Monday, April 12, 2021

37. Why Longfellow Lied

Why Longfellow Lied: The Truth about Paul Revere's Midnight Ride. Jeff Lantos. 2021. [August] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: In the twenty-five years between 1856 and 1881, if you wanted to send a letter to poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, all you had to do was put his name on the envelope, and the letter carrier would deliver it to his home at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

First sentence from the prologue: In the days, weeks, and months following Paul Revere's daring midnight ride, no one, it seemed, wanted to cheer about it. Heck, no one even wanted to acknowledge it.

Premise/plot: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Turns out, he lied! But why did he lie? Why did he twist history to suit his own poetical fancy? Jeff Lantos explains all as he works through the famous poem stanza by stanza telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. (Well, mostly, you get the idea!) It seems that Longfellow left out some bits that are crucial to understanding and appreciating the story--Lantos has added those back into the story.

My thoughts: After a brief introduction, the book opens with the full poem. If you haven't revisited the poem since your school days, it's well worth taking your time: reading and savoring the rhythm of it all. Lantos' book does a couple of things. First, it tells the true story of Paul Revere and his 'midnight ride.' It separates fact from fiction. Second, it places the poem into context. The poem was published in 1860. The country was on the brink of another war. Lantos seeks to examine Longfellow's CRAFT. Why did he make the choices he made? Stanza by stanza, Lantos highlights the author's workmanship and examines the question WHY.

It is packed with detail. I learned so much! It's a compelling story whether your interest is in HISTORY, POETRY, or writing. I enjoyed the main narrative. But I also loved the side bars!

I loved, loved, loved everything about this one! I loved the layout. It was beautiful work. It looks absolutely nothing like the nonfiction texts available when I was growing up. The text itself was well written--backed up with research and notes--but the narrative itself was compelling. Far from dry. I love that this book encourages readers to question, to dig deep into a text.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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