Friday, November 14, 2008

From Nashville to Philadelphia

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk on Vienna 1814 in the Senate Chambers of the State Capitol in Nashville. We had a wonderful crowd - thanks to all the people who packed the room, I enjoyed meeting everyone! Ed McClanahan and I decided to ride down to the Southern Festival of Books together. If you do not know Ed's books, do yourself a favor and get one now. What was it Bob Edwards said of him? "Most people who have had as much fun as Ed are dead."

Ed kindly indulged my curiosity about his adventures on the west coast in the sixties, not least with his friend Ken Kesey, the iconic psychedelic bus Further, and life in general as a Merry Prankster. The conversation spilled over, after arrival at the capitol, into the afternoon and late into the evening over an excellent dinner with Ed and Mark at Mambu's. The chefs, Anita and Corey, are fabulous. I look forward to reading Ed's latest book, O the Clear Moment, which has just come out. Here's a review in Newsday.

After Nashville, I headed north to give a talk on Vienna 1814 at the Napoleonic Historical Society Conference at the Union League in Philadelphia. What a wonderful weekend that was! The conference was outstanding in every sense, except for one: On Saturday, during a concert featuring music of the Grand Armée, news arrived that the Napoleonic scholar Ben Weider had died. If you don't know him, Weider was the author of several books on Napoleon, including Assassination at St. Helena Revisited with Sten Forshufvud and most recently Wars Against Napoleon with General Michel Franceschi. Just a few weeks before his death, Weider had donated about one hundred Napoleonic paintings, statues, snuffboxes, and other antiques from his personal collection to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This included, among other things, one of Napoleon's hats from the Russian campaign, one of shirts, and a couple locks of his hair.

Weider was president of the International Napoleonic Society and also served the International Federation of Bodybuilders (Mr. Olympia, Ms. International, etc.,.), which he co-established. So, in addition to having his books in my library, I have some of his weights in my gym. It was Ben and his brother Joe who brought an obscure Austrian bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger to the States in the late sixties and launched his career. J. David Markham gave a touching toast. The Napoleonic world has lost a champion. My condolences to his family and friends all over the world.

This weekend, I'll be doing a book signing for Finding Atlantis and Vienna 1814 at the Kentucky Book Fair. If you are in the area, stop by.