Ashes in the Wind


Kristin Devine

Kristin is a geek, a libertarian, and a domestic goddess. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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84 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The whole War of Treason in Defense of Slavery angle is off-putting.Report

    • Wow, thanks for the heads up. I was completely unaware!

      They so rarely let me out without my keepers I miss these things.

      Seriously though, it’s a problematic book. Acknowledged. What can we learn from it, if anything? Anything in there worthy of rumination or discussion? I thought that maybe there was.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Its interesting how we view history.

      I can view the Roman Empire or Elizabethan England with detached indifference, and enjoy romances and dramas set in those periods without feeling the need to pass judgement on their respective horrors and injustices.
      And once upon a time, I could do the same for the Confederacy.

      But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that the Confederacy isn’t even a part of our past. Its still here with us, living and breathing. I’ve met too many people who earnestly support it, or whitewash it, or embrace its underlying meaning and worldview.

      It still has a menace to it, and still needs constant active opposition. So yeah, Treason In Defense Of Slavery it is.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        No, most of the remnants of the Confederacy died back in the early 2000’s when the South finally went solidly for Lincoln’s party. Sure, you have a few hold-outs, like the current (as of noon today) governor of Virginia, sitting there in Richmond, probably at Jefferson Davis’s old desk, but not since 2016 has his party fielded a presidential candidate that praised the nobility of a Grand Kleagle. Assuming they don’t do that again in 2020, I think we can finally write the Confederacy off as dead.

        But who knows. Like the Roman empire, it could come back at any moment. That’s why I’m always on edge at Olive Garden, acutely aware that the servers could band together into a legion, bring out an eagle standard, and start slashing us all to pieces as they scream (in their ominous Italian accents) “Carthage delenda est!” Stay on guard. Always stay on guard.

        As for Union partriots, I enjoyed Rebels in Blue: The Story of Keith and Melinda Blalock. Not only were they a married couple who fought in the war, they are the only married couple who served in both armies. Both were wounded numerous times. Melinda got kicked out of the Confederate army after she got wounded skirmishing against Yankees and a doctor discovered that she had another underlying medical condition, incorrect plumbing. She ended up leading union cavalry, along with her husband.

        It’s not a romance, but it would make a great movie.Report

        • Avatar bookdragon in reply to George Turner says:

          Actually someone wrote a good historical fiction based, that’s also part ghost story, on the Blalocks.

          Ghost Riders

          It is a hauntingly good book that’s nearly a ballad. And it also explores the way the echoes of the Civil War still haunt the present.

          No movie version of it, but the audio won an Audie Award for Best Multi-voiced Narration.Report

      • There are many posts on this site and others about how awful, horrible, unjust, disgusting, disturbing that period of American history is, and how the legacy of the Civil War still affects us today.

        Rightfully so.

        I read a book when I was twelve. I liked it at the time. I now know that there are many things in it that are gross and wrong. Obviously. Others have already talked about those issues at length, certainly far more eloquently than I ever could. Doesn’t make much sense for me to reinvent the wheel and discuss things that others have already discussed with more skill and knowledge than I have.

        IMO there are some other elements in this book are interesting, informative, worth of examination. Those things I can talk about. I have some insight there. It’s something unique I can bring to the site. Thus, I focus on what I can do rather than trying to imitate things everyone else is already doing or has done a million times already.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        These books almost always come across as apologia for the Confederates.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’ve always assumed that the Confederacy had an allure for American romance novelists because its the closest you can get to a landed nobility in the United States. This means that the daughter of a Plantation owner is about as close to a spirited noblewoman. There is the possibility of using the very wealthy families of the Gilded Age, something like the Vanderbilts, but those families never managed to etch themselves into the American imagination like the Plantation owners. It helps that a lot of romance writers appear to be Southern and had sympathies in a certain direction.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Ah, Paula Abdul. She and Jerry Seinfeld, through his mother, are the contribution of the Syrian Jewish community to American pop culture.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The technical term for the language used in this book is purple prose, overly elaborate language used to establish a sense of grandeur. It is not considered a good writing technique by most literary authors.Report

    • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I am aware of what purple prose is, and I did not find the writing in this book to qualify. It was simply enjoyable descriptive writing and added to the book rather than detracted from it.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I agree that the excerpt about the riverboat is not purple prose. It could be improved, according to the dictates of modern literary fashion, by being tightened up a bit. By way of example,

        It wallowed ever closer until it cautiously nudged against the low quay

        doesn’t really need that “cautiously” and would be better without it. This is some combination of the style of the era and the absence of aggressive editing.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I was struck by the quote from Twilight:

      It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect cloudless blue.

