Lincoln the biography of a writer by fred kaplan captivating


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Lincoln the biography of a writer by fred kaplan captivating

  1. 1. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan Lincoln:The Biography Of A WriterFor Abraham Lincoln, whether he was composing love letters, speeches,or legal arguments, words mattered. In Lincoln, acclaimed biographer FredKaplan explores the life of Americas sixteenth president through his use oflanguage as a vehicle both to express complex ideas and feelings and asan instrument of persuasion and empowerment. Like the other greatcanonical writers of American literature—a status he is graduallyattaining—Lincoln had a literary career that is inseparable from his lifestory. An admirer and avid reader of Burns, Byron, Shakespeare, and theOld Testament, Lincoln was the most literary of our presid ents. His viewson love, liberty, and human nature were shaped by his reading andknowledge of literature. Since Lincoln, no president has written his own words and addressed hisaudience with equal and enduring effectiveness. Kaplan focuses on theelements that shaped Lincolns mental and imaginative world; how his
  2. 2. writings molded his identity, relationships, and career; and how theysimultaneously generated both the distinctive political figure he becameand the public discourse of the nation. This unique account of Lincolns lifeand career highlights the shortcomings of the modern presidency,reminding us, through Lincolns legacy and appreciation for language, thatthe careful and honest use of words is a necessity for successfuldemocracy. Illuminating and engrossing, Lincoln brilliantly chronicles AbrahamLincolns genius with language.Features:* ISBN13: 9780060773342* Condition: NEW* Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.Personal Review: Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by FredKaplanWhen I recently checked, Amazon offers more than 20,000 books in the"Abraham Lincoln " category and about 8,900 in the "Abraham Lincolnbiography" category. Why another one? Hasnt everything already beensaid about the 18th president whose leadership preserved the Union?What more remains to be said? In the introductory section, ReadingLincolns Words, Fred Kaplan recalls William Deans Howellss claim thatMark Twain was the "Lincoln of our literature." He suggests rephrasingthat with a focus on the 16th president of the United States: "Lincoln wasthe Twain of our politics." Kaplan then observes, "Since Lincoln, nopresident has written his own words and addressed his contemporaryaudience or posterity with equal and enduring effectiveness...From anearly age, he began his journey into self-willed literacy, then into skill, andeventually into genius as an artist with words. Lincoln is distinguishe d fromevery other resident, with the exception of Jefferson, in that we can becertain that he wrote every word to which his name is attached...Lincolnwas also the last president whose character and standards in the use oflanguage avoided the distortions and other dishonest uses of languagethat have done so much to undermine the credibility of national leaders."So yes, there is need of another book about Lincoln, one that -- as thesubtitle of this book suggests -- offers a biography of a great writer whowas an effective leader, not of a great leader who wrote well.Early on, Kaplan establishes several critically important facts about youngLincoln: he had an insatiable hunger for learning ("he read everything hecould lay his hands on"), he constantly asked questions ("he had an alertinterest in the world"), he was eager to be heard (being someone with a"private personality who already had a stage persona, he began to thinkabout serious issues and connect them to his speaking and writingperformances"), and like Benjamin Franklin, he was convinced that he
  3. 3. would rise in the world (confident that "ambition and hard work would winout") despite his humble circumstances, modest resources, and dimprospects when, in 1821 at age 12, he became an avid rea der of poetry."The young man was at the beginning of an extraordinary education" thatwould prepare him to become one of the most eloquent among historysgreatest leaders.Others have their reasons for holding Kaplans book in such high regard.Here are two of mine. First, he brilliantly coordinates his analysis of thedevelopment of Lincolns skills as a writer with how those skills enabledhim to be a much more effective leader, notably when becoming adistinguished attorney, campaigning as a candidate for public office, andopposing Stephen Douglas in a series of debates in (1839 and 1858).Later, when presenting his first and second inauguration addresses andespecially his brief address at Gettysburg, Lincoln explained with bothclarity and eloquence his commitment to preserving the Union and hisappreciation of those who shared that commitment. How many documentscreated by other presidents before or since continue to be read anddiscussed throughout the world in most of the major languages, both fortheir ideas and for their literary merit? Lincoln was a passionate andhighly-disciplined student. His preparation to practice law and then later,when president, to assume the duties of military commander after GeneralGeorge McClelland and other generals-in-chief were stricken by "theslows," clearly demonstrate that he was a tenacious and highly -disciplinedstudent. Thomas Edison once observed, "Vision without execution ishallucination." Early in his life, Lincoln had a vision of what he wanted toachieve in his life. His highly-developed skills as a writer played a majorrole in helping him to make that vision a reality.I also appreciate the wealth of insights Kaplan provides when discussingthe major influences on that process of development. Linco ln was an avidstudent of the language as well as the content in The Bible, John BunyansThe Pilgrims Progress, Mason Weemss Life of Washington, WilliamGrimshaws History of the United States, and later James Rileys AnAuthentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig "Commodore," andvarious poets such as Thomas Gray, Alexander Pope, John Milton, and ofcourse William Shakespeare. While in school and then in subsequentyears, Lincoln completed countless exercises during which he emulatedvarious writing styles and, over time, he began to develop his own. Here iscomposite of brief excerpts from Chapter 2:"All the elements for a distinctive style were coming into place [in 1833when Lincoln was a candidate for the Illinois state legislature]...Li ncolnsargument for his candidacy was detailed, precise, and cohesive. Emotionalexhortation suited neither his temperament nor his models of publicaddress. He argued at length his case for internalimprovements...Enlightenment standards of good writing and logicaldiscourse influenced his sentence structure and his diction. And in theshorthand of argument, he also revealed his conservative respect for the
  4. 4. `wisdom of mankind, for the value of lessons that widespread humanexperience has taught." I agree with Kaplan that a man who wrote asLincoln did does so purposefully. "He has a strategy. He wants to combinea lucid public prose with an intellectual analysis of issues. And though theanalysis requires levels of logic and reason associated with the educated,its effectiveness requires the presence of enough colloquial and commondiction to give it the feel of accessibility and to convey the writers respectfor the larger audience." These brief excerpts offer a sense of the Kaplansown highly-developed skills as a thinker and writer.In his second inaugural address, Lincoln urged reconciliation andreconstruction: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmnessin the right, as God gives us the right, let us strive to finish the work we arein; to bind up the nations wounds; to care for him who shall have born thebattle, and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve andcherish a just, and a lasting peace among our selves, and with all nations."On April 11, 1865, after having returned from a visit to Richmond, Lincolnspoke briefly to a crowd that had gathered outside the White House. Heagain reaffirmed his heartfelt desire to do all he could to help complete theprocess of reconciliation and construction, anticipating having numerousopportunities to "speak and act on the subject in the months and yearsahead. Four days later his ability to exercise this gift for language and hismastery of words on this and all other subjects ended." Were it not for thisbook, I doubt if more than a few scholars would understand the truth of thatstatement. For that, those who appreciate great writing are in FredKaplans debt. For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price: Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!