Sunday, December 21, 2008

TSS Week 24

I just finished reading Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson for the U.S. Presidents Reading Project. I really enjoyed the book because I love American history, even though I don't read it as much as I should. The only thing that really hurt it - and this is a big deal - is Vidal's inability to focus. Though this is my first Vidal read, I know that he is a political firebrand. That is not what I take issue with. If you would like to talk at length about how the Bush administration has ruined America, go for it... in a book about the Bush administration. All too often I will lose myself in 1776 with its colorful characters and tempestuous events, only to be yanked out as Vidal takes some 'prophetic' insight from Benjamin Franklin, et. al. to prove that Bush is a hack. Not once, not twice, but often. One of his major points in this book, published in 2003, is that George W. Bush fulfills many of the fears of the founding fathers. Again, it is fine to make that argument, but not in a book that presents the founding fathers and the birth of the nation as its subject matter.

Aside from the present day pontifications, Vidal also jumps around on the founding fathers themselves. One minute, John Adams is president... the next, he is back at the Continental Congress trying to get the others to break with Britain. These are not flashbacks - the story is just told in chunks and pieces. It is very hard to find a thread to hold onto.

Publishers Weekly summed it up best when they said, "This book was surely intended to be thought provoking. Unfortunately, it provokes more thought about its author than its subjects."

Now that I've been all negative, I have to say, it was so well written and captivating that I never once thought of putting it down, no matter how much the flaws annoyed me. I would read Vidal again - I just hope this interjection of political opinion into historical biography is not a pattern with him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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