Sunday, December 28, 2008

200th birthday coming up

It seems strange to say about someone who's been dead for 143 years, but Abraham Lincoln may be the cultural icon of the coming year. Feb. 12 marks his 200th birthday, and there are dozens of new books scheduled to commemorate the moment, including Ronald C. White Jr.'s massive "A. Lincoln: A Biography" and the Library of America's "The Lincoln Anthology," which features a century and a half of writing, beginning with William Dean Howells, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Karl Marx and continuing on to Gore Vidal, Mario Cuomo and E.L. Doctorow.

Then, there's the matter of Barack Obama, who appears intent on invoking Lincoln every chance he gets. Lincoln has never fallen out of favor -- more books are published about him annually than about any other American. But between his bicentennial and the affections of Obama, this could be the year that, in some strange way we still can't quite imagine, the 16th president comes into his own.

-- David L. Ulin

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