I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

This is an usual book in that it is not really a memoir and not really a humor book. I'm just not really sure what it is. And maybe that's what Poehler wants. If you try to find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc...you won't find her. She pretty much has no on-line presence. In the book she explains this with a few stories of how she sent texts to the wrong people (One Christmas she was wrapping gifts with an assistant she was planning on firing and got up to text her then husband Will to let him know what she was doing and when she'd be home and happened to mention that she'd be firing this woman. She didn't send the text to Will, but to the woman, who did not say a word that night, but called later telling her that maybe they needed to talk.) and emails going to the wrong people or with pictures that had the wrong captions attached to them. She insists that if she cannot manage something that simple, being on-line would end up being a disaster. But maybe she is just keeping a tight control over her image and in this day and age where "celebrities" are everywhere taking pictures of their food and posting it and going on Twitter detailing every move they make, it's a relief to find someone who wants to keep her life to herself. It took me about a week and a half to read this book that is only 329 pages, which is rather odd for me and when I finished I thought that I had really enjoyed it and that it was really funny. I collect quotations and when I read a book I mark down the page number where a quotation is that I want to go back to. I had written quite a few. When I sat down to go back and look at them, they just weren't as funny as I had thought they were. I found that the book wasn't as good as I had originally thought it to be, perhaps because I had taken it in such small bites over a long period of time.  My book club was not fond of this book because they objected to the language and vulgarity that they believed she used for shock value. That sort of thing really does not bother me and I don't know that that is really why she wrote it that way.

That being said, I did enjoy the comedic parts put in that did not necessary have anything to do with anything. When she talks about having her first child, she puts in a "birth plan" that had me rolling in laughter it was so funny. I've always thought birth plans were so ridiculous as the birth of a child is one of the things in life that you cannot control and nothing is going to go according to any plan you could come up with. Here's a sample of hers: We have chosen to give birth  in a hospital because of the outstanding facilities it makes available to us. We would also like to deliver our baby in a hospital since we spent most of our twenties getting stoned and watching episodes of ER, and so we know that delivering a baby is the best way to cheer up an attractive but beleaguered doctor...Those we plan to have present at our birth include: Baby, Mother, Father, Grandparents, Lawyers, Agents, Lottery Winners, Lookie-Loos, Midwife, First Wife, Life Coach, Finnoula the Doula, Unexpected Ghosts, Bossy Astrologist, and the entire cast of Cheers...Speaking of music, we will arrive with our own. We plan on delivering our baby to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd's The Wall while simultaneously watching The Wizard of Oz. If this kid works with us, we guarantee your mind will be blown! [Actually you are supposed to listen to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album.]...If drugs become necessary, we would like to go all in. We are talking epidural, helium, and roofies. The mother would like to ask one last time why no one is taking seriously her request for nitrous oxide...If delivery assistance is needed, we prefer "suction" over "forceps". If episiotomy is needed, we prefer "buttonhole" over "backstich". If cesarean is needed, please inform us early so we don't have to go through the above first...Thank you in advance for your support of our choices. We look forward to a wonderful birth. We are excited but mostly scared. Have you SEEN the mother? She is TINY! How is this going to WORK exactly? Please advise.

Instead of talking about her divorce to Will Arnett, she instead offers up a list of "divorce books" to read, which I really preferred reading anyway. The first one is I Want a Divorce! See You Tomorrow, which is for divorced couples with kids who have to find a way to deal which other on a constant basis for the rest of their lives.  The second one is Get Over It! (But Not Too Fast!) and deals with finding out who your real friends are and how to get yourself together. The third one is Divorce: Ten Ways To Not Catch It! and helps you handle the friends who go on and on about how they won't get divorced because they work so hard on their marriage and the divorce voyeur who wants to know every detail.  The fourth one is Hey, Lady, I Don't Want To Fuck Your Husband! and deals with attending weddings and events without a plus-one. The fifth one is God Is In The Details! and helps you navigate all the intimate details people want to know. My all time favorite is the sixth one, which is only one sentence long and is titled The Holidays Are Ruined!

She has an interesting chapter giving sex advice for both men and women. For the women: Try not to fake it, Stop being so goal oriented when it comes to sex, Keep your virginity for as long as you can, Don't have sex with people you don't want to have sex with (every time you see that person the first thing you will think is "I had sex with you."), Don't get undressed and start pointing out your flaws or apologizing for things you think are wrong with your body (Men don't notice or care. They are about to get laid!), Get better at dirty talk, Don't let your kids sleep in your bed, You have to have sex with your husband occasionally even though you are exhausted, Don't make fun of men, Stay away from pics and video, Laugh a lot and try new things with someone you love. For the men: We don't need it to last as long as you think. (Hurry up. We are so tired.), We don't want to remember your penis, You can't fall asleep right after (Remember, if you fall asleep we will stare at you and evaluate you. This is a very vulnerable time when we may decide we don't want to have sex with you again.), Keep it sexy, Cool it on the porn and jerking off, Be nice, tell your woman she is hot, never shame her, and never hurt her, Work on your dirty talk too, If you don't get an erection, we know it's usually not because of us, Stay away from orgies, Open and up and try new things with someone you love, and If you don't eat pussy, keep walking.

In one chapter, where she talks about her parents, she offers up what she learned from them and I have to say, they are words we can all live by. From her mom: Make sure he's grateful to be with you, Always have a messy purse, Guilt works, Monty Python is funny, Have fun dancing, Your female friends will outlast every man in your life, Love your kids and hope they do better than you did, You don't want to be the sexy mom, Memorize poems, A home-cooked meal isn't so important, Follow sports and leave the room if you're a jinx, Be careful. From her dad: Ask for what you want, Know how to shoot a free throw and field a ground ball, There are ways around things that aren't always legal, Keep trying, Never remember anyone's name, Girls can do anything boys can do, Street smarts are as important as book smarts, You can have a chaotic childhood and still provide a stable home, Tell everyone you meet what your daughter does until your daughter asks you to stop, Don't listen to experts, Everything in moderation.

As for her professional life, you do get a lot of detail on that, sort of. She explains how the Upright Citizens Brigade came about and some of the things they did and what they are up to now. She spends a short chapter on SNL which flows seamlessly from one brief moment to another, telling nice anecdotes that tell you nothing, really. She also goes into detail about how the show Parks and Recreation came about and it's struggles and then lists the main actors from it with a paragraph about the person and things like "favorite memory" and "funniest moment on show" with this person. Again, she does not delve too deeply. And don't expect to find Tina Fey. She's practically non-existent. This is her book, however, and her life, so she can reveal what she chooses to. But if you read carefully, you can catch glimpses of her between the lines. Also, when she talks about her two boys she seems to be quite open and honest and sweet.

That being said, there is one disturbing chapter that does not quite come across in a good way for her. When she was on SNL in 2008 she did a highly offensive skit involving a doll that was all twisted up because it was disabled. Amy was playing Dakota Fanning who the doll was appearing with her in a movie called Hurricane Mary.  Amy did not write the script and had rehearsed it once and was given the doll right before she went on stage. She ends up receiving a very irate letter from the wonderful actor Chris Cooper's wife, Marianne who had wrote the script for the movie Hurricane Mary about twins Alba and Anastasia Somoza who had cerebral palsy and their mother's fight to ensure they got an equal-opportunity education. The thing is she waited years before getting around to writing back to them and trying to make it right with Anastasia, who was watching that night, because she had a hard time fulling coming to terms that she had done anything wrong herself. Whether she knew it was about a real person or not, she knew the skit was about a disabled person. Of course, this was SNL, and how much actual say she had, or control over anything, is also something to think about. The more important point is that if you do the math, she reached out to Marianne to apologize around the same time this book was being considered to be written. If that's what it took to poke her in the butt and get her to do the right thing, then so be it.

She is also quite open about being insecure about her looks from an early age and in her business looks always matter. In her last chapter she talks about how her phone is trying to kill her. Most of the planet will probably agree with her on this when they read it. I have to laugh because I have a simple flip phone that can only text and call. That's all I need. Her solution is try to beat it at it's own game, since we can't destroy them. So her, Meredith Walker, Amy Miles, and others started up a web series called Smart Girls at the Party. It's a Charlie Rose type interview show that celebrates "the curious girl, the nonfamous, the everyday warrior."  And it ends with a spontaneous dance party, because dancing is important. Everything should end with spontaneous dancing, including this review. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dark Witch:Book One of the Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy by Nora Roberts

                                                                
Ok, Iona Shaunsee is perky.  And she says whatever is on her mind and says "I'm sorry" a lot.  She sells everything she owns to move to Ireland to find her cousins and hopefully a job and a new start to a life she might finely fit in.  She meets her cousins Branna and Conner who immediately take her in and find her a job working at a stable where Conner works as a falconer.  Branna owns a shop where she sells her potions, soaps, and candles.  These three are the descendants of the Dark Witch, Sorcha from the 13th century, who gave her power to her three children, each of whom had a familiar; a falcon, a horse, and dog.  She sends them off to try to destroy Calbhan, an evil sorcerer who wants the power for himself.  She manages to nearly destroy him, but she dies in the process.  Now her power lies with the three.  Iona might have power, but she doesn't know how to use it, so Branna is teaching her, because Calbhan is back and is after them. 

