Today I did something I rarely do – I asked for a refund on my last purchase on Amazon, a 7 bucks ebook I bought because I am interested in the topic but also because I am doing some research for my next writing project (contract signed – I am waiting for the advance … my bank is also waiting for the advance … and my insurance company … and my electricity provider).
So, considering this will be a fun project that could lead to more books being written in the series, I decided to check out what I could find on the main topics, to supplement my own collection.
And I immediately stumbled on this new (2018) Italian-language biography of one of the key historical characters – that happens to be Italian himself. I have a couple of bios already, but this one is really recent, and so I bought the ebook.
Fifteen pages in, I started having a few misgivings.
So OK, this is one of those bios that “read like a novel” – it starts in media res, and then fills in the gaps in flashback. Not very good from a note-taking and quick-reference point of view, but not particularly troublesome.
Much more troublesome is the fact that the first 15 pages are punctuated by what only looks like some sort of political agenda – and the author wastes precious space to explain that Italians are better than everybody else, and that our youths must learn to be adaptable and not “spoiled”.
This apparently is achieved by lowering standards while keeping national and personal pride up – do menial jobs because there is no qualified job available, but with pride and forward-thinking attitude. Don’t waste time on “excessive schooling” but keep learning from real life.
And other such rubbish, that would be out of place in a plain novel, and it is even more so in the bio of an adventurer in Napoleonic times.
I forced myself through the first three chapters, but at that point, the actual biographical facts were so thin, and intertwined with pure fictional material and that sort of populist propaganda, that I decided that I can spend my time better by reading a good novel, and I could spend my 7 bucks better by buying fantasy or science fiction.
And so I asked for a refund and got the ebook removed from my Kindle.
It’s not the first time I get this sort of agenda-oriented stuff in non-fiction books, but it was never so egregious, blatant and in poor taste.
A pity, becaiuse I really looked forward at reading about one of the most colorful characters of the early 19th century – I’ll just go back to an older, more traditional bio, or just re-read the gentleman’s own diaries from Internet Archive.