Tue April 19, 2011
"Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture"
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, Oklahoma – On this edition of our show, we speak with writer Joshua Kendall about his new book, "The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture." Kendall previously visited StudioTulsa to discuss his last book, a biography of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), the man who gave us the immortal "Roget's Thesaurus." This time out, Kendall offers a life of another great man of letters: Noah Webster. As Kendall argues on our program, Webster created a landmark dictionary that not only gave way to an "American English" but also to a sort of socio-cultural American nationalism. Indeed, such an achievement might well place him among our country's Founding Fathers; as Kendall points out, Noah Webster was a trusted advisor and "policy wonk" for George Washington. Publishers Weekly, in reviewing Kendall's new book, has noted: "In 1828 Noah Webster published the groundbreaking 'American Dictionary of the English Language' and secured his niche as an avatar of a distinct American culture. [Kendall's book] honors Webster's crucial contributions to early American nationalism, which extended far beyond his primary obsession, the written word. Kendall paints a complex portrait of Webster (1758-1843), a man he claims 'housed a host of contradictory identities: revolutionary, reactionary, fighter, peacemaker, intellectual, commonsense philosopher, ladies' man, prig, slick networker, and loner' . . . . Kendall provides an intriguing look at one of America's earliest men of letters that is sure to appeal to lovers of both words and history."