      That is good, economical writing. One shortish sentence and I have a vivid picture in my head of what the day was like. It probably helps that I have spent enough time in Phoenix that I contrast this day with many other, less congenial days. This sentence would not be so vivid if I had no experience with, or at least mental image of Phoenix when it is 110 degrees. But still, that is good writing. If I believed for a moment that it was typical of the book, I might seek it out.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        Presumably it’s a really deep blue, because it’s a half hour after sunrise if it’s only 75….

        But yeah, Meyer has better prose than James, who was basically a “Twilight” fanfic writer who won the lottery. And she doesn’t make basic mistakes like confusing the Vancouver north of Seattle with the Vancouver south of Seattle, as James notoriously did in “50 Shades”.Report

      • Avatar atomickristin in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        I like words. I enjoy them. Reading them and using them is pretty much my fave thing ever. I know I should never admit such a thing but I sometimes find a sparse writing style less enjoyable and lust after excess adverbs. But mostly I was just having some fun there illustrating the difference in writing style between the three books.

        The Twilight books are not exactly Hemingway. I’d say more choppy and barely adequate much of the time. I do like them even though I have fun criticizing them sometimes. I like flowery writing too. Room in my world for both. Thanks for reading and commenting!Report

  4. She was born Kathleen Erin Hogg, making her one of the few people in America for whom Woodiwiss was an improvement.Report

  5. Avatar Pinky says:

    After your assessment of 50 Shades, I was expecting you to write about the literary quality of a cigarette warning label.

    I don’t think I agree with you about politics and relationships. The percentage of ardent believers is pretty small. Many people vote 90% for a party that they 60% agree with. Many others don’t vote. The kind of witch-huntery that we see on Twitter has historically come and gone – social media may be making the current round more intense, but this kind of mentality is rarely sustainable.

    I’m a pretty political guy, but I could easily see myself marrying someone of a different party, or a different ideology. Not a different religion, though. And that’s what keeps me from rejecting your position completely. I suspect that a lot of what we see as political or cultural disagreement is really religious at heart, or so deeply philosophical that it functions as religious.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

      I suspect that a lot of what we see as political or cultural disagreement is really religious at heart, or so deeply philosophical that it functions as religious.

      Good insight.

      Standing on the bones of the old religion, looking at the new, I sometimes wonder “we killed God for *THIS*?”Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

      I suspect that a lot of what we see as political or cultural disagreement is really religious at heart, or so deeply philosophical that it functions as religious.

      I have my own views on this topic, which I’d be very happy to argue with you once you post a front page essay elaborating on this topic. 🙂

      (More seriously, one thing that always perplexes me about (scare quotes) Our Current Conversation on these topics is that while liberal-types seem to be very upfront and clear about how they view this stuff conservatives believe they always have a “secret agenda” beyond the actual words they write, while conservatives often hold this stuff very close to their chests which inclines liberal-types to think they have a secret agenda. Rinse, repeat. Time to break that cycle. ))Report

      • Funny, because I think the exact opposite. Guess that’s part of the overall disconnect.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kristin Devine says:

          Well, my point was *supposed* to be that each side thinks the other has a secret agenda, and why that is, and how to break that cycle. If you think the opposite of that then tell me where I’m wrong in believing it’s the case.

          As a data-point, I remember (just like it was yesterday…) Tom Van Dyke telling the OT community that he didn’t need to be told how and why liberals view the world as they do since it’s in his face everyday. Yet here’s Pinky holding a view which sounds very interesting, especially coming from a trad-con*, and he’s obviously intelligent and articulate enough to present in a compelling and coherent way.

          *No offense meant!Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kristin Devine says:

          As a second data-point, I recall *you* making the argument here at the OT that rural conservatives are misunderstood and need an advocate to express their views (or something to that effect).Report

          • There’s a difference between being misunderstood due to a secret agenda one is squirreling away close to their chests, and being misunderstood because certain parties are so convinced of their narrative that they see entire groups of people as cartoonish bad guys rather than human beings.

            But, I appreciate your clarification and now see what you were actually saying in your post. Thanks.

            I don’t care to get into it beyond that because as I’ve said in the past, it feels like a pointless endeavor to do so on this site.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kristin Devine says:

              Fair enough.

              {{But the request was for Pinky to write the post, not you.}}Report

              • I understand, of course, but then you replied to my comment (which of course I’d replied to yours first) thus I felt prompted to respond when you said “tell me where I’m wrong”. I’d rather not.

                Also, breaking news at Eleven – how many angels CAN dance on the head of a pin? We’ll investigate!Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kristin Devine says:

                I felt prompted to respond when you said “tell me where I’m wrong”. I’d rather not.

                And as I said upthread “fair enough”.

                Do you wanna keep going with this?Report

              • Well, yeah, I guess I do, because then I jokingly and self-deprecatingly added a little joke that I was probably overexplaining.

