“Lincoln” by Gore Vidal

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” –Abraham Lincoln

To the general population, Abraham Lincoln is known as the tall, foreboding yet, compassionate man who gave eloquent speeches and was one of the main forces to abolish slavery throughout the United States.  “Honest Abe” was born in 1809 and was the 16th president of the United States. Unfortunately, he was assassinated in 1865 at the age of 56. These are the general facts that people know about Abraham Lincoln but they don’t really know the man behind the top hat and suit. Author Gore Vidal, in his book “Lincoln” (a part of the Narratives of Empires series), presents a panorama of the American political and imperial experience as interpreted by one of its most knowing observers.

Author Gore Vidal was born in 1925 in West Point, New York, and recently passed away in July of 2012. Ironically, he was not far from the political lineages. His grandfather was US Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma and Vidal was known to be the fifth cousin of Jimmy Carter. A Democrat, Vidal also ran for political office twice and was a longtime political commentator. Throughout his writing career, Vidal wrote many political essays and novels and some were based on his experiences serving for the military during WWII. His most famous and widely known piece of writing is the historical novel “Lincoln” which was published in 1984.

In this historical novel, Vidal introduces the reader to the man who faced difficult decisions amidst catastrophic events plaguing the country and who also experienced inner turmoil after the death of his son.  Although Lincoln is largely known for his connection with the Civil War, Vidal does not write about it in full detail. The novel mostly focuses on the president’s personal struggles during the time of his presidency. One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is that it is not narrated from Lincoln’s point of view. Instead, Vidal’s portrait is drawn from contemporary diaries, memoirs, letters, newspaper accounts, and the biographical writings of Hay and John Nicolay, Lincoln’s secretaries.

“Lincoln” provides a unique perspective on the decisions that Lincoln made and what he personally thought of the events that were occurring around him. It allows one to see him as a human before a powerful political figure that managed to change the course of history in the United States.

 

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