One of the better books I read this month was Democracy’s Muse by Andrew Burstein, an examination of Thomas Jefferson as a political role model to a wide variety of movements, from Jacksonian Democrats and FDR to Reagan Republicans and the Tea Party. It was a truly fascinating examination of a multifaceted historical figure, and how the ideology and writing of one man can be easily twisted and flipped around by folks of all kinds to serve into one viewpoint or another. Burstein also examined how Jefferson’s legacy has shifted in the wake of his sexual relationship with his female slave Sally Hemings and his religious views.
Democracy’s Muse was an interesting read considering that earlier this year I read American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis; the former laid out Jefferson’s self as seen by his successors, the later laid out Jefferson’s self as seen in a more historically placed context, less futuristic in its lens. Dovetailed together, the two books created a much fuller image of Jefferson than I had previously in my mind.
It is also interesting that the issue of legacy is so prevalent in this texts, considering that it is also a main theme in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s uber popular award-winning (Tony award winning!) musical, Hamilton, based on the Ron Chernow biography. Hamilton tries to protect his legacy but takes a disastrous misstep with the publication of the Reynolds Pamphlet, which destroys his political career and kicks off the first legitimate Washington sex scandal in U.S. history. But his immense library of writings, the financial systems and institutions he created, kept his name in the history books as a creator of things, not just a married man who slept with a married woman. Unfortunately, Hamilton worried so much about his legacy while he was living that he didn’t seem to see how secure it really was.
Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about Thomas Jefferson and the meaning of legacy. But tonight, I am exhausted and the city is too darn hot for being still spring, so I’ll just play you a song instead.
There needs to be a word, probably some sort of German compound phrase, for the feeling a person has when they are reading a book that on any other day would be a good book, but on that particular day, it is just not happening. The characters fail to grab one’s attention. The plot seems wholly inspired. The dialogue sticks in the throat. If only, they lament, they had not read that really good book right before it, the one that kept them up all night and into the morning, flipping pages with impossible speed.
This is happening to me right now. What is the word for it? Other than a deep sinking feeling of disappointment that is frankly self-inflicted. I flew too high and now I plummet, on the wings of a book that deserved better.
I have something more in-depth in mind for a blog post later this week. Naturally, it’s about reading (when is it not?).
In the meantime, take it away, Sade!
I really like what I got out of this story. I feel like I could expand upon this, given time. I hope you all enjoy it too.
Bolero. Prompts used: man with a guitar, a fantastic creature.
The apparition appeared a few minutes after midnight, when the sky was void of stars and the moon had taken cover behind a thick mass of clouds. In its path, grass grew wild and vines crept across the sidewalk to sink deep into the earth’s foundation.
Dylan was perched at the window, thick dreads hanging long over his Spanish guitar, which he’d spent the past five minutes tuning. Most of the time, Dylan did not appreciate the solitude of his summer residence, a row house thirty minutes from the nearest city, isolated by forest and looping dirt roads and a lack of public transit. The other rooms in the row house had been abandoned as soon as the summer heat hit, and the landowner lived in an air-conditioned apartment in the city. But now, when his guitar was ready to sing, Dylan enjoyed being the only human to hear its song within a ten-mile radius.
Finally satisfied with the sound of his instrument, Dylan’s fingers drifted from the tuning knobs to the strings. The short series of chords that emerged brought a smile to his face, a faint impression illuminated by the dim glow of a streetlight on the other side of the sidewalk.