Branna gets Iona a job at the stables, which she loves, since she's been riding since she was a small child, and had a job teaching others to ride horses in America.  When she meets her boss Boyle, its love at first sight.  He comes thundering in on a horse, Alistair, that will become her familiar.  But, Boyle has never been in love, or a serious relationship and completely bungles the whole affair by saying that she put a spell on him. 

Meana, a great character who works in the stables as well, is friends with Branna and soon the three become fast sisters.  There is also Fin, Branna's old love who bears the mark of Calbhan, meaning he is his descendant, even though he intends to help them fight against him. 

I really loved this book, and yes, part of that was due to the fact that it takes place in Ireland, the home of my ancestors and some distant cousins of my own.  Iona, while perky, is a breath of fresh air.  There is no trying to fight her feelings for the guy that you find in other books.  Instead she just plows ahead and does as she pleases.  I can't wait to read the next book in this trilogy!

Link to Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Witch-Cousins-ODwyer-Roberts/dp/0425259854?ie=UTF8&keywords=dark%20witch&qid=1458826051&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

                                   
                          


Krakauer, acclaimed and best-selling author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, discovered that a long-time friend of his and his wife's and been raped twice, which had led to extreme self-destructive behavior, and eventually a stay in a hospital to overcome her alcohol dependency and to deal with her PTSD.  He then discovered that he also had other female friends and relatives who had also been raped at one time and remained silent.  Then news began to break about a small town of about 70,000 in Missoula, Montana (the second largest city in the state) and the abundance of rape occurring mostly by college students at the University of Montana, by a significant number of athletes, especially football players.  Krakauer focuses his study on the years between 2010 to 2012 upon female college students, which is not to say that those females who were not in school were not vulnerable, or that women were the only ones being raped.

The first victim's story this book tells about is of Allison Huguet.  Allison had been best friends with Beau Donaldson since she moved there during elementary school.  She thought of him as an older brother.  There was never anything sexual or romantic about their relationship.  She was attending a college in Oregon, but Beau had received a scholarship to attend the University of Montana and Allison was so proud of him.  While home on leave, her friend Keely Williams tells her there is a party with all the people they had gone to high school with and did she want to go.  Both were excited to see old friends.  There was some drinking, of course, and when it came time to go, Williams was in no condition to drive them home.  Beau invited them all to stay the night.  Allison, who is most comfortable on a couch went to sleep on the couch in the living room.  Williams had found a bed and tried to talk Allison into joining her, but Allison preferred to stay on the couch.  At some point she awoke to discover that Beau had taken off her pants and underwear and was penetrating her from behind, while she laid on her stomach.  She was terrified.  She knew that Beau vastly outweighed her and could snap her neck if he wanted to, so she waited until he finished and left, grabbing her phone, and holding up her broken jeans and running out of the house, while calling her mom at about 3am.  At this time, Beau begins to chase her down the street, while Allison's mother breaks many speeding laws to get to her daughter.  When she gets into her mother's vehicle, she bursts into tears and tells her mother what happened.  She then panics, because her friend Keely is still inside, so they go back, with Allison calling her to let her know they are picking her up.  Luckily, Allison's mother took her to a rape clinic, where a rape kit was done (and I say luckily, because if you want to charge someone of rape, a kit can be a valuable piece of evidence).

Allison talks Beau into coming over to her house a few days later, where she secretly records him admitting to what he had done and his agreement to get help with his substance and sexual abuse problems.  This would not be admissible in court, because both parties had not given consent to being recorded.  She still could not separate that her childhood friend had done this to her and she did not want to ruin his life, so she did not go to the police.  A year later, she is with some friends and they go to a local bar and hang-out where they see Beau and he looks over at her and begins laughing at her.  Suddenly she begins to realize who he really is and what he did to her.  She sees the first article in the paper in 2011 about a young woman gang raped by five members of the football team.  Everyone had been drinking.  The woman went into a bedroom to pass out.  When she woke up, one of the players wants her to perform fellatio on him, but she says no and tries to push him away.  Another one does the same thing.  Then another three turn her over and each rape her.  She is in and out of consciousness and is unable to provide perfect details.  The police told her if she had stayed unconscious the whole time, it would have been rape, but because she was awake for parts of the time it was not.  Two hours after the horrifying event, her friend takes her to the rape clinic, where her blood alcohol level is .215.  There is no way she was in any position to give consent.  When Allison read the article, she calls a cop she knew from high school when she was working on a school project.  They get two more confessions from Beau that he raped her.  The prosecutor does not want to go to trial and instead wants to plea bargain.  Beau's lawyer wants him to spend six months in a correctional facility and get treatment.  The prosecutor pushes for a thirty year sentence, twenty of which would be commuted (meaning with good behavior he could get out in two and a half years).  Allison is livid.  But the victim has no say in what the prosecutor decides to do.  As you will find out, the prosecutor can pretty much do what they want without impunity. 

While the University had some problems with dealing with rapes on campus, Dean Couture (who sadly retired in 2012 and whose replacement, a woman, does not seem to be as willing to help the victims), actually seems to do a good job getting the rapists out of the state.  The most the school can do is bar him from attending a school in that state or any of its functions.  The Dean investigates and comes to a decision.  If the accused wants to appeal that decision, he can go to the Vice President.  If he wants to appeal that decision, he can go to the school Court.  On one case, in which the prosecutor refused to follow through, even though there was blood evidence soaking her mattress, shorts, shirt, and underwear, as well as testimony from her roommate, and his roommate, because he had stolen her jeans.  They even had security video.  This prosecutor, Kirsten Pabst, who refused to prosecute, would appear as a witness for the accused during the school court session, even though she really should not have.  In 2012, when the Department of Justice announced its investigation, Pabst, who was deputy chief district attorney, and the one who prosecuted rape cases for the past six years, was found to only have prosecuted twelve cases out of the 144 cases the police had plenty of evidence on to go forward with.  This would include cases where the accused was videotaped pouring something into a woman's drink.  The drug was found in his place.  He also confessed.  Others would confess, or there would be plenty of other evidence, but Pabst would refuse to prosecute and even though she was, by law required to talk to the victim and give reasons for not going through with the case, she never did. 

The police were not perfect either.  Some of them were soothing, understanding, and telling the accused that he was not going to be charged, but that they had to talk to him.  Two of these detectives were women, which, quite frankly along with Pabst, makes me sick to my stomach that one woman could do that to another woman.  The police would also ask if the girl had a boyfriend.  If she did, she was less likely to believed, as it was seen that she had probably cheated on her boyfriend and did not want to admit it to him.  They also felt as though they were wasting energy on cases the prosecutor was not going to do anything about.

But these weren't the only women.  Many would come forward, including a woman who was sexually assaulted by Beau in 2008.  He locked her in her room and it was only her friends who managed to somehow get the door torn down, that saved her from being completely raped.

Researcher David Lisak, who has done much research on rape, has discovered that over 80% of women raped know their rapists.  The most targeted women were those age 16-24, with most of them being college students. Also, that only 20% of women raped will report it, with only a small amount of those receiving convictions.  He also discovered that these rapists, once they had gotten away with it once, would keep on doing it.  The average number of women who are believed to have been raped is around 25%, but it is a number that is largely seen as an underestimate.  The college men in his study would stake out the women they had chosen during the week (freshmen were especially vulnerable) and then make them feel special by inviting them to a great party.  They would promptly get them drunk and rape them, however, they never saw it as being rape and they did this numerous times.

An article in the online website Jezebel.com, they pointed out that while Missoula was now being considered the "rape capital of America" the author had discovered that other college cities with similar populations, had about the same number of reported rapes over the same period of time, which is 80 rapes over three years.  Sadly, the public is partly to blame.  In Missoula, a first or second division football team, the Grizzlies, had a rabid fan base that would rival Roll Tide, the Seminoles, Duke, UNC, etc...The town did not take kindly to these gods being seen as rapists.  It usually starts in high school.  The athlete makes a small mistake and someone, usually a coach, steps in and fixes it so the athlete faces no consequences.  Each act begins an escalation, with the athletes beginning to feel as though they are entitled to do anything they want without facing punishment.

The District Attorney's office was the only office to refuse to cooperate with the Department of Justice's investigation or to comply with their suggestions.  The college (plenty of colleges have a pathetic system of dealing with rape on campus and these include quite a few high profile ones such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Amherst, etc...) and police immediately cleaned up their act and submit themselves to investigations to make sure they are doing the right thing.  Eventually the DA's office would give in and comply, and quite honestly, not all of the lawyers there were evil, they just lacked the experience, guidance, or permission to prosecute these cases. 

Sadly, rape is the only crime where the victim is put on trial and whose rights are trampled on in favor of the accused.  If you call in a burglary to the police, they will rush over and take your statement and gather evidence.  They will believe you.  For some reason, rape victims have to prove over and over again that they are telling the truth.  If the newspaper had not broken the story, the Department of Justice would never have gotten involved and changes to this town would not have happen.  Yes, most of the town still believe these athletes are innocent and that the women just want to cause trouble.  Yes, sometimes a woman will come forward and say she was raped, but was not, as in the Baker case in California in 2002 and the infamous Duke lacrosse team case a few years ago.  However, the police excel at uncovering the true story in these cases, which only make up about 2-10% of reported rapes.  The way rape victims are treated by the police, court system, and the public, its no wonder more do not come forward.  The main reason many give is that they do not think they will be believed.  This needs to change.  Someone once said that the worst thing to happen to you is to be raped, because unlike murder, you survive it.  These women who know their rapist also face the fact that they now have trust issues with people they meet and trust issues with themselves for not seeing the rapist for who he really was.  The lives of too many women are being forever destroyed, while the one who did this to her is free to do it again to many others.  We need to look at rape as not the masked figure in the alleyway with a knife, but as the guy sitting next to you in class or the one you meet at a party, or even, as in Allison's case, your best friend.

