You may be surprised to see Abraham Lincoln make another appearance, but don’t worry. I haven’t become obsessed. It just so happens my dear friend (we’ll call her “Kristin”) lent a really great book to me called Lincoln, the Unknown, that was written by Dale Carnegie. (The same fella who wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, a classic self-help book from the 1930s.)
Lincoln, the Unknown is out of print, and not too easy to find. If you do locate a copy, you’ll see it’s a little different from other Lincoln biographies. Carnegie could still find and talk to people who knew Lincoln, and remembered him well. He paints a human picture that could not happen today. Lincoln is so revered now that he is not allowed a single fault. When Carnegie wrote his book, Lincoln was still a man.
The book features a few instances regarding Lincoln’s feelings about his wife which many modern publishers would likely insist on “scrubbing” (read: censoring) to maintain the sixteenth president’s now-saintly reputation.
Dale Carnegie’s books are very readable; but he’s no F. Scott Fitzgerald. No one would read his books for the beautiful way the words blend together. In a way, that speaks to how good his work is. How to Win Friends and Influence People is part of a genre that overflows with nonsense (self-help) and a few real gems. The genre gets a bad name because of the multitude of books with no substance that it contains. Oprah, perhaps captivated by the imaginative illustrations tends to promote these books, and for that reason, pointless self-help books are a phenomenon.
Carnegie’s books are devoid of nonsense and fluff. They don’t have a crazy twist either, like a dead narrator. It is more like listening to eternal truths from the lips of Atticus Finch. And How to Win Friends and Influence People will up anybody’s charisma quotient.
In recent years, several publishers have “updated” books by Dale Carnegie, Dr. Joseph Murphy, and other outstanding authors. Updating books after the author passes away is a reprehensible practice, the equivalent of transforming Huckleberry Finn into Beaver Cleaver, propping up the Leaning Tower of Pisa to correct that annoying architectural flaw, or telling Jim Morrison not to sing “girl we couldn’t get much higher” on live TV.
Publishers who update books usually do so to make them more politically correct, which they call “relevant”. The publishers themselves belong in the same universally despised group as people who turn Beatles songs into Muzak that plays quietly in grocery stores. Or directors who “remake” classic movies and cast Lindsay Lohan in them. (Freaky Friday? The Parent Trap?)
Check out this classic painting that has undergone a “face-lift”, another code word for politically correct revisions.
Well, it appears I’ve wandered away from Dale Carnegie’s book about Abraham Lincoln, so it’s time to end this rambling entry.
Before I go, here’s a gift to you: the attached clip is from a 1950s TV show. It features an elderly man who actually witnessed Lincoln’s assassination. Do take a look. You’ll be glad you did!