Monday, September 29, 2008

Edmund Morris and Theodore Roosevelt

You may have heard of Edmund Morris. He was the official biographer of Ronald Reagan, hired by Ron and Nancy after writing the Pullitzer Prize winning The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. His eventual biography of Reagan, Dutch, was a controversial, some say reprehensible, flop. He was criticized by liberals and conservatives alike and himself confessed that he never really understood Reagan at all--this after having spent fourteen years with him and having complete access to all his papers, files, and correspondence. His style was a self-described post-modern new style of biography where he made up a fictional narrator (himself) and apparently made up a lot of other stuff too. In short, the book was horrid. Others have done much better with Reagan's life and presidency.

Yeah, that Edmund Morris.

I absolutely loved The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and hope that some of you might read it too. You will fall in love with Teddy's character as the quintessential American and gain an appreciation for him even when rolling your eyes at some of his ideas and actions. The book paints a stunning portrait, stroke by stroke, of TR the man. While reading I wondered if TR wasn't a bit manic, but those eccentricities which led me to think that are also the bits that endeared me to him. Roosevelt comes off as a compelling contradiction, being on one hand an intellectual snob and on the other a leader and companion of the "rough riders."

I am now a few chapters into Theodore Rex, published twenty-two years after the first, but it feels like I have picked right up where I left off. The Rise gives us the story of TR from birth until right before his ascension to the presidency in 1901. Rex chronicles his two terms as President. If anything, the writing style has improved in the sequel (I wish I could write that well) and, though my reading time is limited these days, I plan to finish off its 600+ pages by Christmas. There is a planned third volume which will complete the "trilogy" and I hope Mr. Morris is working on it.

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