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Quick Lit Bits: 'The Greater Journey'

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Quick Lit Bits are short book summaries followed by quick reviews from Kevin. The first is a recent history book published by legendary historian David McCullough called The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
By David McCullough

The book according to the book (edited from the cover):
The Greater Journey
is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900.To name a few:

 

- Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America
- Charles Sumner, who saw black students with the same ambition he had, and when he returned home, became the most powerful voice for abolition
- James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel F. B. Morse, worked unrelentingly every day in Paris, Cooper writing and Morse painting what would be his masterpiece
- Pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk performed in Paris at age 15
- Medical student Oliver Wendell Holmes toiled in the medical capital of the world
- Writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Henry James were all "discovering" Paris
- Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent flourished in Paris.

Nearly all of these Americans, whatever their troubles learning French, their spells of homesickness, and their suffering in the raw cold winters by the Seine, spent many of the happiest days and nights of their lives in Paris. McCullough tells this sweeping, fascinating story with power and intimacy, bringing us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens's phrase, longed "to soar into the blue."

The book according to Kevin (unedited from the brain):
Another great effort by Mr. McCullough, who is one of America's greatest living historians. His most well-known books include The Path Between the Seas, Truman, 1776 and John Adams. I have quite a few of his books on my shelf (including the latter two) and this is one of his best.

The Greater Journey is filled with intriguing stories of Americans in the 19th century who went to Paris to learn the various arts: painting, sculpture and medicine in particular. They were witnesses to an incredible period of upheaval and rebirth in the French capital. Along with its engaging narrative, the book also offers more color images than your typical historical tome, including many beautiful recreations of the American artists' works. I will never forget the works of John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens thanks to this book.

 

 

About the Author
A Juilliard-trained writer, Kevin Kizer has fought against numerous world-champion writers during his career, besting the reigning middle weight writing champion in an exhibition bout in Helsinki in 1976. He also played a crucial role on the U.S. gold-medal winning writing team during the 1984 Pan-Am games, where he came off the bench in dramatic fashion to write the winning prepositional phrase just as time expired.