Written in period style and peppered with 19th-century humor, a narrative portrait of the 16th President in his own voice reflects on his major life events from his picaresque youth in Illinois and improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd through his visit to war-shattered Richmond days before his assassination. By the author of Johnny One-Eye. - (Baker & Taylor)
A narrative portrait of Abraham Lincoln in his own voice reflects on his major life events, from his picaresque youth in Illinois and improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd through his visit to war-shattered Richmond days before his assassination. - (Baker & Taylor)
Since publishing his first novel in 1964, Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape. Here in I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln's life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady's dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man's-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction. - (WW Norton)
Narrated in Lincoln’s own voice, the tragicomic I Am Abraham promises to be the masterwork of Jerome Charyn’s remarkable career. - (WW Norton)
Charyn faces the daunting task of fictionalizing the life of an American icon, but does so with aplomb. He traces the course of Abraham Lincoln's life and times, utilizing the specter of mental illness within his family as a literary device connecting all the dots into a full-bodied portrait of the beloved, reviled, and doomed sixteenth president of the U.S. Beginning with Lincoln's early years in Illinois, he traces his often tortuous path from the prairie to the presidency. By employing a first-person narrative, he is able to inject Lincoln's inimitable intelligence, wit, and compassion into every page, as his homespun humor is underscored with his trademark pathos and humanity. As the nation arrives at the brink of destruction and his own family faces their own monumental struggles under the national microscope, the range and depth of his commitment to his family and to his country are revealed. The legend of Lincoln continues to fascinate, and this compulsively readable fictional autobiography approaches the man and the myth from a fresh new angle. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
Guggenheim Fellow Charyn frequently explores American history through fiction; witness his dynamic and much-debated The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson. Here he resurrects Abraham Lincoln.
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Library Journal Reviews
It should be no surprise that a historical novel by Charyn captures the attention. A deeply lyrical writer, he has proven himself adept at reworking America's historical legends from 1980's Darlin' Bill to The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson in 2010. Reworking is the key to Charyn's approach. His concern is not so much what has been written down about Abraham Lincoln's actions as the inner life and tensions of his famous protagonist: his depression, his deep feelings of unworthiness, but also his compassion for the downtrodden. This re-creation of Lincoln's life is as much domestic history as public, with Lincoln contraposed to his fiery but deeply troubled wife and his three very different sons. Charyn's Lincoln is a real man, not a stick-figure saint. He lusts for Mary Todd in language that is earthy, at times even bawdy. But Lincoln was also, and always, a man who strove to listen to the better angels of his nature, and this, too, comes out in Charyn's book. VERDICT This is another fine novel by a very good author who has a proven track record of attracting readers of all persuasions. What's not to like? [See Prepub Alert, 8/12/13.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
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