                When I feel someone has misunderstood me, I clarify. Not because I’m trying to be argumentative (most of the time).

                Thanks for reading my piece.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kristin Devine says:

                Fair enough.Report

              • Pedant alert:

                how many angels CAN dance on the head of a pin?

                That’s actually an easy one. Angels have the property of position (you can tell where they are) but not the property of extension (they don’t take up space.) So the answer is “all of them”. This has the nice feature of remaining true if angels don’t exist.

                It was never a serious question; it was at most an opportunity to practice applying pure reasoning without polluting it with “common sense” the same way mathematics does. It may even have begun as a pun (needle’s point needless point.)Report

              • I’ve always been a sucker for pedantic.

                My real question is, would you rather fight 100 pin sized angels, or one angel sized pin.Report

    • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to Pinky says:

      I’m like Mulder here – I want to believe. I really do. I’m a hopeless romantic, I like both conservatives and liberals (truly like, not just saying that) and I think very few differences are unbridgeable.

      But I feel like politics has permeated everything to such extent that it’s really gotten tough to get away from it. I suspect you and I are simpatico in viewing what many deem political differences as actually religious/philosophical in nature, hence the absolute dogmatism many ascribe to.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I want to believe. I really do. I’m a hopeless romantic, I like both conservatives and liberals (truly like, not just saying that) and I think very few differences are unbridgeable.

        Do you think conservatives will ever accept me?

        I don’t think they will. Hating me seems fundamental to conservatism.Report

        • Avatar atomickristin in reply to veronica d says:

          I know you don’t need my acceptance but I do accept you.

          Conservatives are a large bloc of people who have all different viewpoints on many different subjects. Absolutely there’s some hatred, and unfortunately those are often the loudest mouths shouting. There’s more acceptance (and by far less hatred) than it seems.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to atomickristin says:

            Fair enough, but this is more than cultural. It is also political, and in fact involves issues of law. It is the Republicans who actively seek to oppose laws that trans people need, and in fact who work to pass laws that can, in effect, make our lives unlivable.

            Why do the Republicans do this? What motivates them?

            I suspect it is because there is that much hate.

            In theory we can all just “get along,” but bigotry is more than a few rude jerks. It is a matter of large, politically powerful institutions trying to dehumanize and destroy us.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

      I didn’t mean anything too profound or provocative, really. I guess I was referring to two things, one personal and one general. The former is that I’ve never really been able to grasp the distinction people make between theology and philosophy. I’ve rarely been reading something and seen it as 100% in one category or the other. I can sometimes grasp what people mean by one or the other, but if I look too hard, it ends up blurring. The second thing I was considering is that I can’t understand how someone could be a Catholic and a Democrat, and I’m fully aware that some Catholic Democrats would have the mirror image thought.

      As for Stillwater and Kristin’s exchange, I think there’s always a problem online that’s one of those fallacies of composition. I can’t explain it well, but I can give an example. In the abortion debate, there are plenty of people who are generally pro-choice with restrictions, pro-life with exceptions. They’d be open to legislation they consider reasonable. There are people who would support legislation that would advance one side of the agenda because they want to see things move more in one direction or the other. And there are people who would support legislation as a first step toward 100% victory. It’s nearly impossible to tell which sort of person you’re talking to online – the individual himself may not even know which category he fits it best. And it’s nearly impossible to carry on an open forum discussion without talking to people from all those categories.

      The net effect is that They seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouths. Do They want Obamacare in bad faith, knowing that it’ll blow up and we’ll end up with single payer? A couple of them do. Some of them want Obamacare, some of them want single-payer but will settle for Obamacare because they think it’ll work, and some of them just want something different and don’t trust the Republicans. Do They really want to close the gun show loophole because they know it’ll lead to gun registries and eventual confiscation? Do They really support voter ID’s because they’re racist, and do the other Theys really oppose voter ID’s because they like voter fraud?

      For my part, I’m going to assume that my most banal statements are provocative because of the genius of the writer, not that of the reader.Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    I think SO people can see past the things that divide us. Some cannot or will not. That’s fine. Just as there are some women who are attractive to me but have a personality that would have me run screaming to “break up city”, there are many variables that make compatibility difficult.

    Folks who tend to live in a political bubble and don’t get out much from it usually are the worst for compatibility. They think everyone thinks like themselves and has the same views, unless they live in “reprobate land” like the rural states or Texas. It’s the same reason some political victories come as a surprise to journalists and tv news reporters…they live in that bubble.Report

    • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to Damon says:

      You’re right, there are many variables that come into play and most of the people on earth are not the type of people who are like “Stop eating quinoa for Jesus”.

