Harold Holzer, the brand

The man Gore Vidal refers to simply as "the caption writer" and "the publicist" has constructed what has to be a model for authors' websites. Good for him - go and do likewise, my writer friends.

(I can't help but noticing a gallery section - tons of Holzer pics! - and that each picture in the gallery does indeed sport a caption.)

Holzer is co-editor of a new Lincoln volume this month. The scope of the book is simply insane, much too broad - Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment. It's covered by 15 authors in 280 pages and the publisher calls it "comprehensive." In fact "This comprehensive volume" - among other things - covers "slavery from its roots in 1619 Jamestown, through the adoption of the Constitution, to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency."


With the advent of the Bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, we are racing towards a huge substance deficit, one which this book appears to be feeding. How many more clapped-together essay collections are going to be branded by such as Holzer to then die an unlamented, humiliating sales death, in fact, to poison booksellers against the very topic of Lincoln, before the Bicentennial even arrives?

Furthermore, if I were teaching Lincoln courses at the college level, I would be worried sick. In the not too distant future, the people who fund my teaching post, approve my courses, and give me raises and recognition will be bombarded by an inescapable series of Bicentennial news spots, specials, etc., which reduce my scholarship to pap, assuming I "do" scholarship. My colleagues, steeped in complex, intercine struggles among contending schools of thought in their own specialties, are going to be confronted by wall-to-wall happy faces, gleefully nodding in agreement as each new burble of Lincolnian babytalk is served up as wisdom.

Eventually, they are going to get angry. As with the great masses of TV viewers who will be force-fed fifth grade civics lessons until this is over, the professariat and university administrators will not be able to escape the Holzers and the quality of their insights.

I would urge those in the academy teaching Lincoln with access to the Bicentennial machinery to get a grip on their Holzers now, before Lincoln positions are defunded and Lincoln studies banished to community college not-for-credit night school.