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In this lively biography, Edmund Morris returns to the gifted, energetic, and thoroughly controversial man whom the novelist Henry James called "King Theodore." In his two terms as president of the United States, Roosevelt forged an American empire, and he behaved as if it was his destiny. In this sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Morris charts Roosevelt's accomplishments: the acquisition of the Panama Canal and the Philippines, the creation of national parks and monuments, and more. "Collaring Capital and Labor in either hand," Morris writes, Roosevelt made few friends, but he usually got what he wanted--and earned an enduring place in history.
Morris combines a fine command of the era's big issues with an appreciation for the daily minutiae involved in governing a nation. Less controversially inventive, but no less readable, than the Ronald Reagan biography Dutch, Theodore Rex gives readers new reason both to admire and fault an American phenomenon. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
The second entry in Morris's projected three-volume life of Theodore Roosevelt focuses on the presidential years 1901 through early 1909. Impeccably researched and beautifully composed, Morris's book provides what is arguably the best consideration of Roosevelt's presidency ever penned. Making good use of TR's private and presidential papers as well as the archives of such protgs as John Hay, William Howard Taft, Owen Wister and John Burroughs Morris marshals a rich array of carefully chosen and beautifully rendered vignettes to create a dazzling portrait of the man (the youngest ever to hold the office of president). Morris proves the perfect guide through TR's eight breathless, fertile years in the White House: years during which the doting father and prolific author conserved millions of Western acres, swung his "big stick" at trusts and monopolies, advanced progressive agendas on race and labor relations, fostered a revolution in Panama (where he sought to build his canal), won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War and pushed through the Pure Food and Drug Act. John Burroughs once wrote that the hypercreative TR "was a many sided man, and every side was like an electric battery." In the end, Morris succeeds brilliantly at capturing all of TR's many energized sides, producing a book that is every bit as complex, engaging and invigorating as the vibrant president it depicts. Illus. (On-sale: Nov. 20)Forecast: Long-awaited, this volume comes out in the centennial of TR's rise to the presidency. Morris's gift for storytelling and his outstanding reputation from volume one (and perhaps his notoriety for the controversial Reagan bio Dutch) should guarantee large sales.
Edmund Morris is one of America's best political biographers and journalists. He is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. He lives in New York and Washington, DC.
Bully book. Fascinating man and time, for sure. Here's something I decided while reading the book: if TR were alive today, he would have a weblog; the guy wrote hours everyday: articles, letters, books, speeches. Reminds me a lot of Churchill's prolificacy. Roosevelt's topics ranged from bird watching (and listening) to naval warfare. A voracious and multilingual reader, as well. Author Edmond Morris , (despite his missteps on the Reagan biography, Dutch) is a tremendous storyteller. Roosevelt and his times provide excellent material for Morris's skills. I couldn't help drawing parallels with today, as Roosevelt's era (turn of last century) saw so many changes taking place in transportation, communication and technology. The roles of and relationships between government and business were also major issues as they are today. There are parallels in his years in the White House with today's headlines like the Microsoft antitrust case and the imploding of Enron. Also some striking similarities to today's challenges militarily and geopolitically. Politics aside, Roosevelt is a fascinating historical figure. And did he ever know how to get a way from it all. Even though it is not mentioned in either this book or Morris's volume on TR's earlier life, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, I seem finally to understand why TR made it onto Mt. Rushmore with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.
If you did not like Mr. Morris's biography of President Reagan, give Mr. Morris another chance. Theodore Rex is the best book I have read on President Theodore Roosevelt's almost 8 years in office, after having started as our youngest president to that point in time. I found the recent David McCullough biography of John Adams as the closest comparable work. Both biographers rely a lot on the subject's own words and those of the people he interacted with. I found three qualities of Theodore Rex to be superior to the Adams biography. First, Mr. Morris has chosen to magnify issues that are of more interest to us today which are often virtually ignored in conventional histories. Some of these subjects involved Mr. Roosevelt's attitudes towards minority groups including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Jews. Other related subjects included what he chose to say and do about discrimination and lynchings, willingness to address a pogrom in Russia, and atrocities conduced by the Army in the Philippines. Second, Mr. Morris doesn't try to "pretty up" the ugly sides of his subject. In these first areas above, President Roosevelt did some good things . . . but he also did some pretty awful ones. His support for bad conduct dismissals of African-American troops after complaints in Brownsville, Texas, was particularly questionable, coming at a time when he had little at risk politically by doing the right thing and he was outspoken in other areas. Third, Mr. Morris has an eye for detail that makes the scenes come alive to extend beyond the mere words and events being presented. I particularly enjoyed the description of Roosevelt's first few days as president.Read more ›
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Having read "The Rise of TR" immediately before I continued on to "Theodore Rex," I have to say (regretfully) that the first installment in the planned trilogy of Roosevelt's life was far better than the second. Morris' research was just as impressive for "Theodore Rex" as it was for "The Rise of TR," using countless collections of letters, diaries, books by TR, and books about TR to paint the picture of his subject. Unfortunately, and perhaps this is the result of the sheer quantity of presidential accomplishments by Roosevelt, Morris' work reads like a laundry list of activities, events, dialogues, and crises. I felt like I was reading TR's daily planner, with Morris' commentary added under each day's schedule. To be fair, one would expect Morris' account of TR's presidential years to be more sequential and less anecdotal that his account of his pre-presidential years. That having been said, I've read many other presidential biographies that are not like this at all, that give the big picture of a President's term(s) in office and then get into the nitty-gritty of his major accomplishments and failures. Of course, "Theodore Rex" focused only on TR's presidential years, so Morris didn't have to spend any time or space describing how Roosevelt's mind and soul were formed (he had already done so in "The Rise of TR."). Given this challenge of having already written an account of TR's early years, Morris does an incredible job of researching his subject, and a good job of telling his story.
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Morris follows up with another excellent biography. On the plus side is his extensive coverage of Roosevelt's presidency. He shows clearly how TR masters the political issues associated with limiting the Trusts that had taken hold of the American economy; and, how he established an executed his imperialistic vision of America. The book falls short in two areas - the first is in the discussion of Roosevelt's personal life. Morris provides anecdotes but not any real view of how his family affected him. Given the apparent amount of time he spent with them (a contrast to his early years), something other than anecdotal snippets of the life of daughter Alice should have been included. Second, and more significant, is that Morris again does little to address the huge paradoxes in Roosevelt's policies. This is most evident in his views and actions on race relations. Clearly, Roosevelt tried to make some progress in this area; but, he only attempted to make small steps forward. The president who made America a real world power, cut the Panama canal, reined in the trusts, surely had the political power to do more with race relations. Roosevelt appears to have been genuinely sympathetic to the needs of American minorities, but Morris never makes it clear what restrained him. It appears that TR thought race was a lower political priority than other parts of his agenda. If that's the case, Morris should provide that explanation; if not, then the question is unanswered. These concerns should not stop you from reading this otherwise terrific book. TR was definitely one of our great presidents, and this biography makes it clear how he transformed America and the world for the better.