I watched Lincoln yesterday, directed by Steven Spielberg and based in part on the book A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I have to admit it. I drank the Kool-Aid. I walked out of that film floored by an uncanny performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, completely bowled over by the ‘political genius’ of Abraham Lincoln. Even more so, I was astounded by the towering, mythological status of Lincoln in American culture.
The film revolves around his struggle to pass the 13th amendment abolishing slavery in the United States, during the last days of the Civil War. Lincoln was laudatory. It was reverential. It painted him as a God among men, and you know what? I believed it. It emphasized the fact that Lincoln’s status as an almost supernatural being came from his intellect, his ability to see, simultaneously, the world for what it was and for what it could be. So what he “bought” votes for the 13th amendment and suspended Habeas corpus during the war. Gotta do what you gotta do, right?
There were three stand-out performances, aside from Daniel Day-Lewis. I’ll mention them quickly. As far as I’m concerned, Sally Fields is the reincarnated version of Mary Todd Lincoln. I expected Mary to be played as raving and hysterical, but it wasn’t so in Lincoln.She played her fairly, imbuing her with fierceness, fragility and dignity. It was refreshing, since she’s often made out to be nothing more than some ‘cray-cray’ lunatic lady our saintly 16th president had to care for against his will. Tommy Lee Jones killed as Thaddeus Stevens, abolitionist, man with a silver tongue and all around uncompromising moral enforcer. They even throw in some screen time for his Irish-American-African-American common law wife, Lydia Hamilton Smith, played by Sharon Epatha Merkerson, to tickle and titillate audiences.
Lastly, it was Jackie Earle Haley as Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America that really won me over. It’s a bit part, but boy is it an important one. His sense of desperation, and loss, when Lincoln invites him to rejoin the Union completely on the Union’s terms, is some of the finest acting I’ve seen in ages. What is so interesting—symbolic, even, is how Stephens functions as a shinning example of the South’s continued arrogance, even in defeat. It’s that arrogance, the film tells us, that led to their succession and defeat in the first place.
Stephens tells Lincoln that he’ll only surrender under the guarantee that the Southern states will be re-admitted into the Union quickly enough to block the ratification of the 13th amendment. Lincoln pauses, and then reminds Stephens that the gavel has already come down. He’s won the war, they’ve lost, and they’ve lost slavery along with it. “All our traditions will be obliterated,” Stephens says. “We won’t know ourselves anymore.”
Now, on the to real question: Did watching Lincoln make me want to read A Team of Rivals? Double YES!
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There’s a new graphic novel version of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic young adult novel A Wrinkle in Time. Jenna Brager takes a look:
A Wrinkle in Time is part of a subgenre of young adult literature in which ordinary, plain children are called upon to do brave, incredible things with the help of newfound powers, and then, inevitably grow up to be extraordinary, attractive adults. In my solitary fort, I ate it up (along with the chips and chocolate). I was Hermione Granger, frizzy-haired and mocked and too smart for my own good. I was Bastian Balthazar Bux from The Neverending Story, chubby and lonely and transported into an epic adventure through the pages of a book. I was Meg Murry, bespectacled, outcast, and misunderstood. Superimposing myself onto Meg, I tessered across the universe with witches who quoted Shakespeare, flew on the back of an angel, fought against the Black Thing shadowing Earth, saved my father and brother from a giant brain that turned people into living automatons, and was cradled in the arms of a kindly fur-covered tentacle beast. I grappled with my own fears, of losing my parents, of being unpopular, of the world ending. I thought about good and evil, about conformity and difference, about love and hate and the existence of God. (A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, has been read as Christian allegory, drawing upon biblical themes and sometimes quoting the Bible directly, though it is accessible to readers of any background.) Rereading L’Engle’s classic today, I am astounded by the work that young-adult literature can do, the sophisticated places it takes our minds before we’re old enough to realize just what is happening.
lavliest asked: If you had to pick between these two books, which would you pick? 1) The Great Gatsby 2) The Perks of being a Wallflower
That’s a great question, but almost an impossible one. Both of these stories about loneliness, alienation, and loss. If I had to choose, though, it would be The Great Gatsby. I think The Great Gatsby has an aura built less on referencing other works, and therefore, is stronger. In fact, The Perks of Being a Wallflower could not exist without The Great Gatsby first being written.4 notes link >
(via Eat This: Book Cakes!)
if this isn’t on my desk by the time i come back from lunch, someone’s getting thrown into a pit.
My birthday cake for 2013!