Sunday, November 25, 2007
CWL---Land of Lincoln, Made By You and Me
Land of Lincoln, Adventures in Abe's America, Andrew Ferguson, Atlantic Books, 280pp., b/w illustrations, $24.00, 2006.
Ferguson, senior editor of the Weekly Standard and a contributor to The New Yorker, The Washington Post as well as several other popular publications has provided a humorous and serious, anecdotal and scholarly and particularly well written tour of Lincoln sites, Lincoln enthusiasts, Lincoln lore, and Lincoln scholars and scholarship. From Richmond, Virginia's Tredegar Iron Works park to Frank Williams' Rhode Island Supreme Court office and his private home, Ferguson takes up issues relating to popular memory and popular cultures.
Billy Herndon's Lincoln of 19th century folk culture, Thomas DiLorenzo's rascist Lincoln and Joshua Shenck's melancholy (but funny) Lincoln meet, shake hands and then wrestle each other. Among the spectators are other Lincolns: the WASP lawyer of Charles and Mary Beard, the Prairie Poet of Sandburg, and Allen Guelzo's constitutional lawyer who grasps both pragmatic and spiritual truths.
Collectors are distracted from the sport combat of the several Lincolns; they bid on his hair, papers, swaths of cloth with his blood on it, his wife's clothes, his books and signatures. Richard Norton Smith struggles with Disney clones and politicians' wives as he administers the Springfield Illinois presidential museum and library. Sculptor struggle to bring Lincoln out of stone, iron, bronze, copper and (sigh) ceramics. Conspiring to advance Lincoln's leadership skills to businessman is Dale Carnegie and a host of other business skills trainers.
And then there is the Lincoln of our hearts; the hearts of immigrants from Thailand, the hearts of school children, and the hearts of Lincoln presenters. Ferguson's book is a joy to read for not only it style and wit but for its grasp of those being interviewed, the museum directors, the children, the parents, and the ephemera hounds. This book is very high on CWL's Best of 2007 list.
For an extensive interview of Ferguson go to http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/2007-11/Interview.html