I am delighted to share this post by Arthur Morey, the award-winning audiobook narrator who created the unabridged audio recording of I Am Abraham. I asked Arthur if he would share his thoughts on the book with us.
I recorded the audiobook of Jerome Charyn’s I Am Abraham in the winter of 2013. Less than a year earlier I had recorded Sandburg’s Life of Lincoln, which was, for many years, the standard work on Lincoln.
Biographies can tell us as much about the biographer as the subject. Sandburg was born only a dozen years after Lincoln’s death. He was a prairie poet and philosopher, with his own experience of Midwest lawyers and general stores, of men who sat by iron stoves, talked politics, and spun yarns. Sandburg’s Lincoln, like Sandburg, loves a good joke; he makes his points with anecdotes. Sandburg became a major poet and historian. But Lincoln, in all his splendid, unshakable ordinariness, became the greatest American, the greatest human being democracy has ever produced.
For all the authenticity Sandburg brings to the story, Charyn, writing nearly a century later gives us a biography of Lincoln that seems truer. He acknowledges the magic of Lincoln’s transcendence. It is not just that the Lincoln who “belongs to the ages” is here redefined for our times. Charyn’s Lincoln is aware from the beginning of the mysterious strangeness of his life. He lives at the center of a world of unimaginable injustice and bloodshed, but nevertheless he sees it from the outside (even, curiously, stands outside his own death). He is the most reliable witness to the tragedy and absurdity of the world in which he is also the major figure. Charyn’s Lincoln is actually more plausible than Sandburg’s: If Lincoln had not had the ability to stand apart from his times, could he have changed the world as he did?
Jerome Charyn probably would not claim to have nailed Lincoln once and for all, but he has a remarkable and unforgettable appreciation of the miracle of the life of the Great Emancipator.
Arthur Morey is an award winning audiobook narrator. Arthur started work on audiobooks six years ago and has recorded over 130 titles, including novels by John Updike, John Irving, E L Doctorow, Richard Russo, Anne Tyler, Nathan Englander, Julie Orringer, David Grossman, Daniele Steel, and Jack Vance.