Saturday, October 10, 2015

What I'm Reading this Week

I have a few books going this week, some for my work and some for leisure reading.

For my work, I'm reading Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru, by Kathryn Burns.  I am doing translations of petitions for permission to get married, filed in colonial Spanish St. Augustine, Florida, between the years 1784 and 1821.  The documents are notarial documents, written by the government notary as part of his duties to keep records of government transactions.  The Spanish, thank the deity, were anal retentive about keeping records of all sorts of events and transactions.

The problem is:  just how reliable are these documents?  How reliable were the notaries?  Spanish notaries in general apparently had pretty bad reputations, being skewered in the picaresque novels of the 16th century, right up until the beginning of the 19th.  So, Burns's work will give me a lens through which to view these St. Augustine notarial documents.

For leisure reading, I'm into a book I bought at the Clay County Library, on the sale books shelf.  It is Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine.  Even my leisure reading is often non-fiction, usually having to do with history.  This one is a corking good sea story.

The book is in two parts.  Part One tells the story of the creation and brief life of the submarine that probably inspired Jules Verne's fictional submarine the Nautilus, and which made naval history.  Unfortunately, it was a death trap.  It sank with all hands twice, and was raised and repaired each time.  In its final excursion, during which it embedded a torpedo in a Union ship's side and blew it up, ended with the little vessel being lost with all hands for over 100 years.

Part Two tells the story of the finding and recovery of the sub.  I have just finished Part One, so I haven't really got into Part Two yet.

Of course, I'm finding the leisure selection easier reading, but Into the Archive is well-written in clear prose, and the subject to me is fascinating.

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