Goodwin on Lincoln

Disgraced Harvard Professor Doris Kearns Goodwin was on the Don Imus radio show this morning.

In between reminiscences about her show business career (anecdotes from her first appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show; multiple appearances on Letterman; her first appearance on Imus in the Morning), Goodwin spilled a few beans about her upcoming Lincoln book.

(1) It has been seven years in the making. (2) It is due for publication in October. (3) She still has to write the last chapter.

How to interpret these items?

(1) Steven Spielberg bought movie rights to a pig in a poke; there was nowhere near enough content available years ago, when he purchased the rights, to determine whether a good movie could be made from Goodwin's book proposal. He bought a "hot author."

(2) If the book will be released in October and the last chapter is unwritten, the publisher is going to have to "fast track" this - usually press scheduling involves at least a year of lead time. This is not a happy publisher.

(3) If the last chapter is delayed, does this mean she is writing her own books now? Has the plagiarism scandal dried up the well of helpers, assistants, dragooned grad students, etc?

And finally, are the writing delays the result of Goodwin's personal and financial troubles or was the book's subject redirected by the uproar following early disclosure of an unflattering view of Lincoln?

For my part, I would have difficulty believing that a woman who flatters Don Imus would begrudge Abraham Lincoln his due.

On the matter of Lincoln-as-gay-man, Goodwin said that there is no way we can tell what was going on in Lincoln's bed 200 years ago (200 years ago!) but that affectionate letters and shared bunks cannot be taken as definitive. She was well prepared on that, quoting weirdly affectionate letters between Chase and Stanton and between Seward and an unidentified New York politico.

Goodwin gave no hint of what would be different or worthwhile about her tome. It seems to me to be a 200th anniversary play, tying Lincoln's birth commemorative to a sales event, something like the "books" created by James McPherson for the 140th anniversary of Antietam and Gettysburg.

Which would explain why she has "200" on her mind.