Customer Reviews


19 Reviews
5 star:
 (12)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Great Men, One Great Book
Two behemoth men at a time of great crisis in our country, manage to find themselves in the same city at the same time, and the great mystery becomes, do they meet? This question is addressed in the highly enjoyable and highly readable book, Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington". In this tome, the reader discovers a deeper understanding of both...
Published on February 20, 2004 by James Hiller

versus
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't ignore this book because of the review above
Please note that the Publisher's Weekly review is wildly inaccurate itself. Whitman was not a copperhead, and he certainly did not think the Union's cause in the war was absurd. I wonder if the reviewer is confusing Whitman with Hawthorne, but if not, clearly he is not a Whitman scholar. Do copperheads publish recruitment poems in major Northern publication (Beat! Beat...
Published on September 28, 2005 by Prof. cjt


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Great Men, One Great Book, February 20, 2004
By 
Two behemoth men at a time of great crisis in our country, manage to find themselves in the same city at the same time, and the great mystery becomes, do they meet? This question is addressed in the highly enjoyable and highly readable book, Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington". In this tome, the reader discovers a deeper understanding of both Lincoln and Whitman, amazingly, through the eyes of each other.
It seems natural to have both of these men appear in a book with each other, as the two are linked somewhat through the times in which they lived and the recognition of their stunning intellect. And the book reads very naturally, moving from one story to another without any interruption. The Lincoln and Whitman presented in the book are demystified, and very much human. Perhaps the closeness of their supposed contact allows us a literary entrance into their lives. As Whitman sympathizes with Lincoln, so do we. As Lincoln wonders about the wild man and shows him respect, so do we, building on connections with each other that are timeless.
One thing that struck me was Whitman's volunteer efforts in hospitals in the DC area. Knowing that he did that, I never knew just how deeply it effected him and the lives of the soldiers that he visited. Well documented, even with quotes from Whitman's own letters, he expresses his care and concern for the men, many of whom suffered very painful deaths, but were someone appeased by the poet who talked with them and held their hand. It might be tempting to draw conclusions based on Whitman's sexuality, but Epstein respects the poet, and his readers, enough not to do that.
Refreshingly, the author doesn't shy away at all from Whitman's romantic life, detailing the men that inhabited his life. We are with Whitman the night he meets Peter Doyle on that street car, starting a seven year relationship despite a huge age gap. I was even more surprised to learn that Doyle himself was in Ford's Theater, sitting directly across from Lincoln, the night he was assassinated. Doyle's story lends credence to Whitman's undertaking as a Lincoln expert later in his life.
Almost a third character in the story is Washington DC itself. Painfully recreating the town, Epstein brings the 1860's capital alive unlike other writers have in the past. The muddy streets, the horrible smells, the buildings all come alive with fresh, succinct descriptions that are wonderfully detailed. Being a visitor to the city many times, I began to "see" it in a different, exciting way.
As we wander through both of these extraordinary Americans lives, we come to love both men for their individuality and their connections. And as the book concludes in an amazing, heartbreaking way, we find ourselves sorry that the tale ends, craving more knowledge of them both, separate and together, bringing history alive in a way that hasn't for some time. I'm eagerly awaiting Daniel Mark Epstein's next book, while reading and re-reading this one for times to come.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Good Gray Poet...and Lincoln as Muse, March 16, 2006
By 
Amanda (New Jersey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington (Paperback)
Daniel Mark Epstein succeeds at what seems simple, but in truth is a daunting task: combining the literary and the historical in a moving, evocative narrative. The book gracefully moves between and across the lives of Lincoln and Whitman, with a cathartic spirit uniting the stories of both men. Epstein makes no claims that the spiritual union was, in reality, anything more than a parallel, largely reliant on the troubled times (and Whitman's obsession...or coincidence). There is a somewhat amplified mysticism surrounding Lincoln and Whitman as "characters" in this historical narrative, but such characterization errs more often on the positive than it does otherwise. The parallels between the lives of both men are compelling, revealing, and informative, and the ending is truly poignant. Civil War Washington also comes alive with a mapmaker's eye and a storyteller's gift for detail. Wonderful!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't ignore this book because of the review above, September 28, 2005
By 
This review is from: Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington (Paperback)
Please note that the Publisher's Weekly review is wildly inaccurate itself. Whitman was not a copperhead, and he certainly did not think the Union's cause in the war was absurd. I wonder if the reviewer is confusing Whitman with Hawthorne, but if not, clearly he is not a Whitman scholar. Do copperheads publish recruitment poems in major Northern publication (Beat! Beat! Drums! in the Boston Evening Transcript, the New York Leader and Harpers Weekly)? Do they consider joining the fight, as Whitman actually did despite being in his early 40s? No, Whitman actually had ambivalent feelings about Lincoln before the 1860 election, he opposed Republican efforts to centralize governmental power, and he argued for peace before the war began, but once it did, he was behind the effort, and after going to Fredricksburg to find his brother and subsequently serving in some of the army's hospitals, he still was essentially behind it, despite his concerns about the manner in which is was conducted, his deep sadness for the fratricidal nature of it, and his concerns for its potential to open the door for post-war anti-democratic problems.

