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Since publishing his first novel in 1964 Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape Here in I Am Abraham Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War Narrated boldly in the first person I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean like tragedy in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth PresidentTracing the historic arc of Lincoln's life from his picaresue days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County Illinois through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd to his 1865 visit to war shattered Richmond only days before his assassination I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs Keckley—the former slave who became the First Lady's dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras wise cracking knaves conniving hangers on speculators scheming Senators and even patriotic whoresWe encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes living in a no man's land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters young men all with sunken hollowed faces sitting in the punishing sun waiting for their rendezvous with the firing suad; and the black recruits whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself clad in a green shawl pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest warUsing biblically cadenced prose cornpone nineteenth century humor and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief whose relationship with his Ophelia like wife and sons—Robert Willie and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant three dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction


10 thoughts on “I Am Abraham

  1. says:

    Let me begin by prefacing this review with the following1 Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president2 I have not read Bill O'Reilly's book about Lincoln but I have seen the film3 I also saw that Lincoln film that came out last yearI don't recall when my interest in Abraham Lincoln began but I know I was uite young I couldn't get enough of Civil War history and I was always intrigued by President Lincoln When I began reading this book I was completely engrossed In some ways my rushing through the book was somewhat of a shame but I knew the efficacy of producing a uality review within a limited amount of timeLet's get the negatives out of the way first I could have done without the profanity but all profanity seemed to be used correctly if that makes sense and knowing Lincoln's background he may have spoken somewhat like the author paints him Thankfully the Lord's name was never used inappropriately and the f word never made its appearance I also could have done without some of the sexual imagery but it was not terribly detailed and often it was implied In addition to this most of it was appropriatePositives? I could go on for uite some time but let me point out the highlights I adored the opening of the book and I also was enraptured with the first person narrative I learned much about Lincoln and according the epilogue the author did his homework and his family Much of what I learned concerned his early political career and the other members of his family While I have not verified everything I read it seems that the things I have learned are true My favorite thing about this book is that for the first time Abraham Lincoln seems like a real person He lived loved made mistakes and changed our country for the better This book is truly a testament to his unbelievable lifeI was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review I was not financially compensated and all opinions are 100 percent mine


  2. says:

    This is the Lincoln novel I've been waiting forNow full disclosure I haven't read Gore Vidal's Lincoln which I've heard is the gold standard But I have read several pieces of fiction surrounding Lincoln or Mary Todd and they have ranged from pretty satisfactory to NO GOD NO KILL IT WITH FIRE So I am really excited that this book was so good Charyn decided to tell the whole novel from a first person perspective taking on the task of replicating Lincoln's uniue style of speech This he does remarkably well and at something that I didn't think could be done successfully The novel follows Lincoln from his time in New Salem up until the end of the civil war with many many years skipped in the intervalsThis book has everything I could want Charyn understands and you can read it in his author's note at the end Mary's complexity and doesn't write her off as either a harridan or a complete lunatic He also is willing to see Lincoln as an actual human man including having sexual desires and thoughts as well as liking vulgar jokes which Lincoln actually did I've read too many books AHEM Mary Mrs A Lincoln that seem so uncomfortable with the idea of Lincoln being a sexually active human being that they somehow make it that he and Mary almost literally only have sex enough times to have their 4 boys RidonkulousThe book's not perfect if you don't know the basic history and characters who play into Lincoln's life this book is NOT going to help you but it's overall an ambitious book that is remarkably successful at its goals of capturing Lincoln's voice as well as his life


  3. says:

