- Book Notes
Jason Emerson has carved a niche for himself as one of the leading authorities on the intimate dynamics of the Lincoln family household with his previous books Lincoln the Inventor (2009), Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln (2012), and The Madness of [End Page 127] Mary Lincoln (2007). In this thorough collection of primary sources, he returns to the question of Mary Todd Lincoln's 1875 insanity trial and Robert Lincoln's subsequent committal of his mother to an insane asylum. After succinctly tracing the narrative of this history in the introduction, Emerson steps away from his compiled sources and provides a light editorial touch to contextualize and explain the documents at the beginning of each chapter, but otherwise he allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. The result is an impressive array of material, arranged chronologically, stemming from the insanity trial, including private correspondence, progress reports from Lincoln's attending physician at the Bellevue Place Sanitarium, newspaper articles, diaries, and interviews. This is an essential resource for anyone interested in the Lincoln family.
Scion of one of the most prominent families of Kentucky, William Marshall Bullitt was a lawyer of national renown. During the course of his lengthy legal career, which included appointment as solicitor general of the United States in 1912, Bullitt argued more than fifty cases before the United States Supreme Court. Basing his text on the Bullitt Family Papers housed in the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, author Mark Davis recounts the remarkable career of this foremost jurist along with his equally cerebral hobbies of mathematics and astronomy. And it is not a slight to Davis's thorough and accessible narrative to note that many readers may be drawn to the book more so because of its vast array of wonderful illustrations that grace nearly every page. This is an enlightening account of one of the nation's foremost juristic minds who counted presidents, governors, and national and state leaders among his friends and clients. [End Page 128]
Folklorists, storytellers, or anyone who loves a good yarn will enjoy this book from professional storyteller Mary Hamilton. The author puts to paper twenty-five of Kentucky's formerly oral tales, ranging from tall tales from the hunt to ghost stories to family legends. Significantly, Hamilton completes each story with her own useful commentary regarding the lineage of the tale, how she first encountered it, how she delivers the narrative to and interacts with audiences during its recounting, and how it has evolved over time. In so doing, Hamilton invites her readers to incorporate and retell the stories they have read with their own interpretational spin. "Perhaps the meanings of all of our stories," she concludes, "those we tell and those we are told, can become this fluid when we allow ourselves to listen to them anew" (p. 187).
The editors of the "Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History" Series published by the University Press of Kentucky remind their readers that "in the field of oral history, Kentucky is a national leader" (p. vii). Nora Rose Moosnick's book is yet another outstanding contribution to the field of public history. The women interviewed and spotlighted by Moosnick are usually not defined as "typical" Kentuckians, but the stories quickly demonstrate that they also do not fit into an easily defined archetype either. Indeed, Moosnick ably presents the sheer diversity of these women's experiences in the commonwealth while simultaneously weaving together their stories to underscore the similarities and shared experiences of these two groups who are often viewed as bitter enemies. [End...