One site I visited regularly is Dimitri Rotov's"Civil War Bookshelf." I actually was first exposed to Dimitri through his archived interview on Civil War Talk Radio and not through his blog. I was intrigued by his thoughts on Civil War writing and scholarship, his opinions of the likes of James McPherson and Stephen Sears, and his interesting comments on his hero - George McClellan. Indeed, for the first time, I re-considered my own opinion of the much-maligned general.
I became a regular reader of his blog...unfortunately, the more I visited it and read it, the less seriously I took his opinions. Among his more recent statements, this one seems to summarize best his modus operandi:
"October 4, 2007 - "Living in Ohio's World" - "The baiting style of the Usenet troll has leaked into Civil War literature with this month's release of Blood, Tears & Glory: How Ohioans Won the Civil War. Looks like 604 pages (!) of mischief."
Has he read the book? No. And yet he has an opinion to offer?
I have read Eric Wittenberg tear a piece of "scholarship" apart from one end to another. That's fine. He did it after he read the book or article and he supports his criticism with facts and an estimable body of work of his own. Andrew Waggenhoffer alerts us to forthcoming books and provides excellent and honest appraisals in reviews on his blog and in print...after he has read the book.
This is not the first time Dimitri Rotov has "reviewed" a book without reading it. As aggravating to me are his regular slights of public history events and narrative history.
Dimitri has often decried narrative history and the state of Civil War scholarship in his posts. He protests that we - the author community - are not writing the books he wants to read. I'm sure it's fun to be "The Critic." It's also pretty darn easy. What is hard is to actually produce - through research, writing, and finding a publisher - a work of scholarship that others actually do find interesting. From what I can tell, Dimitri has confined his contributions to throwing bombs at other people's work without producing his own. It's also interesting that his is one of the few blogs that doesn't allow for comments.
Pithy comments are fine. I like "pithy" - thus the fact that two of my favorite Muppet characters - Waldorf and Statler - are featured in this post. Dimitri can be pithy...what I won't abide are mean-spirited and unwarranted attacks.
Will I continue to visit his blog? Sure. He's a frequent and committed blogger who often has links to interesting stories. Will I take seriously his comments on authors and forthcoming works? Hardly.