      I hope anyway. It would be nice if that world was the real world and not the online world.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        okay, that phrase made me laugh because back in the 80s it was somewhat common among my peers when discussing politics to explain our positions by saying “I’m a Republican, but not a ‘Kill the gay baby whales for Jesus’ Republican.”

        I think on the whole most people can get along with, even fall in love with, people from different cultural or political backgrounds. Pinky said he couldn’t imagine marrying someone from a different religion, but I did just that and have been quite happy with him for almost 30 years now. I main thing, imo, is that you share the same values. We can have different ideas of who God is, or what God looks like, but we agree 90% of the time on what it means to love and serve God, and be a good person.

        So, in terms of your romance here, I could see a Yankee and Confederate falling in love. But not a serious Abolitionist falling for a hardcore pro-slavery Confederate who insisted that blacks weren’t even fully human. I think that’s the political today divide too. I can be friends with someone who’s anti-abortion, but not someone so anti-abortion that they insist it’s better to let women die if there’s any chance at all that the fetus could live. And if you cry a river over ‘murdered babies’ but think giving poor kids access to healthcare is some evil godless socialist plot, well…. we can probably talk amiably about dogs or the weather, but that’s not someone I’m generally going to look for reasons to hang out with.Report

  7. Avatar JoeSal says:

    Excellent post, i enjoyed the outright honest parts the most.Report

  8. Avatar Maribou says:

    ” Most people in 1863 – rich, poor, city, country, Union, Confederate, Gray, Blue – lived pretty similar lives.”

    See, I just don’t think that’s true. Even setting aside the things you decided to set aside for this piece (a choice I disagree with profoundly, and I would have been a lot *more* interested in a piece where you struggled with those things in the context of what is also good about the book, which isn’t to say I’m not interested in this one, ’cause I am)…. even setting them aside, or rather pretending to ’cause for me I can’t just set them aside, I just don’t think it’s true.

    I can look back to my own ancestors who were living at that time and their lives were, from as objective and historical a viewpoint as I can muster, of very different difficulty levels. Even say, “their lives were of very different difficulty levels,” *within couples* and yet they found ways to love each other and be with each other (as far as I can objectively tell) across that very sharp divide.

    Well, I mean, some of them did. Some of them suffered greatly at the hands of each other, since spousal abuse and other forms of violence were as endemic in my family as they were continent-wide around the time of the Civil War. Maybe a titch more so, even.

    But some of them came from lives that had very very different arcs, very very different safety levels, and yet they appear to have figured stuff out.

    I don’t think it’s so simple as a lost thing we don’t have now, that people did have then, because things are easier now or we’re less humane or less able to see others as like us (even within the limited scope of others that you included for this piece). I don’t think *you* necessarily think any of that either, but it’s hard not to get that impression from reading this piece.Report

    • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to Maribou says:

      Ok. Thank you, that’s very helpful.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

      This isn’t a disagreement at all but merely a quote that I happened to stumble across immediately after writing my comment, that it seems you and other long-married folks on this site might find as interesting as I do:

      “The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet”

      Part of me is like PREACH IT DUDE EXACTLY and part of me is like “marriage is for looking after people and this is the most individualist anti-child-raising thing I have ever read”.

      But most of me is the first thing and also doesn’t think it’s necessarily anti-child-raising at all – who more than a parent needs a trustworthy guardian of their solitude?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

        I don ‘t comment on your comments often enough, but they usually really blow me away, Maribou. Most prominently in the sense that in the moment I’m unable to comment on them.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Stillwater says:

          @stillwater I can have that effect on people.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

            I don’t know if you’re serious, but I am.

            Life comes at you fast, but Maribou’s comments take time to digest.

            Add: just to know I’m serious about this I could throw in some shots at JB if you’d like. Just to make the evidentiary case, as it were.


            • Avatar Maribou in reply to Stillwater says:

              @Stillwater That was me being as honest in my response as possible.

              I realize this doesn’t really clear things up.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

                I get that, on both vectors of our discussion.

                Really, I do.I just want to emphasize the complexity of the comments you offer, and how they take a bit of time to process. But I’m not kidding when I say say that you’ve made all of us regular OT commenters better people. Online people, anyway.Report

      • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to Maribou says:

        I don’t find that to be anti-child rearing at all. In fact quite the opposite.

        Children need a lot from a person, much of it is invasive both of one’s personal space and their mental inner sanctum, and it would lovely to have someone guard your solitude now and then.

        Very nice, thank you.Report

  9. Avatar mike shupp says:

    Kristin —

    If you’re taking requests … I’d much enjoy your take on THE HUNGER GAMES and Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT series. And, if your interests swing that way, Susan George’s Inspector Lynley & Barbara Havers mysteries.

    Much grass!Report