Top positive review
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One and Only
on October 7, 2002
There are, it is said, more books about Lincoln than there are about anybody but Jesus. Every man setting out to write about Lincoln has an idea of him, a shadow to look for Lincoln in and the huge weight of tradition and history on his back while writing. Even Nicolay and Hay, his secretaries, and authors of the voluminous collected papers which are probably the best source on the Presidency, only knew the man in office, once he had enfolded himself, if you will, inside his great ambition. Herndon knew the man. He shared his office with him, a law practise which consisted of Lincoln throwing the case notes and money into his hat before putting it on to his head, and splitting all the money down the middle. Herndon also went around talking to everyone who knew Lincoln while he was alive before they died.
There are flaws to this book. Herndon drank, so Lincoln didn't take him to Washington with him. This book tells you nothing about the war, about Lincoln's policies, or even a great deal about Lincoln's debates with Douglas, say. But. And it is a great but. This is the only book that gives you a smell of the goofy, tall, funny, awkward, galumphing and generally likeable oddball that emerged as the greatest leader this country ever had. This is the only book I would advise an actor to read if he was going to undertake to play Abe Lincoln. All the other books describe a monument. This one describes a man who went on dates, told dirty jokes and had a funny way of laying his legs across the desk and reading upside down. The rest is second hand.