Execute the Office: Essays with Presidents (Paperback)
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Colin Rafferty's Execute the Office uses lyric prose and formal invention to explore the humanity, or lack thereof, that thrived in each of the forty-five American presidents. Whether these powerful individuals were celebrated for infamous deeds and heroism, or forgotten as placeholders in the annals of American history, too often presidents are commemorated by the sterility of simple fact. Execute the Office builds upon factual accuracy with essays that are equally invested in lyricism and experimental forms. To balance these factions, Execute the Office uses constraint, metaphor, allusion, and epiphany to explore not just the facts and artifacts of history, but describe the connections between those facts and human nature. These essays discuss the modes in which we remember through death songs, footnotes, infinite rooms, evacuation routes, and nomenclatures, to name a few examples, engaging with history from fresh perspectives. Execute the Office contains histories in and of unusual objects. While unfamiliar at first, they soon become distinct, unforgettable, profound, human.
About the Author
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Colin Rafferty grew up on the Kansas side (which makes a difference). In third grade, he unhesitatingly told an autograph dealer that the label on a Lincoln autograph was wrong--he was the sixteenth president, not the seventeenth. Later, Rafferty attended land grant universities (Kansas State, Iowa State) and eventually got an MFA from the University of Alabama. He writes about monuments and memorials (Hallow This Ground, Break Away Books, published in 2016), presidents (Execute the Office), and more generally public and private histories. In doing research for Execute the Office, he visited the graves of 28 presidents, toured the homes of another 16, and, for reasons still unbeknownst to him, was allowed to handle a four-page letter written by George Washington. Rafferty has taught nonfiction writing at the University of Mary Washington since 2008, developing classes on nonfiction of place, the lyric essay, and writing for multimedia. Since 2012, he has lived in Richmond, Virginia, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their dog in the same neighborhood where Patrick Henry gave the "give me liberty or give me death" speech in the presence of two future presidents. He is surrounded by history.