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The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President

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The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President Cover

ISBN13: 9780307339621
ISBN10: 0307339629
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Publisher Comments:

Millard Fillmore has been mocked, maligned, or, most cruelly of all, ignored by generations of historians--but no more! This unbelievable new biography finally rescues the unlucky thirteenth U.S. president from the dustbin of history and shows why a man known as a blundering, arrogant, shallow, miserable failure was really our greatest leader.

In the first fully researched portrait of Fillmore ever written, the reader can finally come face-to-face with a misunderstood genius. By meticulously extrapolating outrageous conclusions from the most banal and inconclusive of facts, The Remarkable Millard Fillmore reveals the adventures of an unjustly forgotten president. He fought at the Battle of the Alamo! He shepherded slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad! He discovered gold in California! He wrestled with the emperor of Japan! It is a list of achievements that puts those of Washington and Lincoln completely in the shade.

Refusing to be held back by established history or recorded fact, here George Pendle paints an extraordinary portrait of an ordinary man and restores the sparkle to an unfairly tarnished reputation.

Review:

"America's 13th president has often been the subject of humor, and this bogus biography by Pendle (Strange Angels: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons) is no exception. Fillmore was not a 'blundering, pompous, ultimately shallow failure,' claims Pendle. Instead, we learn that the multitalented Fillmore had a rich and varied life, at once heroic, artistic and full of intellectual vigor. He saved a woman from a shark attack and received good reviews for his minstrel show performance: 'he had the audience guffawing mightily.' A prolific inventor, he never received proper credit for vulcanizing rubber or designing the cooling 'Tea-shirt.' Like Woody Allen's Zelig, Fillmore had a knack for always being present at major historical events, where he usually emerged triumphant (as when he prevented the assassination of Andrew Jackson and survived the Battle of the Alamo. Using previously unknown sources, Pendle has achieved his goal 'to redeem the reputation of a forgotten giant,' and he also succeeds in amusing readers by mixing the historical and the hysterical. 40 b&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

In this hilarious send-up of serious presidential biographies, the least notable president in American history finally gets his due. In his fully researched portrait, Pendle extrapolates outrageous conclusions from the most banal and inconclusive of facts.

About the Author

George Pendle is the author of Strange Angel. He has written for The Times, The Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. He lives in New York City.

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rollyson2002, August 17, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)

Millard Fillmore (1800��"74), 13th president of the United States, a lawyer, and a Whig, lost a race for New York governor in 1844, ran as Zachary Taylor's vice president in 1848, and became president in 1850 after Taylor died. Ridiculed as a bumbling figure and denied re-nomination in 1852, he ran for president on the Know-Nothing Party ticket in 1856, carrying only the state of Maryland.

When George Pendle announced at the Biographer's Club in Washington, D.C., that he had decided to write about Fillmore, Carl Sandburg snorted, "You idiot, that pecker never did a damn thing in his life!" The normally well-behaved Arthur Schlesinger Jr. cut off Mr. Pendle's retreat to the club door, grabbing the top of his underpants and hoisting them halfway up the biographer's back.

Undeterred, Mr. Pendle discovered that his subject led an adventurous life; stowing away on a battleship bound for Japan; befriending a Native American tribe who in turn adopted him; discovering gold in California; daring to correct Queen Victoria's English; fighting at the Alamo; and shepherding slaves to freedom along the underground railroad.

"The Remarkable Millard Fillmore" is documented in Fillmore's journals (volumes 1��"53, another of Mr. Pendle's discoveries), in addition to a cache of unpublished letters ��" and perhaps most important of all, a collection of Fillmore's napkin doodles. With so much new primary material, no wonder, as Mr. Pendle's publisher notes, historians have been in an uproar, contesting this radically revisionist history.

Even where Fillmore seems most vulnerable ��" his maladroit stint in the White House��"Mr. Pendle offers an explanation: It was too late to do anything about the Compromise of 1850, which temporarily put off the conflict over slavery. Fillmore's address on the subject, "What I Did During My Summer Holidays," was not "well received." Indeed, his party was already looking for his replacement. What ensued, however, was hardly Fillmore's fault, since he spent the better part of his presidential term in Japan ��" the best solution, his biographer argues, for a politician who decided that as a "divisive figure" he was "best kept out of public view." Mr. Pendle belongs to the P.T. Barnum School of Biography. In his "Notes," he quotes his avatar's answer to a question put by a visitor to Barnum's American Museum of human oddities: "Is it real or it is humbug?" Barnum replied, "That's just the question: Persons who pay their money at the door have the right to form their own opinions after they have got upstairs."

