To public radio host and reporter Brady Carlson, the weighty responsibilities of being president never end. As Carlson sees it, the dead presidents (and the ways we remember them) tell us a great deal about ourselves, our history, and how we imagine our past and future.Read more...
To public radio host and reporter Brady Carlson, the weighty responsibilities of being president never end. As Carlson sees it, the dead presidents (and the ways we remember them) tell us a great deal about ourselves, our history, and how we imagine our past and future. For American presidents, there is life after death--it's just a little weird.
In Dead Presidents, Carlson takes readers on an epic trip to presidential gravesites, monuments, and memorials from sea to shining sea. With an engaging mix of history and contemporary reporting, Carlson recounts the surprising origin stories of the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore, Grant's Tomb, and JFK's Eternal Flame. He explores whether William Henry Harrison really died of a cold, how the assassin's bullet may not have been what killed James A. Garfield, and why Zachary Taylor's remains were exhumed 140 years after he died. And he explains the strange afterlives of the presidents, including why "Hooverball" is still played in Iowa, why Millard Fillmore's final resting place is next to that of funk legend Rick James, why "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" became a running gag for Groucho Marx, why Ohio and Alaska fought for so long over the name of Mt. McKinley (now known as Denali), and why we exalt dead presidents not just with public statues and iconic paintings but with kitschy wax dummies, Halloween costumes, and bobblehead dolls.
With an infectious passion for history and an eye for neglected places and offbeat characters reminiscent of Tony Horwitz and Sarah Vowell, Carlson shows that the ways we memorialize our presidents reveal as much about us as it does about the men themselves.
- ISBN-13: 9780393243932
- ISBN-10: 0393243931
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
- Publish Date: February 2016
- Page Count: 336
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-02-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Inspired by a lifelong fascination with America's chief executives, Carlson, a reporter and NPR host, adopts a novel perspective on American history by exploring the ways in which past presidents have been remembered and memorialized. Blending political biography and road tours of memorials and monuments across the nation, he digs into the stories beneath each grave and behind every tomb. A lover of details regardless of how grotesque or quirky, Carlson leads a field trip to the resting places of both distinguished and obscure presidents, and gives some interesting death factoids along the way, including that Zachary Taylor's rumored last meal was cherries and buttermilk, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4th 1826, Ulysses S. Grant died of cancer before finishing his memoir, and attending doctors mistakenly killed James Garfield by sticking their fingers in his gunshot wounds. Carlson visits Mt. Rushmore, Grant's Tomb, Arlington National Cemetary, the joke-telling L.B.J. robot at the Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Tex., and Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY.—the final resting place of Millard Fillmore as well as singer Rick James. Carlson's book entertains and enlightens, and reminds readers that presidents are also human beings. Photos. (Feb.)