Subtitled, of course, because all non-fiction subtitles include these key words now: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America. Which friendship did not change America, but certainly had an influence on the fortunes of both men involved, and their families. By Mark Perry.
I stayed up way too late reading this book last night, and I'm still not finished. The book is fascinating, and deceptively longer than it appears.
It's also a bit of an odd read, since the author works so very hard to establish his new! individual! brilliant! insights about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its composition, that no one's ever thought of before, and which depend upon a certain twistyness in the description of the relationship between the two men.
I'm not declaring Perry's wrong in his new individual brilliant insights, but maybe, they are not all that brilliant? Or not all that important? Or even a solution to the eternal mystery that is Huckleberry Finn?
The book is filled with period description and detail, gracefully provided to the reader. Both men are brilliant, fascinating people. Until recently I knew nothing about Grant the man, or Grant the general, for that matter. Perry's book is a perfect introduction to Grant's Memoirs, since this book is about how he came to write his Memoirs, the process of that writing, and the publication thereof -- which Twain snatched for his company at the very moment of the signing of the contract with a different publisher. Any writer and historian will consider long and deeply that Grant wrote both volumes while dying of a very painful throat cancer, in the face of financial destitution, due to the failure his son's bank, and keenly feeling the shame of that in his sense of honor. Writing his Memoirs provided Grant comfort on all fronts, particularly as he was assured their publication would ensure a comfortable financial future for his family, which it did do.
The author of the Grant volume in the American Presidents series drew greatly on this book. I presume though, from a get-acquainted first pass through The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, that this author and Perry both drew those parts from Grant himself.
It's too bad that the Forge / Tor edition of Grant's Memoirs could publish only Grant's Civil War volume. (I'm reading The Modern Library War Series edition.) Anyone who wants to understand the history of the U.S. will need Grant's recollections of that far too little known and considered event in national history we call the Mexican - American War. But most of us know nothing about it, other than it was the training and proving ground for so many of the officers and commanders on both sides of the Civil War conflict. Maybe many nationalists don't like that in this volume Grant clearly calls it an unjust war pushed upon Mexico by the U.S. for reason of territory grab -- this was Manifest Destiny time -- and that this was criminal. However, he followed orders and did his best, because that is what the army and its officers do.
This is exactly what he continued to do as Commander in Chief of the Union armies, under Lincoln, and why he continued to follow Lincoln's orders of Reconstruction -- meaning the full integration of the emancipated population into the national body politic, when POTUS himself. Those were Lincoln's orders and he continued to believe himself bound to fulfill those orders. He also believed, as he believed Lincoln did, that this was the only way to heal the nation.
Alas, that even still, today, there are so many who continue to fight with every claw and fang they can muster to make it not be so.
The 1840's were an interesting period in the U.S. I first began thinking of them while doing my Samuel Ward (who ended his extremely long and varied and full life known as "King of the Lobby") project in the NYPL Humanities Papers and Mss. archives.
Grant's Memoirs are instructive as history, and as a model of historical writing. Perry's Grant and Twain is instructive in the process of writing history. Any historian needs all three parts as the tool kit for successful historical work: 1) knowledge of the material -- research and / or recollection, as in Grant's case; 2) possession of a method, a process; 3) capacity to write clearly to communicate what the historian learned / knows. Perry's book shows us Grant actively wielding all three parts of that tool kit.