I Believe in Yesterday and it was less a book about reenacting than it was about a modern man’s failure to cope with the past as it is lived today. The first few chapters of Schroeder’s book were as bad as I feared, I had to drop the book twice before I got far enough in to if that the author started to find his reenactor footing, actually make connections with the folks he was spending time with and get over his culture shock. And his horrible over-use of personal description dependant on the reader knowing what pop culture celebs look like. Sorry Charlie, those of us who spend our time reenacting have limited patience for celebrity scandal of the week.
Because of his culture shock and lack of in-depth research before he started, Schroeder missed out on actually experiencing WWII and Civil War reenacting as most people experience it, but those are just the big ones that everyone does, right? He did seem to find his footing with Romans, and 18th Century reenacting, met some cool people, got hooked on history. But it was not until the final quarter of the book that I felt like Schroeder might actually be saying something about reenacting. He had finally gotten beyond saggy loaner breeches and firing weapons that could just as easily kill the person shooting as those on the other end.
The book’s premise is an incredibly artificial one, reenactors do not hop from one end of the country to the other trying a little of this and a little of that. They spend lifetimes researching, preparing, crafting, traveling and finally experiencing history. Yes, we all have loaner garb and love to have folks dress in our stuff, but usually it is with the hope that they will get hooked and want to get up their own kit and join in. Schroeder actually does get his own kit, persona, and timeperiod in the final chapter, but he does not join a group, he makes his own reenactment by walking through LA in the footsteps of an early missionary. He goes out of the hobby like he went in, as an outsider looking for something sensational he can write about.