Founding Brothers

Saturday, July 4, 2009


I hope you had a wonderful holiday dear readers. I had a quiet holiday, reading, hanging out with the family, trying to figure out how to make a red,white, and blue themed dinner that didn't contain any dairy, eggs, wheat, or sugar - you know, a typical holiday.

Suggestion Saturday is taking a vacation this week so that I could read a special book in honor of the holiday. I will also be taking a break from Suggestion Saturday next week because tomorrow I'm kicking off a special week-long blogging event (are you trembling with excitement dear readers?) And for those of you who weren't so fond of Men of the Blog week, I promise this is going to be a lot more fun. Suggestion Saturday will make it's triumphant return to the blog on the 18th. Although in a way this is still sort of a Suggestion Saturday since my sister was the one who picked out the book I would read today.

Today's book, "In retrospect, it seems as if the American Revolution was inevitable. But was it? Founding Brothers reveals that many of those truths we hold to be self-evident were actually fiercely contested in the early days of the republic. Ellis focuses on six crucial moments in the life of the new nation, including a secret dinner at which the seat of the nation's capital was determined--in exchange for support of Hamilton's financial plan; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address; and the Hamilton and Burr duel. Most interesting, perhaps, is the debate (still dividing scholars today) over the meaning of the Revolution."

I didn't bother even looking at the cover before reading today's book so I had no idea who wrote it, and so I spent the first 30 pages imagining the author to be a woman. So you can imagine my shock when I flipped to the side of the book and realized it was written by a man. Or maybe you can't imagine my shock because you're a normal person who doesn't feel stunned when the author turns out to be different from how you imagined. Or maybe you're even more normal than that and you don't even bother imagining up the entire life of the author of the books you read. When I read a book, I spend most of the time imagining every part of the author's life, what he/she looks like, what their spouse is like, what kind of house they live in, what their kids are named if the back of the book only says "He lives in Minnesota with his wife and two kids" (that one really bugs me - I mean really, don't even bother mentioning the two kids if you're not going to tell me their names), what it's like when they get together with their families for Thanksgiving. My imagination just runs wild. This is also probably the reason why I have such a hard time retaining what I read, I'm too busy playing life detective to focus on the book. So I spent thirty pages imagining the author as a 35 year old, petite, blond haired woman who drives her two kids (whose names I couldn't quite imagine up, although I'm thinking maybe Anna for the girl) to soccer practice in her tan colored SUV, and it turns out the author is a 66 year old balding professor. I felt so disoriented from that point on.

But it's probably a good thing that I was so distracted by the what-gender-is-the-author drama because it helped to keep me entertained while I was trying to get through the introduction. The introduction was such a snooze fest that I almost put the book down and searched for something else to read - but I'm glad I pressed on because once I got past the introduction the book got a lot better. I especially enjoyed sentences like this, "Although he slept that night on his couch and in his clothes, the vice president of the United States was a lifelong disciple of Lord Chesterfields's maxim that a gentleman was free to do anything he pleased as long as he did it with style." Now I know that when the author says "style" she (I mean he) wasn't really speaking specifically just about clothes, but that was where my thoughts immediately went. I mean is it just me or is it just a lot easier to overlook some one's bad behavior when they're really well dressed while being obnoxious. I find myself sitting there thinking, What a jerk, but oh oh oh wait look at those shoes, those are nice!! And then suddenly I forget why I was irritated in the first place. Of course I lack the ability to stay mad at anyone when I'm looking directly at them anyway, so as long as the other person was in my direct field of vision I probably would have stopped being mad twenty seconds later even if they were wearing ugly shoes.

The other part of the book that I really enjoyed - and this part of the blog entry is going to demonstrate how truly shallow I am so maybe I shouldn't be telling it - is the part that talks about the letters that John Adams wrote home to his wife Abigail during his Vice Presidency in which he mentions members of the senate being "inconsiderate and inexperienced." Ahh, a husband and wife consoling themselves after a hard day by talking smack about their coworkers together - is it wrong that I find that kind of heartwarming? Aside from warming my shallow heart, I think it also shows that people don't really change all that much after all - whether it's the 1700s or the present day there's nothing more satisfying after a hard day of putting up with annoying people than sitting down with someone you love and trash talking the people you can't stand. Or maybe that's just my Mother's half of my DNA talking.

Please join me tomorrow dear readers when I kick off a fun and exciting themed week.