cover image Lincoln’s Body: A Cultural History

Lincoln’s Body: A Cultural History

Richard Wightman Fox. Norton, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-393-06530-5

So many books have been written about America’s 16th president that most re-tread familiar territory, yet historian Fox (Jesus in America) has struck gold with this unusual, finely crafted study. Proceeding from the assumption that Americans still love and revere Lincoln, Fox argues that the reasons underlying those feelings are rooted in the president’s physique. Though many found him physically unattractive, Lincoln’s body was claimed as a “symbol of republican simplicity and American self-making” by the American public while he was alive. That body took on new importance in death, elevating the assassinated president to martyrdom, and Fox provides riveting analysis of Lincoln’s funeral and the nation’s mourning. The final third of the book switches to the ways Lincoln has been remembered through the 21st century. Two television mini-series dedicated to him aired in the 1970s and 1980s, and for decades Disneyland featured a “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” exhibit. Hollywood produced its first Lincoln movie in 1930 and produced two more as recently 2012: one a prestigious Steven Spielberg biopic, the other a depiction of Lincoln as a superhero vampire hunter—making him a handsome leading man at last. Illus. [em]Agent: Jill Kneerim; Kneerim, Williams & Bloom (Feb.) [/em]