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Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

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Item Number 369241  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   660
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 5" Height: 5.75"
Weight:   0.56 lbs.
Binding  CD
Release Date   Sep 22, 2005
Publisher   Highbridge Audio
ISBN  1598870041  
EAN  9781598870046  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
A dramatic reassessment of the life and era of Abraham Lincoln argues that America's sixteenth president suffered from depression and explains how Lincoln used the ailment and the coping strategies he had developed to deal with the crises of the Civil War and personal tragedy. Simultaneous.

Publishers Description
Drawing on a wealth of his own research and the work of other Lincoln scholars, Shenk reveals how the sixteenth president harnessed his depression to fuel his astonishing success. Lincoln found the solace and tactics he needed to deal with the nation's worst crisis in the "coping strategies" he developed over a lifetime of persevering through depressive episodes and personal tragedies.

With empathy and authority gained from his own experience with depression, Shenk crafts a nuanced, revelatory account of Lincoln and his legacy, and in the process unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president guided America through its greatest turmoil.

Buy Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk & Richard M. Davidson from our Audio Book store - isbn: 9781598870046 & 1598870041

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More About Joshua Wolf Shenk & Richard M. Davidson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! JOSHUA WOLF SHENK is an essayist and independent scholar whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and in the national bestseller Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression. He has written for The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Mother Jones, and other publications. He has been a correspondent for the New Republic, the Economist, and U.S. News & World Report. A contributing editor to the Washington Monthly and a faculty member at New School University, Shenk serves on the advisory council of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and consulted on the History Channel's film Lincoln. He lives in Brooklyn.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Compassionate, thought-provoking, inspiring  Oct 20, 2008
Beautifully and compassionately written, the depiction of how Lincoln found meaning in his life not by overcoming his depression (pre Prozac, you know), but rather living through it, was truly inspiring. Highly recommended.
This story is an inspiration  Sep 15, 2008
Anyone who suffers from depression should read this story. Lincoln was a man who learned how to overcome this illness to achieve great things for God and for himself. A very inspirational read.
Lincoln: Temperament and Triumph  Sep 11, 2008
"Lincoln's Melancholy," by Joshua Wolf Shenk, is a superb account of how the lifelong depression suffered by Lincoln was overcome by his own strength of character and led to his greatness. Initially an obstacle, Lincoln triumphed over the melancholy he probably inherited from his family by focusing on a larger goal, stopping the spread of slavery into the new, western territories and finally, preserving the Union itself.

Lincoln suffered two major depressive incidents in his youth, the first after the death of Ann Rutledge, and the second when his engagement to Mary Todd was broken. His indecisiveness led to a mental breakdown which was only alleviated when he finally married her. After these incidents, Lincoln settled into a state of chronic depression, which nonetheless did not interfere with his likeability and gregarious nature. Lincoln used humor, storytelling, and reading and writing poetry to cope with his bouts of sadness.

Shenk gives an account of earlier biographies of Lincoln, which were sometimes off the mark. Early in the 20th century, when Freud was the rage, it was speculated that Lincoln's sorrow was due to an Oedipus complex and guilt over his mother's death. Later writers insisted that he could not have been in love with Ann Rutledge because they distrusted the source of that rumor, William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner. It is now believed that the eyewitnesses Herndon interviewed may have been correct.

The book was written in a compelling, easy-going style complete with poetic references. I especially loved the preface wherein Leo Tolstoy tried to explain Lincoln to a group of local tribesmen in the Caucasus. It is such a beautiful, concisely written biography that I have been inspired to use it as the basis of a speech on Lincoln that I will deliver on the occasion of his bicentennial in February.
Facinating Look at A.Lincoln  Jul 7, 2008
I can truthfully say that this is the first book I have ever read about A. Lincoln. I loved it! It had intimate deatils and insight looks into the depression of the former President himself. I would reccommend this book to anyone wanting to read something "different, appeal'n" on Lincoln. Great book.
Insightful and Respectul Treatment of Lincoln  Apr 27, 2008
Carl Becker said that every man is his own historian, and so it seems fitting that Lincoln be reinterpreted in the light of modern approaches to depression and mental illness. What is most admirable about this book is the author's respectful approach to Lincoln and the past; he insists on viewing Lincoln's behaviors in the context of the mores and culture of his time, which were far different from those prevailing today. The author persuasively argues that there was a romantic connotation to melancholy back then. This, combined with the cultural acceptance of greater emotion from single young men, explains some of Lincoln's publicly expressed emotional troubles as a young man

On the other hand, the author insists on defining Lincoln as suffering two "breakdowns." It's not clear what relevance this modern term has, nor can the author distinguish between mental illness and the culturally acceptable level of melancholy and love-sickness a young man was permitted to manifest at the time.

In short, given the lack of data (most notably the inability to interview the subject, Mr. Lincoln) and the different culture back then, why even try to import these modern day notions of depression to the 1830's-1860's?

Still, the book does make three points exceptionally well, which makes this a very worthwhile effort.

First, he destroys the idiotic notions that Lincoln was gay by virtue of close emotional relationships with men that were permitted and encouraged by the culture back then. Superficial modern day notions of sexual identity have no place in a different time with different (and perhaps healthier) approaches toward the permissibility of emotional intimacy between men.

Second, he argues that Lincoln's struggles with melancholy were part of his larger struggles against adversity that toughened him up for the greatest trial faced by any American President since Washington. This is an old theme, but it is well constructed here. On paper, hugely successful men like Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, and General McClellan should have been the ones to lead successfully during this crisis. But in some ways their previous success was a curse. The depressive's realism and ability to solider on during adversity is perhaps far better preparation. A fascinating point and one that is completley lost in modern Presidential races.

Third, the author argues that Lincoln's mental makeup allowed him to resist the compromises and stop gap measures that seduced men like Buchanan, Douglas, and Crittenden. Lincoln saw that the country had to recognize the evil of slavery and put it on the path to ultimate extinction. This was, of course, Lincoln's greatest insight, though I'm not convinced that his melancholia necessarily predisposed him to accept it. But there is some appeal in the contention that depressives can be curiously more disposed to realism in a world that is frequently evil and unfair.

This is an insightful book, though the ability to analyze Lincoln's psyche given the absence of data and intervening culutural changes is, of course, a doomed venture.

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