76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Won't the Real Ben Franklin Please Stand Up?,
This review is from: The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin (Hardcover)
As one who has always been passionate about early American history, I must confess that untill reading Dr. Wood's fine character study, I have not read any books devoted to Benjamin Franklin. Like many others, then, I came to this book imbued by the vision of Franklin that sees him first and foremost as the self-made business person that authored "Poor Richard's Almanac," and the "Autobiography." My vision of Franklin was of the champion of pulling onesself up by one's bootstraps, temperance, and frugality.
Dr. Wood's intention with this book is not so much to dispel this vision - Franklin was indeed those things - as to augment it by filling in those lesser known bits of Franklin's life. While he was the self-made business man and champion of industry, he was also a man who, from there, forayed into the life of a gentleman of leisure and loved every minute of it. While he was a passionate American revolutionary, he was, before all that, a man who passionately believed in the British Empire and worked tirelessly to reconcile American and British inerests. While he was a man who was eventually loved by posterity as a true and exemplary American, he was, during his lifetime, just as often mistrusted and even scorned by fellow Americans.
Dr. Wood, then, has written not so much a biography as a character study that works to explain (a) how Benjamin Franklin morphed into all of these multifarious roles, (b) how, remarkably, he was successful at all of them (well, all but one; you'll see!), and (c) how it wasn't untill after his death that Franklin's early life as a business-person was focused on almost to exclusion of all else, in essence, transforming his image to that of the quintessential American.
Dr. Wood, in all of this, has created a thrilling and very educational book that 'gets into Franklin's head' as well as I imagine any book could. Throught it all, Dr. Wood remains somewhat neutral and defferential as to the character of Franklin, neither denouncing or overly praising him. Rather, he gives us the facts, tells the story, uses enough enthusiasm and warmth to convey the excitement that was Franklin's life, but never resorts to too much by way of polemic. Those expecting either a laudatory cheerleading or a denunciatory expose of Franklin will not find what they are looking for here. Those who simply want a good, robust and erudite, character studty will.
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Initial post: May 16, 2010 9:50:35 AM PDT
Theodore Kobernick says:
Oh, Kevin -- if only Wood had done an honest job of recording and interpreting the facts about Franklin! This is a misleading book. I would guess he wrote it in order to be able to publish something "new" about Franklin. If you will take a look at my review of this book, you will see the reasons for my conclusion. You could do worse than get your hands on the Library of America "Franklin: Writings." You might then revise your review. Wood owes you a debt of thanks. Franklin does not
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