Thursday, November 08, 2007

What I'm reading ... really

I have always had an interest in the Civil War era and the history surrounding the assassination of President Lincoln. To this day I remember the chills from visiting Ford's Theater first with family, and secondly with a seventh grade field trip. One of my favorite Gore Vidal books is Lincoln. So, it should come as no surprise that a Booklist review of Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President, by Edward Steers, Jr. caught my attention ... and a bit of my general library money as well. Here's the review in question:

"Much that has been written about Lincoln, claims Steers, is mythmaking. It began early, at the Republican State Convention in May 1860. For 20 years, Steers has worked to correct the legend and tell the truth about the conspiracy that ended Lincoln's life and the complicity of the doctor who treated the president's murderer after the assassination. The myths include Lincoln's alleged romance with Ann Rutledge, rumors about his illegitimacy, his born-again Christian conversion and baptism, and his appearance before a congressional committee to defend his controversial wife. Chapters deal with such subjects as his birthplace cabin; his father; his speeches and writings; the myth that he was gay; missing pages from John Wilkes Booth's diary; and the identity of Peanut John Burroughs, the man who held Booth's horse. Steers, author of Blood on the Moon, has written a prodigiously researched history of a provocative subject." - (Cohen, G. (2007). Lincoln legends: Myths, hoaxes, and confabulations associated with our greatest president, Booklist, 104(1), 43.)

I started taking this book to lunch with me on Monday afternoon and since then have read several chapters. So far I have read about Lincoln's birthplace (been there, done that, did not realize as a child it was not particularly authentic), his romance with Ann Rutledge, and an interesting section regarding a hoax perpetuated on Atlantic Monthly regarding love letters. There are many well place photographs, some part of the author's own collection and other from the Library of Congress and other special library collections. Though not part of the research per say, they are welcome visuals within the text. I find images from this time period oddly compelling and spooky (yes, spooky). All in all, I am finding this a very readable accounting of research done my Mr. Steers.

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