LEGENDS, LIES, AND CHERISHED MYTHS OF AMERICAN HISTORY by Richard Shenkman

LEGENDS, LIES, AND CHERISHED MYTHS OF AMERICAN HISTORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An iconoclastic survey of our nation's history by Salt Lake City TV-reporter Shenkman (One-Night Stands with American History, 1980). ""We usually admit that Americans are somewhat ignorant of history, but we don't realize how ignorant,"" writes Shenkman. Very ignorant, it turns out, as the author demonstrates by vigorously exposing commonly held beliefs about American history--from the general assumption that Columbus proved the world was round (actually, Aristotle proved this) to the common belief that Ronald Reagan has always been a conservative (in fact, he voted for FDR four times). Some of Skenkman's revelations--backed with 20 pages of end notes, and loosely organized into such categories as ""Founding Fathers"" and ""Holidays""--are overly familiar, e.g, that Columbus didn't discover America after all (first sighted by the Norse in 985); others are less well-known but are insignificant, such as that Teddy Roosevelt in fact did not charge up San Juan Hill on horseback in truth, he charged up nearby Kettle Hill, and on foot; the Rough Riders' horses were mistakenly left in Florida). Other myths Shenkman explodes, though, have greater historical ramifications; one of note is his subversion of the of-theld notion of the blatant immorality of Truman's dropping the A-bomb (Shenkman claims that before Hiroshima, ""No one knew anyone would die of radiation""--the consequent death toll stunned American scientists); a second is his disputation of the common myth that the South's position on slavery was intractable (actually, Jefferson Davis informed Britain and France that the Confederacy would emancipate its slaves in exchange for official recognition as an independent country). Shenkman provides only superficial interpretations of his diligently gathered curiosa; even so, his jampacked grab-bag of topsy-turvy Americana often amuses and occasionally shocks--and will no doubt prove a gold mine for bar-bettors.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1988
Publisher: Morrow