In the hazardous fictional terrain of his historical novels, Gore Vidal is never especially kind to American history in general, or to its icons in particular. Yet in this brilliantly realised study of Abraham Lincoln, he paints a surprising and near-heroic picture of the man who led America through four of the most divisive and dangerous years of ...
In the hazardous fictional terrain of his historical novels, Gore Vidal is never especially kind to American history in general, or to its icons in particular. Yet in this brilliantly realised study of Abraham Lincoln, he paints a surprising and near-heroic picture of the man who led America through four of the most divisive and dangerous years of the nation's history. Observed alternately by his loved ones, his rivals and his future assassins, Lincoln at first appears as an inept and naive backwoods lawyer. People in this novel are not averse to turning up, getting drunk, and regaling the reader with details of Lincoln's whoring activities and his seemingly inexhaustible supply of folksy stories. Yet gradually Lincoln the towering leader of deep vision emerges in a Washington engulfed by fear, greed and the horrors of the Civil War. Lincoln's loving but mentally decomposing wife, his view from the White House on slavery and America's bloodiest war, and his own, fierce personal ambition: all are portrayed with a vibrancy and an urgency that almost belies what they have now become ? history itself.
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It sounds silly to say you know how it ends, so move on, but really, you do know how it ends, so you read such a book hoping to gain greater insight into already well-known characters and events. And by that measure, Vidal's "Lincoln" falls short. 650 pages of scene-setting and dialogue, with far too many contrived scenes to deliver history lessons. The book screams out for an editor. The best I can say for it is that it sent me to DiLorenzo's "The Real Lincoln," Donald's "Lincoln Reconsidered" and Edmund Wilson's "Patriotic Gore" to gain the perspectives and insight I had hoped to get here.
Apr 23, 2009
kill the abolitionist Lincoln !
This novel starts with Lincoln sneaking into Washington to be sworn in as the President of the United States. His life has been threatened. Eleven states have already left the union, and more are threatening to do so. This is the situation that faces Lincoln as he accepts the presidency. After reading the book I agree with those that say Lincoln was our greatest president. You are shoulder to shoulder with the president until his assassination by Booth. You also get the big picture of the bloodiest war we have ever fought. A great story, well told.
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