Confederates in the Attic:
Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
by Tony Horwitz
“There are people one knows and people one doesn't. One shouldn't cheapen the former by feigning intimacy with the latter.” ― Tony Horwitz
While I read this book more than a decade ago I still remember it vividly, if for no other reason than the cover art, which I consider to be one of the most hideous of any book that I have read.
Fortunately I did not let that stop me and inside I found a delicious mix of cultural history, personal reminiscence and odd, but true (I believe) miscellany about people who are fixated on the Civil War era. One of the strangest episodes was the discussion of the fascination the Japanese have for Gone With the Wind. It borders on obsession such that it leads them to visit Atlanta, Georgia where they are known to inquire about the location of Tara, seeming to think there must be a real Tara behind the novel. It is reminiscent of Louis Theroux's The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures in that much of the book has a similar eccentricity. Horwitz certainly seeks out some of the more peculiar and sometimes unsavory elements to interview including the crazy biker bar. An enlightening interview with Shelby Foote was included, and I actually gained appreciation for a certain pro-south view (even if I disagree with it). The book may have lost something with time, since the memories of people interviewed are fading and times continue to change.
The book almost reads like a picaresque novel or collection of stories which makes it even more fun. You might consider it a snapshot of the zeitgeist of the 1990s in relation to the Civil War. The Civil War re-enactors are truly a strange breed, but endlessly interesting in their passion for the era. It was a delight to read.
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