In "The Story of America", Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore investigates American origin stories - from John Smith's account of the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural address - to show how American democracy is bound up with the history of print. Over the centuries, Americans have read and ...
In "The Story of America", Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore investigates American origin stories - from John Smith's account of the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural address - to show how American democracy is bound up with the history of print. Over the centuries, Americans have read and written their way into a political culture of ink and type. Part civics primer, part cultural history, "The Story of America" excavates the origins of everything from the paper ballot and the Constitution to the I.O.U. and the dictionary. Along the way it presents fresh readings of Benjamin Franklin's "Way to Wealth", Thomas Paine's "Common Sense", "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, and "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as histories of lesser-known genres, including biographies of presidents, novels of immigrants, and accounts of the "Depression". From past to present, Lepore argues, Americans have wrestled with the idea of democracy by telling stories. In this thoughtful and provocative book, Lepore offers at once a history of origin stories and a meditation on storytelling itself.
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Publishers Weekly, 2012-09-17 "I wanted to try to explain how history works, and how it's different from politics," states Harvard history professor Lepore (The Mansion of Happiness), introducing her collection of essays, almost all previously published in the New Yorker. History involves making an argument by telling a story "accountable to evidence," which she marshals ably in discussing personalities real and fictional, from Benjamin Franklin to Charlie Chan. Her argument that Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride" was an abolitionist "call to arms," subsequently "juvenilized" for schoolrooms, is as pointed as a legal brief. Varying her tone-brisk when detailing changes in how Americans cast their votes, poignant when recounting Edgar Allan Poe's career-Lepore also provides drollery. Nixon's attempt to give a concise and, he hoped, memorable inaugural address "led him to say things briefly but didn't save him from saying them badly." Ranging from colonial times to the present, the essays are liberally sprinkled with fascinating facts-etymologies of "ballot" and "booze," or that Davy Crockett was the first presidential candidate to write a campaign autobiography. Even the footnotes contain buried treasures; history buffs and general readers alike will savor this collection. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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