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Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
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Jun 09, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction

Colonel Roosevelt is the third and final volume in Morris’s biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Morris perhaps questionably devotes the entire third volume (and thus one third of the complete biography) to TDR’s life after leaving the presidency. However, as former presidents go, TDR led a volume-worthy post-presidency life.

The first chapter (covering TDR’s African safari that famously overshadowed his successor’s early days in office) is written in a strange and stilted voice that makes it difficult to dive into the book, but the aberrational style seems to be in part a product of the refusal by Morris to substitute more politically correct terms for the vernacular of the time and his discomfort with using said terms. This problem, thankfully, quickly subsides and Morris’s writing returns to its level of strength in the first two volumes. By the time Morris gets to Roosevelt’s less famous expedition in Brazil, the awkwardness is gone and the panoply of colors of the rain forest and emotions of the trip are captured.

Morris’s unmitigated admiration for TDR’s progressive side shows through in a way that it did not in the first two volumes, impeding his ability to keep the proper biographical detachment and detracting from the book. Morris’s evident distaste for President Taft also detracts from the book. Much of the vituperation lobbed Taft’s way is quoted (from the statements of his political opponents), but Morris lays it on especially thick, even at least once including an unfavorable comparison of Taft to a hippopotamus. Overall, though, Morris still paints a vivid and fair portrait of a larger-than-life president.
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