From Publishers Weekly
The question that animates this original, insightful, disarmingly funny book is: how do Americans commemorate Lincoln, and what do our memories of him reveal about our visions of the good life? To discover the answer, Ferguson, an editor at the Weekly Standard
and a Lincoln buff, made a long field trip, poking into many of the places where Americans have chosen to remember—or to forget—Honest Abe. He eavesdrops on the Lincoln Reconsidered conference, where a group of "Abephobes" aim to retrieve Lincoln's memory from the distortions of "liberal historians." He considers the "Disney aesthetic" of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., and attends a convention of Lincoln "presenters" (otherwise known as impersonators). Ferguson is occasionally and unnecessarily snide, and a deeper examination of the changing place of Lincoln in mainstream historical scholarship would have added a great deal to the book. Still, Ferguson's conclusions are stirring. He finds Lincoln's meaning best articulated by Robert Moton, an educator whose parents were slaves. With great simplicity, Moton explained Lincoln's greatness: "...in a time of doubt and distrust... he spoke the word that gave freedom to a race and vindicated the honor of a Nation conceived in liberty...." (June)
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Abraham Lincoln has been the subject, by one count, of nearly 14,000 books. Chances are that none is funnier than Andrew Ferguson's Land of Lincoln
. Ferguson is at his best when writing the sort of good-natured, insightful observation that drives Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation
, Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic
, or any of Bill Bryson's books. At times, the humor devolves into cynicism and the argument loses focus; those passages work less well. In his attempt at separating the truth of Lincoln's legacy from the fiction (or the history from the kitsch), though, Ferguson discovers a great deal about how-and how well-we honor our heroes.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.