Richard Needham's Reviews > Lincoln

Lincoln by Gore Vidal
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M_50x66
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Oct 16, 10

Read from September 23 to October 10, 2010

This semi-fictional account of Lincoln’s years as President was written in the mid-1980’s. I took it to China to read, partly because it had enough pages to last the whole trip. An interesting read, but shallow in terms of character development and narrative drive (this is supposed to be, after all, historical fiction): we never seem to penetrate to Lincoln’s core. I also found the constant reminders of people’s habits or features irritating (do we need to be told over and over that General Scott was morbidly obese? Or that John Wilkes Booth was handsome, dark-haired and athletic?). And, the language does not really seem to ring true to the time (again, this is historical fiction). Still, Vidal does give us a sense of what Lincoln contended with (in political life, as commander-in-chief, and in his personal life), and how it wore him down. Perhaps I am spoiled by Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s (OK, non-fiction) Team of Rivals, where the characters are really brought to life (as in good fiction). I really prefer the American historical novels of Kenneth Roberts.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Artco77 (new) - added it

Artco77 You probably know nothing of Harris Hoyt and I doubt if Doris Kearnes Goodwin does. Many anal retentive academics don't care for Vidal's writings. A lot would like to steal from his footnotes if he had any. Vidal did an excellent job with this reader.


Richard Needham Artco77 wrote: "You probably know nothing of Harris Hoyt and I doubt if Doris Kearnes Goodwin does. Many anal retentive academics don't care for Vidal's writings. A lot would like to steal from his footnotes if he..."

Interesting that you can deduce one's profession (academic) and pschological makeup (anal retentive)from a short review. Perhaps you have an ax to grind? In any case, you are wrong on a number of counts: the academic part, the anal retentive part, and your assumption that I do not care for Vidal's writings. Actually I do, just not this particular book, for reasons stated.


message 3: by Artco77 (new) - added it

Artco77 Sorry if I did not make myself clear. I didn't say YOU were a lazy researcher, but many academics that bitch about Vidal's insufficient booknotes snipe at Vidal.

What I said to you, is that you probably don't know about the Harris Hoyt that Vidal mentioned. Perhaps some thought he was a fictional invention.


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