Please, sir, can I have some more?
By G. Bonine-Giles
All in all, it's a pleasant read. The problem is that Shenkman seems to get carried away with the sound of his own voice, forgetting to fill in little things like details, attributions, etc. And sometimes, his "debunking" is unnecessary.
For example, Shenkman spares great pains to tell us that works of fiction (Shakespeare, Hans Brinker, etc.) aren't true at all - they're fiction! (Perhaps in the sequal he can inform us that Harry Potter isn't a real person).
Although he admits his biases up front, this doesn't give him carte blanche to revel in them. Shenkman is unabashedly Ameri-centric, and his prejudice against other nations is sometimes appalling. For example, he denigrates the British for not being completely stoic during the Battle of Britain in WWII. His evidence? One person's diary shows that he (gasp) went to two luncheon parties during one week! Horrors! He denigrates heroes of France, England and India because, basically, they were human. God forbid!
The book isn't all bad. Shenkman (when he actually quotes his sources and doesn't prattle on about minutia) does a great service by asking us to examine our history instead of getting it spoon-fed to us. As such, this book makes a nice starting point for the re-exploration of history. If only he'd given us more to chew on, instead of a thin, sarcastic gruel.
From Publishers Weekly
While not exactly revisionist history as scholars define it, this is a breezy, entertaining, if occasionally too flippant, attempt to clear up many popular misconceptions. Shenkman ( Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of American History ) here tackles such events as the Trojan War (the one described by Homer didn't take place) and Churchill's stirring radio speeches during World War II (they were performed by an actor). Some of the purported revelations--about the numerous contradictions in the Bible and the bad rap given to Machiavelli--are hardly news. Others, like the faking of newsreels in the first half of this century and the fact that Voltaire made up the boast "I am the state," generally attributed to Louis XIV, will surprise many. Fun to read. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Was there really a valiant little Dutch boy, a protesting Lady Godiva, a fiddling Nero, or a prudish Queen Victoria? No, says Shenkman in his latest debunking effort. The historian roams the globe and the pages of history, calling up popular images and replacing them with more prosaic accounts and the reasons the mythic versions evolved in the first place. No person, event, or thing is safe from Shenkman's corrections; among his topics are Cleopatra, Scottish kilts, Copernicus, the Middle Ages, World War II, marriage, and Frankenstein. Denise Perry Donavin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.