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Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America…

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America

by Andrew Ferguson

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Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America was a roller coaster ride of reading. Sluggish at times, but humorous throughout, the book follows Ferguson (and his reluctant family's) quest to "discover" how Abraham Lincoln is viewed in this country. While primarily dealing with Kentucky/Indiana/Illinois, the book includes individuals and events throughout the US, some more noteworthy than others. What I found most notable in his writing is a biting sarcasm, somewhat sardonic, which seemed to underscore almost every scenario he experienced - whether Pro or Anti Lincoln. There seemed an unnatural investigative reporter's bias, but the bias seemed to change direction, so it became questionable where his true beleifs lie. As the book progresses, his true feelings become more clear - and irrelevant - as the Lincoln "spirit" comes through. A worthwhile read. ( )
  pbadeer | Aug 12, 2011 |
A friend recommend this book because she knew I enjoyed Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic. Although I don't believe Andrew Ferguson is quite as good a writer as Horwitz, Land of Lincoln was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The author sets out to find Lincoln where he is still remembered, honored or loathed. (Not surprisingly, most of the haters are in the South, where some of the wackos call him a war criminal.)

But the author is at his best when he's retracing his childhood tour of the Lincoln Heritage Trail with his reluctant children (and patient wife) in tow. Anyone who made a road trip in the '50s or '60s with their parents will get a stab of recognition.

The Land of Lincoln is a series of personal essays that manages to convey the many contradictions in what's written and believed about Lincoln as president, man and icon. In the process, readers get a 360 view of our 16th president.

After I finished reading the book, one question lingered, one that was expressed in the book by the author's young son. If it was OK for America to break from England, why wasn't it OK for the South to break away from the Union? Just think how things might have been different if Lincoln would have said to the South: "Good-bye and good riddance."

7/25/2010 ( )
2 vote NewsieQ | Jul 25, 2010 |
  JohnMeeks | Feb 13, 2010 |
Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor of "The Weekly Standard," details the still visible and tangible legacy of Abraham Lincoln in this rousing book. Writing with humor and insight, Ferguson visits the museums and monuments, interviews the main Lincoln collectors, and considers the shaping of Lincoln's meaning in American memory over the decades.

"Land of Lincoln" begins with the 2004 controversy over the installation of a statue of Lincoln in Richmond, Virginia, the former capitol of the Confederacy. The outrage clearly intrigued Ferguson, who wondered, as he writes, "Who could object to Lincoln?" (2) As Ferguson discovered, there's a strong contingent of people who dislike the sixteenth president. Attending a conference organized by Lincoln statue opponents, Ferguson was surprised to discover a room full of normal middle-class Americans, rather than rednecks or ignorant oafs, who seemed to know quite a bit about Lincoln. Listening to them, he was intrigued by a pattern that arose, exemplified by the writings of Thomas DiLorenzo:
"The pattern of DiLorenzo's awakening is common among the Lincoln haters. They all tell a similar story. Having inherited a vague but intensely admiring account of Lincoln in their youth, they were startled when they learned that some of it -- at least -- wasn't entirely accurate, and before long the whole edifice came tumbling down." (23)

From this beginning, Ferguson sets out to trace the shape of Lincoln's legacy, learning more about than the 'vague but intensely admiring account of Lincoln' from his own youth. Ferguson himself is very much a central figure in this narrative -- for all of his solid insight -- and this story is in some ways a modern-day odyssey for the writer. Along the way, he frequently comments on the Lincoln he met as a child, visiting the Chicago Historical Society years ago, or taking a family vacation along the Lincoln Heritage Trail.

Writing with humor and delicacy, Ferguson fleshes out his text, which at first seems to be just an entertaining travelogue: the author is always going somewhere to look for Lincoln, seeing the sights and talking to interesting people. Woven within this, though, is a wealth of historical facts about Lincoln and the development of his legacy, mixed with details about the changing contexts for Lincoln's legacy -- including the changing context of what is history -- and held together with the emotional response of Ferguson about what he's observing and learning.

The most entertaining chapter may be the brutal onslaught Ferguson launches at the Chicago Historical Society in a chapter entitled "The Past Isn't What It Used to Be." Ferguson remembers visiting the museum as a child, especially the graphic representations of history, like a reconstructed fort and Indian village or twenty dioramas showing scenes from Lincoln's life. When he revisited years later, all of these had been removed, in favor of social history. Ferguson is clearly an ideological conservative, which gives his comments about museums an edge, but fundamentally he is almost certainly right: narrative history is more comprehensible for the general public -- and has more interesting display pieces -- than social history.

This hugely entertaining diatribe aside, Ferguson is more amusedly balanced in the rest of his journey, whether considering the behemoth $145 million museum in Springfield, Illinois, talking to countless Lincoln impersonators at an annual Association of Lincoln Presenters conference, or dragging his own kids along a modified version of the Lincoln Heritage Trail (which turns out to have been a creation of the American Petroleum Institute to encourage lengthy automobile trips). He considers the use of Lincoln over the last 80 years to teach leadership secrets to business people. He writes about the breathtaking and expansive industry of Lincolniana that has developed over the years, including a visit with collector de jour Louise Taper, irrepressible and enthusiastic as always.

It is difficult to describe the superb tightrope act Ferguson performs in this book. The text is unassuming, almost journalistic, yet brimming with intelligence. It is unfailingly enjoyable to read and consistently interesting. Moreover, it is often downright touching, never more so than the beautiful and ironic story about Ferguson's visit with his kids to Lincoln's birthplace cabin. It has insights and research for the Lincoln buff, but will delight any reader.

This review is also published at http://lincolniana.blogspot.com/2009/04/book-review-land-of-lincoln-adventures.h.... ( )
1 vote ALincolnNut | Jan 20, 2010 |
This is a fun to book to read. Beyond that, it's hard to describe just what it is - part history, part travelogue, part research essay, part meditation. But it is this breezy back and forth that gives the book its strength. Ferguson's writing style is loose, anecdotal, engaging,and graceful. (His chapters on travelling with his teenage children will ring especially true to any history buff who has bribed their children to too many historical sights.) Think along the lines of Bill Bryson. ( )
  fidchivers | Jun 30, 2008 |
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More books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than about any other American - nearly fourteen thousand in all - and at least half of those books begin by saying that more books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than about any other American.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871139677, Hardcover)

Before he grew up and became one of Washington’s most respected reporters and editors, Andrew Ferguson was, of all things, a Lincoln buff — with the photos hung on his bedroom wall to prove it. Decades later, Ferguson’s latent buffdom is reignited. In Land of Lincoln , he embarks on a curiosity-fueled coast-to-coast journey through contemporary Lincoln Nation, encountering everything from hatred to adoration to opportunism and all manner of reaction in between. He attends a national conference of Lincoln impersonators; attends a leadership conference based on Lincoln’s “management style”; drags his family across the three-state-long and now defunct Lincoln Heritage Trail; and even manages to hold one of five original copies of the Gettysburg Address. Along the way he weaves in enough history to hook readers of presidential biographies and popular histories while providing the engaging voice and style of the best narrative journalism. This is an entertaining, unexpected, and big-hearted celebration of Lincoln and his enduring influence on the country he helped create.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A journalist embarks on a cross-country odyssey in search of Abraham Lincoln's place in modern-day America and discovers the often surprising legacy of his personality, philosophy, and mythology.

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