Top critical review
MacArthur bad, FDR good. But why?
Reviewed in the United States on October 3, 2020
I am writing this review after reading first few chapters so the final grade might change. So far the enjoyment is diminished by two factors: partisan anti-MacArthur attitude and what I would call history channelism - re-enactment style of history telling.
In regards to the former. I do not have enough knowledge of the subject to determine if MacArthur was or was not a dismal leader or strategist but I would expect the author of the book to provide me with relation of tengible facts that could allow me decide on my own, not some snippets tinged with personal dislike. Where MacArthur is surrounded by clique, Roosevelt is surrounded by group of navy friends. Where MacArthur is mopping his sweat wearing flight jacked like a great actor, cameras are merely turned off when Roosevelt has to be pushed on the wheelchair. When MacArthur provides wrong localization of some event in memories written many years after it is a proof of him being confabulator, when Roosevelt does the same it is just a simple mistake. I get it, author dislikes MacArthur and adores FDR, but after 80 pages my knowledge why I should also grade them this way did not increase a bit. For all I know, though on different positions, one public figure shared same vices as the other.
In regards to the latter issue, I am refering to author frequently describing what thoughts or feelings were going through this or that head. I do not know on what grounds author makes specific assumptions. For all I know they could be just as true as the Alexander's speech before the battle of Gaugamela.
Here is a problem. Initial chapters of this book are written like histories of Cesar, Suetonius. As a reader I have to constantly apply the apparatus of critical analysis in a similar way I would have done when analasing histories written thousands years ago in order ro get closer to the truth. The problem is that so far the book is missing the sophisticated language and engaging narrative of old masters and reading these first chapters is rather tiring.