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Robert E. Lee (Penguin Lives) [Hardcover]

By Roy Blount Jr. (Author)
Our Price $ 16.96  
Retail Value $ 19.95  
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Item Number 153637  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   61
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.78" Width: 5.42" Height: 0.82"
Weight:   0.69 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2003
Publisher   Viking Adult
ISBN  0670032204  
EAN  9780670032204  
UPC  051488019954  

Availability  0 units.

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Item Description...
A portrait of the Civil War leader delves into his family history and personality to reveal the human behind the general, documenting how the lessons he learned from his elders were applied on the battlefield. 30,000 first printing.

Publishers Description
Iconic Virginian, brilliant general, and complex human being-it is this last facet of Robert E. Lee that is rarely seen. But now Roy Blount, Jr. combines acute character insight with lively storytelling and a full-hearted Southern directness to craft this unique, personal portrait.

Fascinated by what made Lee into such a great, though reluctant, leader, Blount delves into his family history and his personality. He illustrates how, descended from two illustrious families, Lee embodied the best of all their traits and became Lincoln's first choice to lead the Union troops in 1861. But Lee's Virginia roots drew him, instead, to the Confederate command. Blount vividly conveys not only his ambition and courage but also his humility and humor, and his sorrowful sense of responsibility for his outnumbered, outgunned, half-starved army. Robert E. Lee, the first succinct biography of this American legend, will appeal to history and military buffs, proud Southerners, and every reader curious to dis-cover the man behind the military leader.

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More About Roy Blount Jr.

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Roy Blount Jr.'s recent books include the memoir "Be Sweet" and "Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor".

Roy Blount currently resides in New York City, in the state of New York.

Roy Blount has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Library Classics (Paperback)

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
No complaints  Feb 6, 2008
Obviously, to get a REALLY good idea of who someone was, one must read more than one biography, but Roy Blount, Jr.'s "Robert E. Lee: A Life" is a pretty good start for anyone who has slight trouble wading through the heavy stuff. It keeps a lighthearted air while still managing to be extremely informative. I learned some little things about Lee, which I hadn't heard anywhere else before, and it was presented in such an enjoyable fashion. I already have two people asking to borrow this book, and I'm confident that they will come out of it with no complaints, just as I have. Enjoy. There's no way you can regret this purchase.
General Lee suffers yet another crushing defeat  Nov 10, 2006
This book fails Gen. Robert E. Lee.

It's noble in intent and confused in reality; like the Confederate army, half of which deserted, it greatly misses its full potential; like Lee's ability to overawe Northern generals, the topic seems to have overawed Blount; and like the Confederacy itself, it's a sadly flawed effort in defence of a doomed cause. In other words, it's a fitting portrayal of the Slave-ocracy itself, all smoke and mirrors and little substance. People who live off the labour of others are rarely noble, decent, competent or useful; that is why the Confederacy failed, not due to the shortcomings of General Lee or any of his soldiers.

Again and again, Blount approaches fatal flaws in Lee's character and comes away uninspired; he writes "Lee was a great defensive general but on offense he got away with murder." It's an astute assessment. But he doesn't suggest the outcome had Lee fought a solely defensive war instead of wasting his best troops in futile attacks.

Even his assessment of Lee as a "great defensive general" can be questioned. At the start of his long retreat to Appomattox Courthouse, Lee had 64,000 troops. He inflicted 63,000 casualties on Union forces; but, at Appomattox, his army was less than 10,000. Lee lost 53,000 men, or 83 percent of his army. Had the Germans lost the same proportion in Normandy in 1944, World War II would have ended by Thanksgiving.

Blount touches major issues again and again, then retreats without a single thought. He spends more time psychobabbling about Lee's shoe size, a 4 1/2 C, than discussing Gettysburg. Surely, in a 206-page book about one of the great flawed figures of American history, there is more intellectual depth than to report, "We have no evidence that Lee and his wife, Mary, ever massaged each other's feet."

"No one has ascribed any psychological significance to this socks fixation," Blount writes later about Lee's complaint that his wife sent only 64 pairs of socks, instead of 67 pairs. Although his soldiers often subsisted on mule meat and green corn, Blount can't find any psychobabble to explain Lee's order to have a soldier at Antietam shot for carrying a "stolen" pig. But he explains in great detail Lee's murder of a Canadian "snake" early in his career.

When it comes to pure babble, Blount says Lee's joining the Confederacy "is one of the most famous American decisions." So, he compares it to the purely fictional decision by Huck Finn to help Jim, a runaway slave, to escape. Such insight is surely equivalent to saying Roosevelt's action after Pearl Harbour was inspired by Superman's decision to save Gotham. This is history? Or is it Blount's sense of humour, testing the acumen of readers hoping for anything more serious.

Having wrapped up Lee's life in 163 pages, perhaps the strangest element is three Appendix afterthoughts that fill up the otherwise blank space from page 165 to the end. Maybe those pages should have been left blank for readers to fill in their own notes, observations and ideas. Or he could have psychobabbled about 'General Lee', the Dukes of Hazard car.