    Rare is it for any reader to chance upon a novel that succeeds beyond expectation in eliciting hisher excitement and capturing hisher interest with the first sentence or paragraph Well 'I am Abraham' is such a novel richly told and largely spoken in Lincoln's own voice Lincoln goes on to take the reader back to his humble beginnings in New Salem Illinois where he arrived penniless and poor yet hungry to improve his lot in life In all he spends 5 years there going from serving as a store clerk postmaster ferrying flatboats downriver to New Orleans and back service as a captain in the local militia during the brief Black Hawk War and work as a railsplitter Lincoln then moves to Springfield where he apprentices himself to the law serves in the local legislature marries and has a family serves one term in Congress maintains a private law practice with his friend William Herndon and keeps a hand in politics Though losing the 1858 Senate race in Illinois to Stephen Douglas Lincoln becomes famous as a result of the 7 debates he had with Douglas Two years later he is invited to New York City where he makes a speech at Cooper Union that leads to him becoming a candidate for President for the new Republican Party and through a close election President of the United States All the while Lincoln's voice comes alive so much so that the reader feels very much a part of Lincoln's world in matters great and small I Am Abraham has all the hallmarks of what makes a novel great Next to Gore Vidal's novel Lincoln it makes Abraham Lincoln live again It's also one of the BEST novels I've read thus far in 2015 and for that reason comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


  4. says:

    I just can't with this book I'm giving up and I rarely do that In fact it took me 3 tries to finally uit reading it I hate that much to uit a book but I managed it right around the time when I read Abraham Lincoln referring to masturbation as pulling on his root and then calling his ejaculate jelly JELLY I'm no prude but for some reason my brain just can't reconcile ABRAHAM LINCOLN saying things like that Another example calling a certain part of a woman's anatomy hair pie HAIR PIE I just can't


  5. says:

    Oftentimes we lose the man to the legend We build up so much story around a historicalpoliticalwhatever al figure that we forget who the real person wasor that So and So was a real person Nowadays figures in the public eye can and have fire back defending their personality and true self When that figure is someone who perhaps had one of the biggest stamps on the history of the nation but has been dead for over a hundred years his or her ability to fight off critics is lessened well duh How much can we really learn about someone purely from what he left in written form and other historical documentation? uite a lot actuallyLONG STORY SHORT If those who had written my history textbooks had been as interesting much boredom would have been averted Charyn has here created a startlingly intimate personal depiction of Abraham Lincoln told from the point of view of none other than the 16th President himself An audacious task but one that Charyn pulled off so well that it felt as though this were an autobiography not historical fiction It gripped me from the beginning as a melancholy man predisposed to the blue unholies aka depression was thrust from one difficult situation into another Events that I remember reading about in school came to life on the page in a way only possible when looking through another person's eyes not through a dank retelling of the mere facts from a history book's perspective This Abraham has real raw emotions He is just a man after allnot some god He is Abraham On a ascending scale of 1 to 5 this book receives a sound 5LONG STORYThe GoodThis is historical fiction This is historical fiction done extremely well This is historical fiction done so well that if I had spare time I would do some digging and learning about the world that surrounded Mr Abraham Lincoln It is a good thing when fiction can get me interested in history which is a topic that I've historically ha ha ha avoided for fear of falling into a somnambulant text Charyn here undertook an audacious task craft a historical fiction piece about Abraham Lincoln told by Abraham Lincoln Frankly I'd be too scared to do this What if I got something wrong? What if I mistold something? What if I riled historians everywhere by screwing something major up? Heck what if I messed up the lingo??? I don't know if these uestions plagued Charyn but if they did I don't think he should have worried First it seemed as though Mr Lincoln himself was speaking dir ect ly from these here pages The lingo was historically accurate and consistently so despite the fact that said lingo contains vernacular now deemed unacceptable A real man's personality lept from the pages Lincoln is deified in some places he freed the slaves after all and held on a high pedestal Charyn's interpretation of Lincoln is of a man who would be down right mortified to see himself in the iconic position he has attained in our current world He's just a man after all A man plagued by the blue unholies A man with a tempestuous wife and a son who is just as wild as he once was A man practically swimming in the blood of men and women who died for the cause that he is championing Second it is obvious that Charyn wrote this novel with a lot of time and care Now that might seem like a silly thing to say but I've read historical fiction stories where it was obvious that the author was so interested in constructing their story as they wanted it to go that history be danged Not so here I'm not a well schooled historian by any means you'd have to ask my husband about historical things that's his area but from what I do remember about events and such that are mentioned here Charyn took pains to make sure that the history was accurate Of course I'm sure license was taken in some places simply because that is the nature of writing fiction but I've no doubt that major details are completely accurateThird this novel makes it clear that the Civil War was not Lincoln's entire life True he was the presiding President during the War and one of the major reasons that it started and progressed as it did It is also true that before this he was a lawyer a son a lover and a man The Civil War was a grand total of 4ish years 1861 1865 of Lincoln's total 56 years of life A whole 52 years transpired where Lincoln walked the Earth before the North and South split While Charyn does not cover the totality of those 52 years he does go over a sizeable chunk I also appreciate that it makes clear that slavery was not the only issue on Lincoln's mind during the Civil War he was just as concerned about unification of the statesNow keep this in mind Charyn does not claim this book to be an authoritative biography of Lincoln He makes it clear that this is a family chronicle where the fury of war and politics rumble in the background while Lincoln does a macabre dance with his generals feuds with his eldest boy and tries to contain the furies of his wife The novel is told entirely in Lincoln's voice that strange mix of the vernacular and the formal tones of a man who only had a few months of learning at a 'blab school' and essentially had to teach himself It is a picture a representation and a da good one at that All of the above is written in a super engaging manner Poignant phrases pepper say that 3 times fast this work lines that make you stop and go huh Battle scenes both on the field and in the home come to life in a super vibrant way Heck Lincoln's walk upon the Earth comes to life in a super vibrant way I think this book needs to be reuired reading in every class that covers anything to do with Lincoln It is an amazing book that is incredibly well written engaging and downright nifty The Bugly baduglyThe only real problem I have with this work is that it is as long as it is good 450 pages phew It takes a lot of reading stamina to make it through this work Not the fastest read ever but not the slowest either It is just loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooongHonestly this is a superb book there is a reason that Charyn is an award winning authorCHECK OUT MY BLOG FOR MORE onlygodwritestreesblogspotcom


