As we edge into the new year, bookstore events are still mostly on hold in North Carolina, one of my two beats here. The big three independent bookstores — Quail Ridge Books, The Regulator, and McIntyre’s — won’t kick off their 2009 readings for another 10 days or so, and the chains are in a similar holding pattern.
In D.C., however, Politics and Prose greets the new year with a trio of big events over the next week.
Steven Johnson arrives on Monday, January 5, at 7 p.m. to discuss his book, The Invention of Air, and Robert Roper revisits Walt Whitman’s Civil War days in Now the Drum of War on the following night. But the event which most caught my eye welcomes Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, discussing his new biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Over the holidays, I read Clyde Edgerton’s review of the book in Garden & Gun, and from Edgerton’s brief remarks on the first “common man” president, I found myself just wanting to read more of Meacham’s book myself. Here’s an excerpt from Edgerton’s review:
Commentators from Jackson’s time might say this to us present-day Americans:
“We’re talking action politics. You should have been here when two pistols misfired in an assassination attempt and Jackson was beating the hell out of the guy with his cane when he was pulled away. You should have been here when it looked like South Carolina was about to secede, when there was almost a war with France, when Old Hickory refused to declare a day of prayer, when he fired his cabinet, and when he vetoed more bills than all the presidents before him combined. And, oh, yes—you want to talk about sex and stuff…Yep, you should have been here for all that. What a ride.”
A fair conclusion is that the Washington establishment was afraid of Jackson, that he saved the Union and in the process created an office that—rather than Congress—became the main power in national government. Harry Truman, placing Jackson among Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln as one of our four greatest presidents, said about him, “He wanted sincerely to look after the little fellow who had no pull, and that’s what a president is supposed to do.”
What a read.
Here at the cusp of a major transition over at the White House, that question of “what a president is supposed to do” may be weighing on all of us even more heavily than usual. Meacham discusses American Lion on Wednesday evening, January 7, at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.