Sunday, April 8, 2018

Book News: The Annotated Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (another version)

Only a short time has passed since the publication of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: The Complete Annotated Edition (October 2017), which was edited by Grant Library executive director John F. Marszalek along with David Nolen and Louie Gallo. The recent completion of the massive The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant project made it an opportune time for releasing the first fully annotated edition of Memoirs.

Not having my own copy yet, I still don't have a good sense of the depth and range of critical effort that went into the footnotes. The T.J. Stiles review in the New York Times didn't even go into it. Under the space constraints imposed by CWT's review format, the always astute Ethan Rafuse merely remarks (link) that we "will appreciate and be impressed by the extensive amount of information and commentary the editors provide in the footnotes on the various figures and events mentioned..." The longer CWBR review by Larry Grant has a bit more to say on the matter, noting that Marszalek et al. "provide a biographic note to nearly every individual mentioned by Grant, and also identify many geographic locations more completely. They also correct dates and casualty figures and similar items where that is necessary." I was hoping there would be a lot more to it than that (and maybe there is), primarily in the area of in-depth critical analysis of Grant's highly influential war narrative and his own opinions and recollections of people and events.

Now comes news that another annotated edition will come out soon. Scheduled for release this coming November from Liveright, Elizabeth D. Samet's The Annotated Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant certainly seems to promise something different. From the description, it sounds like Samet, a professor of English at West Point, will apply more of a literary and cultural emphasis to her editing of the Memoirs.

"One hundred and thirty-three years after its 1885 publication by Mark Twain, Elizabeth Samet has annotated this lavish edition of Grant’s landmark memoir, and expands the Civil War backdrop against which this monumental American life is typically read. No previous edition combines such a sweep of historical and cultural contexts with the literary authority that Samet, an English professor obsessed with Grant for decades, brings to the table.

Whether exploring novels Grant read at West Point or presenting majestic images culled from archives, Samet curates a richly annotated, highly collectible edition that will fascinate Civil War buffs. The edition also breaks new ground in its attack on the “Lost Cause” revisionism that still distorts our national conversation about the legacy of the Civil War.

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