9780385526203

Blindspot

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780385526203

  • ISBN10:

    0385526202

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-12-29
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
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Summary

"Tis a small canvas, this Boston," muses Stewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter who, having fled his debtors in Edinburgh, has washed up on America's far shores. Eager to begin anew in this new world, he advertises for an apprentice, but the lad who comes knocking is no lad at all. Fanny Easton is a lady in disguise, a young, fallen woman from Boston's most prominent family. "I must make this Jameson see my artist's touch, but not my woman's form," Fanny writes, in a letter to her best friend. "I would turn my talent into capital, and that capital into liberty." Liberty is what everyone's seeking in boisterous, rebellious Boston on the eve of the American Revolution. But everyone suffers from a kind of blind spot, too. Jameson, distracted by his haunted past, can't see that Fanny is a woman; Fanny, consumed with her own masquerade, can't tell that Jameson is falling in love with her. The city's Sons of Liberty can't quite see their way clear, either. "Ably do they see the shackles Parliament fastens about them," Jameson writes, "but to the fetters they clasp upon their own slaves, they are strangely blind." Written with wit and exuberance by longtime friends and accomplished historians Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore,Blindspotweaves together invention with actual historical documents in an affectionate send-up of the best of eighteenth-century fiction, from epistolary novels like Richardson'sClarissato Sterne's picaresqueTristram Shandy. Prodigiously learned, beautifully crafted, and lush with the bawdy, romping sensibility of the age, Blindspotcelebrates the art of the Enlightenment and the passion of the American Revolution by telling stories we know and those we don't, stories of the everyday lives of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary time.

Author Biography

Jane Kamensky, professor of American history and chair of the History Department at Brandeis, is the author of The Exchange Artist
 
Jill Lepore is the Kemper Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Excerpts

Had Columbus my gut, the world would be a smaller place. And maybe the better for it. O brave new world: wild, rebellious, mysterious, and strange. And distant. God above, who knew it could be so
bloody far?

Now begins a gentleman’s exile, and, with it, my tale.

You may wonder, dear Reader, dear, unfathomable Reader, why I have undertaken this voyage, why a man of parts, of fine parts, I may say, and education, better than most, would hazard a crossing and that, in April, the most treacherous of months—showers sweet turn to tempests bitter—and, worse, on a galleon with no berth for a gentleman but a bunk not fit for a dog, not even my mastiff, Gulliver—and I, though six foot tall, his Lilliputian—who, despite my best efforts, splays himself, fleas
and all, atop my moth- ridden blanket, with me huddled under it, as if I were a city and he a great army, equipped with cauldrons of drool, besieging me. While you wonder why I wander, know this: run I must.

Aye, I would have stayed home if I could. If I could. Instead, each day the winds blow me farther from the dales and vales of Jamesons past, clan of clans, men among men, though, truth be told—and here, dear Reader, it will be told, and without ornament—our tartan is sold by the yard at Covent Garden to every shaver, ever striver, every waster with twopence in his pocket and a plan to marry a merry widow with ten thousand a year and an estate in Derbyshire, with horses, comely, and tenants, timely in their rents. Had I ever come across such a lady—let us call her the Widow Bountiful—I would have wooed her with sighs enough to heat a stone- cold bed- chamber in the dead of winter. Perhaps she waits for me, my Widow B., somewhere on the other side of this
wretched sea. Hark, she pants for me. Or, no, ’tis only Gulliver, giant cur.

As a man of both sense and sincerity, I admit, freely, and with that same unsparing candor which you must henceforth expect of me, that I leave behind little but debt. Twould be an even greater sorrow to leave Edinburgh, that nursery of enlightened genius, did not each degree of longitude stretch the distance betwixt me and my creditors, to whom I owe so much gold, and so little gratitude, the brothers McGreevy, with their Monday duns, Tuesday threats, and Wednesday bludgeons. Suffice to say: I sailed on a Thursday, a day too late, with the scars to show for
it. Departed, theSea- Serpent, April 5, 1764.

Sterner men on stouter ships have crossed this vast and furious ocean, training their hopeful gaze upon the horizon; I, ever squeamish, scan only the depths and see naught but gloom. I would blind myself—and spare you the sight—but I find, as ever, that I cannot close my painter’s eye. Here the blue sloshes into green, and there, gray, and just here, as I lean over the gunwales, lo but the ocean becomes a rainbow of muck, a palette of putrefaction. The lurching, the To and the Fro, are my twin tormentors; and the sea, my sewer and my jailer.

Wheel of Fortune, pray, turn: let some young Bluebeard take theSea-Serpentas his prize. Let his pirates throw me overboard. Let them haul me ’neath the keel and drown me. Sweet Jesus, just get me off this ship. Captain Pumble, a bulge- eyed, blotchy frog of a man, hops about the deck, uncloaked, even against the fearsome wind, as I, shivering, lean over the rails once again. He tells me that Boston will be temperate by the time we dock.

“Yar, ’twill be blooming in the city,” croaks he, clapping me on the back, as jolly as if we were sat in a tavern, instead of steering through a storm. “Ladies walking about without shawls. And a dandy, and a Scots gent, no less, will be most welcome by the lasses. Or is it the gents you
favor, Jameson?”

Between you and me, Reader: this Pumble has not entirely earned my affection.



Excerpted from Blindspot: A Novel by Jane Kamensky, Jill Lepore
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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