Widmer's got a new book

Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library and a member in good standing of the Phoenix' friends and family program, is a polymath and one of the great Rhode Islanders. Who else could offer such superlative quote in discussing the cultural ethos of Narragansett Beer in the old days? 

"It was really a whole way of life, and it involved loving the Red Sox . . . and loving a certain sense of Providence as the center of a little empire in southeastern New England," says Widmer, director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, whose former Phoenix column was illustrated by an image of Chief ’Gansett. "To drink Narragansett meant that you were somehow a citizen of that empire." (Quint, the rough-edged fisherman played by Robert Shaw in the movie Jaws, drank Narragansett.)

Anyway, the ProJo today offers a look at Widmer's new book, Ark of the Liberties: America and the World, and Doug Riggs does a good job of putting its author in context:

PROVIDENCE You wouldn’t expect someone who grew up in Providence, was a rhythm guitarist for The Upper Crust, a humor writer for the Harvard Lampoon, a columnist for the New Paper (now The Phoenix), who became a speechwriter in the Clinton White House and is now back in Providence as director of the John Carter Brown Library, to have written a simple, straightforward history of America.

And he hasn’t.

Ted Widmer’s latest book, which debuts on the Fourth of July, is Ark of the Liberties: America and the World. (See review on page I11.) It’s a bold, sweeping, critical, ultimately admiring and optimistic (but cautionary) birthday card to America. Like the library devoted to early Americana that he heads, it hews to a theme, but is so chock-full of fascinating asides, diversions and amusements that readers can lose themselves in its nooks and crannies long before reaching it.

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