Advice from one old liar to another

Joseph Ellis was asked by the New York Times for his advice to Dick Cheney about the writing of Cheney’s memiors!  Yeah, right–because Ellis, the Walter Mitty of early American historians, is such an expert in creative autobiography?  I guess they would have asked Norman “Advertisements for Myself” Mailer, but he’s dead.  (Oh, yeah–and he was an actual veteran, not a fabulist who bragged about his exploits to generations of undergraduate women.)

I’m just wondering what level of a$$hattery you have to engage in to get the New York Times to stop calling if you’re a middle-aged white man and the author of a few big books about the “Founding Fathers,” “Founding Brothers,” or the “Dogs of the Founding Brothers,” etc.  It’s too bad that honest scholars peddling more than “Founding Fathers” hero worship still get shoved aside in favor of that guy.

0 thoughts on “Advice from one old liar to another

  1. I shot myself in my only good foot with the Times with one totally true book that didn’t even mention the time I almost froze the other foot off crossing Maine with Benedict Arnold on the way to Quebec that year. That was one long paddle up the Kenebec, I’ll say. My elder kinsman told me we were going tubing, which I guess was pretty fishy for that late in the fall! At two bucks a day for the New York Times, I think I’ll have to apply for one of those veterans’ pensions.


  2. Yeah, Indyanna–I was there, only about 70 years earlier when I was a Massachusetts volunteer marching up to Norridgewock to burn down the Wabanaki Indian mission! Which was awkward, because I was also a Wabanaki woman in said village who hustled off to Odanak just in time. Fortunately, I saved my own life, because I was also the French priest, Fr. Vincent Bigot! Te Deum Laudamus!


  3. And have I told you about the time I was in the gas station, and Bonnie and Clyde robbed it, and Clyde said, “We’re the Barrow gang, we rob banks” (or something like that, and I was like “Wow! what a great opportunity to do an oral history!” and they took me hostage and we had such a great time until I mentioned my father was a funeral director, and, and, and……


  4. Well, Doris Kearns Goodwin also still has a job, and is a regular on The Daily Show

    There is really something wrong here. Although perhaps it is because these people still have jobs?


  5. You folks are such pikers. What’s a couple of hundred years? I mean, when I was talking to Shakespeare last week, he told me how he had written his plays, and how silly it was for anyone to think anyone as delicate as the Earl of Oxford could have written them. Maybe I should write this as an article for the Sunday Times Magazine?

    I’m not sure the Goodwin has a job: she lives by her pen. Ellis, on the other hand, has an endowed chair.


  6. Excellent contributions, all of you! (I’m especially envious of TR at getting to ride shotgun–literally–with the Barrow Gang.)

    OK–now’s about the time when a graduate student or junior faculty member will show up and lecture me for making fun of the esteemed Professor Ellis, scolding me for my “inappropriate tone” and informing me very sternly how incredibly incredible his books are so I should just STFU because I’m just a girl.

    So–here’s a preemptive “TOOL” for the lot of you. Kthnkxbai!


  7. What’s worse, I think, is that the model of the memoir many of the contributors mentioned is the presidential memoir, with only secondary discussion of “insider” memoirs. Now, Cheney as veep took extraordinary powers beyond his job description, so the employment of the presidential memoir example may be apt. But gee whiz! Why didn’t any of the commentators recognize, in this comparison, the implicit acknowledgement of Cheney’s power and hubris? Are there vice-presidential memoirs out thar?

    I asked this of Lincoln’s first veep, Hannibal Hamlin, but he kept sputtering about Abe’s unwillingness to give him any real power.


  8. I will only reprimand you on one count, Historiann. You seem to be implying that “Dogs of the Founding Fathers” would not, in fact, be a totally awesome book. Granted, “Cats of the Founding Fathers” would be better. But still–wouldn’t you rather read that than most of the other political history that gets published?


  9. Actually, John S., I’m waiting for “The Social Diseases of the Founding Fathers.” Maybe I oughta write that one? The problem with that is that one couldn’t completely avoid women’s history. (But the bonus of writing that book is that I could just make hooker jokes and tee-hee my way through the Early Republic with 4th grade sex jokes. That’s the kind of history of sexuality in early America that will find a large popular audience!)


  10. Early american history is NOT about 4th grade bathroom humor? So that’s why I never got it.. .

    Actually, I think it’s more important that there be nothing confusing or ambiguous.


  11. Now THIS is how a Vietnam-vet/History Professor should tell their story to the undergrads! (“I hold history very sacred”). Ellis coulda learned something from “Back to School.”


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