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Shadows of Blue & Gray: The Civil War Writings of Ambrose Bierce Paperback – February 22, 2003
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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From Publishers Weekly
Thomsen is also the editor of Shadows of Blue & Gray: The Civil War Writings of Ambrose Bierce, which collects 27 stories along with some memoirs and reportage by the journalist, writer, literary critic and former Union Army soldier. Famous for their unflinching look at the brutality of the war, the pieces include "Two Military Executions," about the execution and revenge of a young soldier sentenced to death for striking an officer; "Bivouac of the Dead," the classic plea for the recognition of unknown Confederate soldiers in a West Virginia hillside; and "Four Days in Dixie," Bierce's account of his own imprisonment and escape from Confederates in Alabama.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
In calling Stephen Crane and Walt Whitman our poets of the American Civil War, we unfairly neglect the Ohio-born Bierce, who, unlike the first two authors, actually fought for the Union army, at Chicamauga, Missionary Ridge, Bloody Shiloh, and elsewhere. If the average reader is at all aware of Bierce, it is probably from a few choice definitions from The Devil's Dictionary, the phantasmagoric story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," and the author's mysterious disappearance in Mexico in 1913. However, Bierce, whose nastiness toward contemporary writers and critics came home to roost when his own reputation had to be decided, deserves to be better known. His war experience gives the 27 brief war stories in Shadows of Blue & Gray the ring of authenticity. In a sometimes turgid writing style (slaves are once described, for example, as "sons and daughters of Ham"), Bierce depicts a war that is at once horrifying, pointless, and supernatural the stuff of The Twilight Zone. The nine pieces in "Memoirs and Chronicles" and "Reminiscence and Memoria," with which editor Thomsen fittingly rounds out this volume, are as artful as the fictions. Recommended for all libraries. Despite the strengths of Thomsen's collection, Phantoms of a Blood-Stained Period is a superior work, for it includes not only all of Bierce's short fiction and nonfiction about the Civil War but a detailed 25-page introduction that is invaluable in placing Bierce in historical context and thus helping to explain his stance as a realist about the war and a satirist about post-Civil War American self-congratulation and heroic myth-making. Duncan (American history, Univ. of Copenhagen) and Klooster (English, Hope Coll.) wisely organize Bierce's myriad stories, memoirs, letters, newspaper columns, and even war poems around the war's five-year duration. Instead of a curmudgeon who happened to write war stories, this volume portrays a man who joined the Union army at age 20, fought in the bloodiest battles until a Confederate bullet in the head took him out of combat, and revisited the battlefields and retrieved the experience in memory until his disappearance. Highly recommended for all libraries. Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Most of the works concern the Civil War, but some are from time periods afterward, and they all evoke the style that made his works so different than most other authors of the time! This is not a reference book by any means, but more like a diary of a highly influenced young soldier during the most trying period of his life.
Ambrose Bierce is known today mainly through his fiction - many fine examples of which appear in this collection - and through THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY. He `might or might not' be the subject and/or inspiration for Carlos Fuentes' novel THE OLD GRINGO, also made into a film. His stories have a decidedly `creepy' feel to them - he was no Edgar Allan Poe, perhaps, but he was a talented writer nonetheless...and as not only the short stories, but also the non-fiction pieces collected here demonstrate, he was a careful and articulate observer. We are truly blessed that he chose to recount what he had seen, both in the form of short stories and memoirs. His disappearance in 1914 in Mexico has added to his mystique over the ensuing years.
The most famous of the short stories contained in this volume is undoubtedly `An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'. I remember reading it in high school (NO, I won't say how long ago that was...) - and it was filmed to great effect by director Roberto Enrico in 1962, and was subsequently aired in the US as an episode in the last season of THE TWILGHT ZONE on CBS. It won an Oscar in 1964 as Best Foreign Short Film. The story is a masterpiece of suspense - it's a great literary epitaph for Bierce.
Bierce served in the Civil War - he enlisted at its outset and saw quite a bit of action. He rose through the ranks to lieutenant and served on the staff of various high-ranking officers. It is his observations and experiences - and his empathy with the troops, the enlisted men, the common man - that lend such a value to his writings. Too much `Hollywood-izing' has been forced upon the truth - about the Civil War and almost everything the film industry touches. It's a treasure to have the pieces here to vividly remind us of what the experience was really like.
There is humor here as well - Bierce's wit was an acerbic sword, and he unsheathed it on the high and low alike, without sparing himself in the process. His characterizations of the generals under whom he served, as well as the enlisted soldiers, the post-war opportunists, and the intellectual crowd with whom he mingled both in the US and abroad, are rich indeed.
The language is understandably a bit archaic in places - but I found myself getting used to it pretty quickly. As a result, the book took me a bit longer to read than the contemporary fiction I normally favor - but it was definitely worth the time. I can recommend this collection to aficionados of fiction and history buffs alike - a great read.
I could not put this chilling book down. It was as if it was possess! Ambrose disappeared in 1914 a old man who walked into Mexico. Maybe he is still walking and telling these stories. I would like to think so.