The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough A Who’s Who of 1800’s Americans travel to Paris to study medicine and art and to just bask in the radiance that is the world’s greatest city. Everyone’s here, Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.), James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel Morse, Elizabeth Blackwell, John Singer Sergeant, Mary Cassatt, Teddie…
I was a guest on Coffee Table on KBBI this morning, keeping company with Shady Grove Oliver and Terry Rensel as we talked about our favorite reads with people who call in. It was a blast, as always–thanks, guys!–and without further ado, here’s the books we talked about on the air. Caroline Cow Woman of…
[from the stabenow.com vaults, July 5, 2010]
So I'm sitting here bawling because John Adams just died. It doesn't seem to matter that it happened 182 years ago.
The best biographers understand that a biography is not only a history of the title subject but a time machine to the time in which he or she lived. Having read David McCullough's John Adams, I now feel like I was in the room when John (look at that, we're on a first-name basis) rose in Congress to speak in support of the Declaration of Independence, like I was sitting at Abigail's elbow when she wrote to him wherever he was, Philadelphia, Paris, Amsterdam, London. There are so many great word pictures, like the one of John helping to repel boarders when his ship came under attack crossing the Atlantic, told this time in the words of the ship's captain.
And Abigail. Has there ever been such a woman? Has there ever been such a partnership? It's almost enough to make me believe in marriage.
Of course it helps that John and Abigail both were such indefatigable correspondents (they weren't happy that they were so many times separated but we sure lucked out) and such amazingly good writers. The quality of their writing, as well as that of their multitude of other correspondents is certain to leave you wondering where the hell that ability went.
McCullough's organizational skills in plucking just the right phrase from just the right letter are astonishing, and his own prose doesn't suffer by comparison, either. A glorious, you-are-there book.