Just to show I’m not vindictive (see last post on Kerouac and Viking/Penguin) I just finished another Lincoln biography, part of that Penguin Lives series of small hardbacks, most written by authors not known as biographers or historians in the academic sense.
This one is by the Australian novelist Thomas Keneally, most famous for writing the novel Spielberg's SHINDLER’S LIST was based on.
As in all these Penguin Lives, most of which I’ve read, this one is relatively short and well written—more like a friend telling you Abe’s story, with a lot of nuance and asides, but conversationally, personally, because the friend really wants you to know this stuff.
There’s nothing in it I hadn’t read before in other more scholarly tomes on Lincoln, but Keneally manages to condense most of the usual academic research and interpretation into a compelling and admirable story that helped me get the man and his struggles more directly than I had before.
Like the last scene in THE SORPRANOS when I finally got what it might be like to be Tony, or someone like him, in Keanelly’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN I finally got what it might have been like to have been Abe. And made me realize, there’s no one like him.
I picked it up on a bookstore remainder table—it’s been out for three years and I guess didn’t sell that well—but I found it well worth reading.
I don’t even know if the series is still going on. But up until last year, I’d read most of the books in it, so I thought I’d list my top five favorites among them (though to be honest I could list almost every one they’ve published so far):
SAINT AUGUSTINE by Gary Wills
JAMES JOYCE by Edna O’Brien
MARLON BRANDO by Patricia Bosworth
POPE JOHN XXIII by Thomas Cahill
and ABRAHAM LINCOLN by Thomas Keneally