A Capital Guidebook

Washington Schlepped Here    by Christopher Buckley

157 pp., $16.00, Crown publishers 2003  ....   reviewed 16 June 2004 by David P. Stern


      Trust me: I have lived in the Washington area for over 40 years. If you, from far beyond the Washington Beltway, plan to visit our fair capital, get this book first. Ignore the corny title (the author claims it was an afterthought). You will still need a regular guidebook, with practical information about hotels, eateries, metro, hours of operation and other nitty-gritty. But get this short book too, and read it beforehand, or maybe aboard the flight which brings you here.

      The regular guide will tell you about sights you might enjoy, but this one tells their stories, with youthful verve. How Daniel Sickles got away with murdering the son of Francis Scott Key in broad daylight, and how (much later) he paid an annual visit to his leg, severed by a cannonball at Gettysburg and still exhibited in some museum. About the ups and downs of Major L'Enfant's career and his grand plan for the city of Washington, fulfilled long after his death, about the origin of the word "hooker," and about Whistler's war with his patron over the "Peacock Room," now in the Freer Gallery. All these and many, many more, plus a slew of personal recollections by the author, himself an insider close to the seats of power, especially seats occupied by Republicans.

      Furthermore, this book will serve as an eminently practical guide, for a carefully laid out quartet of walking tours, through downtown Washington and the Arlington Cemetery. With enough time and transportation, other delightful destinations exist--Mt. Vernon, the National Arboretum, the National Cryptology Museum at Fort Meade, the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum in Virginia, maybe Harper's Ferry. Here, though, are the basics, and you might be sorry if you miss any of them. First, however, read this book.


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Author and Curator:   Dr. David P. Stern
     Mail to Dr.Stern:   david("at" symbol)phy6.org .

Last updated 16 June 2004