge, you say? How about Savannah and Cowpens?

On a warm August afternoon in Carter's hometown of Plains, Georgia, Book sat in while Carter and Morgan discussed their new books (Morgan's came out in October, and Carter's will be published in November) in the former president's living room. The Hornet's Nest, densely packed with information, is sweepingly broad in scope. Brave Enemies, a more intimate book, leads with a faster punch, but the two books make remarkable complements to each other. Following is an edited report of the conversation.

JIMMY CARTER They start out quite differently. Yours [Brave Enemies] is instantly, barn, there you are: You're in the middle of a battle with this strange character who you soon realize is not a man, but a woman. It is really a sterling start.

ROBERT MORGAN Well, I had to focus on that narrow story more because I'm not a historian--I'm a writer. And I wanted to focus on the region I knew, and two or three or four characters.

JC Well, that's beautifully done. I was relieved when I read your book, as a matter of fact, because I was afraid some of my data were wrong, and when I read your book, I find that, almost exactly, [the books] are parallel and correlate with one another.

I think that I've told this story [in The Hornet's Nest] accurately, as far as the sequence of events; and the battles fought; and who won; and how many casualties; and who were the commanders. We'll find out when the book gets published, because there'll be very wonderful historians who concentrate on one battle and find something wrong with the way I wrote it.

Book Why do you think it is that the American Revolution has been for so long primarily the domain of historians?

JC Northern historians.

RM I would have to guess that it's because so much attention has been paid to the Civil War for so long. [Now] Americans are beginning to discover, 'Oh, there's this great historical event, very complex, violent, [though] perhaps without the romance [of the Civil War].'

JC The fact is, that although the event was great, it has been stereotyped. Paul Revere's ride, you know, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and then George Washington going into Pennsylvania and Valley Forge and surviving, and crossing a river. But you know, when you look at it, they're just little episodic things that have been glorified, because that's where historians have concentrated. …

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