Synopses & Reviews
For Abraham Lincoln, whether he was composing love letters, speeches, or legal arguments, words mattered. In Lincoln, acclaimed biographer Fred Kaplan explores the life of America's sixteenth president through his use of language as a vehicle both to express complex ideas and feelings and as an instrument of persuasion and empowerment. Like the other great canonical writers of American literature a status he is gradually attaining Lincoln had a literary career that is inseparable from his life story. An admirer and avid reader of Burns, Byron, Shakespeare, and the Old Testament, Lincoln was the most literary of our presidents. His views on love, liberty, and human nature were shaped by his reading and knowledge of literature.
Since Lincoln, no president has written his own words and addressed his audience with equal and enduring effectiveness. Kaplan focuses on the elements that shaped Lincoln's mental and imaginative world; how his writings molded his identity, relationships, and career; and how they simultaneously generated both the distinctive political figure he became and the public discourse of the nation. This unique account of Lincoln's life and career highlights the shortcomings of the modern presidency, reminding us, through Lincoln's legacy and appreciation for language, that the careful and honest use of words is a necessity for successful democracy.
Illuminating and engrossing, Lincoln brilliantly chronicles Abraham Lincoln's genius with language.
"A highly readable, ofteninsightful analysis of an unequaled prose master for whom writing was 'the supreme artifact of human genius.' " Kirkus Reviews
"In light of today's political subversion of language, Kaplan's work points the way to our own resetting of the democratic compass thus to direct our path as a free people." Library Journal
In this intriguing biography, literary biographer Fred Kaplan analyzes Abraham Lincoln's writings, from the great civic anthems of his presidency to love letters, legal briefs, and poems, and finds a first-rate literary talent a master storyteller with an earthy wit, sharp logic, and an ear for poetic phrasing.
“Fred Kaplans Lincoln
offers penetrating insights on Lincolns ability to explain complex ideas in language accessible to a broad range of readers and listeners.” — James M. McPherson, The New York Review of Books
“A fine, invaluable book. . . . Certain to become essential to our understanding of the 16th president. . . . Kaplan meticulously analyzes how Lincolns steadily maturing prose style enabled him to come to grips with slavery and, as his own views evolved, to express his deepening opposition to it.” — Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
Fascinating. . . . persuasive [and] highly perceptive.” — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
From acclaimed biographer Fred Kaplan comes an illuminating look at the life of Abraham Lincoln that chronicles his genius with language.
About the Author
Fred Kaplan is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of several biographies including The Singular Mark Twain, Gore Vidal, Henry James, The Imagination of Genius, Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Boothbay, Maine.