Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jim is in Philadelphia. He's there with his son Ryland on a trip that's a birthday gift -- Ryland, whose school year ended yesterday, is the one of all his four children who shares his parents' affinity for American history. The trip, which will cover the territory Jim took with his oldest son in in 2002, will cover familiar terrain like Valley Forge and Independence Hall, along with a newer venue or two like the National Constitution Center.

Reading on the trip will be Jill Lepore's latest book The Story of America, a collection of essays. Lepore is a rock star in the history business: besides holding a tenured appointment at Harvard, she's a staff writer at The New Yorker, where most of the pieces in this book appeared. She evinces the very rare gift of the serious scholar who can write very accessibly, endowing familiar topics (the Puritans, Benjamin Franklin, Noah Webster) with a sense of freshness in terms of detail while at the same time putting an interpretive spin on them. Many of these pieces have a historiographic dimension; Lepore doesn't simply write about these people, but rather other people writing about these people and what their efforts reveal in the process. Her talents are enviable. But one puts aside one's avarice in the face of work that's so engaging.

Best to all now that summer is officially, undeniably, truly underway.