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The Spirit of St. Louis ()

Pulitzer Prize (Nonfiction)

If you want a complete portrait of one of the greatest but most controversial heroes of modern times, you can do no better than Scott Berg's outstanding biography Lindbergh (1998)(read Orrin's review, Grade: A+).  But if you want to understand what made the Lone Eagle an iconic figure in the first place, you should really read his own Pulitzer Prize winning account of his 3600 mile, solo, trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927.

The caricature of Lindbergh that has been passed down to us in popular history is so negative that I'd always sort of assumed that this book must have been written in the immediate afterglow of his trip.  And, naturally I assumed that it must have been ghostwritten, a la Profiles in Courage.  In fact, he had written a hasty take on the trip entitled We years earlier, but had never been satisfied with it.  So over a period of more than ten years, starting in 1939, he wrote and rewrote numerous drafts of a more detailed account, incorporating suggestions from his wife and his editor, stripping away excess verbiage and making his prose more direct until finally in the last drafts he switched the whole narrative from past tense to present.

The final result is a surpassingly exciting day to day and moment by moment recreation of  the immense effort that went into gathering investors, building the plane and planning the trip and then a detailed recounting of the trip itself.  The whole suffused by Lindbergh's extraordinary vision and his supreme sense of mission.

As we recede further from the events of his life and the miraculous achievements of the pioneers of aviation lose their luster while the dark deeds of Nazi Germany lose none of their theirs, it seems likely that Lindbergh's legacy will come to consist of little more than isolationism mingled with the faint fetor of antiSemitism.  This would be really unfair to the man, who for all his faults was much too complex and interesting a character to warrant this fate.  If nothing else, one hopes this terrific book will survive and continue to find an audience; it certainly deserves to


Grade: (A+)


Book-related and General Links:

    -OBITUARY: Daring Lindbergh Attained the Unattainable With Historic Flight Across Atlantic: Tragedy and Controversy--Son's Murder and Opposition to War--Marked Life (ALDEN WHITMAN, August 27, 1974, NY Times)
    -BOOKNOTES: Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg (C-SPAN, December 20, 1998)
    -Worldbook Encyclopaedia: Charles Lindbergh
    -Charles A. Lindbergh House (Little Falls, MN)
    -Milestones of Flight (Smithsonian)
    -LINDBERGH, CHARLES AUGUSTUS - 1967 (National Aviation Hall of Fame)
    -TIME 100: Heroes & Icons - Charles Lindbergh
    -Charles Lindbergh (Sky's the Limit kids page)
    -AUDIO: Calvin Coolidge  welcomes  Charles Lindbergh home! June 11, 1927 & the song Lindbergh-Eagle of the USA  by the High Hatters (Jazz Age Page)
    -LINKS: Gander Academy--Charles Lindbergh
    -ESSAY: (David McCullough, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Charles Lindbergh  (Reeve Lindbergh, Time South Pacific)
    -ESSAY: The Faustian Bargain (The Economist)
    -REVIEW: of LINDBERGH By A. Scott Berg (Geoffrey C. Ward, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of LINDBERGH By A. Scott Berg (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of LOSS OF EDEN A Biography of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. By Joyce Milton (Ellen Chesler, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE AIRMAN AND THE CARPENTER The Lindbergh Kidnapping and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann. By Ludovic Kennedy (Ronald Goldfarb, NY Times Book Review)
    -ARTICLE: Lindbergh family bashes biographer: They claim she told them she wasn't writing a biography; she claims she told them she was (Craig Offman, Salon)