Though summer is a ways off yet, I am beginning my summer reading list with a work of fiction about our sixteenth president.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders sounds like a fascinating story, and maybe it shouldn’t be the first book I read about Lincoln, but in an interview with Scott Simon on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Saunders revealed the story’s genesis, and that sparked my interest.
Then, today, on Lincoln’s birthday, after my wife and I took a coincidental drive through Lincoln Park in Chicago, I sat down to the New York Times. The Book Review featured a review by Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad (also on my list) and came across many reasons to read the book. In fact, I even underlined a few passages in the review, kind of a geeky thing to do, I know, but I don’t mind being one of the “sweet fools.” In addition to his not-so-subtle allusion to Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!, I enjoyed some of Whitehead’s observations of my/our own limbo.
Writing a blog post from “one obsolete version of myself,” where I merely note what I plan to read this summer (or worse, comment on a commentary by the winner of the 2016 National Book Award) is not exactly a major endeavor. That’s okay. I’m but a rookie.
In Chicago travels today, we visited our own son, and I reflected on a trip we McNultys took as a family. In July of 2014, we visited Gettysburg Pennsylvania and Washington DC. On that particular trip, I read Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and was captivated by the threads he weaved about the people fighting in the fields we were visiting. His narration from camps of both sides left me ambivalent about victories and losses. I suppose I am looking for a similar reading experience from Lincoln in the Bardo. (Maybe a little more from The Underground Railroad.)
Sidebar: One surprise of that summer was a discovery we made in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. We walked around all of the monuments and the gravestones arranged by states. Because the McNultys hail from New Jersey, we made our way to the New Jersey space. Not far from the state monument, you can see the gravestone of a fallen soldier named, Jeremiah McNulty (Private Jeremiah McNulty Company “F” 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry).
I do not know if he is a relation of mine, but my search will continue here.