When Jan Morris first visited the United States, she was overwhelmed (and irritated) by the national obsession with Abraham Lincoln: the homespun myth of the awkward six-foot-four country boy who rose to unite the nation seemed too good to be true. So she resolved to make up her own mind, visiting the landmarks of his life to do so: his log-cabin ...
When Jan Morris first visited the United States, she was overwhelmed (and irritated) by the national obsession with Abraham Lincoln: the homespun myth of the awkward six-foot-four country boy who rose to unite the nation seemed too good to be true. So she resolved to make up her own mind, visiting the landmarks of his life to do so: his log-cabin birthplace in Kentucky via Gettysburg and all the way to Washington theatre where he was assassinated. This remarkable book, blending fact, narrative and imagination, is the result. 'A little jewel-box of a book ...there are passages here which are pure gold...In an astonishingly short work, Jan Morris has conveyed the gawky but kindly expansiveness of the man and his country. If you have time to read only one book about Lincoln make it this one' - "Spectator".
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-12-13 The Lincoln revealed by British writer Morris is a far cry from the Honest Abe of popular myth: she finds an "unpleasant side" to the president's nature, an "element of the mountebank" that "led him into spite or mayhem." But what else, Morris seems to ask, should we expect from someone who was "surely only another party politician anyway"? Morris confesses that ever since the 1950s, when she (then a he, named James Morris) first set foot in the U.S., she has been skeptical of the American veneration of Lincoln. In this indulgent excursion, she combines considerable (but idiosyncratic) historical homework and some extensive travel around the U.S. with a lot of imaginative license to paint a thoroughly subjective picture of Lincoln. Morris, the author of a variety of historically oriented travel books (Hong Kong: Epilogue to an Empire, etc.), does make some larger points, calling Lincoln "the originator of American hubris." She also gleefully reports on Lincoln's well-known ambivalence toward slavery as though she, for the first time, is revealing that Lincoln was not the unconflicted emancipator portrayed in grade-school history books. And it's not just Lincoln who irritates her. She is affronted as well by the Lincoln lookalikes she finds in museums and gift shops. (But then most Americans she meets in her travels seem to be stupid, not to mention obese.) More than anything, Morris is surprised and dismayed at Lincoln's folksiness, not recognizing that this is one of the qualities most prized in American presidents, from Jackson to Truman. In this book, it's not only Lincoln that Morris fails to understand; it's an entire culture. Agent, Julian Bach. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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