Dead 140 years, a man for our times: Lincoln

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Earlier this year, a book considered whether he was gay. Another explored whether he was depressed. Then came the bestseller extolling his leadership abilities.

And these are a fraction of the high-profile volumes now tumbling from publishing houses - not to mention the TV histories and films in the works - all centering on a man who died 140 years ago: President Abraham Lincoln.

"Lincoln does seem to be speaking to the country," says Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of October's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," which Steven Spielberg is turning into a film starring Liam Neeson. Her narrative details Lincoln's ability to bring opponents together, including giving former presidential rivals jobs on his cabinet. "Now that we're in a time of great turmoil, with the war in Iraq, we look back at the great leaders of the past," Goodwin says.

Lincoln is already the most written-about American, with more than 1,000 biographies in print. "He's such a vast figure, so important, that every generation looks at him through its own prism," says Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard magazine working on a Lincoln book.

The current buzz on the 16th president also arises from the upcoming bicentennial celebration of his birth, which will take place in 2009. The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, already sponsoring and coordinating events (see www.lincolnbi centennial.gov), has been in place for several years now. And in April a huge Lincoln museum opened in Springfield, Ill.

Next month, the History Channel will air "Lincoln," exploring Lincoln's darker moments. In February, The Criterion Collection of films will issue an extras-saturated two-disc set of John Ford's 1939 "Young Mr. Lincoln." Another film, "Manhunt" (based on a book by James L. Swanson to be published in February) is slated for 2007, with Harrison Ford as leader of the chase for Lincoln's assassin.

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