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Missoula-Rape-Justice-System-College/dp/0804170568?ie=UTF8&keywords=misoula&qid=1458823095&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones

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First of all, if you haven't read any of the books in this series, stop right now and go do that. You will really want to, as this is an amazing set of books. This is the ninth book in Jones' grim reaper series and when the eighth book ended on that serious cliff hanger, I was anxious to see what was going to happen. This was not what I expected. But it makes complete sense.

Janey Doerr woke up in an alley in Sleepy Hollow, New York with a severe case of amnesia, but a lot of people come forward to help her out with clothes and finding her a job at a cafe working for Dixie, where you the reader will find a lot of familiar faces, even if Janey does not. There's klutzy Cookie, a waitress who is engaged to Robert or Bobert as she calls him; Garrett Swopes, a regular whom she senses to be something like a cop; Ash, whom she can tell is not all human and is a total flirt; and of course, Reyes Farrow, someone she knows is not totally human, with a touch of evil around him, whom she is completely drawn to.

One of the first things Janey notices is that she can see ghosts and one of the first ghosts she can see is the thirteen-year-old gang-banger, Angel, who helps her out. Some of these ghosts, or souls if you will, seem to want something from her, but she doesn't want to get involved in what happened to them. She just wants to keep her head down and figure out what's going on with her life. For instance, she has a regular, Mr. Pettigrew, a former cop, who is being followed around by a dead stripper, who keeps talking to Janey. It seems that Mr. Pettigrew got her off the streets and when she died, he took over paying for her son's private school tuition in secret. Janey also sees that Mr. Pettigrew has a demon around his heart slumbering, but has no idea what to do about that.

Janey also learns about her other abilities, such as her knowledge of many languages and the ability to stop time and heal quickly and feel people's emotions and sense when they are lying. When one woman goes through her to move on and she sees the woman's whole life and feels her emotions as she does this, it completely freaks her out. But she still can't remember who she is. Even when Cookie slips up and calls her Charley, she does not recognize the name. Of course, that's not her true name.

Janey soon finds herself in trouble (no surprise if you've read the other books) when she finds out that the antiques store owner, Mr. Vandenberg, is in a great deal of trouble, as well as his family, who are being held hostage somewhere. There are foreign men in his store digging, it seems, into the dry cleaning store next door, which makes no sense. She goes to Bobert with this information, as he was a police officer back in New Mexico, and she knows if she goes to the cops they may not believe her, or if they do, they could go rushing in and get his whole family killed. Janey, of course, does not stop her involvement there, even though Bobert tells her to.

She also is trying to figure out what is going on with the waitress Erin and her babies, because she sees a dead woman when she looks at their pictures. Also, Erin has hated her since she got there. Janey thought it was because Erin would not be able to work extra shifts like she wanted to, but it turns out to be something much worse. She also has a bit of matchmaking to do for the busboy Lewis who thinks he is in love with the waitress Francie, who can't keep her eyes off Reyes, while the waitress Shayla, has been quietly waiting in the background for years.   And let's not forget the Headless Horseman. It is Sleepy Hollow after all.

Janey keeps getting the feeling that she lost something and that she must be a bad person if she can't remember her past. She just can't seem to remember who she is and it turns out that it is very important that she do so.  No one there wants to rush her into remembering as she has so much power now that who knows what she might do by accident if it all came back to her too suddenly. But her mind's refusal to remember will come with a cost.

I really enjoyed this unique approach to a story line. After what happened at the end of the last book, it makes total sense that this is what Charley would do. Sometimes things happen that are so horrible that we need to disappear for a while. She just happens to have the power to make it more real than the rest of us. She has such a big heart to go with that smart mouth of hers and both are constantly getting her into trouble. It's a good thing she has so many friends and family who care about her enough to drop everything to help her through this difficult time and be there for her.  She still has her boots and her endless supply of coffee and she's ready to kick some ass, which is a good thing, because I have a feeling there will a lot of kicking to do in the future.

Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Dirt-Ninth-Grave-Davidson/dp/1250074487/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=083F476M267WXG84KJCG

Thursday, March 17, 2016

It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright

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This book contains a baker's dozen of a real doozy of breakups that will make yours seem sedate and normal by comparison. Think your ex gave you a bad turn, or that he/she's the worst person ever? They do not hold a candle to any of these nuts, sadists, and losers (For women, just keep telling yourself, "Hey, at least I was never one of Mailer's wives".)  When you put your heart out there, there is always a risk of getting it smashed into pieces.  And when that happens, we sometimes do some of the most stupid things like sending them e-mails we regret sending, or drunk dial them. For these people, those options were not available yet, so things sometimes took a ride on the crazy train. Sometimes this might be due to a lack of anything else to do. The author mentions several times that TV is not really such a bad thing as back then people (the rich ones) had too much time on their hands tended to wind up doing very weird things such as breed giants and have people dress up as chickens and pretend to lay eggs.

For those who have an image of ancient Rome being "civilized" will be in for a big surprise. This breakup story will be about Emperor Nero and Poppaea. Nero's mother was Agrippina the Younger, sister of Emperor Caligula and wife of Emperor Claudius (of the book and movie I, Claudius fame). Claudius was highly intelligent but managed to become Emperor by being seen as a fool, which is a good strategy for survival in ancient Rome.  He was seen as a pretty good ruler who expanded the empire and then in 54CE, Agrippina poisoned him, not once, but twice, at the same dinner (first with mushrooms and then either with the feather he used to induce vomiting, which I like to believe because that is much more devious, or by a bowl of gruel she gave him to settle his stomach).  In Rome, this was a rather normal thing. "The Roman punishment for patricide was to blindfold the offender...and toss him into a sack. An ape, a snake, a dog, and a rooster would also be put in the sack, and then it would be sewn up....then the bag would be thrown into a river...Even if you had some kind of Kumbaya moment where you were able to simultaneously charm an ape, a snake, a dog, and a rooster, you would drown anyway."  At the arena, gladiators weren't the only ones to die. Spectators could find themselves tossed to the animals for fun.  As the author of this book states: If the city-state had a motto, it would be ABSOLUTELY NO ONE HERE DIES OF NATURAL CAUSES. That is certainly true in this story.  Agrippina arranges for Nero to marry Octavia, Claudius's daughter in order to solidify his claim as Emperor. In 58 CE, Nero began a love affair with Poppaea Sabina who "possessed every virtue but goodness". She was also quite beautiful (it is said that she resembles the actress Christina Hendricks) and wealthy.

Poppaea had already been married twice. Her first husband, Rufrius Crispinus had been commander of Emperor Claudius's Praetorian Guard, whom Agrippina had banished, then he was later killed by Nero when he had reached the ripe old age of sixty-six years old. Otho, her second husband, was a close friend of Nero's and was likely her lover while she had been married. Nero married Poppaea off to Otho thinking that he would have no interest in her. Instead, he fell in love with her and Nero was not allowed into their house. Some say that Poppaea returned his feelings, while others say she was using Nero's jealousy to have Otho banished so that she would be free to marry Nero and become Empress. Nero, however, was still married to the very popular Octavia and Agrippina did not like Poppaea. Do you see more dead bodies in the future? You would be right. This is Rome, which Nero would eventually burn (But not play the fiddle while it happened, but sing instead. Not quite the same is it?) The person in this story you should feel sorry for is the slave Sporus, whom Nero castrated and changed his name to Sabina, married him, and had him dress up like Poppaea. At that time, homosexuality was frowned upon in Rome and castration was illegal, even for slaves (though you could purchase a eunuch from another country). Things pretty much go downhill for everyone at this point. Keep in mind, unlike poor Sporus, we can always leave a bad relationship that is terrible for us.

 The Borgia family, who lived in fifteenth-century Italy, really knew how to have fun. Pope Alexander VI (born Rodrigo Lanzol Borgia) was the party animal all men wish they could be. His sex parties at the papal palace were quite memorable and his children--Cesare, Lucrezia, Giovanni, and Gioffre--were in attendance. Their mother was the daughter of one of his mistresses. Lucrezia was an accomplished poet (Lord Byron would gush over her work), could read Greek and Latin, speak Italian, French, and Spanish at a time when women were pretty much never given an education. She also had great hair. At that time being Pope was more than what it is today. Then it meant you were the ruler of Rome, as Italy was not yet a country, but ruled by various people on certain pieces of land.  In June of 1493, Alexander married Lucrezia off to Giovanni Sforza, whose family was rather influential and ruled Milan.  Alexander insisted that the marriage is not consummated until November. This was not completely surprising as Lucrezia was thirteen at the time, which was considered a young bride at the time (Some noblewomen were married at that young age, but there was a criticism of the practice.)  Some say that the real reason was that Alexander was looking for a better match for his daughter, now that he was Pope and Lucrezia really didn't like Giovanni who had a violent temper and would take her to live way out in the country. Giovanni was also suspected of spying on the Borgias, who were a paranoid lot, but as they say, sometimes they really are out to get you. So in 1497, Cesare planned on poisoning him but Giovanni found out, perhaps by Lucrezia herself, or maybe by himself.

