Hamilton Makes a Dent in Modern History

Please spare me your lack of surprise that I’ve finished Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter’s book chronicling the gestation of the eponymous musical, before having finished the book said musical was based on, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. They are both big thick tomes spanning years (arguable decades), but while Chernow’s prose is delightful and accessible, his book does not consist of rap lyrics, easily digestible footnotes, and beautiful photos.

Like Cannonballer ellesfena , I bought the book because I am an obsessive Midwestern fan, and I’ll take any glimpse of the Richard Rodgers Theatre I can get. The photos were one of the main draws for me; they are lovely and evocative, giving hints of the drama of the live stage. The book is beautifully designed too, with deckle-edged pages that contribute to the sense that the book’s designer was attempting to recreate a Hamilton-era pamphlet.

While the photos are worth the price of admission, McCarter’s essays are sentimental, and serious, and self-conscious of the musical’s place in history. Doesn’t that sentence sound big? “Place in history.” One of the things I appreciated about the book was that it offers an egalitarian view of the cast and crew, offering perspectives on the creative process beyond Miranda, who already has an established platform, and is already pretty widely published. Perhaps because of Miranda’s accessibility, I found myself wishing for more of a Rap Genius experience. As a hungry Hamilton fan, the footnotes were not as packed as I’d hoped. What I did take away was a deep yearning to hear Leslie Odom, Jr. sing “It’s Quiet Uptown.” In that sense, my appetite for the show has been further kindled, and the book’s purpose is accomplished.

This review has been cross-posted to the Cannonball Read, where I am reviewing books as I attempt to read 52 in a year!