Thursday, November 08, 2018

"These Truths", Jill Lepore

If New Yorker writer Jill Lepore was not already viewed as prolific, now case closed.  This tome, subtitled "a History of the United States", clocks in at over 900 pages including the index.  This is not something that one would read on the subway or even in bed.  It's too heavy, in weight that is.  This is a project that seems based in what some might called inclusive history.  While undertaking the task of truth to  history, this retelling makes a clear point of highlighting the role of women, immigrants, and all minorities.  It is welcome reading, although at times it seems a bit forced as a chapter might be interrupted at length with a digression that is deemed inclusive.

At times it just reads as history, as other times it reads as history told with a perspective on today's events.  It is filled with current colloquialisms, nuances, and phrases.  Compared with traditional history books, from the Beards, to Spengler, Toynbee, Keegan, and those written as college texts that combine the efforts of many historians under the auspices of a publisher, that is a huge difference.  It does make the writing seem personal, which is not at all bad.

Reading the book piecemeal so far, the last chapter that takes the reader to the present, "America, Disrupted" is exceptional for the most part and the chapter "Efficiency and the Masses", that details the Gilded Age, Industrialization, and the lead up to World War I is packed with interesting details that were new here, or at least not remembered.  "The Face of Battle", a chapter about the Civil War, falls short from this perspective, still thorough but somehow not much new.

It may be a month before this book is on the bookshelf, as other more focused books will be welcome breaks, such as "The Library Book", now started, by Susan Orlean, yet another New Yorker writer.  And then there are the newspapers daily... some days are better than others.


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