Grant, by Ron Chernow (Penguin, 1,104 pp., $40)
In addition to the other windmills New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has been tilting at, Gotham’s Don Quixote has commissioned a review of all the city’s statues, monuments, and memorials that fevered activists have in some way found “offensive.” Urgent voices have called, for example, for the replacement of a statue of Thomas Jefferson — “a slaveholding pedophile” — with a bust of Malcolm X. The latest accession to the thought-police line-up is Ulysses Simpson Grant.
In August, de Blasio was urged to wipe the blot of Grant from the city’s escutcheon, for Grant’s crime of issuing in 1862 a general order banning “Jews and other unprincipled traders” from dealing in contraband cotton. “This is complicated stuff,” de Blasio replied, since Grant is an example of how, “for a lot of people in this city and in this country, they feel that their history has been ignored or affronts to their history have been tolerated.”