Regardless of anyone's opinion of him, Lee deserves better.

-----Disappointing-----  May 24, 2006
I came away from this biography of Robert E. Lee feeling that the author didn't like his subject very much. It was almost like he wanted to prove that General Lee was just another man with more than his share of faults. He kept trying to pick Lee's personality apart and gave meaning to every gesture and casual comment that Lee had ever made. I felt that the historic facts in this book seemed accurate as far as I could remember from other things that I had read, but I also felt that there was not enough information given to substantiate some of the negative comments. He painted Lee as somewhat of a flirt, ignoring his wife, and being a cold and indifferent father to his children.

If you want to read about General Lee, there are better biographies available.

General Lee (The Man, Not The Car)  Sep 13, 2005
In the pantheon of American history, few figures are as elusive and unknowable as Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia and the principal Confederate military leader in the Civil War. To try and encapsulate his life into one small, concise little book is pretty much impossible, but Roy Blount Jr. tries his best. And for that, he is to be applauded.

Over the course of less than 200 pages, Blount examines Lee's life from his troubled past (Light-Horse Harry Lee, his Revolutionary War hero of a father, abandons the family and leaves his mother to raise their children), to his early military career (including brave missions for Winfield Scott during the Mexican-American War), up through his Civil War generalship and subsequent retirement to a small college to live out his last years. And Blount does it with the charm and wit that make him one of America's (and the South's) most treasured writers.

Robert E. Lee, more a marble giant than a man in most other biographers' attempts, is fleshed out by Blount as a stoic, almost Calvinist man with some unusual attributes that make him more attractive than before. Blount does not try to apologize for Lee's decision to side with his state over the Federal Government, he also tries to illuminate Lee's human side with interactions with his children and various ladies other than his wife over the course of his life. The Robert E. Lee that emerges is a man who had a hard life, with little hope for more than a passing whiff of happiness, who saw his duty to his state and his class overreaching that of the nation he served so gallantly before. And he paid the price for that in the end.

Blount is at his best when describing Lee's human side (such as his flirtations with other women, his relationships with his children, his care of pupils while in charge of West Point), and also in showing that Lee's military record during the Civil War was less than perfect. Indeed, the book focuses on what Blount calls Lee's "instinctive" generalship and how his inability to communicate with his subordinates cost him victory at Gettysburg. Lee's war is not a success in the end, but his image as a fatherly leader of his men helps to cement the postwar elevation to Godlike status among the defeated Southerners who clung to the ideals of the Confederacy.

Robert E. Lee is too complex a figure to be summed up in the space of 200 pages, but what Blount does is provide a quick survey of his life and infuse it with enough detail to make for a great brief appreciation. In appendices to the main book, Blount also discusses Lee's humor (his fondness for a certain, almost obscene phrase a highlight) and his attitudes to slavery (Lee was sadly a product of his times, no matter how "kind" he may have been to his own slaves). Blount, a southerner himself, takes pains to show Lee in real terms, not as the demigod he has been promoted to in the wake of postwar nostalgia. Robert E. Lee was not an easy man to know, and Blount makes no attempt to act as if his is the "definitive" study. But through clever and interesting sidetracks into Lee's personality, Blount comes as close as anyone yet to getting a handle on the man behind the curtain, the real Robert E. Lee and not the myth.

Roy Blount Jr., through the auspices of Penguin's Brief Lives series, gives us a portrait of Robert E. Lee than transcends the myth and looks at the facts behind the myth. The result is a man that emerges as a troubled and complicated leader of men whose failings had as much to do with his legend as his successes. Blount makes Lee human, something that other more esteemed historians seem to miss. For that, he should be commended. The Marble Giant comes alive, however briefly, and fans and detractors alike can find something to treasure in Roy Blount's honest appraisal of his life and times.
Too quirky for me  May 14, 2005
I like the Penquin series of short biographies but this one was too much of a strange psychohistory. As other reviewers have pointed out, author Roy Blount seems to have a need to go into details 9at fairly great legnth) such as Lee's small feet and that he liked to play games with his children where they tickled his feet. First of all, I knew this because as a Civil way buff, I have read a lot about Lee so I come across such material. However, someone who knows less about Lee who is reading a very short biography would want to know more substance and less psycho nonsense in those few pages.

There is not a lot of military history but, then again, this is a short book. Still, military history is basic to an initial understanding of Lee, therefore, perhaps Blount should have been more carefully in allocating scarce page space in this short book. In general, I have enjoyed reading short biographies of historical figures I am familiar with. I have read several biographies of Grant, for example, and I found two short biographies to be worthwhile in that in the few pages, they added insights. I suppose this book is OK for someone who knows nothing about Lee but it would be better to include more of the military and political facts. However, I found that it didn't really add much to my personal understanding of Lee.

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