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Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8

REVIEW OF NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST NOVEL

Devil’s Dream


Madison Smartt Bell


Pantheon books


$26.95



Reviewed by David Madden



April is poetry month. If “April is the cruelest month,” as T. S. Eliot said in his poem ‘The Wasteland,” it is appropriate that we observe April as also Civil War History Month. Edmund Wilson called the War a time of
“Patriotic Gore.”



When asked “Who was the war’s greatest general?” the great General Robert E. Lee declared, “A man I never met. Nathan Bedford Forrest was his name.” Union General Grant called him
“that devil Forrest.” General Sherman is said to have regarded him as “the most
remarkable man our civil war produced on either side.”



In almost every respect, General Forrest, who became infamous as the father of the Ku Klux Klan, was very different from General Lee, who became known as the saint of the Lost Cause.



In his 14th novel, Bell succeeds in humanizing Forrest by juxtaposing scenes from his pre-Civil War past with scenes from the more familiar legendary life. We listen to the dreaming devil eloquently butcher
the King’s English, court the woman who became his wife, torment himself with a
gambling addiction, torment his military superiors with his insistence on
autonomy, torment his enemy with impulsively unique tactics--charging when
expected to retreat—and amaze everyone with his energy and endurance, even when
wounded.



Soldiers on both sides called Forrest “The Wizard of the Saddle.” Bell imagines him in a supernatural dimension; because I have always imagined him as a force of nature on a mythic scale, that expressionistic
device strikes me as very well conceived.



Forrest’s multi-faceted life is a web of contradictions, which every one who encounters him experiences, including a young Haitian who comes to the states to foment a slave rebellion but who falls under Forrest’s
spell.



In spirit and in action the freest General in the war, Forrest had to wrestle with the paradox that he was a relatively kindly slave trader and owner who fought with extraordinary ferocity to keep slaves in
bondage.



That this Nashville author of a trilogy of novels about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian slave rebellion should steep his imagination, emotions, and intellect the task of rendering the most intimate
portrayal of Forrest’s unique life is eminently appropriate. That I now do not
have to write my own long-intended novel about Forrest is a tribute and a
blessing.


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Comment by Kathryn Magendie on May 31, 2010 at 4:18pm
Wonderful Review, David!

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