At odds with much scholarship, including recent work like David Donald’s “We Are Lincoln Men” (2003)—readers will want to...

THE INTIMATE WORLD OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Don’t tell Ralph Reed or Jerry Falwell, but the Log Cabin Republicans are on to something big.

The secret, according to the late Kinsey Institute sex researcher Tripp, was that Abraham Lincoln was gay. Or mostly so, as Tripp qualifies with careful provisos: by the Kinsey seven-point scale, in which 0 equals entirely heterosexual and 7 equals entirely homosexual, Lincoln rates a 5, “predominantly homosexual, but incidentally heterosexual.” That incidental tendency, of course, netted Lincoln a wife and four children, but Tripp argues that the Railsplitter had little use for or interest in women or children all the same, preferring the company of men, such as bodyguard D.V. Derickson, who shared Lincoln’s bed and nightshirt in the White House when Mrs. Lincoln was out of town. The evidence? Well, there were those eyewitness accounts of Derickson wandering around in Lincoln’s clothes. More incidentally, Tripp notes, are curiosities, such as the fact that Lincoln almost never went to church, though, when Mary Todd Lincoln was away, he was very likely to attend sermons with Derickson on a Sunday morning. Similarly, Tripp continues, Lincoln showered affection on one Elmer Ellsworth, who was inconveniently “definitely and explicitly heterosexual,” and who died very early in the war, both eventualities bringing yet more sorrow to the already melancholic president. And then there was Lincoln’s long-time dalliance with fellow lawyer Joshua Speed. Not to mention Mary’s general bossiness, bound to drive a fellow away from the hearth and into the arms of boon companions. Tripp approaches the matter with apparent sympathy, but his evidence is surrounded by much speculation and much poorly developed argumentation—the latter likely because the author died before revising the manuscript. In the end, readers will wonder about the ultimate point: Unless it helps correct current injustices, does it matter where Lincoln hung his stovepipe at night?

At odds with much scholarship, including recent work like David Donald’s “We Are Lincoln Men” (2003)—readers will want to approach this with some reserve. But an intriguing thesis all the same.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-6639-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

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The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he...

LIVES OTHER THAN MY OWN

The latest from French writer/filmmaker Carrère (My Life as a Russian Novel, 2010, etc.) is an awkward but intermittently touching hybrid of novel and autobiography.

The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he describes powerfully. Carrère and his partner, Hélène, then return to Paris—and do so with a mutual devotion that's been renewed and deepened by all they've witnessed. Back in France, Hélène's sister Juliette, a magistrate and mother of three small daughters, has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that crippled her in adolescence. After her death, Carrère decides to write an oblique tribute and an investigation into the ravages of grief. He focuses first on Juliette's colleague and intimate friend Étienne, himself an amputee and survivor of childhood cancer, and a man in whose talkativeness and strength Carrère sees parallels to himself ("He liked to talk about himself. It's my way, he said, of talking to and about others, and he remarked astutely that it was my way, too”). Étienne is a perceptive, dignified person and a loyal, loving friend, and Carrère's portrait of him—including an unexpectedly fascinating foray into Étienne and Juliette's chief professional accomplishment, which was to tap the new European courts for help in overturning longtime French precedents that advantaged credit-card companies over small borrowers—is impressive. Less successful is Carrère's account of Juliette's widower, Patrice, an unworldly cartoonist whom he admires for his fortitude but seems to consider something of a simpleton. Now and again, especially in the Étienne sections, Carrère's meditations pay off in fresh, pungent insights, and his account of Juliette's last days and of the aftermath (especially for her daughters) is quietly harrowing.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9261-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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