I have not been reading eBooks so much lately, mainly because my Kobo’s battery life has been decidedly dodgy of late. However, I still can’t resist all those freebies from Project Gutenberg, Smashwords and so on… I store what I find on my computer both in raw form in a file called “books” and in the library of the Calibre reader, which is very good especially for reference as the books are searchable, but despite Calibre’s interface being as good as can be I still don’t enjoy reading books on a computer screen.
That’s how Calibre looks on my computer, with the selected book in an eReader which can also appear as full screen. Of course you can also minimise the book index to reduce distraction.
Now and again – well, more often – something seems of genuine interest in the plethora of free titles, either new but free and self-published as on Smashwords, or out-of-copyright and out-of-print numbers on Gutenberg,
In the first group, and only just published, is this, which I will certainly browse: The Pioneer of Chinese American Education – Dr. Theodore Chen, by Wen-Hui Chen. On a blog his grandson writes:
My grandfather was an accomplished writer in addition to a public speaker. Many of his publications were considered leading edge in the 60′s, and consulted with Richard Nixon when he decided to create a detente between the US and China. I remember as a child reading the World Book encyclopedia, and seeing with pride my grandfather’s name for the articles for Taiwan and China.
As I was looking through my grandfather’s things after his death, I found a floppy disk, and it had a lot of information. One of them is a bibliography of all of his publications…
Followed by an impressive list.
An extract from the eBook:
On June 29, 1937, we left ShangHai and boarded the “President Hoover,” bound for America. Our tickets were for a second-class cabin. There were four beds in the cabin with an aisle leading to a small porthole from which we could see the ocean. We anticipated returning to China in two years, so we did not bring much luggage. A big suitcase and a small one were placed in the empty aisle. Children could still run around to play because the aisle was a few inches wider than the suitcase. There was a washbasin in the room. Anyone wanting a bath had to use the public bathroom.
Our biggest regret during the voyage was that our children couldn’t speak English; therefore they couldn’t play with the other children. So we started to speak English with our children. In Fuzhou, we always had nannies to take care of the children for us. Now we have to take care of them ourselves. Of course, we needed to get used to our new role. It could also be said that it made us feel too busy.
Breakfast and lunch were simple; the dinners were more formal. We ate breakfast and lunch with our children. As dinner time approached, we let children eat first and had them stay in the cabin. Then we put on better clothes to go to the dining room. The dining room settings were exquisite. Everything was very formal; sometimes a band played there. One evening we were having a quiet dinner. Ying came slowly down the stairway bare-footed and in her pajamas. She raised both hands high, each hand holding a little slipper. Teddy ran to her and carried her back to the cabin. We had brought a small white glazed iron pot for the children to use as a toilet. That night Ying defecated in the pot. Her sister asked her to find their mother to empty it. That was why she had come to look for us. It was a ridiculous scene, but we felt only love for the children. When we returned to the dining room, we told the story to the people at our table. They saw the humor in it. Someone said it was a pity that there was no movie camera to record this scene and preserve as a memento of the trip.
The boat stopped twice in Japan. Teddy had arranged ahead of time for his students to pick us up from the harbor to go sightseeing and eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant. We returned to the boat to sleep.
One morning after the boat left Hawaii, a small newspaper printed on the boat was inserted into our room through the mail slot in the door. Teddy picked it up and read it right away. I asked him what the news was. He said the Chinese-Japanese war had already broken out. I said, “That is nonsense.” Teddy liked to joke. Sometimes I did not know if he was telling the truth. That was the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. After the boat arrived in San Francisco, we went to buy newspapers right away. Chiang Kai-shek said we would resist to the final sacrifice. Now we would need complete national unity to resist the Japanese. In 1936, Chiang Kai-shek had said himself that all Chinese forces would be exhausted in a few days if we fought the Japanese. Although we were in America, our hearts were in China. Seeing the Japanese attack China with irresistible force and the Kuomintang army retreating in defeat again and again, our hearts hurt as though we’d been stabbed with a knife. Some Chinese who had been living in America for a long time even said that China should not fight. The best way was to cede territory to make peace…
Then some things, this time from Gutenberg, are just curiosities. Given my background I was drawn to:
IT hath been the chief stratagem of the adversaries of the Church, in all Ages, to erect a throne for themselves, in the hearts of people, by casting reproaches and slanders upon theDoctrine, Government, and Godly Ministers of Jesus Christ. In the old Testament, when the Jewes came first out of Babylon, and began to build the second Temple ofJerusalem, their enemies most falsly, and maliciously, suggested to King Artaxerxes, That the City of Jerusalem, was a rebellious City, and hurtful unto Kings and Provinces, and that they had moved sedition within the same, of old time, &c. And thereby caused the work of the house of God, to cease for many years. And in the New Testament, when the Holy Ghost came down from Heaven in a most miraculous manner, for the solemn inauguration of Christian Religion; and when the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, even then, they were charged to be full of new wine. And in after-times, the slanderous accusations of the Heathen Idolaters against the Christians, are observed to have been one of the chiefest causes of the ten bloudy Persecutions, raised up against them by the Romane Emperours. And this was that which forced the Godly-learned of those days, to write Apologies, in defence of Christians, and Christian Religion.