This is when they decided for him to agree to an annulment on the grounds that he was impotent, even though he had illegitimate children and his first wife had died in childbirth. While the Borgias were okay with lying, Giovanni was not. Which is when the mudslinging about family incest going on began. It got really ugly. Giovanni's family, trying to knock some sense into him about the seriousness of what he was doing, threatened to withdraw family protection, which would most certainly lead to his death, not that he wasn't headed in that direction in the first place. Lucrezia had retired to a convent to avoid the whole mess and supposedly had an affair with a Spanish messenger named Perotto that left her pregnant. These were the Borgias though, so nothing was going to stop the annulment. She was examined by judges and declared  "intacta". Giovanni attested to her virginity after being threatened that he prove his virility by having sex in front of the Borgia and Sforza family members. It takes a set of gold cojones to pull this off. Lucrezia had the baby, Giovanni, who had no mother listed, but Alexander first said he was Cesare's child then said it was his child, which just caused people to believe that the incest rumors were true, when they were likely just something Giovanni made up because he was ticked off at the situation he was in (like when you say crazy things during a divorce). Lucrezia later married a seventeen-year-old Neapolitan, Alfonso of Aragon, whom she actually did love.   The Pope gave Lucrezia governorship over Spoleto and Foligno, which she did a really good job of. They had one child, Rodrigo. After Alfonso was no longer politically useful, Cesare and Alexander killed him off.  Her third husband, Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara would be her last.  But her fist husband was the one that caused her the most trouble, in that way we are all familiar with. She spent the rest of her life trying to avoid running into him again because she was rather ashamed of the way she had treated him.

If you could choose a place in time to visit I suggest Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century (I suggest reading The Little Book by Selden Edwards for a taste).  "Vienna at the turn of the century was a liberated and bohemian place. Vienna then was what people from Iowa think Brooklyn is like today. (Brooklyn's not nearly that cool.)" A very beautiful and talented woman named Alma was married to the newly famous composer and director of the Vienna Court Opera, Gustav Mahler. Mahler told her she could not also be a composer because someone had to take care of the house. She came to resent him and his work and claimed that when he composed Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) in their home it caused the death of their daughter. While Mahler was away, she began having an affair with Walter Gropius, the architect who founded the Bauhaus School. This turned out to be a very good thing for her marriage. Gustav decided that she should pursue her career and she published five songs and three movements of Mahler's Incomplete Tenth Symphony are said to have been inspired by the affair and the reconciliation.  Things were really going great until Gustav just up and died on her less than a year later.

She then started dating the famous, and very odd, artist Oskar Kokoschka.  When he started out he was one of three people to be accepted into Vienna's Kunstgwerbeschule out of one hundred fifty-three applicants, where he immediately began creating corpse-like drawings of children. He also wrote a kid's book titled The Dreaming Youths that contained the poem: Little fish,/little fish red/with a triple-edged knife I'll cut you dead,/then with my fingers I'll tear you in two,/put an end to the silent circling you do.  This freaked out a lot of people, though he and the artist Gustav Klimt (Whom Alma had also had an affair with. If you were famous and in Vienna at that time, you slept with Alma. Otherwise, you weren't worth knowing.) became friends. In 1909 after graduating he took a sensible teaching job, which is where he met Alma.  At a dinner party (where he asked her to marry him after knowing her only three hours) she asked Oskar to paint her portrait. He said he painted her as the new Mona Lisa. Alma pointed out that she looked more like Lucrezia Borgia. That would not matter because Oskar would paint lots of paintings of her, the most famous being Bride of the Wind.   Oskar soon became obsessively jealous and acting crazy.  His mother was threatening to kill her if she saw Oskar again. Then there were Oskar's odd sexual tastes. The fact that he liked to wear her nightgowns didn't bother her too much. But when she would refuse to hit him during sex, he started talking about the most horrific images of a murder he was envisaging in his mind. When Oskar went off to fight in World War I, Alma went back to Walter Gropius, whom she married in 1915.

Some will say that Oskar's odd behavior was due to the head injury he received during the war, but really, he was a bit off his rocker, to begin with. On July 22, 1918, he wrote to a doll maker to inquire about making him a doll. He basically had the doll maker create a doll that kinda looked like Alma. The thing is, he did not keep this sex doll a secret like a normal person would. They went everywhere together: carriage rides, dinner parties at friends' houses (who acted like this was perfectly normal), the opera. He even hired a maid for the doll, who felt sorry for him and had sex with him. Oskar was made a professor at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and yes, they knew about the doll. Everyone knew about the doll. Alma, meanwhile, would have an affair with novelist Franz Werfel, who wrote The Song of Bernadette, and oddly enough stayed with him until she died. Oskar, well, Oskar would have a different ending to his life. One he probably did not expect.

Norman Mailer somehow managed to convince six women to marry him.  Mailer is the author of such works as Armies of the Night, The Naked and the Dead, and The Executioner's Song. He won two Pulitzers and is adored by the intelligentsia. He was also known to hail police cars as though they were taxis and to beat up a sailor who supposedly questioned the heterosexuality of his dog. In 1960 he decided to run for mayor of New York City with a plan to reduce inner-city crime by hosting jousting matches. At his kick-off party, George Plimpton hosted it and lots of literary folks were there. Mailer's second wife, Adele Morales, a painter, said things started off normally. As Mailer grew drunker, fighting started. Mailer, it seemed was also on drugs at the time. Then Mailer started bragging about how he was the greatest writer to ever live, which is when Adele told him he was "no Dostoevsky" and dared him to come at her, shouting, "Aja toro, aja, come on you little faggot, where's your cojones, did your ugly whore of a mistress cut them off, you son of a bitch." Mailer responded by grabbing a penknife and stabbing her in the heart and then in the back. As she lay on the ground bleeding, someone tried to help her. Mailer told him, "Get away from her. Let the bitch die."

Adele eventually made it to the hospital where she told the doctors that she slipped on some glass, which the doctors didn't buy for a second and she ended up telling them the whole story.  She still insisted that they "were perfectly happy together."  Mailer showed up at the hospital in the morning claiming he had stabbed her to save her from cancer.  Then he left to go appear on Mike Wallace to announce that he was running on the "Existential ticket".  Adele decided not to press charges. The question then arose of whether Mailer should be institutionalized. After a psychological assessment, the magistrate Reuben Levy believed that he "could not distinguish fiction from reality" and sent him to Bellevue for observation. The medical examiner claimed he was having "an acute paranoid breakdown...and is both homicidal and suicidal. His admission to a hospital is urgently advised."  Everyone seemed concerned about what would happen to Mailer. Adele, from that point forward, was forgotten.  Because Mailer was Mailer, it seems as though he and his writing were more important than a woman and her life. And it falls on us as a society who let that happen. Oh, and Mailer, he pleaded guilty to an assault charge and walked on a suspended sentence, because, you know, he had to finish writing his sequel to An American Tragedy by Dreiser.

I could keep going on and on, but I will leave you to discover the rest of these stories for yourself, such as the amazing Eleanor of Aquitaine (who tried to take over the throne from her husband when he took a mistress) and Henry II, Henry the VIII and both Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard and how each dealt with their breakups in drastically different fashions, Anna Ivanovna, who would rule Russia after her uncle Peter the Great (who refused to let her marry again after her husband died two months after their marriage) and was pretty determined to make everyone miserable. She hated love and marriage and despised Catholics and gets her wish to have her sadistic dream come true, Timothy Dexter, the luckiest guy to ever live, who claimed his living wife was a ghost, Charlotte Lamb and Lord Byron, where Charlotte becomes rather obsessed with a man, her former lover, who has ladies fall at his feet every day and sends him clippings of her pubic hair, John Ruskin and Effie Gray, where Effie marries a man that when he sees her on their wedding night refuses to have sex with her because her body horrifies him, poor Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, Edith Wharton and Morton Fullerton, the only man she ever had sex with, and Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor.

Jennifer Wright is an excellent and witty writer who really knows her stuff. She's like your best friend who shows up with a pint of ice cream and a pint of the alcoholic beverage of choice to sit on the couch with a box of Kleenex and slip in a weepy movie (maybe something from the BBC) to watch with you. She has guy friends too, so don't feel left out fellas, she'd be there for you too. The way she writes is just like she is delivering the best gossip. The best thing is, is that it is all true. Every unbelievable bit of it. After reading this book you will feel so much better about every breakup you have ever had because they really cannot be worse than these. Trust me. I've had my heart broken thousands of times and nothing comes close to these poor creatures (well, some of them do deserve it). So curl up and enjoy. Ice cream and alcohol are optional.

Note: There are lots of pictures (paintings) of the people involved (including the doll), but not one of Mailer, who does not deserve any more attention than he has already gotten.

