*** “Franklin"by David Freeman Hawke, read by Nelson Runger. Unabridged on 12 cassettes. Recorded Books. (800) 638-1304.
The passage of time has rendered Benjamin Franklin a jovial fat man who said wise things and flew kites. He was, of course, nothing so simple, as Hawke’s 1976 biography makes clear. The book concentrates on Franklin’s long years as the Colonies’ principal man in England, where he ricocheted between triumph and humiliation, influence and impotence. He was a consummate old pol, with a gift for occasional blunders, a sharp businessman, a crafty pamphleteer and promoter, a royal loyalist until it was clear that conciliation with Britain was no longer possible. Thenceforth he shone as an American patriot par excellence. Runger’s reading is competent rather than inspired, but Hawke’s carefully balanced book illuminates old Ben in all his colorful contradictions.