Now THIS is history, part 1.
Interlude: Simon's Cat.

Now THIS is history, part 2.

The other day a friend said to me, "Hey, did you know that Terry Jones [of Monty Python fame] has written a book on the Crusades?"

Crusades Well, I hadn't, but I immediately set about correcting that situation by requesting the book from the library. It's the companion to a BBC/A&E TV special (which I also want to see now) and it's a very, very readable account of the Crusades, and the Middle Ages by extension. It's not really funny, which you might expect from a Monty Python guy, because funny is hard to pull off where anything as senselessly tragic as the Crusades are involved, but it's definitely got style:

"During the battle a Norman eyewitness noticed that the Turks went into the attack with a distinctive war-cry: 'These Turks began, all at once, to howl and gabble and shout, saying with loud voices in their own language some devilish word which I do not understand.' Tancred's biographer, Radulph of Caen, explained that this 'devilish word' was "Allachibar,' that is, Allah al-Akhbar or 'God is great.' The two sides were hurling themselves into battle against each other, one side yelling 'God's will! God's will! God's will!' and the other 'God is great!' Both sides were addressing the same god. Neither could understand what the other was saying." (p. 49.)

In detailing the Crusades' leaders desire to amass land and booty, the author also subtly points out that love of money, perhaps even more so than love of God, had a little somethin' somethin' to do with these wars.

The book is great. But it was also fun picking it up from the library, where the check-out clerk got very excited when he saw it and said, "Hey, you're the second person to check this out this week, how interesting, I think now I have to request it!" It IS interesting that I was the second person to get it, since it's an oldish book (pub. date 1995). And I appreciated the clerk's telling me so, and we had a nice little chat about it, which I enjoyed. Evidently the library I go to now, as opposed to the library I worked for, doesn't have any stupid rule about clerks not talking to patrons about books. Can you believe I was ordered not to talk to people about any of the books they were checking out?* I know the reason for it; we weren't supposed to be prying. But I was always annoyed that my bosses thought my fellow circulation clerks and I were too brain-dead to know the difference between making a statement like, "So, I see you've been checking out a lot of divorce books, how's that working out for you?" and "Hey, a book by Terry Jones on the Crusades! Interesting! Let me know what you think of this, I'm considering getting it for myself."

And...end rant. Sorry about that. Clearly the no talky talky rule still rankles.

*Many librarians will disagree with me on this, citing that patrons have a right to privacy. I maintain that it was kind of a dumb rule, since when I sat at the reference desk (same library, different desk) I was supposedly allowed to talk about books to the patrons all I wanted. Which was weird, considering I was the same person regardless of which desk I was sitting at.