Quotes:

I know there are people who handle romantic disappointment by talking calmly to their therapists, taking time to grieve quietly, and reemerging grateful for what they have learned. Sometimes I pretend to be one of those people, but in reality I am someone who handles breakups by taking Klonopin, sleeping for sixteen hours at a time, and writing long, honest, heartfelt e-mails to my ex. And then some texts to make sure my messages arrived. I have also been known to listlessly dump a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream into a pan to see if it will bake into a giant cookie rather than going to the store for more cookies. It will, by the way, so that’s not really embarrassing so much as it is a fun baking tip.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 1-2)
Evolutionary biologists found that people experiencing heartbreak have brain scans that mirror those of cocaine addicts in withdrawal. We do not handle breakups well. Humans are unbelievably resilient creatures in the face of most of the world’s horrors. We are brave in battle, heroic in the face of disease, and really just terrific on the whole until someone breaks up with us. And then we absolutely implode.
-Jennifer Wright (I Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 2-3) 
Honestly, I’m such a jerk about breakups. Even when things have gone wrong for completely understandable reasons and it’s clear that we’re incompatible, after someone breaks up with me, on some level I still want to think that it is because they have fundamental personality defects that make them unlovable or unable to love. Your ex is, as likely as not, not really a narcissist or a sociopath or emotionally disturbed or any of the other accusations that you’ve come up with to make yourself feel better about the relationship being over. Those are often just things we tell ourselves because feeling angry is more satisfying than feeling sad.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 71)
I think you can find a partner who is absolutely untouched, or you can find a partner who has bedroom skills, but you can’t have both. You pick. (I would 100 percent choose the sex-stuff option, but I am not a sixteenth-century ruler of England).-Jennifer Wright on Henry the VIII’s marriage to Catherine Howard (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 74)
It’s always important to point out—as Julian Barnes does in England, England—that the past wasn’t just a giant costume party. People did not behave the same in the Middle Ages as they do today, no matter how trendy movie directors try to make that life seem. (Sixteenth-century aristocrats swore all the time and listened to the Sex Pistols! No, they did not. They mostly listened to the Ramones and some Blondie.) Concerns were fundamentally different than they are today. No one said their main life goal was “to be happy” of find “work-life balance”. Instead, simply surviving was a very real, daily concern for many people. Then there were the questions of how to live honorably and how to get into heaven when you die.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 79)
I know I’ve said this before, but it is such a good thing we have television. Anyone who complains about people spending too much time watching reality shows and playing video games does not know what people with spare time got up to in a world without mindless amusements to keep them occupied. They made giants dress up as babies for their entertainment, that’s what they did.
-Jennifer Wright on Peter the Great of Russia (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 86)
I choose to believe that sometimes historians make up sad lies for no reason, because just as Anna hated marriage, historians hate happy stories that tie everything together with a fun ending.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 95)
Pacts with the devil have been made many times. There is no other way to explain the popularity of the book Fifty Shades of Grey.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 100)
He attempted to give a speech in French to an English-speaking audience without knowing how to speak French himself. He seemed to think that the entire French language was maybe just a series of primitive hand gestures.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 101)
The book [A Pickle for the Knowing Ones by Lord Timothy Dexter, First in the East, First in the West, and the Greatest Philosopher in the Western World] details Timothy’s life in his own somewhat incoherent way. It was written entirely without punctuation. When it was pointed out that the greatest philosopher in the Western world would probably use at least some punctuation (since it was, thank God, no longer the sixteenth century), in the second edition (there were ultimately eight printings) Dexter added a page of punctuation at the end, so readers could insert the marks wherever they liked or, as he claimed, “I put in A Nuf here and they may pepper and salt it as they please.”
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 104-5)
Unless you are King Henry VIII, there may not be a way to get a real sense of “closure” about a relationship.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 110)
I’m convinced that anyone who has never written stupid post-breakup letters to an ex-lover either is not fully human or has never actually experienced a bad breakup. We have all written or texted or e-mailed our former lovers something we regret. Sometimes correspondence revolves around an exchange of items. If your ex left her iphone behind as she fled, for instance, it would be polite to pack it up, maybe with a note that reads, “Here’s your iphone, you bloodsucking succubus.” Obviously, you should not write exactly that. If your ex is male, you should substitute incubus for succubus.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 111)
You really shouldn’t kick people when they’re down, and you definitely shouldn’t kick them when they are down, prostrate and sobbing at your feet.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 120)
Another fun tidbit (no pun intended): his second wife demanded an annulment after finding “malformation of the parts of generation, frigidity and impotence.” The biggest mystery is what is meant when people say their significant historical other was genitally malformed. Do you think he had a microphallus? I do. But we’ll never know. It’s going to be a mystery forever. In the future, if you accuse someone of being malformed in their genitals, please take pictures for historians.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 152)
He has ruined my life, so I can’t help loving him—it is the only thing to do.
-Oscar Wilde quoted in Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 160)
Oscar Wilde, on the other hand, not only was a genuine literary genius but had the added distinction of not being a whiny brat. He was a brave champion against humorlessness, bullies, ugliness, and bad wallpaper. All the important stuff. But then, Wilde had a remarkable ability to see the world as he wanted it to be, filled with beautiful, imaginative, funny, loving people. I think that is the way everyone reading this book would like to see the world. And I am sorry that he was disappointed.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 162)
What’s perpetually surprising to me is that a lively, emotionally complex woman who stole someone’s fiancĂ© for fun, hung out in harems seemingly unperturbed, and wrote The Age of Innocence—one of the most heartbreaking romances of all time (read it right now if you haven’t!)—would have only one orgasm in her life with a man who left her immediately afterward.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 166-7)
However, there was supposedly a history of what we would now better understand as clinical manic depression in his family. His father “just wouldn’t get out of bed” and committed himself to psychiatric care. Teddy was also an alcoholic, which may have been a result of or contributed to his intense unhappiness. At the time, he was thought to suffer from melancholia (depression). Edith and her family might not have noticed that at first because during the Victorian era if you weren’t somewhat melancholy, you were just a moron. Sorry.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 169)
It hurts if someone you believe you love, whom you’ve slept with, won’t have contact with you afterwards. It does; I don’t care what era we’re in. What’s more, she had absolutely no one else she could talk to, given that the belief that good women didn’t discuss such matters was completely ingrained in her. It’s likely the only person she felt she could talk about sex with was the person with whom she’d had sex, who was not returning her letters. I cannot imagine a much more frustrating situation, especially for someone, who, as she said, usually had a very strong personality.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 176-7)Your very happiness, you see, depends on how long. How long?...You have been silent for months and more than anything this is what you want to say: We were dating my whole life. And I don’t mean symbolically, as in I keep going for the same type of guy and this is a pattern that needs exploring. Like paisley. I was born, and he was born, and we fell in love. And now I just have a memory that won’t quit and some choice words for Carly Simon. Instead you just round up by a month and leave it at that.
-Sloane Crosley’s How Did You Get This Number quoted in Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 177-8)
But I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.
-Edith Wharton (“The Fulness of Life”)
Sometimes it seems as if men who are even a little bit intelligent and “literary” are able to get away with more than human beings should be allowed to get away with. If a female celebrity gets a weird tattoo or haircut or makes the ill-advised decision to turn forty-five, people decide she’s crazy, which, as Tina Fey says, is how people describe women they don’t want to sleep with anymore.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 196)
Male writers, especially male writers during the 1960s, somehow tricked people into thinking that they were demigods because they had an understanding of language. Because they had a grasp on words, which (and I am stealing this from playwright Alan Bennett) they always pronounced in a way that sounded peculiarly Welsh. Language and words are important, and so are syllables and even punctuation (as we learned from Timothy Dexter). But being a very good writer is not going to cure Alzheimer’s.
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 207)
I think—and this is a sense I get from personal interaction—that women ought to apologize for their behavior in relationships a lot less and men should apologize a lot more.  When my female friends’ relationships end, we go out for a drink, and about halfway through the evening their brains seem to be taken over  by some sort of crazed-lunatic hallucinatory virus that causes them to say something like “The problem—the real reason I’m unlovable, basically—is that I can’t bake. Because his ex was a really great baker, so I have to take cooking classes tomorrow, while simultaneously losing ten pounds because I’m fat, fat, fat  and disgusting.” Meanwhile, men often seem to externalize the blame for relationships ending. Whenever one of my male friends has a breakup, we go out for a drink, and at some point he will say, genuinely outraged, “How could she do that to me? I was so good to her!” And I could say, “Well, you refused to return her calls for a solid week, and there was that one time you slept with someone else. Remember that? And we agreed ‘that didn’t count’?” But I just nod and listen, because this venting is healing and could make him feel better. It is not for me to say, “Your reaction exemplifies something interesting to me about how people of different genders behave.”
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly:13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 209-10)
Burton once referred to Taylor as his “eternal one-night stand”, which has a ring of truth to it, insofar as one-night stands are filled with passion, and also some amount of terror that the other person might turn out to be a serial killer. Everyone feels that way about one-night stands, right?
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 212)
Not every relationship that ends imparts a life lesson that makes us better people. You don’t always “learn something”. Relationships aren’t fortune cookies; they don’t always contain a cool little message for you to carry around after they’re done. Nor do they necessarily leave us better—more confident, more skilled, more interesting—than we were before the relationship ran its course….Still, love does move us in profound and real ways. It may not always take us to a better place, but the act of loving forces our lives into motion. Giving in to love means that your life will change….Loving and forming relationships with people rarely allows us to keep our lives exactly the same. Loving is powerful because it is the opposite of stasis….When people say that they’re “just hanging out” or “keeping things real casual”, I always think, Oh, you coward. Of, course, they’re right to be afraid because, as we have seen, you condemn yourself to a safe but static life. And that’s not enough. On their deathbeds, no one says, “Wow, what I regret most is making so many emotional connections with people.” We want to be moved. We crave it….If you had your heart broken because you tried to love, well, then you’re brave, too. You rejected keeping your life the way it was. You abandoned the comfort of stillness. You set off into uncharted territory. That’s very worthy of respect. If the love ended badly, that’s OK. We live longer now than most of the people in this book, and you’re likely not in danger of being beheaded anytime soon. You will have more chances. The world is full of many openhearted people and many opportunities. That may be impossible to think about when you’re heartbroken, because heartbreak is awful, but if you took a chance  on love in the first place, you are a courageous soul. There will be a time when you go out and are brave again. Until then, take comfort. And as Caroline Lamb wrote, “Peace to the broken hearts.”
-Jennifer Wright (It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History p 226-8)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ended-Badly-Thirteen-Breakups-History-ebook/dp/B00W1E132M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486387321&sr=1-1&keywords=it+ended+badly
 

