Once upon a time there was a silly, funny, gossipy New York magazine called SPY and it ran an article on celebrity coasting. It looked at the many creative ways prominent entertainers remained in the public eye without actually doing good work, or even any work at all.
I was reminded of this article last year when I received an insubstantial little book about Antietam just in time for the anniversary of the battle. It was by one-time bestseller James McPherson.
And I was a little dismayed when he published an easy reading travelogue of the Gettysburg battlefield just in time for another anniversary this year. (Notice that Stephen Sears, McPherson's near contemporary, also issued a book on Gettysburg in 2003 but it delivers value to his fan base - an extensive reinterpretation of the battle in light of Meade's excellence and Lee's many shortcomings.)
Now, today, a publicist has contacted me with the exciting announcement that an illustrated edition of McP's Battle Cry of Freedom is due out.
As a metaphorically challenged friend once said to me, "They are milking that puppy for all it is worth." Poor puppy. But look:
"The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom, boasting some seven hundred pictures, including a hundred and fifty color images and twenty-four full-color maps, here is the ultimate book for everyone interested in American history. McPherson has selected all the illustrations, including rare contemporary photographs, period cartoons, etchings, woodcuts, and paintings, carefully choosing those that best illuminate the narrative."
There is a point where exploitation of one's previous successes turns to bathos. Any doubt that we are seeing it? Then check out the deluxe, limited edition, leather-bound edition of the newly illustrated release.