Thursday, June 14, 2012

To America

In a 2010 article in the New Yorker by Richard Rayner, he discusses his uncovering the information from one of Eisenhower's coterie that Stephen Ambrose fabricated the number of  interviews he had with Dwight Eisenhower for the sake of “narrative panache.”

Never liking to read that an author of “history” has pulled a fast one, I went ahead and completed Ambrose’s last work, To America. The work had been on my list since it came out in 2002. {I don’t need to remind you here that my approach to what I read is based on library availability and which of the eight pages of my book list on which I happen to glance. Not chronological -- not scientific -- just random.}

In this work sub-titled Personal Reflections of an Historian, Ambrose writes short chapters on a variety of subjects of historical interest --  from Thomas Jefferson to immigration to the Korean War. In each of these, his commentary highlights certain aspects of these historical people or events that he concludes interested him or impacted the course of history.  Ambrose is more complimentary than critical. Call it patriotism or my lack of patience with the latter, but I liked these essays --  he reminded me of events I had forgotten:  how Andrew Jackson got the scar on his face or the small steps that led to our full scale involvement in Vietnam.

To America is a gentle, “history” book -- as Ambrose’s approach reads like a series of letters he might have written or a conversation he might have had over the dinner table with a colleague. In these he illustrated his own biases, mistakes, as well as opinions on issues that he’s either changed his mind or developed an even stronger stance.  His own personal life interwoven with these essays makes for an even better read.

Note: In many of his revelations he chats about how he ended up being a writer, and he credits his Professor at the University of Wisconsin who encouraged him as well as made comments on his papers "[that were] sometimes humorous, usually insightful, frequently helpful, often scathing. Many times it seemed he wrote more in the way of comments than we had written in the paper.”

My kind of teacher.
Just sayin’.

*wink, wink*

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this review.

    It sounds like a book my history buff, 8-year old son would like too.