Pulitzer prize-winning writer Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson biography earned this praise from Gordon A. Wood: “Probably the best Jefferson single-volume ever written.” Meacham explains that, even with his warts, Jefferson was an extraordinary man in remarkable times.
Also consider this perfect follow-up: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. By Stephen E. Ambrose.
N. Y. Times book reviewer Alvin M. Josephy Jr. wrote “For almost 200 years, Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) have stood among the first ranks of American heroes. Noble young partners, courageous and self-reliant, they were role models for generations of American youth. Their bold, 28-month, 8,000-mile expedition across largely unknown Western lands from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back in 1804-06 remains one of the most enthralling adventure stories in American history.” He called the work “this grand epic of the youthful days of the Republic.”
An entertaining element of the book include spelling surprises from the early 19th century. Consider these from Clark: “Deckinsery of arts and ciences,” actually A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences that Clark was reading when he penned the entry. Ambrose assigned his son the task of assuring all spelling is taken accurately from the journals of the co-captains of the Corps of Discovery.
The Vermont home of a great Russian writer
Windsor, Vt. is about 21 miles and a half hour drive to Cavendish, Vt. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was an iconic Russian writer of the 20th century who lived in Cavendish. Windsor was the home of this writer for a few years. Legendary dissident and GULAG survivor, Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 1970 "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature." However, it wasn’t until 1974 that he was able to officially accept the award, the year he left the Soviet Union.
His most famous works were devoted to prison camps, and his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich brought him fame and was miraculously published with Nikita Khrushchev’s personal approval.
While his monumental documentary masterpiece, The Gulag Archipelago, describes the Soviet camps as a system, the publishing of that great work led to his forced exile from the USSR, to which he only returned after the country’s collapse.
Gnat Solzhenitsyn grew up in Cavendish and now enjoys an international career as a conductor and concert pianist. It’s a semi-reunion of sorts when he takes the stage at the Brattleboro Music Center in Brattleboro, Vt., in honor of Chonghyo Shin, who taught the younger Solzhenitsyn piano as a youngster at the BMC Music School. The benefit concerts support the BMC Music School.
In addition to his performances worldwide, Solzhenitsyn performs regularly at Vermont’s Marlboro Music Festival and Soovin Kim’s Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival in Colchester, and conducted at last summer’s Manchester Music Festival. He has also conducted and performed as soloist with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.
Solzhenitsyn is principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony and conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
The story of the reclusive families residence in Vermont includes a sturdy sign beside the entrance to the Cavendish General Store that is a measure of respect, Vermont-style, for this town's renowned resident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
In small black lettering, the sign warns the ceaseless trickle of tourists, literature buffs and reporters not to bother even asking for the way to Solzhenitsyn's wooded, hillside retreat about three miles outside town.
Store owner Joe Allen said he lost count of how many times treasure hunters made off with his "No Directions to the Solzhenitsyn Home" display. So, a few years ago, he jammed it up against the wall with two 9-inch spikes.
The Solzhenitsyn family recently returned to their motherland so the sign serves as a difficult-to-remove reminder of Cavendish's 17 years as a respectful host to a reclusive celebrity and his family.
This Canisteo resident’s weakly scribbles don’t compare with anything from those great writers.