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Where is here? Whereever we looked last

  • Jul 2, 2013
Rating:
+5
The old saying that you always find a lost item in the last place you look is of course an obvious truth--once you've found the thing, you stop looking.  Bug it also conveys the notion that we usually don't find lost things in the first place we look either, even if the lost object is right under our noses.  There is a mental as well as a physical element of finding lost things, and sometimes we can't find things even though we are looking right at them (or through them, if you have ever looked for the lost glasses you were wearing!).


So when Andrew Carroll set off in search of lost things in American history he found some of each:  places that had truly disappeared because no one had remembered to mark or commemorate them, and some that no one wanted to remember even though they were hiding in plain view.  While this is no dull history survey or travelogue of boring roadside attractions (far from that!) Carroll does a good job of pausing along his journey and pondering (and asking) why these sites are not honored.  As he admits in his planning and in his afterword, both his writing style and planning were somewhat peripatetic, but in this collection it makes sense and adds to the sense of adventure as the reader never knows what may lie around the corner and how it may relate to where we are know, both on the map and in the book.

He begins at the far edge of the map at the most remote island in the Hawaiian chain, which also happens to be the largest privately owned island in the world, and the place where a Japanese pilot crash landed on December 7, 1941--after dropping his bombs on Pearl Harbor.  And the place where the island's owners and workers kept the pilot captive--until two workers of Japanese decent helped him escape.  The attempt failed, but the behavior of the Japanese workers was cited in later decisions to confiscate Japanese-American property and imprison these citizens  on the US mainland.  Carroll effortlessly shows us the interest of the event, why it matters, and why we might choose not to commemorate it. 

The book is full of connections like this.   Carroll organizes his sites into rough groupings (exploring America, exploiting the land, landmark lawsuits, technology and invention, medical cures and malpractices, and burial plots) and connects them within but also across the groups.  None of this is boring, in fact it is fun and compelling reading as Carroll weaves together his preparatory research, his onsite adventures, and his own observations and asides into a truly page-turning account.  While I am a sucker for this kind of writing, I find it likely that even the least. interested reader would get sucked in just like I did.  In fact, this is the kind of writing that if used in the high school or college classroom would make history exciting for students against their own best intentions!

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July 07, 2013
Thanks for sharing!
 
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About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #43
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Wiki

Q&A with Andrew Carroll

Brad Meltzer, author of eleven New York Times bestsellers (including The Inner Circle, published January 2013) and host of the critically acclaimed History Channel series Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, talks to Andrew Carroll about his new book Here Is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History.

BRAD: To start, the whole premise of your book is about finding places that are historically significant yet somehow overlooked. Love that. So let me ask: If they’re forgotten and unmarked, how did you locate them?

ANDREW: I’m constantly reading a ton of books and newspapers, and I subscribe to about thirty magazines—

BM: Thirty?

AC: Maybe more, and on a wide range of topics—travel, archaeology, current events, science, history, you name it—and I’m always on the lookout for great, little-known stories. When I stumble onto one, I trace it back to a relevant physical spot to see if it’s unmarked. For example, when I read that television was essentially invented by a fourteen-year-old farm boy named Philo Farnsworth in Rigby, Idaho, I immediately began searching for the farm where he had his epiphany. Sure enough, there was no plaque or marker there, and it became one of the locations I wrote about.

BM: You mention in Here Is Where that you hated history growing up. Shame, shame. And what changed your mind?

AC: I know, it’s terrible. But I was very intimidated by history at first. ...

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