To come neerer to our own times; when the Protestant Religion began to be re-established (after the bloudy times of Queen Mary) it was loaded with so many infamous lyes, and malicious falsities…
Then did a Generation of men rise up, who made it their great design to pour out flouds of reproaches, and calumnies, upon both Government, and Ministers. First, they represent the Government unto the people, as absolutely destructive unto the civill State, to the liberties both of their soules and bodies, and as unsufferable in a free Kingdom. And then the Ministers that assert it, as men that seek to ingross all power into their own hands, as the chief Incendiaries of Church and State, and as the causes of all the miseries, that have of late years come upon the three Kingdoms.
And therefore, We, Ministers and Elders met together, by the Authority of Parliament, in the Provincial Assembly of the Province of London, considering with our selves, what way we might be serviceable in this great work of Reformation, have thought it our duties to wipe off those foul aspersions, that are cast upon it, and upon those who have been active for it; and to dispel the mists and fogs, which have so long darkened the glorious Sun-shine of this blessed Reformation…
Such ripe language, eh!
Finally we have:
THE PENALTY FOR KILLING A STAFF OFFICER.
Some of the Difficulties General Pershing Faces at the Front.
One man who fully appreciates the difficulties confronting General Pershing in France is Captain Leslie Vickers, the young minister-soldier who gave up his charge of an Englewood, N. J., church in order to be one of the first of the famous First Hundred Thousand soldiers raised by Great Britain. Captain Vickers, who was more than once wounded in battle, knows everything there is to be known about trenches and allied subjects, and he has incorporated a good deal of what he knows in a book, “Training for the Trenches” (Doran), another way in which he has contributed his bit towards the cause of democracy. Captain Vickers tells many good stories, but one of the best is that about the penalty for killing a staff officer. Here it is in his own words: “There are very few people who have any conception of the difficulties that are to be overcome before an army can be placed in the field. The task is stupendous and calls for the highest order of staff work. One of the difficulties of the British army in 1915 was that we had lost most of our trained staff men and had to rely on others who were not trained for that work. So that it sometimes happened that we were left woefully in the lurch. The Germans said of us after the Battle of Loos that ‘The British were an army of lions led by asses.’ In Gallipoli the joke was current that there was a regular scale of payments offered by the Turkish officers to their snipers who killed off our men. They were to be paid 5 shillings for every soldier, 10 shillings for every non-commissioned officer, and I pound for every officer. But if they shot a staff officer they were to be hanged for it! The greatest difficulty for the staff officer is to coordinate the various services. Not only have the troops to be fed, and clothed, and supplied with the various articles of equipment necessary for the trenches, but they have also to be supplied with medical services with all that that implies; with artillery, both guns and shells; with the services of the Engineers’ Corps, and the Aeroplane Corps; with transport and remounts, and a thousand other things which must all be supplied at the exact time and exact place where they are needed to make the attack successful. The task before General Pershing is to learn the conditions that he will have to meet in France and then to see to it that his staff thoroughly learns the part it is to play when the huge forces from this country begin to take their place on the battle line.
Vickers served in the Seaforth Highlanders. The book is dedicated to “Lieut. Gordon Alford, of the ‘ANZACS’ – a very gallant soldier, a boyhood friend, who made the Great Sacrifice on the Somme, August, Nineteen-Sixteen.”
You can find more about Vickers here. Apparently he was originally a British Subject – so were Australians of course – who was a pastor in New Jersey, but resigned in 1914 and served in a British cavalry regiment, transferring to the Seaforth Highlanders in 1915. He was wounded and invalided out just before the Battle of Loos, returning to the USA to publicise what conditions were like on the Western Front.