Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is a distinguished historian and the author of more than fifty books. A frequent guest on PBS, C-SPAN, and the History Channel, Fleming has contributed articles to American Heritage, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, and many other magazines. He lives in New York City.

His new book is The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Fleming's reply:
For the previous weeks, I have been enjoying On His Own Terms, a biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. I have enjoyed it immensely. It is a surprisingly touching book. Smith has a superb grasp of how power traveled through the family from the grandfather to the son to the grandsons like Nelson. You get a remarkable appreciation of their hopes and disappointments. Little did I realize, for instance, that Nelson was dyslexic and for a long time was considered retarded. Even more fascinating are the pages that narrate Rockefeller’s political career, as he wends his way through Washington DC with various presidential appointments, and eventually flings his enormous energy into repairing our relationship with South America. The account of his electoral adventures when he becomes governor of New York and assembles a cast of advisors that include Henry Kissinger is equally gripping. Toward the end I was touched by the strange way he failed to become president, in spite of his apparent desire for the office. Something repeatedly complicated his attempts to launch a serious campaign. Seldom have I read a book that I found more satisfying.

Since that time I’ve been enjoying Henry James’s novel, The Golden Bowl. It too is the story of the American rich, but as different in its approach to them as one can possibly imagine. I have to confess I have grown occasionally weary of James’s relentless analysis of the four principal characters. But his plot – focused almost entirely on a wealthy father and his daughter, who has married an Italian prince, and the daughter’s best friend, Charlotte, who has married the father – is incomparable. No one knows that Charlotte has had a blazing affair with the prince before the book begins.
Visit Thomas Fleming's website.

--Marshal Zeringue