… the book-reviewing world seems to be slowly turning against Brands, straining to find a way to express a discomfort with his popular writing. And it's not for anything he's done, exactly. It's more for what he isn't doing. His subjects are too . . . well, what, exactly? Too little involved in the topics that should matter. Too little determined to make a tale of yesterday useful for the cultural battles of today. Once upon a time, the demand was that our accounts of history be opened to include obscured or oppressed voices. Now, the demand is that only those voices be heard.Or so, at least, one could assume from the prepublication notice of Brands's Heirs of the Foundersthat appeared in Kirkus Reviews—as mainstream a venue as exists for news about impending books. The small unsigned notice is, in its way, a perfect specimen of the problem the American literary world suffers. It opens, for example, "The author's return to the ‘great man' school of history is somewhat problematic, since those presumed great men of American history are mostly white and seldom women."
Saturday, December 01, 2018
… Greatness in History — Review: 'Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster' by H.W. Brands. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)