Lafayette in the Somwhat United States by Sarah Vowell

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Sarah Vowell has written many books nearly all about historical topics with her own odd-ball, funny spin.  She went to art school, so her knowledge of history is from a genuine love and her approach is different than an historian's. This book is like your best friend telling you the greatest story and gossip (that happens to be true) she has ever gotten hold of. Vowell takes you behind the scenes and lets you really know these people who have been long dead and brings them back alive and makes them human.

She got the idea to write a book about Lafayette's time in America back in 2003 when Representative Genny Brown-Waite of Florida sponsored a bill called the America Heroes Repatriation Act of 2003 which would involve digging up all the soldiers who had died in battle and been buried in France, to be dug up and reburied in the "patriotic soil" of America since it seemed as though the French had forgotten "what those thousands of white crosses at Normandy represent." This was all because France declined to support the U.S. in it's war against Iraq with the flimsy (and faulty) intelligence it had. It seemed as though people had forgotten one of the few things Americans had ever agreed on: their love of the Marquis de Lafayette and how without the help of the French, we would not have a country. She does not mention this in her book, but not only was Lafayette given citizenship to the United States, but so were all of his future descendants, which is still going on today. In 1824, Lafayette came back to America to tour the country for eighteen months in celebration of its 50th anniversary (where he caught John Adams and Thomas Jefferson before they died, both on July 4, 1825 within hours of each other). When he docked in New York Harbor, eighty thousand fans turned up (the population of New York City was only 123,000). The Beatles only manged four thousand when they landed in 1964 (NYC's population then was seven million).   This was how so many streets, towns, and counties became named after him (As well as people, such as Lafayette Ron Hubbard). Which is what people nowadays only seem to remember.

Lafayette, who was born in 1757 as "Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, future Marquis de Lafayette. 'I was baptized like a Spaniard,' he joked in his memoirs, 'with the name of every conceivable saint who might offer me more protection in battle.'" As far back as Joan of Arc and the Crusades, the men in his family had been fighting, and dying at early ages, in combat. The family was rather known for it. Gilbert, as the redheaded Lafayette was called, was from the little populated province of Auvergne in the Chateau de Chavaniac, the paternal manor house. His mother's family was nobility from Brittany who had descended from King Louis IX and were well connected to the court of King Louis XV. By the age of twelve, though, he was an orphan. He, was, however, the richest orphan in France. Lafayette headed off to Versailles to follow in his great-grandfather's footsteps and join the Black Musketeers, the king's household troops made up aristocrats. He also attended riding school with three future kings of France. With his connections, nobility, and wealth, he was off the market at the age of fifteen. The duc d'Ayen, Jean de Noailles, the brigadier general of the king's armies set him up with his daughter Adrienne, who was twelve. His wife was not happy about the idea of making her daughter a child bride and insisted the marriage be put off until she was older. Even after the two were married in 1774, her mother made them wait another two years to consummate the marriage and put them in two separate bedrooms. Not that that stopped the teenage Lafayette (or would stop any teenager) and Adrienne was soon pregnant with their first child, Henriette.  Right after their wedding, the king died and his nineteen-year-old grandson, Louis XVI became king.

His father-in-law got him a job as a flunky to the king's brother, but part of the marriage arrangement was that Lafayette would have a commission as an officer in the family cavalry unit, the Noailles Regiment. So, Lafayette insulted his boss at court in order to get fired and went to soldiering, which is what he wanted to do in the first place, which is when the shot heard round the world was heard in France. Also, the Comte de Brogie, commander of the Army of the East, who was the general Lafayette was training under, invited him to join the military Masonic lodge, where he met the Duke of Gloucester, who made a big impression on him as he ranted on and on about his brother's horrid treatment of his American subjects. His brother was King George III.  "After that, Lafayette swooned in his memoirs, 'I gave my heart to the Americans.'"

"In 1777, the nineteen-year-old Lafayette lit out for the New World for a few reasons, including a juvenile lust for glory, the appeal escaping his nagging in-laws, boredom  with the court shenanigans of Versailles, and a head full of Enlightenment chitchat about liberty and equality. But the boy's most obvious motivation in crossing the Atlantic to join the American colonists' war against the British crown was probably the simple glaring fact that before his second birthday, a British cannonball killed his soldier father in the Seven Years' War [or as we call it the French and Indian War]."

France could not afford to openly go against Britain at that time, since they were still digging themselves out the debt from the Seven Years War (By the way, this is why the colonists were taxed in the first place. The Brits were broke after the war and felt America should pay for their own defense.).  This did not stop the French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, from hinting at helping the Americans. The coffers may be empty, but the French's hatred of the British would always be spilling over. Vergennes had the secret help of, believe it or not, France's greatest living dramatist, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, author of The Barber of Seville [The story of how the two came to meet and form a working relationship is, and I do not use this word lightly, unbelievable. It is sad that no one has thought to make a movie about the whole affair. It would make money hand over fist].  Beaumarchais snooped around and came to this conclusion, which he wrote to Vergennes: "The Americans will triumph but they must be assisted in their struggle, for if they lose, they will turn against us for not having helped them. We are not yet ready for war ourselves, but we must prepare and, while doing so, we must send secret aid to the Americans in the most prudent way." He knew that this would undermine the British military and economy and be good for France--and the gunrunner, who he planned to be. This was a wise move on France's part, as the War had just begun and no one knew just how this would turn out.

Vergennes would write a quite lovely paper recommending to the king that he support the Americans. In opposition to this would be Anne-Robert-Jaques Turgot, the comptroller general of finance who was having some success in reducing the massive debt by slashing government spending. He was also trying to tax the aristocracy, introduce a free market, and make other changes that were making him one of the most hated men in France. His letter was rather blunt and not so nice. He prophesied that not only would the Americans succeed and achieve a stable government, but that other colonies would someday rise up and do the same. Basically, he was telling Louis that for every dime the French spent on the Americans they were not spending on the starving peasants who would one day storm Versailles. France would end up spending one billion livres on the Americans. Turgot, lost his job over this.

In July of 1776, Silas Deane arrived in France from America to ask for France's help and was quietly sent to Beaumarchais, lest the British catch wind of what the French were up to. "...the king would pay Beaumarchais to set up a fake company under a fake identity and use half the money to buy the government's surplus weapons and other equipment gathering dust from the Seven Years' War (in other words, use the king's money to pay the king for his own stuff). Then Beaumarchais proposed to lend the other half of the money  to the Americans, who would use it to buy more surplus French equipment from the dummied-up business and hopefully repay the loan with tobacco and other American exports." Louis loved the plan so much he convinced his cousin, the king of Spain to contribute an equal sum. While Beaumarchais was tracking down cannons and such, Washington was busy getting slaughtered by Admiral Lord Richard "Black Dick" Howe and his little brother General Sir William Howe at Long Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. He would spend the rest of the war obsessing over trying to win New York back, but never would. Three thousand American prisoners of war were sent to those wretched, hell-hole prison ships, where skeletal men ate the lice off their bodies after they ran out of rats to eat. "Nearly twelve thousand of them perished of disease and malnutrition--more than died in combat at all the actual battles of the war combined."

By December, when in America Payne was saying "These are the times that try men's souls", Beaumarchais had muskets, tents, shovels, and three hundred thousand pounds of gunpowder. He went undercover to Le Havre to oversee the loading of the supplies onto the ships, when, for a writer, disaster struck. A local thespian group was putting on a production of The Barber of Seville and they were botching it. So, Beaumarchais came out of disguise and went back and forth between the docks and the theater barking at people on both ends. The British already knew what the French were up to because Deane's secretary worked for them.  However, they could not do anything about it, without showing their hand. Until Beaumarchais blew his cover making it easy  for the British. He had to cancel the mission, but not before his largest ship sailed.  Meanwhile, this was the Christmas that Washington crossed the Delaware and captured about a thousand Hessians in Trenton, which wasn't really much of a big deal, militarily, but it let the world know that they were to be taken seriously and more cargo would be sent off in March of 1777. Included in that shipment were a colonel and twenty-four officers from Europe that Beaumarchais had recruited on Deane's request. Among them were the Polish count and "father of American cavalry" Casimir Pulaski, the Prussian officer Fredrich Wilhelm von Steuben (who taught the army how to be an army), and the architect and engineer Pierre L'Enfant, who would design Washington D.C.  Those, however were the exception. Deane had promised them high paychecks and high ranks and most of these men who came from noble families, had never been on a battlefield or even spoke English. The Americans were quickly ready to get rid of them.