  6. says:

    The first thing you think if you've ever been lucky enough to have read Jerome Charyn previously is that I Am Abraham seems a lot like well a Jerome Charyn novelI haven't read enough of Charyn but I've read enough where the general pattern of his fiction emerges He might almost be considered the condensed version of Thomas Pynchon If his books were ever made into movies they would be directed by uentin Tarantino Charyn wrote a biography of him by the way Raised by Wolves which ends around the Kill Bill period; it would probably be safe to say that he has enjoyed the last few films immensely I Am Abraham diverges from the Charyn tradition By the time Lincoln enters his presidential career which is a swift transition in the novel one minute he's debating Douglas and the next he's President the Civil War breaks out Charyn switches gears into a lot of Civil War talk He's always been a kind of gossip novelist I would never really have considered Alexander Hamilton the way I do now if it weren't for his portrayal in Johnny One Eye and he doesn't miss the opportunities for that kind of storytelling here but it's a marked difference to find him in a somber and contemplative mood by the end In an author's note he explains that he came to understand Lincoln better once he saw how similar they were melancholy moods striking both of them inconveniently It's the ending really that characterizes the whole book ties the narrative together As you're reading you don't realize what Charyn is doing with his Lincoln continuing the thread of the out of place giant always yearning for something he continually fears he'll never have even though he always does get it He assumes the reader is already familiar enough with the Civil War where he won't have to explain everything so when he goes into some of the familiar beats at least for amateur buffs like me it's easier to play along easier to apparently lose Lincoln in the shuffle But again when the end comes you suddenly know what's happened how Charyn has followed the same man with the same point of view through his changing fortunes which is what Charyn loves to do in all his books to an unexpected but entirely appropriate conclusion Lincoln is to date Charyn's best known subject Readers unfamiliar with Charyn might be a little shocked at some of the early scenes but the human who ends up being presented is never worse than those around him but he's most certainly human and it may become the argument some day that this is Charyn's best and most important work He's never become a popular writer so perhaps it's appropriate that he may end up tricking people into loving him with this effort Like all his characters Charyn could always use a fortuitous change of fortune He's in some ways the American Charles Dickens This book will help explain that


  7. says:

