Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The noise of engines and churning water. Black smoke rising from its chimney and white steam from its pipes. A boat that could take a man all the way from New Orleans to Louisville in under twenty-five days. Were there any limits to the ingenuity of man? (4.30)
Abe is born into a rapidly changing America and he gets to see a lot of those changes, for a poor kid born on a poor farm in Kentucky. In this scene, he gets to see one of the technological wonders of the time—the Mississippi steamboat. Which gives us a great idea for Grahame-Smith's next mash-up: Huck Finn plus… werewolves.
I was all astonishment, for I had never in my life seen such multitudes—their tongues dripping with French and Spanish phrases. Ladies fanning themselves in the latest fashions, and gentlemen clad from head to toe in suits of the highest quality. Streets filled with horses and carts; merchants selling every ware imagined. We strolled the rue de Chartres; beheld the Basilica of St. Louis in Jackson Square, so named for our president's heroic defense of the city. Here, teams of men and mules dug trenches for gas pipes. When their months of work were finished, one of them proudly sang, the city would "gleam like a sparkling jewel in the night, with nary a torch or a candle in sight." (4.43)
Now, there's a dark side to New Orleans. It may be a jewel of the South, but it's also where Abe sees his first slave auction. So Abe says that New Orleans seems very European (4.45), but the American side is that a lot of this city was made by slave labor. Aside from that, New Orleans nicely mixes history (Jackson Square memorializes a battle during the War of 1812) with the hope of the future (gas lamps). That might be the perfect representation of America in this book: new, old, violent, beautiful. Also, full of fried doughnuts.
Offutt saw the Sangamon River as a 250-mile stretch of opportunity. The frontier was booming, and towns were springing up all along its banks. Many believed that navigation would soon be improved, and that steamboats would soon bring passengers and goods through their backyards.
New Salem sat atop a bluff on the west bank of the Sangamon, a tightly grouped collection of one- and two-room cabins, workshops, mills, and a schoolhouse that doubled as a church on Sundays. There were perhaps one hundred residents in all. (5.45-6)
Offutt sees the growth of the 19th century and the opportunities it provides. But although this book has a lot of talk about growth and improvement, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The frontier town that seems promising to Offutt is made up of small houses and a schoolhouse that serves as a church. No skyscrapers yet.