The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 4, 2014

January 4, 1943

Doris Kearns Goodwin (born January 4, 1943) grew up in Rockville Centre, Long Island. Goodwin, one of the most prominent living American historians, received a Ph.D from Harvard, and taught there for most of the decade of the 1970s.

Both she and her husband, Richard Goodwin were intimately involved in the presidential political arena, in the sixties: he was a lawyer and speechwriter for the Kennedys and she was an intern in the Johnson administration. They married in 1975, and her first book appeared in 1977. That was Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream,  and it was a New York Times bestseller.  American political power continued to fascinate her and her many books often deal with understanding its intricacies and manifestations. Her book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995.

The flowering of of genius can never be completely specified, but Doris Kearns Goodwin makes some interesting points in her account of her girlhood in 1950s America: Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir (1997). She herself states: "From something as simple as the small red scorebook in which I inscribed the narrative of a ball game I saw the inception of what has becomes my life work as an historian."

This work includes the books Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
(2006), and her latest title The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism (2013).

I myself found it telling when this historian of the exercise of political power, recalled an episode from her own childhood. In this incident we find religion and political power intertwined. Doris Kearns, after learning of Nero's use of Christians as scapegoats for the burning of Rome, began: 

"to lay awake at night worrying whether I might lack courage to die for my faith, fearing that when the time came, I would chose instead to live. Lions began populating my dreams, until visits to the Bronx Zoo found me standing in front of the lion's cage, whispering frantically to the somnolent, tawny beast behind the bars in hopes that, if ever I were sent as a martyr to the lions' den my new friend would testify to his fellow lions that I was a good person. Evading the terrible choice I would exhibit courage, affirm my faith and still manage to survive.

We can trace here a native instinct for survival and thirst for intellectual consistency resolved in a brilliant manner, by a child of perhaps six years old. 

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