<B>Lincoln's enduring message of hope</B>In his magnificent new work, <B>November: Lincoln's Elegy at Gettysburg</B>, author Kent Gramm explains his unusual interpretation of the most celebrated speech in American history, delivered on November 19, 1863. November is nature's elegy, he writes. Let the month itself stand for grief and faith, a gray month of blank sky and cold winds, beginning in remembrance and ending in expectation a month through whose strange beauty we all must pass and whose alien work must truly be our own. Over 24 chapters, he describes a month in Gettysburg, noting what Lincoln did on the corresponding day in 1863 and relating the events of Lincoln's life and presidency to momentous events that occurred during subsequent Novembers. Events examined through the lens of Lincoln's great address include: the 1918 battle death of the promising young poet, Wilfred Owen; Kristallnacht, the 1938 attack against German jews, the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy; and the 1965 battle in Vietnam's Ia Drang Valley, the first major U.S. engagement of the Vietnam War.
Through the book, the author reminds readers of the essential unity of all elegies: lament and hope. Lincoln came to Gettysburg in 1863 as the Civil War raged. With his brief but memorable speech Gramm says that Lincoln, instead of dedicating a cemetery, dedicated a nation and thus transformed grief and despair into purpose and hope.
Essentially, Gramm's book is a journey of hope. Tragic events, he insists, must be redeemed or they will remain nothing more than tragedies. <B>November</B> is an eloquent, melancholy and beautifully written tribute to Lincoln's oration. But the book's power springs from Gramm's remarkable ability to weave Lincoln's sentiments of hope and faith into the other stories he tells. <I>Robert Mann is author of</I> A Grand Delusion: America's Descent into Vietnam (<I>Basic</I>).