Americans tend to think of the Revolution as a Massachusetts-based event orchestrated by Virginians, but in fact the war took place mostly in the Middle Colonies—in New York and New Jersey and the parts of Pennsylvania that on a clear day you can almost see from the Empire State Building. In My American Revolution, Robert Sullivan delves into this first Middle America, digging for a glorious, heroic part of the past in the urban, suburban, and sometimes even rural landscape of today. And there are great adventures along the way: Sullivan investigates the true history of the crossing of the Delaware, its down-home reenactment each year for the past half a century, and—toward the end of a personal odyssey that involves camping in New Jersey backyards, hiking through lost “mountains,” and eventually some physical therapy—he evacuates illegally from Brooklyn to Manhattan by handmade boat. He recounts a Brooklyn historian’s failed attempt to memorialize a colonial Maryland regiment; a tattoo artist’s more successful use of a colonial submarine, which resulted in his 2007 arrest by the New York City police and the FBI; and the life of Philip Freneau, the first (and not great) poet of American independence, who died in a swamp in the snow. Last but not least, along New York harbor, Sullivan re-creates an ancient signal beacon.
Like an almanac, My American Revolution moves through the calendar of American independence, considering the weather and the tides, the harbor and the estuary and the yearly return of the stars as salient factors in the war for independence. In this fiercely individual and often hilarious journey to make our revolution his, he shows us how alive our own history is, right under our noses.
About Robert Sullivan
Robert Sullivan is the author of Rats, The Meadowlands, A Whale Hunt, and most recently, The Thoreau You Don’t Know. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York, A Public Spaceand Vogue, where he is a contributing editor. He was born in Manhattan and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Looking down from the top of the Empire State Building, the author saw a war landscape he believed to be neglected. Inspired to bring the Revolutionary War history of his hometown into his own present, Sullivan embarked on a long, twisting journey. Though his motives were somewhat muddled from the beginning, his recreational, relaxed plan was to cross the Delaware River, venture into the mountains, and finish the journey by visiting sites and memories inside New York City. Readers are sure to learn plenty from his travels, including little-celebrated battles and long-forgotten soldiers whose stories never made history textbooks. Throughout, the author meanders through his recounting of history, never ignoring a possible detour. In one instance, the fact that a building bearing a Revolutionary War plaque now houses a Trader Joe’s store leads to a footnote about colonists boycotting imported English goods and then ends in an anecdote about the kidnapping of Theo Albrecht, the now-deceased former owner of Trader Joe’s. Much of the book reads like a journal edited to add more information rather than to streamline thoughts. Considering Sullivan’s obvious passion for many of the tangential subjects—associated art and literature, for example—a book of essays might have been a more appropriate project for a general audience. – Kirkus Reviews
“My American Revolution” by Robert Sullivan
The Washington Post Book Review – August 24, 2012 (Excerpt)
Robert Sullivan has interesting ideas, and sometimes he makes interesting books out of them. His subjects have included the Meadowlands of New Jersey, known mostly as home to the New York Giants and Jets pro football teams but, as seen through Sullivan’s lens, also home to an unexpected variety of flora and faunae; New York City’s rat population, the life patterns of which he explores at length in “Rats”; Henry David Thoreau, his self-evident hero, who he insists was a far more complex and surprising fellow than is suggested by his popular image as the hermit of Walden Pond; and travels including a cross-country motor trip he took with his wife and children, and a whale hunt conducted by Native Americans off the coast of Washington state.
Now Sullivan turns his attention to the American Revolution, though no one familiar with his work will be surprised that his approach to it is almost entirely eccentric. “My American Revolution” is about as far from a conventional account of that conflict as one could get. Instead it is an episodic portrait of the war as it may have been at the time and as it is understood — or misunderstood — by many of us now. [Read the full article...]
Following The Footnotes Of The Revolutionary War
The Washington Post Book Review – September 1, 2012 (Excerpt)
When we think of the seminal moments in the birth of the United States of America, many people would point to the battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. But according to Robert Sullivan, the founding landscape of our nation is not in Massachusetts. It is in and around New York.
In his new book, My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78, Sullivan writes that the majority of battles in the Revolutionary War were fought in the middle colonies: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
In the book, he retraces the steps of Washington and his soldiers on a 30-mile trek north from the Delaware River. Sullivan tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, the journey took him through the Watchung Mountains, a low mountain range in New Jersey, that played a key role in the Revolution. It is where Washington lit fires as warning signals to those in New York, when he saw movement by the British force. [Read the full article...]
Over the River and Through the Woods - ‘My American Revolution,’ by Robert Sullivan
The New York Times Book Review – November 21, 2012 (Excerpt)
Imagine Herodotus on steroids, not rambling in a roughly straight line from Cyrus to Xerxes, but diverging onto untrodden paths that transmogrify into fluvial streams of consciousness. That sort of detour through history pretty much sums up the quixotic scenic route Robert Sullivan travels in his winsome book “My American Revolution.”
Following up on captivating volumes about the New Jersey Meadowlands, rats and cross-country excursions, Sullivan has written a provocative Baedeker for a landscape of loss, Gen. George Washington’s route from Brooklyn to “the very first Middle America” and back — the states that, Richard Brookhiser once said, can be traversed by jet plane on the New York-Washington shuttle in 20 minutes, but where the American Revolution raged for much of its seven years. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS
A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
The Bleeding Hills is available at Amazon.Com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and any other good bookstore.