Mr. Pendle, in other words, has written the funniest sendup of an American historical figure and politics since Herman Melville's "Israel Potter" (1855) ��" not to mention a full-scale debunking of biographers and historians. The recondite paraphernalia of scholarly biography is parodied in hilarious, pedantic footnotes (rendered in puny type):

There has been some conjecture, postulated by A. Davidson, Ph.D. (Phys. Ed.), in her book Lincoln's Diphthong, that the correct pronunciation of Millard is with an open front unrounded vowel sound, in order that it rhymes with retard. This author maintains that Millard should be pronounced with a mid-central unstressed and neutral resonance, so that it can be rhymed with dullard.

Presidential biography also gets its comeuppance with references to tomes such as Hubert Tavistock-Monroe's "Who's Your Daddy? Inherited Wealth and the Presidency from George Washington to George W. Bush."

The typeface of "The Remarkable Millard Fillmore" is an 18th-century affair, with chapter titles echoing the old-fashioned great man of history narratives: "Fillmore, Man of Law, "Fillmore the Explorer," "Fillmore Among the Natives," "Fillmore the Kingmaker," and my favorite, "Fillmore Goes West." But classical allusions abound also in "Fillmore Agonistes" and "Fillmore Unbound." Mr. Pendle, not one to shirk any parody, titles his first chapter, "I, Fillmore."

The illustrations accompanying the text are a comic tour de force. They picture figures like James Madison, president during the War of 1812, whom Mr. Pendle describes as "a man of small stature at a time when being small meant being very short indeed." Below the text is a portrait (about twice the size of a postage stamp) with the subtitle: "James Madison: actual size." And the War of 1812? What was that about? Its causes, Mr. Pendle reports, are "now lost in the mists of time." But a footnote adds, "Something to do with boats, probably."

The laughter this book occasions is therapeutic. Biography, like every genre, requires a thorough satirical scour now and then, as Mr. Pendle's ingenious novel proves in its inimitable fashion.

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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307339621
Author:
Pendle, George
Publisher:
Three Rivers Press (CA)
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
United States - 19th Century
Subject:
Presidents & Heads of State
Subject:
Presidents
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Presidents -- United States.
Subject:
Fillmore, Millard
Subject:
General Humor
Subject:
Biography-Presidents and Heads of State
Subject:
Political
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20070431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
54 BandW PHOTOS THROUGHOUT
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9.18x6.20x.64 in. .61 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » Political
Biography » Historical
Biography » Presidents and Heads of State
History and Social Science » US History » 1800 to Civil War
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
History and Social Science » US History » US Presidency

The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$13.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Three Rivers Press (CA) - English 9780307339621 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "America's 13th president has often been the subject of humor, and this bogus biography by Pendle (Strange Angels: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons) is no exception. Fillmore was not a 'blundering, pompous, ultimately shallow failure,' claims Pendle. Instead, we learn that the multitalented Fillmore had a rich and varied life, at once heroic, artistic and full of intellectual vigor. He saved a woman from a shark attack and received good reviews for his minstrel show performance: 'he had the audience guffawing mightily.' A prolific inventor, he never received proper credit for vulcanizing rubber or designing the cooling 'Tea-shirt.' Like Woody Allen's Zelig, Fillmore had a knack for always being present at major historical events, where he usually emerged triumphant (as when he prevented the assassination of Andrew Jackson and survived the Battle of the Alamo. Using previously unknown sources, Pendle has achieved his goal 'to redeem the reputation of a forgotten giant,' and he also succeeds in amusing readers by mixing the historical and the hysterical. 40 b&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , In this hilarious send-up of serious presidential biographies, the least notable president in American history finally gets his due. In his fully researched portrait, Pendle extrapolates outrageous conclusions from the most banal and inconclusive of facts.
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