Monday, February 27, 2017

American Lion: A Review of Jon Meacham's biography of Andrew Jackson

American Lion.

Old Hickory.

War hero.





Father figure.

Slave owner.

Devoted husband.

Defender of the people.

Breaker of the bank.


Face on the $20 bill.


Andrew Jackson.

In American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Jon Meacham has the tall order of trying to present a president who, from what I can tell, was a conflicted and controversial figure in his own time. How does a historian reconcile the disparate accounts, first person and second person and third person records of an individual’s life, and then turn around and present the truth as far as they are able to a general readership? This is the problem of any historian. And Andrew Jackson certainly did not make it easy for his future biographers. 

Jackson’s personal history, orphaned at fourteen and victimized by the British troops during the American Revolution; his experience as a soldier; his scandalous romance with a married woman who was officially divorced after her marriage to Jackson; his improbable rise in politics and charismatic devotion to the American people…all make for a good foundation of a great president, right?  


Monday, February 20, 2017

Done Too Soon

Sadly, it happens more often than I would like to admit. You’re reading a great book—wonderful in fact—with an intriguing premise, a good cast of characters, and a nice grasp of Style. The only problem? The end. 

Now, the end of the book, if the book is good, is always the worst part. Because the goodness and enjoyment of the book ends when the story does. But the real tragedy is when a book’s end comes far, far too soon.

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha is either the first or second Lloyd Alexander book I ever read. (It’s a tossup between this and The Arcadians, but since I read—er, devoured—both of them within a 48-hour period, but I can’t remember which one I technically opened first.) It holds a special place in my heart with all Lloyd Alexander books, because not only are they wonderful books, but because I discovered them by chance during a rather difficult, lonely time in my adolescence. Lukas-Kasha, the Arcadians, Prydain, Vesper Holly…all were a source of comfort and cheer that I needed badly.