a series of well-crafted autobiographical vignettes, mostly magazine pieces from the 20s and 30s; witty, self-deprecating, and even wistful and elegiaa series of well-crafted autobiographical vignettes, mostly magazine pieces from the 20s and 30s; witty, self-deprecating, and even wistful and elegiac at times; reflections on his generation, and his infamous spending habits. ...more
This one hit the spot -- plot-driven enough to make it a page-turner, but without compromising character, tone, ambiance or insight; narrated by a witThis one hit the spot -- plot-driven enough to make it a page-turner, but without compromising character, tone, ambiance or insight; narrated by a witty, observant, ambitious, even likeable narrator; and with just the right doses of art deco, big band swing and 30s screwball comedy.
There are some remarkable turns-of-phrase, too, from the blunt truisms of an Old-World father ("Old times, my father said: If you're not careful, they'll gut you like a fish.") to the lyrical, Nick Carraway-esque musings of the narrator ("As we sat there, dusk was falling and the lights of the city were coming on one by one in ways that even Edison hadn't imagined. They came on across the great patchwork of office buildings and along the cables of the bridges; then it was the street lamps and the theater marquees, the headlights of the cars and the beacons perched atop the radio towers -- each individual lumen testifying to some unhesitant, intemperate collective aspiration.")....more
So John Adams lacked the natural social grace of Jefferson and the understated dignity of Washington. And he certainly did not have the gift forWow...
So John Adams lacked the natural social grace of Jefferson and the understated dignity of Washington. And he certainly did not have the gift for self-promotion and "joie de vive" that the French found so abundant in Franklin. As Adams himself admitted, he could be a bit self-righteous and vain, especially when he felt that his integrity had been questioned. But these (admitted) flaws seem like small potatoes next to Jefferson's hypocrisy regarding slavery, his uncontrollable personal spending, and his personal betrayal of Adams for his own political gain.
In fact, by the end of this book, McCullough had convinced me again and again that Adams was the most maligned and misunderstood of the Founding Fathers, despite his being the most honorable, honest and tireless of the lot. The portrait this excellent book paints is that of a Yankee farmer's son who loved books and new ideas, who fell in love with the law and devoted his life to the American experiment, and who refused to compromise his integrity for political approval.
The Adams we see here is also entirely devoted to his wife Abigail, despite the many separations they endure in the interest of the United States.
And speaking of Abigail, why wasn't she president? She would have been every bit as sharp, decisive and resolute as any of the presidents up to Lincoln.
What I enjoyed most about McCullough's writing is the liberal use he makes of the private correspondence between John and Abigail, as well as Adams's letters to and from Bejamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson, Elbridge Gerry, and his son John Quincy Adams. Again and again I was struck by how central such written correspondence was to the lives of this founding generation, and also how long it often took for these letters to arrive at their destination -- especially in times of war and when they had to travel across the Atlantic.
Why isn't there a John Adams Memorial in Washington, D.C.?