THE LINCOLN BOYS – JOSHUA ZEITZ

This is not an easy book to write. In its telling this book suffers from sets of styles (different voices) imposed by the text. There is biography (A. Lincoln, John Hay, John Nicolay, Robert Lincoln).

Next comes autobiography. Maintaining the voice of Hay and Nicolay in the third person, the text becomes a memoir. What was it for each of them to write a biography? How do either of them write? How did either of them write differently? In short texts most writers ignore these personal voices when writing or they incorporate them into the text, and no one knows better. However, the author here tried at the beginning to keep everything separated.

There is a shift from biography when writers put together the story of the documents, events, people involved and other biographers. It becomes more so evident when the text becomes historical. In a short passage Our Ideal Hero Chapter, Zeitz efficiently tells of literary and social efforts to return the South to the United States. He adroitly puts together many of the same facts Mark Twain viewed before writing Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi.

Keeping everything distinguishable, clear and fluid was a challenge for this author. I read hoping everything would be in place. Other than for money I do not know why Nicolay and Hay wrote the Lincoln biography. The writing process for both Hay and Nicolay (the autobiography) was shortchanged.

Why write a ten volume biography of Lincoln? Trying to establish the image of Abraham Lincoln for posterity – was a public relations campaign needed? It might be argued that Lincoln could never be buried. The future of the man was set in stone when he was assassinated: Leader – President who took us through the War – Counseled moderation and a warm embrace to the South without slavery. And next, survivors and posterity discovered speeches to chisel into stone, incredible words. The Gettysburg Address may be the best speech of the century, unless it is superseded by an Inaugural Address.

Without the ten volume biography what might Lincoln’s image have become? Frivolous, goofball and irrelevant as some writers treat it today: Lincoln was a quiet lady’s man, manic-depressive, cold and some say, gay. It is likely that Americans will let these quacks polish their views as much as they can. But Lincoln tells Americans more about themselves, to a human being, than any one has communicated to the country and its people since his death.

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