Sunday, August 30, 2009

George Washington & The Making of the Prefident 1789 by Marvin Kitman

“Summer reading” is a pleasant tradition, along with holiday movies, Easter brunch, and many others I know you enjoy. I’d like to hear about some of them.

The Los Angeles Times carried a list of books President Obama took on his vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. Included are a couple not considered exactly light reading – John Adams by David McCollough and Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

Bookstores often feature crowded tables full of books, many of them classics, considered good candidates for “summer reading”.

Confess now, did you really read all the titles you brought with you? War and Peace doesn’t count!

I am really enjoying Kitman’s The Making of the Prefident 1789: The Unauthorized Campaign Biography. It’s a very funny, very clever, very readable spoof on George Washington. As the Father of our country shall we agree he’s fair game.

What makes a book readable for me? I can open it at any page and find continuity, the book maintains a lively pace, and generally the chapters are short. Kitman’s book is all of the above.

The back cover carries the following description of the book:

In The Making of the President 1789, humorist and self-appointed historian Marvin Kitman satirizes the contemporary “campaign insider” book while making the case that George Washington was not only “First in War, First in Peace” – he was also first among the Founding Fathers in gambling, drinking, and social climbing. And that’s not to mention his weakness for the Founding Girlfriends.

In an irreverent exposé of how the Mount Vernon Machine engineered the first presidential election victory, Kitman sets out to answer the questions: “How is it possible that a man with virtually no military experience becomes a general? He loses more battle than he wins and becomes a war hero? He has absolutely no political opinion in the most sophisticated intellectual period of our history? He has no ambitions, and he wins?”

Washington looked good, married well, that usually means rich. He engaged in wealth-inducing activities such as land speculation. His constant debt was respectable because after all, it was tied to being a large landowner and planter. Above all, he developed the right social graces, cultivating influential people around him.

He was never insignificant.

Even wearing his splendid uniforms was a powerful campaign tactic. His constant professed modesty got him elected unanimously as our first president. Washington had the luck to be in the right place at the right time.

Will I have the chance to read more in these waning days of summer? I have selected Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I could finish it by the time of the World Series.

We can’t bet on it. But betting always carries with it the element of surprise. – Renata Breisacher Mulry

1 comment: Editor said...

This is a funny book! Any guy who calls the Constitutional Convention "ConCon" has my vote.