    Jerome Charyn can always be counted on to put forth an interesting and entertaining work of historical fiction Like its predecessors The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson and Johnny One Eye Charyn takes a novel told in first person to a whole new level His first person point of view makes the reader feel as if they are the characterseeing and experiencing everything vicariouslyAbraham Lincoln is a historical figure that I have always greatly admired In I Am Abraham the man comes to life He is not just the illusive and enigmatic figure of history but a real flesh and blood man with the same fears worries and loves as other human beings His stoic nature is ever present and yet he speaks with a sense of irony seeing situations with an eye for the comedy amidst the ordinary and even tragicI am a fan of Jerome Charyn and always look forward to his latest work His is a uniue and important voice in the historical fiction genre If you have not read his books you're missing out I Am Abraham would be a good one with which to start


  8. says:

    According to Kindle I have read 22% of the book Very vivid poetic imaginative prose the first chapter ends so poignantly with the sting of the bullet as it strikes Pres Lincoln's head I decided I'd rather read nice paper books rather than books on Kindle or E reader It's dreamy to be able to flip pages back and forth finding things checking back But I have read a few books on Kindle Somehow it doesn't have the same impact I might need to get a copy of this bookas a real book And now I do have a real copy of the book thank you Lenore such vivid poetic prose Sweeps one along swiftly and one becomes involved intensely in the story and action


  9. says:

    ‘I Am Abraham’ by Jerome CharynBy Richard Brookhiser FEB 21 2014No president has written as well as Abraham Lincoln He could thrill reason prophesy mourn and crack jokes Who wouldn’t want to read a book in his own words — all the enticing if it scanted the political and administrative minutiae that fill his collected works and gave us a window into his inner life?Even if Lincoln hadn’t been murdered he would never have written such a book For an often garrulous man he was notoriously tight lipped about anything he didn’t want to say in a proclamation or from a podium Biographers and historians have labored to fill the gaps Jerome Charyn takes the approach of fiction“I Am Abraham” is an interior monologue with Lincoln surveying his own life Charyn’s novel follows the course of known events from 1831 when Lincoln left his father and stepmother and struck out on his own until April 1865 when he visited Richmond Va conuered capital of the Confederacy Only one character of any conseuence — a female Pinkerton agent — is entirely invented and Charyn assures us in an author’s note that Pinkerton did use women agentsPhoto Charyn’s best touch is Lincoln’s voice thoughtful observant and droll good for the long narrative haul Its ground bass is Kentucky rube Lincoln says “the ay ter” and seems amused that he continues to say so even though he has become president of the United States He varies this tone with echoes of the Bible poetry and speeches from the the ay ter He describes his wife Mary retreating after one of their fights “into her bedroom in the crepe of a demented ueen”Readers may be surprised by how lewd this Lincoln can be Do you want a recollection of the first time he felt a woman’s breasts? Of the first time he had intercourse? It’s all here But the historical Lincoln’s arsenal of jokes did include obscene ones Readers may also be struck by how lurid early 19th century America seems through his eyes His description of the Clary’s Grove Boys a posse of toughs who confronted then befriended him after he first moved to Illinois reads like Midwest magic realism “Their eyes were painted black their noses masked with bits of red cloth making them look sinister as ghouls; they had spikes in their arms and straw hats with missing crowns and rough rawhide boots; their single ornament was a neckerchief with yellow polka dots that flashed in the sun and could be observed a uarter mile away”Charyn’s Lincoln is a man of sorrows Presiding over the Civil War would do that to anybody but here the sorrows are traced back to an unsympathetic father and to the death of Ann Rutledge his first sweetheart Today we would call Lincoln depressed and give him pills The man himself calls his bouts of gloom “unholies” and “the hypo” from hypochondriasis and just tries to ride them outSome famous men appear in this Lincoln’s thoughts — Stephen Douglas George McClellan Ulysses Grant — but the main figures in “I Am Abraham” are family Mary Lincoln is the Kentucky belle who charms and arouses him even after her fragile personality develops irreparable cracks His eldest son Robert understands his mother and soothes her but wants her committed His youngest son Tad is an undisciplined imp who has a speech impediment yet alone of the family accompanies his father in the book’s final set piece the apocalyptic visit to RichmondWhat’s missing? Lincoln seems to think hardly at all about his writing If that were true then he would have been the first and only writer in history to do so Still less credible is the near absence of politics Charyn presents Lincoln as stumbling into high office guided by handlers and prodded by Mary Yet William Herndon his law partner testified that his ambition was “a little engine that knew no rest” Politicians are even absorbed in their work than writers recalling every hand they’ve shaken every back they’ve stabbed A real transcript of Lincoln’s thoughts would read a lot like Machiavelli if he were moral or the Sunday morning talk shows if they were intelligentWhere finally is God? Lincoln thought about him off and on all his adult life and as the war ground on A month before Charyn’s conclusion he delivered an Inaugural Address that was indistinguishable from a sermon But God is pretty much MIA here Charyn’s Lincoln like the historical one does feel the depth of the wound slavery leaves on America Next year the first black president will preside over the sesuicentennial of the end of the Civil War yet demagogues policy nerds and idealists still pick at the scab of race It is our national “hypo”


