Monday, March 10, 2008

Walt Whitman and "Leaves of Grass" Appear on TV in "New Amsterdam"

TV viewers are used to seeing literary works on the small screen in "Lost" (usually being read by Sawyer), but tonight the famous poetic work "Leaves of Grass" made an appearance. Not only that, but the book's author, Walt Whitman, was shown talking about it in a flashback in Fox TV's new show, "New Amsterdam."

"New Amsterdam" concerns a young New York detective (named Amsterdam) who through some quirk has been alive for hundreds of years and can never die (as far as we know). As he works to find the murderer of a therapist who works with Vietnam Veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, he flashes back to a previous incarnation as a surgeon in the Civil War. At the end of the episode an older assistant who has been helping Amsterdam in his Civil War doctoring efforts hands the surgeon a book he says he has produced himself: "Leaves of Grass."

Of course this sent me off doing some research on Walt Whitman and "Leaves of Grass" to see if the time frames would have supported this scene. Sure enough, the first edition of "Leaves of Grass" was published in 1855 and revised several times after that, so the book was definitely in existence during the Civil War. Also, Walt Whitman served as a volunteer nurse during that War, so the writers of the episode indeed knew a bit of history.

This is the first time I've seen "New Amsterdam," so I'll be curious to see if the writers have Amsterdam crossing paths with actual historical figures in future episodes.

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