This post will be the self-indulgent celebration of the bloguiste’s recently achieved swook. The reader can take it or leave it.
Note the date. One of many great features of this edition is its patriotic character, reflected in the fine introduction by Clifton Fadiman and even more tellingly in its end-paper maps, which show in stark comparison the advance of Napoleon to Moscow in 1812 with the advance of the German army to its furthest point on November 27, 1941. Think "Stalingrad". If we take the starting point of Napoleon’s campaign as Köningsberg in Prussia his army had to march—always on its stomach, remember, which is very like the Australian crawl—780 miles each way! But of course he had to get to East Prussia from Paris in the first place, which would have added another 1053 outward miles to his trip. In other words I long ago outdistanced Marshal Ney.
All of this is vaguely relevant, because the last chapter of my book is about Napoleon—sort of. It is entitled “Did Napoleon Exist?” My contract does not allow me to reveal trade secrets in an uncopyrighted format, so that I am forbidden to reveal the answer in this venue. You will have to read my book to find out. I will point out, however, that the opening scene in War and Peace is a cocktail party in Saint Petersburg in 1805 in which certain characters are discussing whether on not Napoleon is the Antichrist. I shall further note that the entire round trip distance between Paris and Moscow is three thousand, six hundred and sixty-six miles! Need I say more? Let history judge.
For all its exhilaration an achieved swook does bring with it its own anxieties. What next? Alexander could weep for the want of new worlds to conquer. My problem is of a different sort. A septuagenarian standing before the pier in Redondo Beach has to wonder whether, at a rate of roughly three hundred miles a year, there is much likelihood of ever getting back home. However, I am planning a slightly more northerly route, beginning at the point where the California-Oregon line hits the coast and swimming eastward along the 42nd parallel to Plymouth Bay.