Another book on Lincoln? Yes, but in Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America, veteran Washington, D.C., journalist Andrew Ferguson finds a remarkably fresh angle, i.e., an investigation into and clarification of the roots of Lincolniana itself. Moreover, Ferguson provides fascinating insights into the current state of the Lincoln phenomenon, primarily through his tour-like reflections on the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., conceived in political correctness and dedicated to the proposition that all men should equally experience our 16th president through the wonders of Disneyesque theatrics.

Based on Ferguson's reportage, traditionalist Lincoln buffs will probably want to avoid Springfield like the plague; even the dubious syrupy legend of Father Abraham, kindly hero to the downtrodden, lover of freedom and emancipator of the enslaved looks preferable. Ferguson catalogs his visits to obsessively devoted collectors of Lincoln memorabilia, and then, in a chapter that captures America at its tasteless best, chronicles his experience sitting in on a seminar which aims to connect Honest Abe's business style with middle-brow corporate employees. The latter section of the book finds the author and his family in a classic Middle-American car trip through Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky following the Lincoln Heritage Trail, which, we learn balefully, was actually a 1960s marketing gimmick courtesy of the American Petroleum Institute in its attempt to get history-minded motorists to guzzle gas.

Throughout, Ferguson strategically references the Lincoln biographical literature, including the works of authors such as Ida Tarbell and William Herndon, offering perspectives that balance possible truth with probable myth. Ferguson writes with assured style, offering loads of irony, both humorous and sobering, never failing to convey with subtlety his own sincere regard for finding the Lincoln that matters most.

Martin Brady believes the real Lincoln is found in his writings and his deeds.


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