»  Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream



My novel Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream appeared in Spring of 1996 in hardback (upper image at left), in October that year in paperback (lower image). It received several rave reviews, was a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and had a clear shot at a National Book Award until the awards committee found out (by asking me) that I was not a U.S. citizen.

The novel is a domestic comedy on the theme — well tried by previous writers (W. Shakespeare, J. Austen, A. Trollope etc.) — of a rather vain and foolish man being outwitted by a cunning woman. It is not a historical novel about the Coolidge Presidency. Calvin Coolidge is merely a prop, a plot device. The novel is set entirely in the early 1990s. Most of the people in it are Chinese immigrants to the U.S.A.

In spite of the book's not being about Calvin Coolidge, Sheldon Stern, historian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, was so taken with it he invited me to address a scholarly conference titled Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence, held at the Library in July 1998. My address, "A Novelist Takes on Calvin Coolidge," was printed up in the New England Journal of History, Vol. 55, No. 1. I have reproduced it here. It explains well enough, I hope, what the 30th President is doing in a book about 1990s Chinese immigrants.