Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Reviewers
Tom's away today, and most of the world's attention is fixed on the fate of our nation, so this week's OMM will be grossly abbreviated, focusing entirely on the Washington Post's presidential book reviews. (It will also not, sorry to say, have a fancy banner of covers. Tom has mad Photoshop skills, and I can barely hack it with Paint. Let's all just pray that Tom's future vacations will fall later in the week.)
- Douglas Brinkley on Jon Meacham's American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House: "Meacham gives us the most readable single-volume biography ever written of our seventh president, drawing on a trove of previously unpublished correspondence to vividly illuminate the self-made warrior who 'embodied the nation's birth and youth.'"
- Brinkley on Robert V. Remini's Andrew Jackson: "the official historian for the House of Representatives expertly limns Jackson's qualities as a military leader. We learn how he drove the Spanish out of Florida and the Creek Indians into the ground. The Seminoles quaked at the mention of his name. He relished blood-soaked 'encounters with the savages.'"
- And Brinkley on Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson by David Reynolds: "Waking Giant is an intellectual history and group portrait of America turning from a republic to a popular democracy during the Age of Jackson. While Reynolds also grapples with Manifest Destiny, the Monroe Doctrine, abolitionism and European immigration with consummate skill, it's his depiction of an exploding popular culture that makes Waking Giant an unmitigated delight. The reader meets Transcendentalists promoting anarchic individualism, Mormons finding God's tablets and Mesmerists time-traveling."
- Lynne Olson on Traitor to His Class by H.W. Brands: "[He] offers few new facts about Roosevelt's life or the complexities of his character. What he does do--and does well--is to explain in detail how this ambitious Hudson Valley patrician, the coddled son of an elderly father and dominating mother, managed to defy his family and social class and become the most reform-minded president in U.S. history."
- Jonathan Yardley on Fred Kaplan's Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer: "As Kaplan points out, 'Lincoln is distinguished from every other president, with the exception of Jefferson, in that we can be certain that he wrote every word to which his name is attached,' and he 'was also the last president whose character and standards in the use of language avoided the distortions and other dishonest uses of language that have done so much to undermine the credibility of national leaders.'"
- Michael F. Bishop on James McPherson's Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief: "McPherson shows that Lincoln was a diligent student of military affairs and a shrewd judge of men. He immersed himself in works on strategy obtained from the Library of Congress and soon recognized the limitations of his commanders.... Lincoln's achievement is all the more remarkable, McPherson argues, when one considers the paucity of genuine military ability in his high command."
- And Bishop on Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig Symonds: "Symonds, like McPherson, charts Lincoln's development from uncertain amateur to masterful leader. But he does so through the refreshingly unfamiliar prism of naval affairs.... Lincoln and His Admirals is that rare thing, an important Lincoln book of genuine originality."
Happy voting! --Mari