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13 April 2007

Garry Wills on Henry Adams

Unfortunately, on the Charlie Rose show, but Charlie keeps his mouth shut this time.


Scroll over to 19:10 for the start of Wills. The discussion shifts into Iraq after 15 minutes or so and finally returns to Adams via Napoleon and power politics. Unfortunately, and quite ironically, as Wills can't make any ironic connections between Adams' work and influence and this most recent imperial adventure.

Actually, I think that even given the constraints of the format and the breadth of the subject, Wills oversimplifies tremendously. He misses all the irony, or at least doesn't emphasize it as he should, in Adams' History of the United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison (Vol. 1; Vol. 2). But kudos to him for drawing attention, including my own, to this book. I had read about it in Vidal, but I have to admit that an article on Wills' book in the NYRB got me to get the books and read them. I'm three-quarters of the way through, and I highly recommend it!

I've also read Mont Saint Michel and Chartres and Democracy: An American Novel (free online), as well as The Education of Henry Adams. Do yourself a favor and read Mr. Adams -- for the style, for the information, for the wisdom, the wit. Then, read about him in Vidal's essays and novels. Not surprisingly, Vidal understands Adams far more deeply than Wills.

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