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The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President Paperback – April 10, 2007


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The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President + James Buchanan: The American Presidents Series: The 15th President, 1857-1861 + Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents Series: The 12th President, 1849-1850 (American Presidents (Times))
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; First Edition edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307339629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307339621
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #583,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

America's 13th president has often been the subject of humor, and this bogus biography by Pendle (Strange Angels: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons) is no exception. Fillmore was not a "blundering, pompous, ultimately shallow failure," claims Pendle. Instead, we learn that the multitalented Fillmore had a rich and varied life, at once heroic, artistic and full of intellectual vigor. He saved a woman from a shark attack and received good reviews for his minstrel show performance: "he had the audience guffawing mightily." A prolific inventor, he never received proper credit for vulcanizing rubber or designing the cooling "Tea-shirt." Like Woody Allen's Zelig, Fillmore had a knack for always being present at major historical events, where he usually emerged triumphant (as when he prevented the assassination of Andrew Jackson and survived the Battle of the Alamo. Using previously unknown sources, Pendle has achieved his goal "to redeem the reputation of a forgotten giant," and he also succeeds in amusing readers by mixing the historical and the hysterical. 40 b&w illus. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

George Pendle is the author of Strange Angel. He has written for The Times, The Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. He lives in New York City.

More About the Author

George Pendle is an author and journalist.

He writes about contemporary art, historical fiction, imaginary countries, real monsters, mad scientists, sane occultists, and the color blue.

He has written for the Economist, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Times (London), the Guardian, the Observer, frieze, Cabinet, Bidoun, Modern Painters, and Icon.

He has also written signs for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Customer Reviews

It's just not funny, but rather silly in a way-too-full-of-himself way.
Nick Carroway
I felt like the last guy on the block to get the joke, as I didn't realize this was a spoof until I got about fifteen pages into the book.
Pugwash
I was looking for information about one of our forgotten presidents, and was very disappointed in what the book provided.
TomR

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By CodeMaster Talon on February 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow. How describe this book, let me see. Imagine if Dave Barry suddenly became about thirty IQ points smarter and gleefully devoted himself to concocting a past for the most boring president to ever live, and did so with great affection but without the slightest regard for what are tradionally known as "facts". "The Remarkable Millard Filmore" weaves a surprising amount of actual history with an equal amount of decided lunacy. Millard riding a unicorn on the cover is a tip-off.

We trace Millard's humble beginnings, his pirate ancestors (actually true), his unlikely rise in politics (some more truth) and his wild, previously unknown adventures (probably not true). Millard pops up in the strangest places (Florida, Africa, Japan!) hobbnobbng with the strangest people (The Pope! Queen Victoria! Edgar Allan Poe!) doing very odd things (Brace yourself: Millard Fillmore was really Zorro). Millard himself is not the rather nasty, weak character we read about in the school books, rather he is a beneign, bewildered character always the last to know what's going on (a riot, a massacre, the Civil War). I have to admit I kinda liked him.

Author George Pendle is blessed with a delightful wit, a spectactular vocabulary, a wonderful grasp of real hisory, and deep, deep insanity. (Plus if his picture on the back does him any justice, he's also pretty cute.) He has a positive genuis for writing in period language; everyone sounds and writes exactly as 1800's Americans would have sounded and written, had they all been demented. I dropped one star from the review only because the novel loses steam toward the end; the book could have been cut by 50 pages or so. I'm actually surprised Pendle sustains the joke for as long as he does.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George Pendle has penned what is certainly the most entertaining book ever written about Millard Fillmore, one of history's forgotten leaders. The book actually is based on a shell of facts, but is embellished with a truly fevered imagination. It is generally fairly witty: some passages are simply sublime, while some are a bit trifling and fall a tad short of the mark.

Most of the criticism of the book is that it isn't a completely factually correct biography. Well here's a news flash: it isn't supposed to be. Didn't the cover art showing Fillmore riding a unicorn give people a clue? For those who complain that they don't know what is fact from fiction, perhaps reading the rather detailed notes on the subject at the end of the book would be a good idea; better yet, if you want a straight biography of Fillmore, feel free to buy one.

The book was written for an intelligent audience with a knowledge of history and the desire to read a satirized account of an obscure national leader forgotten by almost everyone other than academics. Fillmore is more interesting than is generally recognized, and this book, while clearly not unadulterated historical fact, will probably introduce far more readers to Fillmore than any conventional biography on the market.

On balance, the book isn't perfect, but was an enjoyable read and made me interested in learning more about the last Whig President in American history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P. Shockley on July 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fun book to read and it is well written. Make sure you realize that this book is NOT historically accurate. It is satire. There is some history, but it mainly plays on the fact that Millard is not well known and that there are many myths and legends about him.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Pugwash on March 16, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I consider myself an amateur historian, and was anxious to learn something about our thirteenth president, whom I knew little about. From this perspective reading this book was a failure. I felt like the last guy on the block to get the joke, as I didn't realize this was a spoof until I got about fifteen pages into the book.

But the author doesn't stop at miligning only Fillmore. He chooses a large array of targets, and the early 1800's are one of the funniest. He describes life in that time in such a way, that I often was laughing out loud.

The footnotes were often hilarious. In talking about the electoral college, he raposts "the fact that classes ...convene only once every four years has led to its reputation as a party school."

Or a hamlet-"To qualify as a hamlet a community had to have at least one unique superstition founded on either sneezing animals, the consumption of meat before sleeping, or the flight of sparrows on a windy day."

Or Fillmore himself-"It has largely been suggestedby presidential psychiatrists that Fillmore suffered from the verbal phenomenon known as 'cognitive ignorance'".

The author brings Fillmore to life in much the same way as a creation between the historical soldier Flashman and Forest Gump.

Opening Chapter 7, the author quotes Fillmore "Buffalo in the springtime, is as I imagine heaven to be, although with more precipitation and fewer cherubs."

This hilarious and often inane depiction of our 13th president kept me laughing. He intersperses his imagination of what the anti-hero is really like with the historical events of his times.

Interestingly enough, revisionist historians now take a much more moderate view of Fillmore.
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