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Article

John James Audubon

Posted on

John James Audubon

type:
Book
Current Status:
In Season
author:
Richard Rhodes
publisher:
Knopf
genre:
Biography, Nonfiction

We gave it an A

Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer-winning author of 1986’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb, understands the drama of creation — the subtitle of this splendid biography is ”The Making of an American.” Indeed, John James Audubon might be considered a prototypical modern American. Born in Haiti and raised in France, he landed on these shores in 1803, married an Englishwoman, explored the Appalachian frontier, tried his hand at business, went bankrupt, and reinvented himself in his middle age as a naturalist (his first effort, The Birds of America, is still regarded with awe). But Rhodes presents something more than a scrupulously researched portrait of a self-actualized genius: Through an understanding of the life and times of this flawed but likable character, we can trace the beginnings of our own complex national identity.