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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

Men Go to Battle

August 19, 2016 | by

A small-budget film dramatizes the passive motives of Civil War enlistees.

Still from Men Go to Battle.

Still from Men Go to Battle.

The following are reasons that Henry Mellon, the protagonist of the film Men Go to Battle, volunteers to leave his home and fight for the Union in the Civil War: his brother, Francis, has thrown an ax at him in a spirit of fun; one of his mules has run into the woods; the local rich girl has spurned his advances; his arable land is choked with weeds; Francis is taller and more confident than he is; a rainstorm has drowned six of his chickens.

The following are not evident reasons for his enlistment: patriotism, abolitionism. Henry can neither read nor write, and he shows no interest in the world beyond his town, Small’s Corner, Kentucky. The rich girl he likes is waited on by enslaved maids.

He slips off to the army on a winter night. Weeks later, he composes a letter home, dictating to a literate comrade: “I have all the beef and salted pork I want.” Read More »

The Last Days of Foamhenge

July 26, 2016 | by

Hanover 2810-24

Photo: Brett Hanover.

If you’ve ever taken I-81 north through Virginia, you’ve passed the town of Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County—home to a ninety-foot limestone arch that extends over a gorge, a geological anomaly probably formed by an ancient underground river. Natural Bridge is an anachronism from the Route 66 era of highway travel, a place where you can pay twenty dollars to look at a rock, eat a rock-themed lunch, and then buy a shot glass illustrated with a picture of that same rock. As any respectable tourist trap must, the town hosts a constellation of other attractions: a petting zoo, a dinosaur/Civil War theme park, and the Natural Bridge Wax Museum (now closed, and former home to a ghoulish Obama tribute). Best of all is the featherlight, faux prehistoric monument known as Foamhenge.

As its name suggests, Foamhenge is a one-to-one scale replica of Stonehenge, made of foam. It is identical to the original, save the flecked gray paint, the accompanying statue of a deadhead-ish Merlin, and the fact that it was erected several millennia later. For the past twelve years, the henge has been the most public of Natural Bridge’s draws, garnering a steady stream of visitors and enough press to be mentioned in the same breath as the area’s actual ancient rocks. Its creator, an artist named Mark Cline, calls it his “foam-nomenon”: the unlikely culmination of his career as a sculptor of roadside attractions. Read More »

Mourning Lincoln, and Other News

February 15, 2016 | by


  • Happy Presidents’ Day! Martha Hodes’s Mourning Lincoln has won the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. The prize committee described the NYU Professor’s book as “a stunning and enlightening work that underscores the rage that Lincoln’s assassination fueled, the outpouring of grief that resulted, and how the anger and confusion that boiled across the country that summer influenced the failures of Reconstruction.”
  • Related: there are comic books devoted to the lives of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, and, obviously, Donald Trump. 
  • Irin Carmon, author of the recent Notorious RBG, discusses Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous cross-aisle friendship with her judicial adversary, the late Antonin Scalia. “Ironically, Scalia’s death has laid bare just how endangered such comity now is in Washington.” So don’t expect to see an ironic political takeoff of Unlikely Friendships at your local Urban Outfitters any time soon, which I’d been privately cherishing as a million-dollar idea. 
  • It’ll surprise no one that reading is good for the brain: a recent Emory University study found that “reading can heighten connectivity in the left cortex of the brain after the fact. The activity is potential evidence that while we imagine the events in a book, the brain activity allows us to feel immersion.” The buried heartbreaker? Apparently Pew finds that only 72 percent of Americans read a book in the last year. Which is, yes, a passing grade, but also a C-.
  • Speaking of! What do “millionaire entrepreneurs” read? According to this article, exactly what you’d expect: The Art of War, The Tipping Point, and, obviously, The Elements of Style. Quoth Leon Rbibo, president of The Pearl Source, “If you can’t write—if you can’t clearly and concisely express yourself, your goals, your objectives, and your strategy you’re not going to make it very far as an entrepreneur. Rewrite your elevator pitch after reading this book. I guarantee you’ll impress yourself.” Well, that too.

Ghosts Stay Near Home

November 3, 2015 | by

In the third of three excerpts from The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Thomas Laqueur looks at the life and afterlife of the churchyard in literature.

John Constable, The Church Porch, East Bergholt, 1810.

In 1806, England’s greatest landscape painter, John Constable, began a series of drawings and oil sketches of the church and churchyard of East Bergholt in the Stour Valley of Sussex, the village in which he had been born. In one of these, a man and two women gather around a tomb and look intently at an inscription that we cannot quite read. Those who saw the final painting would have known the allusion. An engraving published as the frontispiece to a collection of epitaphs the same year makes it explicit: the girl with her back to us blocks most of the text, but we can make out “Here rest / A Youth.” Anyone in the early nineteenth century would have been able to fill in the missing words:

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth,
A Youth, to fortune and to fame unknown

from Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751). They would not have needed the words; any picture of a churchyard evoked Gray. The “Elegy” was an immediate success when it was published and remained resonant for at least two centuries. “Poem of Poems,” Edmund Gosse, the late nineteenth-century man of letters called it in his English Men of Letters book about Gray. Line for line, it has given more words to the English language, according to the attributions in the Oxford English Dictionary, than any other source; it was probably recited by more schoolchildren in the nineteenth century than any other; it was continually translated—thirty-three times into Italian alone by 1850. It was endlessly reprinted and anthologized in English. Read More »

Four Poems by Richard Milhous Nixon

February 16, 2015 | by

ab028100ee5176959782b685451434d414f4141Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, and Jimmy Carter all published collections of poetry—and I don’t mean to diminish their stately, often tender contributions to arts and letters by what follows. But the simple fact of the matter is, their poetical efforts pale in comparison to Richard Nixon, who was, and remains, the most essential poet-president the United States of America has ever produced.

The Poetry of Richard Milhous Nixon, a slim volume compiled by Jack S. Margolis and published in 1974, stands as a seminal work in verse. Comprising direct excerpts from the Watergate tapes—arguably the most fecund stage of Nixon’s career—it fuses the rugged rhetoric of statesmanship to the lithe contours of song, all rendered in assured, supple, poignant free verse. Below, to celebrate Presidents’ Day, are four selections from this historic chapbook, which has, lamentably, slipped out of print. Read More »

Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln

February 12, 2013 | by


“My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” —Abraham Lincoln