The book is a hoax and a fraud: a historical hoax, because the inaccurate parts are all shaded toward a predetermined conclusion, and a literary fraud, because significant portions of the accurate parts are plagiarized--from me, as it happens.Nobile has a substantial legal dispute with the publisher, which must affect our assessment of his article, but he lays out his evidence well. I was particularly struck by this report of a phone call from AIDS activist and writer Larry Kramer:
"IF YOU DON'T STOP MAKING A STINK about Tripp's book, I'm going to expose you as an enormous homophobe," Larry Kramer telephoned me to say last October. "For the sake of humanity, please, gays need a role model." I replied that the book was so bad, it would backfire on the homosexual movement when reviewers and readers caught on to the fabrications, contradictions, and general nuttiness of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.
How upset should we be about history books that don't meet the standards of professional historians? Many books that are superficially history books are easily detected as political propaganda or inspirational froth. Leaving aside Nobile's plagiarism complaints, does Tripp's book really fool anyone into thinking it's more than it really is? I don't know everything Kramer actually said to Nobile, but the core of his point seems to be: let gay people have their hero. Of course, that's also awfully sad and lame and infantilizing. I'd like to think all rational adults would prefer scrupulously researched and argued works of history, but people do enjoy reading rousing polemics and one-sided arguments that bolster their cause. This is the sort of book that sells, which I'm sure dismays some scholarly writers who have not quite gotten used to living in the real world yet.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. Let me point you to this post of mine from later in the day noting Andrew Sullivan's objection to Nobile's article, and this post of mine from a while back asking what difference it would make in the way we think about any current issues if we were to believe Lincoln was gay.