[In Lincoln,] Vidal has succeeded magnificently in imagining much of what [Walt] Whitman leaves out [of his book, Leaves of Grass, in its Memories of President Lincoln section]. The Lincoln invented by Vidal is a man of Shakespearean dimensions, full of doubts and mixed motives, a closet dictator who started the Civil War as much out of a desire to trump the glory of the Founders as out of any nobler instincts. Whitman’s Lincoln is a cartoon Christ-figure: he died not to remind us of our sins but to inflame our self-righteous sense of America’s greatness. Vidal’s Lincoln is a much more interesting person. His death isn’t seen as the ultimate glorious sacrifice to the Union’s victory. Instead, he seems to will his own murder as a guilt-ridden, inadequate atonement for all the blood he has spilled in the pursuit of his relentless compulsion to amass unprecedented glory for himself.