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I went to see “Lincoln,” last night—screenplay by Steven Spielberg, script by Tony Kushner, Lincoln played by Daniel Day Lewis, Mary Todd by Sally Field—an all-star line-up to which we’d have to include imminent Oscar nominations for make-up artist and cinematography, costume designer, and much more. As it is Spielberg, there is more than one tear rending moment, none gratuitous, and no distortions of text as in the musical finale of “The Color Purple.” It is Kushner’s script that shines, an adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s, “Team of Rivals,” one of our re-elected President’s favorites. I have not read that book yet but I ordered it for my Kindle as soon as I got home and began a biography of Mary Todd Lincoln which has been on my to-be-read Kindle stack for a while. Mary Todd's reputation has been restored, the accusations of insanity mostly expunged. She was, we now learn, an intelligent Victorian First Lady constricted by the expectations of her time: she didn’t have a submissive personality, she wept grandly after the loss of three children, she sat in the balcony watching the proceedings on the floor of the House of Representatives where, of course, there were no women politicians present, she had strong opinions which she expressed vociferously. Strange to think that it wasn’t so long ago that women journalists were relegated to that selfsame balcony. See Nan Robertson’s book about those girl journalists. It’s an eye opener:


It is at times like these—inspired by a well-made script and a well-made movie—that I miss a now defunct website called readerville.com, a gathering of readers and writers. One of the threads was about immersion reading. Certainly Spielberg and Kushner must have read all there is to read about Lincoln as they developed this project. The film has so much exposition, in fact, that one could call it scholarly. Yet the dramatic tension in every scene, relieved by Lincoln’s stories and the softness of his personality as rendered by a fine actor, keep the story moving to its denouement—the passage of the 13th Amendment and Lincoln’s assassination. Though we know the ending before the first frame has passed, it doesn’t matter.

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