Epstein's book is flawed, I think, because it refuses to admit that Whitman dared to argue outside of Lincolnian rhetoric, but this is a matter of critical differences between us. The difference is that when my study of Lincoln's cultural narrative and its influence on American thought and literature is published with its chapter on Whitman within (look for it in a few years!), any argument with Epstein will have behind it months of research. And you can be assured that I would never be so irresponsible as to tell people not to read a book if I did not have the critical foundations to make such a recommendation.

Eric Foner is a respected scholar, a professor at Columbia. Amazon would do well not to pair a review from someone like him with one so obviously written out of ignorance.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Portrait of Greatness, January 21, 2004
By 
W. C HALL (Newport, OR USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This is a profoundly moving work, which should be read with pleasure by any admirer of the Great Emancipator or America's Great Poet. Although Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman are dead, their spirits live; and in this volume, Daniel Mark Epstein has again clothed them in flesh and blood and restored the breath of life. You will find yourself in the Lincoln and Herndon law office in 1857 as the merits of Leaves Of Grass are debated by the law partners and their young clerks; you will stand alongside Whitman on the corner of Fourteenth and L streets in Washington in 1863 as he awaits the president and the opportunity to offer a friendly wave.
As far as history knows, the two men never formally met, though they came tantalizingly close to doing so on more than one occasion. Yet as Epstein notes in the subtitle of this book, they lived parallel lives in Civil War Washington. While Lincoln struggled to hold the union together, Whitman tenderly nursed the young men who were maimed by the tens of thousands on the great battlefields of that war. While Lincoln struggled with the insurgency in his own ranks from Treasury Secretary Samuel Chase, Whitman vainly pursued a federal job in the secretary's domain. Although Whitman had already created the bulk of his greatest works by 1865, the death of Lincoln provided the well-spring for a glorious last hurrah, including the grand panorama of "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd" and the poet's best known offspring, "O Captain, My Captain."
Indeed, the assassination only strengthened the bond linking these two men of genius. Especially poignant is the last chapter, which takes place 22 years after Booth's dark deed. Whitman presents a talk on Lincoln at the Madison Square Theater to an audience that includes luminaries such as Mark Twain and William Dean Howells. Playing out at the same moment was one of the afterwords of Lincoln's earthly life, as his casket was moved, opened and reburied at his final resting place in Springfield.
Epstein brings an historian's skill and a poet's passion to this work. Read this book with an open mind and an open heart, and be ready to appreciate the great souls that sometimes walk alongside us.--William C. Hall
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Classic, January 22, 2004
By A Customer
This double biography of two great Americans is a narrative tour-de-force, a compelling page-turner built on a rock-solid foundation of meticulous research. Epstein deftly weaves together the lives of the poet and the President, setting each character in bold relief against the richly-described backdrop of the Civil War. The original approach is a great contribution to literary and historical scholarship, showing each of these iconic figures in a revelatory new light. Many have described how Lincoln inspired some of Whitman's greatest poetry. Epstein is THE FIRST to make a persuasive argument -- by ingenious historical analysis and insightful comparison of passages from "Leaves of Grass" and Lincoln's speeches -- that the poet influenced the President. This book belongs on the shelf next to Gary Wills' Pulitzer-prize winning "Lincoln at Gettysburg."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Achievement, December 16, 2005
By 
This review is from: Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington (Paperback)
Epstein hits the ground running in this extraordinary blend of dramatic storytelling and lit crit, and he never lets up until the final page. Everyone has always known that Whitman was influenced by Lincoln, but it has been a matter of heated controversy for many years as to whether Lincoln was or was not influenced by "Leaves of Grass." Epstein proves this beyond any reasonable doubt in the first thirty pages, as he introduces us into the gritty atmosphere of Lincoln's law office in the 1850s. He follows the two men to Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, and his capturing of their two characters and their struggles, as their paths cross and shadow one another during that intense period, is a literary and historical tour de force. One of my favorite books about the Civil War.

