Being George Washington: The Indispensable Man As You’ve Never Seen, by Glenn Beck, read by Rom McLarty
This book doesn’t have the feel of nonfiction. I don’t say this as a bad thing; I am, perhaps, better read than many people are concerning George Washington  and I am fond of audio theater . This book is certainly extremely competent, albeit somewhat odd, as historical fiction, but it falls a bit short of the nonfiction demands of nonfiction. This is clearly based on a true story, but not quite the true story. I am also not sure how this particular volume reads, but listening to the book was a particularly frustrating experience because the book jumped around from one scene to the next, requiring the listener to keep in mind the obscure and tangential connections between the various scenes rather than relying on chronological order. Think of this like a draft to a miniseries or the director’s cut of a biopic of George Washington that includes some speculation and takes a few liberties with the language and action in order to dramatize what is a generally realistic, if highly positive, portrayal of George Washington that goes out of its way to make Alexander Hamilton look bad.
In terms of its contents, this is a book that focuses mostly on the highlights of Washington’s life, with a lot of very didactic sections drawing conclusions and parallels for our contemporary age. At various times within this audiobook we see George Washington dealing with his demanding mother, dutifully copying out maxims of civility, bravely trying to retrieve the situation during Braddock’s defeat, showing himself diffident to obtaining high office, leading the Continental Army into victory at Trenton, dealing with the privation at Valley Forge, deceiving the British and successfully forcing Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown, overcoming Benedict Arnold’s treachery, adroitly handling the Citizen Genet affair, and writing his notable Farewell Address. Most potential readers and listeners would be unfamiliar with at least a few of these episodes, and they show George Washington as noble but human, dealing with the gentle persuasion of those around him seeking to moderate his own native obstinacy. There is a good deal of repetition between some of the accounts and the author dwells long on issues of loyalty and humility, areas that the author contrasts between Washington’s greatness and the lack of contemporary excellence among our political elite in those matters.
So, what does one make of Being George Washington? If you like Glenn Beck’s work in general, you will likely find much to enjoy here. The author inserts himself into the discussion and drones on way too long at times about Washington and his virtues and contemporary failings, and the chronology of the material is more than a little bit of a mess, but if you want a thoughtful look at the eventful life of George Washington that makes a decent first stab at a screenplay about our nation’s first president, there is a lot to appreciate here. This may not be as great a book as the author thinks, but you can do far worse when looking at accounts of George Washington, and this is an account that at least seeks to inspire the reader in a similar fashion to the way that George Washington biographies did in the past. Overall, this is a worthwhile account and allows the reader to enjoy an audio drama while also getting a moral lesson. For some of us, that is time well and enjoyably spent, and a great many people should find some worth and pleasure in it.
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