  10. says:

    My Thoughts I've always had a fondness for Abraham Lincoln because we share the same birth date February 12 I'm proud to tell people I was born on Abraham Lincoln's birth date It's odd that I've never read a non fiction book on Lincoln A historical figure that I admire so much you would think I'd read a biography of his life I have read another historical fiction book on Abraham Lincoln The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy O'Brien The theme of this book is in solving Lincoln's murder In historical fiction an author takes non fiction material and creates a character to entertain readers It is the added information an author adds that can cause problems to history purists I make this statement because I'm reviewing I Am Abraham with minimal previous knowledge of Abraham Lincoln I'm appreciative of the author for including his feelings on writing the story in regards to research intentions goals and creative additions There are several points I love about the story A dimensional Abraham Lincoln Jerome Charyn covered every side of Lincoln's persona and life politics love of reading childhood unresolved feelings of inadeuacy depression love interests marriage role as father the affect of Mary's mental illness death of children torn feelings of the Civil War and conflicts in his relationshipsAbraham Lincoln is neither seen as a completely positive person nor a completely negative person He is real He is human His strengths and weaknesses are displayed I love love love collouialisms Throughout the story common sayings Kentuckian words are used For example natter bawdyhouse et an apple foolscap pilferers coffin bed skedaddle and highfalutin I did not know Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression It is well known Mary Lincoln had mental health issues Living through childhood trauma living with Mary Lincoln decisions of the Civil War and the death of a child easily caused him sadness and depression Lincoln persevered through periods of profound sadness Now when I look at his picture I see the sadness in his face the sadness in his eyes Early in the story I noticed the writing style It began a uick pace reminding me of Lincoln's tall walking stride he was 6' 4 Later in the story the pace slowed reminding me of Lincoln's haggardness Symbolism It has been remarked of the scene at the end of the story I found symbolism at the beginning mid point and ending One of my favorite spots happened on page 228 I let her wander away the skirts of her gown gliding against the oilcloth with a strange whish while I stayed there in the dumps Tad's kitten leapt onto my lap Tabby commenced to tear at my sleeve and pretty soon it had a tiny batch of thread in its paw I could feel that little cat unravel me I stuffed him in my pocket while I was raveling out somewhere on some private moon There were two aspects I did not like I'm aware Abraham and Mary had sex at least four times because they had four sons But it was difficult for me or awkward to read of Abraham lusting after Mary's nipples or other body parts Yes I had pre set ideas of what President Lincoln was like but a sex symbol was not one of them I know this is my hang up Other readers have not commented on this point The ending does not stop at the period of Abraham Lincoln's life but at a point before It is a significant place to stop the story but I wanted it to go a little farther It's possible I did not want the story to even end I was prepared to give a 4 star review But this book has stayed with me over the coarse of several days after reading it I've even dreamed about the book Abraham Lincoln has come to life again in the pages of Charyn's book I can easily picture Lincoln walking with his top hat Because the book has continued to haunt me I have raised to review to 5 stars for excellent which is not perfect but near perfect