Lafayette and his friends Segur and Noailles decided to sign up with Deane to go to America to fight. When the king of France got wind of this, he not only forbade them from going, he forbade any French soldier from fighting in order to appease to British. This did not stop Lafayette, who went out and bought a twenty-two ton ship to carry himself and others over, and in a sneaky, very teenagery-way got out of France. His father-in-law was furious, as well as his brother, the French ambassador to Britain. Lafayette was genuinely sad to leave his wife behind pregnant with their second child, but she understood, probably more than anyone, that what he was about to do was important and would bring him great glory. On the voyage over he would share something with his wife: being sick to his stomach. Throughout all this, he wrote to her very often, quite lovely letters that only a teenage Frenchman could write. So, try not to think to badly of him for this.

"It's appropriate to ding Lafayette for the casual cruelty with which he abandoned his family, roll the eyes a bit at his retro quest for fame, or envy his outlandish optimism. But none of that negates the fact that he turned out to be the best friend America ever had. And I am not only referring to his youthful derring-do on battlegrounds up and down the Eastern Seaboard. I am also referring to any number of his dull grown-up kindnesses later on, such as assisting Thomas Jefferson, the United States minister to France in the 1780s, in opening up French markets to American goods. Lafayette's lobbying procured Nantucket whalers the contract to supply the whale oil that lit the streetlights of Paris. Because of Lafayette, the City of Lights glowed by New England's boiled blubber....Thomas Jefferson toasted him "When I was stationed in his country for the purpose of cementing its friendship with ours, and of advancing our mutual interests, this friend of both, was my most powerful auxiliary and advocate. He made our cause his own...His influence and connections there were great. All doors of all departments were open to him at all times. In truth, I only held the nail, he drove it."

Lafayette landed outside Charleston on June 13, 1777.  He immediately fell in love with every person and thing he saw--except for the mosquitoes. Even an enamored Frenchman can't love those evil things.  Lafayette bought four carriages and some horses to ferry him, Kalb [French officer and veteran of the Seven Years War who introduced him to Deane], and the others north. After four days the carriages were in splinters and the horses were worn out or lame. This, of course would not stop Lafayette, though some of the others grumbled a great deal as they mostly walked, slept in the woods, suffered from hunger, were exhausted by heat, suffered from fever and dysentery all on their trek through North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and finally Pennsylvania.  When they got to Independence Hall they really did expect to be welcomed with open arms, as they were recruited by Deane. At this point, though, Washington had had it with the idiots from Europe, especially France, who knew nothing about fighting, only giving orders.

The bigger problem right then was Deane's greatest mistake that would show how big an idiot he was.  He promised Phillipe du Coudray, a "French veteran" of the war who supposed to be a nobleman and France's greatest living artillery hotshot, but was actually a wine merchant's son who, well, had seen a cannonball, the rank of major general and command of the army's artillery corps and engineers. This was a problem because Henry Knox held this position and Knox WAS the Revolution. He was a bookseller who had married Lucy Flucker (a very cool woman herself), the highbrow daughter of the Loyalist Governor of Massachusetts. He read all the books he could get his hand on about everything military to prepare himself, he studied the movements of the redcoats around Boston, and when they came into his shop he quizzed them. He even joined the local militia, the Boston Grenadiers. After Lexington and Concord, he and Lucy (She sewed his sword into the lining of her coat. She pretty much went with him and helped him out throughout.) headed to Cambridge to fight.  Later when General William Howe had the Boston peninsula and things looked hopeless, they got word that the Greene Mountain boys and Benedict Arnold had captured Fort Ticonderoga in New York where there were lots of weapons. So Knox and his brother, in the winter, set off and brought back forty-three cannons, fourteen mortars, and two howitzers that they dragged across frozen rivers and the snowy Berkshire Mountains by oxen on sleds over three hundred miles.  When Howe woke up the next morning and saw all the military hardware that had just magically appeared overnight he said "these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months." With that, the Brits and all the Loyalists fled. This is the man Deane wanted them to replace. It didn't happen. There's a reason a very famous Fort in Kentucky is named after him. [Him and Lucy would survive the war and settle in Maine on a very large piece of land, where they would raise a slew of kids and live out a long a very happy life.]

Lafayette, who was at first turned away, did have Franklin on his side, who had sent a letter basically saying you would be insulting Paris and Versailles if you don't take him. However, his note to them, was probably what really convinced them: "After the sacrifices I have made I have the right to exact the right to exact two favours: one is, to serve at my own expense,--the other is, to serve at first as a volunteer." They really couldn't turn away anyone who would not only fight for free, but start out as a volunteer.  Lafayette hired Louis de la Colombe and Jean-Joseph de Gimat as his aides and Kalb stayed (he would be given a commission in September) , but the rest would eventually give up and go home.

In 1777, British command made a big plan for ending the war by having General John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne come down from Canada and General Sir William Howe come north from New York City, where they would converge on the Hudson River at Albany and sew up New England. Howe, however, refused to play along. He was still upset over Trenton and didn't want Burgoyne, a part-time playwright to get all the glory. So he decided to take Philadelphia instead, leaving Burgoyne to fend for himself. Not only did the British not know what Howe was up to, Washington, who saw his ships sail south, could not seem to believe it himself (of course it didn't help that the ships disappeared for a few weeks after missing the likely port of entry). Washington was practicing the "Fabian strategy, named for the Roman general Fabius Maximus, the Cunctuator ("the delayer"), who spent years wearing down the deadly Carthaginians by retreating every time his opponents seemed poised to prevail, thus holding the Roman army together: basically, Fabius annoyed his enemies to death." Howe landed with thirteen thousand forces in the Chesapeake in August and Washington and his eleven thousand men headed toward Brandywine Creek and Chadds Ford to wait for the confrontation on September 11.

This battle is famous for the number of tactical blunders and drumming Washington took from Howe. The patriots had faulty intel about the area, they had not scouted in advance, and Washington didn't trust the reports coming in to him during the battle and was second guessing everything. That afternoon, General Sullivan sent word that the British had crossed the Brandywine' northern fords and were performing a maneuver that would remind the two of the Battle of Long Island. Desperate, Washington sent Lafayette in to help Sullivan. He was thrilled, of course. Everything was total chaos and gore and the army rapidly trying to flee. Lafayette blocked them, even going so far as to grab them and hold them in place. As he was rallying them, the British shot him in the leg, not that he noticed. His two aides, though, did and made go get care.  It was getting dark, two hundred had been killed, five hundred wounded, and four hundred captured, so Washington called in General Greene, who he had been keeping in reserve, to cover their retreat.  The French were quite proud of Lafayette and his father-in-law forgave him of everything.

Feeling the sting of his pride and the need to keep Howe from taking Philadelphia, Washington goes on the offensive and divides his eight thousand regulars and three thousand militiaman into fourths. His idea was to sneak up on Howe before dawn on October 4 at Germantown, with the four columns converging. "Is it appropriate to call a battle plan romantic? Of course this scheme was way too fussy for those crumpled misfits to pull off. Of course Nathanial Greene's forces would get lost in the fog and show up late. Of course the redcoat pros, no slouches they, would spot the early birds and sound the alarm before the rest of  the stragglers could hit their marks. Yet there is something hopeful and endearing about Washington's belief in these men. That he actually trusted them to break off in quarters, march in the dark, and come together at some precisely timed rendezvous was an act of intrepid, starry-eyed faith and fealty. That got dozens of them killed, but still." To make matters worse, Continentals under General "Mad" Anthony Wayne and General Stephen, lost in the fog (Stephen being drunk didn't help), were fighting each other. Cornwallis ended up coming down from Philadelphia with reinforcements and Washington beat a hasty retreat. Meanwhile, up in Saratoga, General Gates had defeated the poorly supported General Burgoyne. Howe, had captured Philadelphia, which, while an emotional win, was not a military one. Of course it meant the Continental Congress had to flee to the backward town of York, which did not endear them to Washington, who they had already been talking about replacing and with Gates' great success, Washington's position was unsteady. Congress was insisting he pull off another Christmas victory at Philadelphia, which was ludicrous. His men were half naked, most of them lacking shoes, Howe had over ten thousand men (hard to surprise that many people) whom he had already been beaten badly by twice, and right now, the opinion of the world (France) was that America was stronger than they appeared to be. If they attacked Philadelphia and failed spectacularly, which they would, they could lose support. What Congress did not know yet (mail was very slow) was that while everyone seemed to think that Saratoga was the turning point in the war, the French were much more impressed with Washington at Germantown. He showed that his army was more experienced and able to go on the offensive and attack and by encamping outside Philadelphia they had the Brits blocked in and made it hard for them to forage for food when they ran out in the city.

At this time, Lafayette asks Washington for his own command and he is given one. Greene and Lafayette are sent to go see what Cornwallis is up to in Southern New Jersey. Greene reported back to Washington of his success and then echoed Washington's own words about Lafayette upon meeting him: "The Marquis is determined to be in the way of danger." This might be how all his ancestors died young in battle. Three days later Lafayette was put in charge of General Stephen's division of Virginians (after his disaster at Germantown he court-martialed and relieved of command).  

