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Monday, January 10, 2011

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Team of Rivals

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Team of Rivals

This is the eighteenth entry for this meme, suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books.

As I noted last week, I finished reading "Private Life" by Jane Smily on the Kindle. I read it waiting for my wife in the Doctor's Office, the Lab work, and Urgent care, etc. Good waiting room reading. I like this kind of reading for these situations. I am just past a quarter through, starting the second year of his administration, with: "White House Diary" by Jimmy Carter, also on the Kindle.

In my other reading and writing I was recently reminded, with the 150th anniversary of the 'official' start of the Civil War just a few months away, that I have not yet read: "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goddwin. The very large book has been sitting on my "to read" shelf for four years - it is simply to heavy to handle, it seems. Now, however, with my early Kindle experience, that has changed. My wife was good enough to get the Kindle edition for my Kindle, and at her 45 minute shoulder therapy session today, I began to read Team of Rivals - I am so happy.  ;-)

Here is the Publishers Weekly comment from the Amazon website:

Pulitzer Prize–winner Goodwin (No Ordinary Time) seeks to illuminate what she interprets as a miraculous event: Lincoln's smooth (and, in her view, rather sudden) transition from underwhelming one-term congressman and prairie lawyer to robust chief executive during a time of crisis. Goodwin marvels at Lincoln's ability to co-opt three better-born, better-educated rivals—each of whom had challenged Lincoln for the 1860 Republican nomination. The three were New York senator William H. Seward, who became secretary of state; Ohio senator Salmon P. Chase, who signed on as secretary of the treasury and later was nominated by Lincoln to be chief justice of the Supreme Court; and Missouri's "distinguished elder statesman" Edward Bates, who served as attorney general. This is the "team of rivals" Goodwin's title refers to.The problem with this interpretation is that the metamorphosis of Lincoln to Machiavellian master of men that Goodwin presupposes did not in fact occur overnight only as he approached the grim reality of his presidency. The press had labeled candidate Lincoln "a fourth-rate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar." But East Coast railroad executives, who had long employed Lincoln at huge prices to defend their interests as attorney and lobbyist, knew better. Lincoln was a shrewd political operator and insider long before he entered the White House—a fact Goodwin underplays. On another front, Goodwin's spotlighting of the president's three former rivals tends to undercut that Lincoln's most essential Cabinet-level contacts were not with Seward, Chase and Bates, but rather with secretaries of war Simon Cameron and Edwin Stanton, and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. These criticisms aside, Goodwin supplies capable biographies of the gentlemen on whom she has chosen to focus, and ably highlights the sometimes tangled dynamics of their "team" within the larger assemblage of Lincoln's full war cabinet.

Happy Reading!

Bill  ;-)


  1. I loved Team of Rivals! Truth is, I listened to the audio book version, BUT, since Doris Kearns Goodwin was appearing at the Lincoln birthday (birthday of Lincoln, Nebraska) celebration a couple years ago, I bought the book so she could sign it for me. I guess that's the answer to my question from last summer - when you have a Kindle, what do you get signed at a book signing.... :-) You get to buy another version of the book! In this case, I was happy to have it in both audio and "real book" format. She is a delightful lady and a very, very funny speaker. Not to mention her total grasp of facts and history. If you EVER get the opportunity to hear her speak in person, do so!

  2. I really enjoy her on PBS and other tv venues, I do know that! Glad you got to meet her! Thanks for the neat comment, again! ;-)

    P.S. Good reminders of how the different versions of "books" each have their place in our lives! Print, audio, Kindle... ;-)

  3. Team of Rivals has been on my TBR for a loooong time! I kind of forgot about it until now. Can't wait to see what you think of it :)

  4. So far it is an interesting insight into the backgrounds of all four men, as they await the outcome of the 1860 Republican Nominating Convention, how each saw them selves and "where they had been" up to that point.

    Honestly, it is a bit more "pop fiction" in reading style than I expected. She does seem to have an agenda of her own, as is sort of suggested by the review I used, above, which says she ignored his "railroad lawyer" role. She seems to start from the "popular view" of Lincoln as a country lawyer rather than a more informed position. We'll see... ;-)