The early summer heat mandates relaxation in a cool, shady place with a good book. A recommendation:
“Lindbergh” by A. Scott Berg (Berkley Books 1998) is the definitive biography of one of the most interesting and controversial American heroes of the 20th century. Berg’s Pulitzer Prize winning book is anything but a ponderous academic study. His scholarship is first-rate; but what makes the 562-page volume accessible is a journalistic style that paints a compelling narrative not only about Charles A. Lindbergh and his family, but also of the era in which he lived. Berg was the first biographer to have access to Lindbergh’s private files, including a trove of revealing letters written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the aviator’s wife, to her mother.
When Lindbergh completed a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 -- a feat many had attempted -- he became the instant international rock star of his generation. Berg’s account of the flight is high drama retold in crisp, undramatic prose.
Honored across the globe, Lindbergh got rich quickly. He did not have to worry about money for the rest of his life. From his youth in rural Minnesota (and as the scion of a prominent but dysfunctional family), Lindbergh’s record-setting flight catapulted him into a high society of country estates, travel to world capitals and influence in executive suites. Obsessively private, he and Anne were hounded by reporters everywhere they went. Genuinely shy and boyishly handsome, he was the perfect hero for the times.
The book’s nuanced account of the 1932 kidnap of the Lindberghs’ baby is as frightening today as it must have been then, including the capture, conviction and execution of kidnapper, German immigrant Richard Hauptmann. The same is true for Berg’s telling of Lindbergh’s isolationist views and his admiration for Germany in the runup to World War II, when he was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and his hero status was tarnished. Berg’s examination of “Lucky Lindy’s” later life, including his death in 1974 in Hawaii, is remarkable in its detail and sensitivity.
Missing from the 1998 biography is the 2003 revelation that Lindbergh had two secret mistresses in Germany with whom he sired several children, further adding another layer to the aviator’s life and personality. Nonetheless, the book is an excellent reflection of the man, his times and his consequential contributions to aviation, philanthropy and American mythology.
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Speaking of books: On Thursday, June 10, at 6:30 p.m. I’ll be at City Commission chambers in Fargo City Hall for a book signing and discussion of “Forum Communications Company: A Narrative History 1980-2018.” I was commissioned to write the history by chairman of the board and retired Forum publisher William C. Marcil. The session will be both in-person and virtual. In-person seating is limited. You need to register at the Fargo Library’s website to reserve a spot. The library is sponsoring the session.
If you’ve read the book and have questions, come to the discussion. If you’ve not read the book, I’ll talk about how it came about and introduce you to the fascinating story of a 140-year-old family business.
Zaleski retired in 2017 after 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He is the author of a new history of Forum Communications Co. Contact him at email@example.com or 701-241-5521 or 701-566-3576.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.