REMEMBERING JOHN HANSON

A BIOGRAPHY OF THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE ORIGINAL UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT

In this biography, author Michael explores the twin questions of who was truly America’s first president and why has he been forgotten?

Born in 1715, the aristocratic John Hanson grew up on a tobacco plantation located (ironically) near the Mount Vernon estate now revered as George Washington’s residence. Michael readily acknowledges that he is a Hanson family descendant but avoids hagiography, frequently scolding Hanson (and other Founding Fathers) for owning slaves. In 1781, the Continental Congress unanimously elected Hanson president of America’s first government—eight years before Washington took the helm of the country’s first constitutional government. Previously, Hanson was the first state legislator to argue for independence, and the first to enlist militias for the Revolutionary War—which he helped finance. During his one-year presidency, Hanson decreed July 4th as Independence Day and the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. He also launched the Postal Service, the census and the custom of presidential portraiture. And yet, not only is Hanson unknown to most Americans, his probable grave site has been paved over. Michael believes that Hanson is overlooked, in part, because the nation’s first government was designed to be weak, and because many of Hanson’s diaries and personal effects have been lost. But he also builds a persuasive argument that 20th-century historians deserve a share of the blame, singling out (but not naming) presidential historians as “the handmaidens of American amnesia.” He also calls out and identifies websites, particularly Wikipedia, which routinely post gross inaccuracies about Hanson. Stylistically similar to a monograph, Michael’s narrative presents, and all too-often repeats, a torrent of information in fine detail. But this is the first comprehensive biography of “the most forgotten major figure in American history,” and reading this volume is nothing if not enriching. An unrefined but rich trove of information about a major historical figure who has largely been forgotten.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1467958066

Page Count: 452

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2012

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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