Bernard Northrop

Providence, R.I.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Civil War with anew angle, July 10, 2004
By 
ScottM (Pompano Beach, Fl.) - See all my reviews
I have read numerous Lincoln books and they basically tell the same stories I've read before. This book is very different. The author is able to weave Lincoln's and Whitman's lives together even though they never met. Some of the comparisons between Lincoln's speeches and Whitman's writings are uncanny. The author also provides a refreshing, intimate view of Washington life during this period - the politics, famous people, events, day to day life, not to mention how to get a government job. Obviously you can see that I am not a book reviewer, but I have to recommend this book. The fusion of history and poetry duirng this difficult time is fasinating. I just wish these two great men (with their flaws) could have sat down at one point and actually talked. Oh what a story that would have been! Also thanks for helping me better understand Whitman.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel lives in Civil War Washington, November 1, 2004
This book is about Walt Whitman's relationship with Abraham Lincoln. The two never formally met, yet both were profoundly influenced by the other.

At times it was hard to decide if Epstein was writing history, historical fiction, or a literature book. He seamlessly weaves Whitman's poetry into his narrative and discusses the roots of the imagery the poet used. I found the Whitman portrayed by Epstein to be a fascinating, unusual person indeed.

If you are seeking general information about Lincoln, this is not the book for you. If you are a Lincoln admirer who wants a new perspective on the president and the times he lived in, I would encourage you to read this book. If you are interested in Walt Whitman, this book is a must-read as it is important both from the biographical and literary stand-point.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln and Whitman Book Review, December 4, 2005
By 
Mary Anthony (Leawood, KS USA) - See all my reviews
I thought that this book was very moving, and successfully portrays two men who completely embody the Civil War. The title of the book is very appropriate, because the number of instances in which Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln's lives crossed is quite interesting. Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents who was responsible for emancipating those under slavery. Whitman was one of the greatest poets of all time, and had a huge amount of respect towards Abraham Lincoln.

I found it very interesting that Lincoln and Whitman had never officially met, yet they had both listened or read eachother's words at very crucial times in each of their own lives. Both had so much complete and utmost respect for the other person, and that is clearly seen from the moment that Lincoln reads Whitman's famous book of poems, "Leaves of Grass," until Whitman composed the famous elegy after Lincoln was assasinated.

Both of these men had the same vision of democracy,and Epstein did a great job showing the effect that the war had on these two men. I didn't know that Whitman had volunteered at a hospital during the war, and learning what a huge impact the wounded soldiers had on Whitman and his writing was very interesting. The book also showed the huge toll that the Civil War had on Lincoln, especially when families and loved ones were torn apart because of the war.

I loved how Epstein showed the increasing amount of honor that Whitman had for Lincoln after he was assasinated. His poem, "O Captain, My Captain," is a prime example of just how much admiration that Whitman had for the beloved president. In fact, my favorite part of this book came in the last chapter of the book over twenty years after Lincoln had died. Whitman gave a final speech on Lincoln at Madison Square Theater in front of such people as Mark Twain.

Epstein does a great job of showing the incredible amount of passion that both Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln had for life. Both men lived by eachother's words and had an amazing amount of respect for one another, it definitely makes me wish that they would have gotten the chance to know each other personally.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't find focus, June 3, 2004
By 
I read a brief, positive blurb about this book in the New Yorker and picked it up. I figured, what's not to like? Although Epstein is a pretty good storyteller, he can't really figure out what he wants to do in this book. Sometimes he's kind of doing a comparative textual analysis of Whitman's poetry and Lincoln's speeches, sometimes he's looking at spots of time where their lives intersect, sometimes he's doing completely independent biographical studies of these two men, and sometimes he's doing other stuff altogether. The results are fragmented, messy, disorienting. There are sections that, on their own, are quite interesting, but the book never delivers anything whole, and it certainly never delivers what it promises in its title. My recommendation to readers is to pick up individual authoritative biographies of each of these men, and let your mind do its own comparative work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington
Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington by Daniel Mark Epstein (Paperback - January 11, 2005)
$18.00 $14.56
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.