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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Caustic

The American poet Carl Sandburg devoted most of his life to research the life and times of Abraham Lincoln and to writing his biography. When Sandburg passed away in 1967 he left six well-written voluminous books on the greatest American president which range still among the best books ever written about Lincoln. Nevertheless his contemporary Edmund Wilson, a literary critic and brilliant essayist, hated Sandburg. He commented: "The cruelest thing that has happened to Lincoln since he was shot by Booth was to fall into the hands of Carl Sandburg." Maybe Wilson's ire was rooted in his own inability to write epic works of that size. But then again every critic has the right to be unfair, a freedom denied to a conscientious biographer.

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