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Comment: Hardcover: Dust jacket showing minimal shelf and handling wear - edges flaring a bit. Pages clean and stiff. We will put in a poly bag to protect during warehouse handling.
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Buchanan Dying : A Play Hardcover – July 1, 2000

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books; 1st Stackpole Books ed edition (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811702383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811702386
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,685,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This Stackpole Books edition is virtually a photocopy facsimile of the first Knopf edition in 1974, dust jacket and all. Updike's new Foreword recounts the two productions of the play, in abbreviated form, by Franklin and Marshall College (April 28-May 8, 1976) and San Diego State University (March 1977) and reminds us of the fact that "Leadership of any country but one in a comic operetta involves some decisions whose consequences are bloody" and that this book is his attempt was "to extend sympathy to politicians, as they make their way among imperfect alternatives toward a hidden future" (p. ix). Once again there, as in his memoir Self-Consciousness, he observes how for him this sympathy applied to Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War.
He also observes from this writing experience how "history" is constructed in the fragility of the writer's judgment in weighing and interrogating the disparate data forms from which descriptive writing emerges. A wise scholar named Van Harvey in his book, The Historian and the Believer, once observed that what we call "history" is a field-encompassing field and requires from the historian the skillful interpretation and weaving together of information from many disciplines--psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, geography, religion, and politics, including some awareness of their important sub-disciplines. Such difficulties notwithstanding, Updike warns that "the effort to delve into history left me convinced of the unconscionable amount of bluff, fraud, and elision that any allegedly historical account, labeled fiction or not, entails." This is precisely the sort of wizened sensitivity which we have come to expect and appreciate in Updike's work.
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Format: Hardcover
For a major American writer to focus on a major American political figure is not unique. Gore Vidal offered us some interesting looks at Burr, Lincoln, Wilson, Harding and FDR in his various works of historical fiction. Caleb Carr presents a fun Teddy Roosevelt in "The Alienist". In "Buchanan Dying" and "Memoirs of the Ford Administration," John Updike offers an excellent portrait of the enigmatic James Buchanan whose administration presided over the shattering of the Union. While part of Updike's focus on an obscure president remains an homage to their native state of Pennsylvania, "Buchanan Dying" also retains an interesting, and important, political message.

Updike's historical research is solid. His excellent afterword goes through the Buchanan Papers that were edited by James R. Moore as well as the standard biographies and histories of the coming of the Civil War. From Kenneth Stampp to Avery Craven to Allan Nevins to Roy Franklin Nichols, Updike is familiar with the leading works of the impending crisis. This reflects well as he incorporates real figures and conversations along with fictional conversations.

The familiar pattern of events unfolds in Buchanan's mind. The death of Anne Coleman; the tense relationships with Jackson and Polk; Buchanan's ambitions and his tortured path to the presidency; the Dred Scott decision; the feud with Stephen Douglas over Lecompton; the secession of the South, all this plays out in the dying Buchanan's mind. Updike refers to this work as a "play meant to be read" and it probably would not be well adapted on the stage yet it is worth reading. While Buchanan remains a passive character (much like Rabbit?), Updike is fair to his historical memory.
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Format: Hardcover
Buchanan Dying is a three act play written by famous author and Pennsylvania native John Updike. The play begins as a bed-ridden former President James Buchanan approaches the end of his life. He is being tended to by a nurse and a servant and lapses in and out of consciousness. As Buchanan is in this state, he is visited (in his imagination and on stage) by those from his past and present, including his parents, siblings, his cabinet, his niece (and acting First Lady) Harriet Lane, and by Anne Coleman (the woman who he was once betrothed to, but who broke off the engagement and died mysteriously) as well as by her father and brother.

In a well researched work, Updike explores almost every controversial aspect of Buchanan's life, including his near expulsion from Dickinson College as a youth, his terminated engagement to Anne Coleman and her mysterious sudden death, his handling (or mishandling) of the controversial Kansas constitution issue, his inattention as southern cabinet members sent weapons and other resources to southern states on the eve of secession, and his passive and weak response when southern states finally seceded. The play also explores Buchanan's unsympathetic attitude towards slavery and his influences on the outcome of the famed Dred Scott decision.

The second act of the play is a series of reminiscences of Buchanan during his presidency, but with overlapping incidents from other periods of his life which insinuate themselves and merge together. For example, in a segment when Buchanan and his cabinet are considering how to deal with the defense of Fort Sumpter, he segues into a letter he received from Anne Coleman explaining the reason for their breakup.
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