Alternate Chapter Titles

...for The Story of America by Jill Lepore

1. John Smith was a huge liar; or was he?

2. The Plymouth Plantation was a disaster that we'll never understand.

3. Benjamin Franklin was a genius but is misremembered.

4. Thomas Paine got no respect.

5. Nobody understands the constitution. (And maybe that's the point.)

6. Debtor's Prison was a nightmare

7. Noah Webster was a jerk/grump/genius

8. George Washington is/was an enigma

9. Andrew Jackson and the rise of the campaign biography

10. Charles Dickens hates America

11. Edgar Allan Poe was a poor/grump/genius

12. Thomas Jefferson was a coward when it came to slavery

13. Kit Carson: Frontier Hero or Homicidal Maniac?

14. Paul Revere's Ride is a Metaphor for Abolishing Slavery

15. Voting Used to be Absurdly Dangerous

16. Clarence Darrow Fights for Workers Rights with Feeling

17. Charley Chan: Racist, Harmless, or Both?

18. Famous Writers Talking to the "Man on the Street"

19. Murder May be a Necessary Side-Effect of Democracy

20. Presidential Inaugurals: Now & Then



Pity the Washington Biographer

Chapter 8 talks about George Washington. The man is a legend whose life has been reduced to one-liners. In truth, Lepore says, this may have been what he wanted. Washington was, she says "a staged man."

"Here is Washington's entire diary entry for October 24, 1774, a day he was in Philadelphia, as a delegate to the Continental Congress, debating, among other things, a petition to be sent to the king: "Dined with Mr. Mease & Spent the Evening at the New Tavern."  - Making Washington less stiff and more human has been the aim of every Washington biographer, from the start, and not a one of them has done it."

 Remember me.

I don't know what the point of this post is, but I think I just love the idea of living your life with an eye toward history. Washington knew he would be remembered forever - war hero, first president, physical specimen - that he was. So, every day that he lived, everything that he did, everything he wrote down, he knew would become real lasting history. So he turned himself into a symbol. A fake man while he was alive but tailor-made for history books. I would be afraid to get out of bed in the morning.


We the Parchment

Just a little quote to get us started:

"Crying constitution is a minor American art form. “This is my copy of the Constitution,” John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, said at a Tea Party rally in Ohio last year, holding up a pocket-size pamphlet. “And I’m going to stand here with the Founding Fathers, who wrote in the preamble, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ” Not to nitpick, but this is not the preamble to the Constitution. It is the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence."

From chapter 5 - "We the Parchment."



Selection for January / February 2013

The Story of America: Essays on Origins
by Jill Lepore

"As smart, lively and assured as modern debunkery gets."

We are diving into some non-fiction here. Do you like revisionist history? Do you like snarky history professors? Are you brave enough to take a truly critical look at the legends, myths, lies, and misunderstandings that make up the foundations of American history and culture? Are you tired and hungry but you don't get out of work for 2 more hours? Here we go!