The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris . . . David McCullough’s latest volume and sure to be a prize winner

With the deadline for the Pulitzer coming up on the 15th we thought now would be a good time to mention two-time Pulitzer winner David McCullough. Yes, he’s written another masterpiece that will surely get a nod if not a prize:  The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the 70 years between 1830 and 1900. It’s one of those times in America when the ambitious felt that to excel in their work they needed to draw on the resources and history of Europe.

David McCullough touches upon such figures as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, who was one of this intrepid band. Also Charles Sumner, who enrolled at the Sorbonne and there came to understand that Black students (who in France were considered equal to Whites) had the same ambitions he had. That experience would cause him to become the most powerful, unyielding voice for abolition in the U.S. Senate, almost at the cost of his life.

But one does have to question how alien Paris was to pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk from New Orleans, a French city and the son of Londoner and a Caribbean Creole! Sometimes it seems McCullough turns a blind eye to the fact that people who went to Paris were people that grew up in an America that was very mixed, and where most “Americans” had at least one foreign-born non-English first language parent who was to all intents and purposes raised as if he/she still lived in Prague or Ireland or Paris.

At any rate, it’s David McCullough and it’s always worth the read.

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Published in: on June 13, 2011 at 8:08 AM  Leave a Comment  
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