Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Open letter to Stephen B. Oates, Author of Lincoln's Biography

Dear Stephen B. Oates, author of With Malice Toward None, A Biography of Abraham Lincoln,

I got your book because it got really good reviews on Amazon and on the back there was a blurb from The Washington Post that said, "The standard one-volume biography of Lincoln."  Perfect, I thought.  I want to know about Lincoln because I find presidential biographies interesting, but mostly because I like to know just a little more about common topics than average people so I can feel smug about it.

I read your book.  I liked it.  I was feeling smug.  That is until last night, when I went to see the documentary Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and I realized that you left out a LOT.  Maybe that is why The Washington Post made a point to say that yours is only a one-volume book.  Maybe all the necessary information about the the vampire hunting goes into volume two.

Never mind that you left out little details that bring a story to life like the fact that Lincoln's vampire hunting weapon of choice was a silver tipped axe (the "rail splitter," ha ha; my ass), and that he was a martial arts master, was strong enough to cut down a big tree with one swipe of his blade, was a parkour enthusiast, and could twirl his axe better than any beauty contestant in the seventies could twirl her batons; you didn't even mention his motivation for doing all the vampire hunting:  Vampires killed his mother!  You said she died of "fever."  Boring.

You went in to great detail to outline the political shape the country was in during the time of Lincoln.  The 1850s was a tumultuous time between the South and the North because of the "peculiar institution" of slavery.  You kept saying that phrase "peculiar institution," which I just assumed was something it was called back in the old days and I didn't think twice about it.  Now I know why it was so peculiar, no thanks to you.  The South was full of vampires, feeding on slaves!  Were you afraid to tell me that because you thought it might make me think even less of the old South?  Are you from the South and don't want to make your ancestors look any worse than they already look?  Are YOU a vampire?  ARE YOU?!

You know, come to think of it, I should have known about the South's history with rampant vampirism.  I read all the Twilight books and Stephenie Meyer mentioned that when Jasper was turned into a vampire during the civil war, that the South was teeming with vampires.  My bad.  I should have paid better attention.  But still, you could have at least mentioned it.  HUGE oversight on your part.

What I am most disappointed that you left out of your book is the part of Lincoln's young adult life where he finally, finally hunted down his mother's killer and chased him with his axe amongst a bunch of stampeding horses, actually running across the backs of running horses, chasing a vampire.  Oh My God, I bet you feel so stupid right now.  Did you just slap your forehead?  You should have.  That was a MAJOR part of Lincoln's life.  He could have been killed by those horses, OR by that vampire.  It was pivotal, PIVOTAL! 

When Lincoln got in to politics he put his vampire-killing axe away in a trunk because he thought it was better to fight the epidemic of vampirism with words instead of with the axe.  He became a politician and we both know how that turned out.  But you didn't mention that in the dark days of the civil war, when he realized that vampirism couldn't be defeated with only words and he went in to that dusty old room with his old trunk and he opened it and got out his old axe and started twirling it like an old pro.  That was poignant.  I don't know why the lady sitting behind me was laughing.  You missed a real opportunity there for some good writing.

And how about when Lincoln realized that the South was winning battles with less men and inferior supplies because they were using vampires?  If it was left up to you I wouldn't even know that it was Lincoln's idea to bring artillery made of pure silver to Gettysburg!  That is not only a major part of Lincoln's life that you just totally glossed over, but a major part of  our national history.  And you call yourself a professor emeritus of history?  Do you really think you deserve that title?  The Gettysburg address has always been a powerful piece of writing, but it means so much more when you know that the entire night before he gave the speech he was fighting vampires on a train.  Holy crap, he must have been tired!  No wonder the speech was so short!

So anyway, "Professor," I just wanted to tell you that back before I knew the whole truth, I liked your book but it would have been way better if you would have mentioned what a kick-ass vampire hunter Lincoln was.  I think it might be time for volume two.  Get busy.

Sarah Lindahl


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