This week, I looked at the other author I am following: historian, professor, and (recently) novelist Paul Ringel. I read an article of his on Smithsonian.com called “Turn-of-the-Century Kid’s Books Taught Wealthy, White Boys the Virtues of Playing Football,” an interesting title in-and-of itself. Just published last month, it is a theme that goes hand-in-hand with his book about children’s literature throughout time. While the topic was interesting (and made a political statement without compromising its historiographical integrity), the structure of the piece is one I have come to associate and identify with Ringel. A very logical format, it starts with an introduction to the main subject (in this article’s case, Walter Camp) and then starts at the beginning of the subject’s history as related to his argument (Camp’s publishing of books on football for young, elite white boys).
While this structure could be identified with almost any historian’s’ work, Ringel’s distinguishing factor is his ability to tell these stories with a narrative arc, even though there can be multiple years spanning between one paragraph and the next. And perhaps this is not unique to him as a historian and writer, but it makes for a more enjoyable read than historians who look at history with an unhelpful, rational, almost scientific view of the past. Ringel relates history to the present without compromising the subject matter and without being anachronistic, all the while moving the story along in an interesting and easy-to-follow manner.