It is at this time that the little known "Conway cabal" happened. Most people at this time had lost faith in Washington--even John Adams who had nominated him for the position of leader of the army in the first place. There were thee others being considered: General Gates,  General Lee (a retired British officer who had served in the French and Indian War and thought he should

Congress eventually saw sense and gave up on the idea of attacking Philadelphia then and Washington took his men to settle down for the winter at Valley Forge. When Congress sent someone out on a fact-finding mission at the camp and they saw the half-naked men, some with no shoes, and few supplies he was sent a note censoring him for allowing low morale. There were many problems with Valley Forge starting with the fact that Quartermaster General Thomas Mifflin, head of the supply corp, quit in October, two months before they arrived, and while Washington had been bugging Congress to replace him, they wouldn't until March 1778, which proved nearly fatal to the army.  Washington couldn't get Congress to agree to send supplies, but even if they would, the system was so disorganized who knows where they would have ended up. Greene grumbled about having to be Quartermaster, but he was really good at it, and his men were able to forage for food.  To undermine him even more, they sent Lafayette on a pointless mission to Canada, where he made some friends with the Oneida Tribe who would return with him later to join the cause.

Something good did come out of Valley Forge: The arrival of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian army from the Seven Years War. After a rumor of a homosexual incident at the end of the Seven Years War, he found difficulty finding a job.  He was desperate for the Americans to take him on. Thankfully we did. We really needed him. The men had been fighting for nearly three years, but had no training at all. They never used the bayonet except as a tool to eat with.  Steuben whipped them into shape in no time, drilling them constantly. Washington was so impressed that he made Steuben inspector general, the position currently held by Conway. Soon, Congress made it official and Conway went back to France. At this time France officially recognized the United States a country and entered into a treaty with them. Lafayette, was of course, over the moon.  More importantly, with this treaty, it meant France would send soldiers and ships as well as supplies.

In May of 1778, William Howe went home, leaving Henry Clinton in charge, who was ordered to evacuate Philadelphia and head for New York City with more than fifteen thousand British and Hessian troops, three thousand Loyalists citizens, and fifteen hundred wagons. They were just begging to be attacked. General Lee had just gotten  back after spending a year as a very pampered POW in Manhattan (while his men wasted away on those hellish ships). Washington suspected he had gotten a bit too cozy with his former coworkers and eight decades later someone would stumble across papers in Howe's desk that would prove it. While Lee was not given the command of the army he thought he deserved, Washington had one of the Hudson River forts named after him: Fort Lee, New Jersey. It was decided to attack at Monmouth, but Lee turned down the offer of leading the charge (he had been against doing this in the first place), so Washington gave it to Lafayette. This, of course made Lee want it back. Then he changed his mind. This went back and forth for a bit, until Washington just told Lafayette to proceed, which made Lee say that being usurped by a junior officer would "disgrace" him. Lafayette stepped in and told General Lee that he would be happy to serve under him, so they both went. On the morning of the attack, Lee returned, having called off the attack. Washington was not interested in hearing any of his excuses and sent him to the rear and let rip a long list of curse words, which was rather amazing according to those present, and completely out of character.

Lee, by the way, would be court-martialed and found guilty of disobeying orders, disrespecting the commander in chief, and "misbehavior before the enemy...by making an unnecessary, disorderly, and shameful retreat." He was only suspended for a year, but when he sent Congress a highly offensive note, they got rid of him for good. The odd thing is, no one ever changed the name of the Fort. At that time they changed the name of the Hudson River forts all the time and wouldn't you want to change the name of one named after a man we kicked out of the military who was later proved to be a traitor? The New York citadel named after Benedict Arnold became Fort Clinton and then West Point. I guess it's just a mystery of history. Or New Jersey.

Washington rallied the troops and headed for the Clinton and Cornwallis (who it turned out had been lying in wait for Lee and attacked him, which is why he ran).  General Wayne took over for Lee's troops and the Continentals showed that all that drilling was worth it. Molly Pitcher was supposedly there, if she existed at all. A third of those who fought would die, not from musket balls, but from heat stroke.  They fought quite well and "forced the enemy from the field and encamped on the Ground." In the morning they would find that Clinton had sneaked away in the night to ships waiting to take them to Manhattan. Washington headed to White Plains, New York to keep an eye on Clinton, and make plans on taking back New York now that he had French soldiers to help. This would be the last time he would personally command a battle for three years.

At first the Americans would have problems with the Frenchmen, which the British were counting on, due to old prejudices and other issues, such as the arrival of the first ship who General D'Estaing was in charge of (notice I said General and not Admiral) who had trouble landing the ship due to sand bars and was trying desperately to avoid the master of the seas Admiral Howe who was lurking about. D'Esaing gave the patriots a great deal of trouble.  In Boston a riot broke out the result being two injured French officers, one of which died. Worse, he died in Boston, where Catholicism was illegal (they referred to the Pope as the "Anti-Christ"). He needed a proper burial to appease the French, so a hush-hush  funeral was prepared in the middle of the night in the crypt of King's Chapel on Tremont Street where the Puritan fore-bearers, such as Governor John Winthrop ("city upon a hill" fame) and his minister John Cotton who were both likely rolling in their graves to be so near a papist, are buried. They promised to build a monument in the man's honor, which they did--after World War I. Vowell insists that if you are ever in the neighborhood, you really must see the cemetery as all the headstones are quite amazing and many famous patriots are buried there.  A great deal of good came out of this death, though. The French and Americans became closer.

On July 10, 1780 part of the French fleet arrived with six thousand troops commanded by Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau in Newport. The rest of the fleet were blockaded back in France by the British. At this time the south had been lost to the British, including five thousand POWs at Charleston. Washington was eager to get talking about taking back New York and sent Lafayette to talk to Rochambeau who was busy trying to set a base of operations and didn't have time for that. Later, Washington would gather with his top men and the top French men and present his eight page plan to retake New York, which the French told him it was not possible right now. Winter was coming [hey, it happens in more places than Westros], the French were busy, the Brits had New York and the south and Washington could really use some money so he contacted Franklin to see what he could do. He got the French to cough up six million livres.

Washington would give up on his dream of New York and face that the situation in Virgina could very well end the war, if done right. Of course he had to get thousands of troops across 450 miles in six weeks, so he appealed to Congress for one months pay for each soldier--in coin. The last time they had been paid was 1776. In the end, Rochambeau steped forward and gave Washington half his Spanish coins. Now the American soldiers were deeply in love with the French. Of course, this would be the last dime they would see. Cornwallis was in Yorktown, which likely made Washington laugh, as he knew that was the dumbest place to set up a camp "by being upon a narrow neck of land would be in danger of being cut off. The enemy might very easily throw up a few ships into York and James's river...and land a body of men there, who by throwing up a few redoubts would intercept their retreat and oblige them to surrender." Which was pretty much what happened, though not without a lot of drama behind the scenes (like trying to get the Virginians to help out with supplies or pick up arms and fight). Britain always knew that if another country's navy got involved, the American could very well win the war fighting on the ground. Now, a powerful country with a navy had just arrived and the French had just ordered more ships from the Caribbean to Virginia to help out. What few people know is that what decided the war was a naval battle between the French and British.  Whoever won would be the ones on the coast of Virginia.  At Yorktown there were more Frenchmen there than Americans and eventually Cornwallis, who couldn't get help from Clinton in New York, was forced to surrender, the details of which, are quite delicious to read about.

By the end of the war it was practically a world war, with Spain, France, and The Netherlands involved. A lot of people had something against the Brits at that time and were quite happy to pitch in and that is why it took two years to negotiate the complex peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris of 1783.  Lafayette led an interesting, but long, life afterwards. He tried to help reform the French government, but ended up having to flee the country during the Terror and wound up in an Austrian prison. His wife, Adrienne was put in a Paris jail herself.

Maybe one of Lafayette's most important gifts, one that he didn't give us, but that he would have backed whole-hardheartedly, was Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. It has been known as THE place to protest since the World War I era when the National Women's Party were picketing President Woodrow Wilson to give women the right to vote. These women were beaten right in front of cops who did nothing, arrested, jailed in horrid prison workhouses, and forced raw eggs from a tube shoved down their throats because they would not eat the vermin-infested food. You can find people protesting pretty much anything there every day now and that's a good thing.  It was what he was fighting for.  It is sad that we have forgotten all about the French who helped us become a nation in the first place and Lafayette, who was our best friend, at a time when that was a rare thing. He truly believed in America and what it stood for. I guess it was a good thing his parents gave him all those special saints' names to protect him in battle, because we would never have won the war without him.

Note: In this book she visits Colonial Williamsburg, a place that is on my list of places to go to someday. I have been to Old Salem a few times and it is nice and interesting and quiet. I was expecting Williamsburg to be the same, which is why it has always been rather low on my list. Vowell was also expecting the same thing. What she got was the exact opposite. They have actors who reenact historical times and, frankly, they are once ticked off mob. There is nothing remotely sedate about the place. It is quite exciting. When she goes on these field trips to historical sites, she often takes her sister and her nephew along, who is now twelve, and he had a blast. If a near teenager can enjoy something educational, then it really must be good!

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lafayette-Somewhat-United-States-Vowell/dp/1594631743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459885535&sr=1-1&keywords=lafayette+in+the+somewhat+united+states